Old Jack

August 15, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Australia, History, War and Conflict, Writing and Life | 16 Comments
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Over eleven years ago, I wrote the story of what happened when I almost met Jack. I had forgotten about it until I was just exploring some of my writing folders. Now I think it is time to publish it, in honour of that old man I almost met.

 *     *     *

 

I first heard about old Jack from my next-door-neighbour, Eileen. It was an early February evening (2007), and we were out on our respective front verandahs, chatting across the fence about the day.

 

“I went to visit old Jack today. You write, don’t you, Linda? You’d probably find Jack interesting. He wrote poetry when he was a Japanese prisoner of war, and he tells some fantastic stories. He’s ninety-nine, and he’s still got all his marbles. He’d like to be involved with a writers’ group. Do you belong to one?”

 

“Yes, in Toronto. What’s his name again?”

 

“Jack. Jack Mudie. He turns a hundred next month. He’s a lovely fellow. Still lives at home. Got plenty of spirit too, even though he’s blind. I went with Vicky – that’s his carer – to see him before I leave. I want to let all the clients know I’m going. Not just walk out on them. The new people don’t care, but I do.”

 

Eileen had resigned her job as Regional Director of what had been a local community aged care programme. It had been taken over by a large interstate organization six months previously. Despite promises to the contrary, staff workloads had increased, while wages and conditions were gradually being eroded. The emphasis was now on profits, rather than on serving their elderly clients. Eileen had had enough.

 

“Old Jack, he wrote a diary too. When he was a prisoner of war.”

 

“A diary? Wow, that’s wonderful. Has he done anything with it? Has it been published?”

 

“No. He wants to. There’s nobody to write it out for him.”

 

“How come? You’d think there’d be lots of people interested in transcribing a POW diary.”

 

“His family don’t know much about it. But Jack did go to the War Memorial or the Archives or somewhere in Canberra and ask if they could get someone to transcribe it for him. They told him it could be done, but it’d cost him thirty thousand dollars.”

 

“You’re joking! Thirty thousand to transcribe a war-time journal?”

 

“Yeah. They said that’s what it’d cost. Awful eh?”

 

“Sure is. I suppose there are quite a few diaries around now and they’re not so scarce as they were. And they’d have to employ someone to do it. Still, I can’t understand why they couldn’t do it for nothing. It’s part of the country’s history.”

 

“Yeah. The family haven’t done anything about it. Don’t know why. But Jack would still like someone to do it. They just don’t know who. Or how.”

 

“I’ll do it!”

 

“Would you?”

 

“Sure would! I’d hate to see all that lost!”

 

“Apparently, it’s written in really tiny writing. He didn’t have much to write on. And he had to keep it hidden, of course.”

 

“Yes. He’d have been killed if it was found. A brave man, by the sound of it. I’d love to meet Jack and see if he’d like me to transcribe his diary.”

 

“All right. I’ll ring Vicky, his carer, and let her know. She’ll talk with Jack and see what he thinks. I’ll take you to see him, probably in the next week or two. I’m having a couple of weeks’ holiday before I start my new job.”

 

“Great! I’ll see if he wants me to take him to the Writers’ Group too.”

 

Eileen couldn’t take me to Jack’s place in the next two weeks, so she gave me Vicky’s mobile phone number, so I could arrange with her about going to meet Jack. Eileen said to call Vicky at about ten o’clock on Monday morning, as that’s when she was at Jack’s place.

 

I was really excited about meeting Jack. A little apprehensive too, because he would be entrusting me with something very precious. Would I be able to do him and his diary the justice they deserved? During the time I had to wait before ringing Vicky to organise the meeting, I decided to see if I could find out anything about Jack. I did a Google search on his name and got several hits. The Hunter Military History website briefly mentioned that Jack “survived three brutal years as a prisoner of war in Japan“ (I couldn’t find the actual Forum entry). I also discovered that Jack had been awarded an OAM (Order of Australia Medal). “Mr. Jack Mudie was conferred OAM for service to furthering relations between Australia and Japan through the development of the Prisoner of War Memorial” (Website of Volunteers for International Exchange).

