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Bastard Behind the Lines

The extraordinary story of Jock McLaren’s escape from Sandakan and his guerrilla war against the Japanese

Jock McLaren was a man who became a legend for his courage, bravery, often insubordinate and what many may have considered fool hardy ways; a man who took on the Japanese in his own style during the years of 1942-44 in the Pacific region and as a prisoner of the Japanese Imperial forces, the first time at the infamous Changi Prison on Singapore and then Sandakan on Borneo. He became a man to be feared by the