 

Australian soldiers after their release from Japanese captivity in Singapore, 1945

Australian soldiers after their release from Japanese captivity in Singapore, 1945

 

A “Catholic Weekly” story “To forgive is not to forget”, told of a 1991 Anzac Eve reconciliation service at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. The centrepiece of the service related to the “comfort women” who were enslaved by the Japanese during the war to serve their soldiers. One former comfort woman was there to accept the apology of “the ordinary Japanese people” through a Japanese Catholic film director. Tom Uren, former Labor Minister, also spoke of his experiences as a POW of the Japanese and how much he’d hated them. Then, when he was sent to Japan, still as a POW, to work alongside the ordinary Japanese people, he realised they were as much victims as he was. The story records “Jack Mudie, also a Japanese POW”, as having attended the reconciliation service. It seemed to me that Jack’s involvement with reconciliation, after his wartime experiences, showed him to be quite a remarkable man. This made me even more keen to learn more about him.

 

Other websites mentioned Jack’s visits to Japan, and visits of Japanese people to his home. They told of his POW poems, some of which (nineteen, I think) have been translated into Japanese and published as a book, “And Gumtrees Nodding Under Azure Skies” Other references to Jack’s poetry mentioned that Lt. Jack Mudie was at the Naoetsu P.O.W. Camp in Japan from 1942-1945.

 

There was a further reference to Jack in the English Speaking Union of Japan’s Newsletter No.31, October, 2001:

“Mr. Muramatsu …  talked about his reunion, after over a year, with Mr. Jack Mudie, who as a young lieutenant of the Australian army, spent much of his time during the Pacific War in a POW camp in Naoetsu, Japan. One of many poems he wrote during the internment was read by him. It was a moving poem about the hard-working Japanese women there, filled with his kind words and full of humor and warmth despite the adverse circumstances.”

Another site, relating to war books, gives details of Jack’s poetry book.

As I discovered more about Jack’s background, it became more important to me that I meet him and transcribe his wartime POW diary. I went with my husband, Dirk, to buy a small second-hand laptop computer that I could use. We also found a cheap scanner at the market. I wanted to be able to scan the diary at Jack’s place if necessary, so that he wouldn’t need to let it out of his possession. Scanning and enlarging it might make it easier to read too. I re-checked our tape recorder and microphone, and bought some new audio tapes. If Jack wanted to talk, and was happy to be recorded, I’d be ready. Both Dirk and I, and Eileen too, were really excited about the project.

 

At ten o’clock on the last Monday in February, I called Vicky’s mobile number. When she answered, I explained who I was.

 

“How’s Jack?”

 

“Oh Linda, I’m afraid I’ve just called the ambulance for Jack. He’s not very well at all. They should be here soon.”

 

“Oh, no. I hope he’s going to be all right.”

 

“I don’t know yet. Can you call me back, in about half an hour or so?”

 

“Yes, I will. Thank you.”

 

I waited anxiously during the half-hour Vicky had requested. When I called back, Vicky said Jack had gone to the hospital. She didn’t know how he’d be. I hoped he’d come through all right.

 

“I was so looking forward to meeting him today.”

 

“Yes. He was really looking forward to meeting you too. Look, can you call me again next Monday? I’m here every Monday. We can organise something then.”

 

When I saw Eileen a couple of days later, I told her Jack had been taken to hospital on the very day I’d called. She was upbeat about it.

 

“Don’t worry. He’s tough. They usually just get taken in for a couple of days to rest and get their strength back and then are home again as good as ever.”

 

So I waited again. Eileen was due to start her new job on Monday, the day I was to call Vicky. I asked her on the Saturday if she’d heard anything about Jack. She hadn’t.

 

On the Monday (March 5th) I called Vicky’s mobile number. It rang for a long time. There was no answer. Maybe she had the vacuum cleaner going and hadn’t heard it. Jack’s hearing wasn’t too good, Eileen had told me, so he probably wouldn’t have heard the phone either. Fifteen minutes later, I called again. This time Vicky answered.

 

“Vicky, this is Linda. I’m calling about Jack. How is he?”

 

There was a few seconds’ silence at the other end.

 

“I’m sorry. Jack died last Monday.”

 

Oh, no! Tears burned in my eyes.

 

“The funeral was last Friday. I didn’t have a number to call you.”

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry! You must be very upset.”

 

“Yes. I was close to Jack. He was a wonderful man. Look, I really don’t know what will happen about his diary, but Jack has a lovely family. I’ll be in contact with them again in a couple of months.”

 

“When everything’s settled, will you tell them, if they want to have Jack’s diary transcribed, I’ll help in any way I can?”

 

Vicky said she would. I gave her my home phone number, so she can call me if anything eventuates, and said goodbye. I went to tell Dirk, tears in my eyes. He hugged me. I felt like I’d just started to get to know Jack. All week, while I’d been thinking about him, he’d already been gone. Now, he was a friend I would never meet.

Linda Visman, 6th March 2007

………………………………………………………………………………………

Post Script:

After I’d written the foregoing story, I subscribed to the “Newcastle Herald” website service, so that I could purchase past articles from the newspaper. I searched for any references to Jack Mudie, and, among other, irrelevant items, I found two short articles from 2006. There are probably other, earlier stories in their regular archives too.

 

Those two articles however, were enough to give me an even better picture of Jack Mudie than I already had. Here are some extracts from those articles:

1. Author: ANITA BEAUMONT   Date: 06/09/2006

JACK Mudie remembers the barbed-wire fences, the cruelty and the starvation suffered at Changi prisons in Japan during World War II all too well.

The former lieutenant and Coal Point resident, 99, was one of 21,700 soldiers captured in the Malayan area in the war. Of those, about 7500 died.

Mr Mudie fought against the Japanese Army in Malaya and Singapore, and spent 2 1/2 years in one of their camps in Naoetsu, Japan.

“I saw and experienced a lot of cruelty and starvation. I came back a physical wreck,” Mr Mudie said.

“On one occasion a few of us were pulled out of the sleeping quarters to provide entertainment for the Japanese soldiers. We had to crawl around like dogs while getting belted along until we collapsed . . . I lost about three kilograms that night.”

He wrote poetry as a distraction from the conditions.

He also kept a detailed diary that was later used as evidence against eight Japanese soldiers indicted for the death of 60 soldiers

2. Author: IAN KIRKWOOD   Date: 14/08/2006

Jack Mudie survived three brutal years as a prisoner of war in Japan, but his saddest memory is returning to Australian soil.

“I was standing on the wharf and all around me were these people hugging and kissing, being reunited with their families,” Mr Mudie recalled yesterday.

A lone friend on the wharf had to tell him his parents had died while he was away. Their house had been sold. His possessions had been given to charity, a “fair bit” of money in the bank had been frittered away. He had been given up for dead.

Mr Mudie, who enlisted as “an old man of 32”, was captured in late 1941.

The retired primary school principal says he has made his peace with the Japanese people, but “not their soldiers or their military”.

He says there is “no room for hatred” in his heart, at least partly because his eldest child, Lynette, now lives in Japan with her Japanese husband, Kenji Kise.

 

Additional note, 15th August 2018:

I never did hear from Jack’s family, which saddened me. I don’t know if his diary was ever transcribed as I can find nothing about it online.

 

References for original story:

Website of Volunteers for International Exchanges:

http://www.max.hi-ho.ne.jp/yoshi-ko/indexe.htm

 

ESUJ Newsletter Oct. 2001:

http://www.esuj.gr.jp/news/eng/archives/0031.htm

 

The Catholic Weekly May 13 2001 story: http://www.catholicweekly.com.au/01/may/13/story_13.html

 

Jack’s Book of Poetry:

Author: Mudie, Jack

Title: Aozora no shita de yureru Ukari no ki ni = And gum-trees nodding under azure skies : nineteen poems made by Lt. Jack Mudie at the Naoetsu P.O.W. Camp, 1942-1945

Publisher: Joetsu-City, Japan. Hiromu Jagi

Year: 1999

Notes: In Japanese and English. Translated by Hiromu Yagi.

 

 

 

 

 

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Share Your World – Week 37

September 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Family, Mental Health, Politics, Society | 2 Comments
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Here are my responses to Cee’s latest Share Your World questions.

List three pet peeves.

  1. Politicians;
  2. “Tossers” – those who leave their rubbish for others to clean up;
  3. Splashing water around when washing the dishes.

What makes you unique?

Just about everything! There is nobody in the world who is just like me – in appearance, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. I am the only one of me.

What would be your ideal birthday present, and why?

My ideal birthday present is being taken out to dinner; a day without having to cook or prepare any meals myself.

Which way does the toilet paper roll go? Over or under?

The toilet paper definitely goes over the top! If I find it the other way, I change it – no matter whose bathroom I am in.

There are several reasons for that. The first is that it is easiest to find the end when it is on the side next to you. The second is that spiders and other creatures sometimes hide under the paper if it is hidden behind the roll against the wall (I’m not afraid of them, but who wants to be startled by a spider?). And the third is that if the roll is right against the wall, it can be hard to get hold of – and if the wall is a brick or stone one, then you can scrape your knuckles against it – which I have done.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week, we had several beautiful sunny spring days when it was a real pleasure to work out in the yard.

I am looking forward to travelling interstate this week to visit some of my kids and grandkids.

(c) Linda Visman

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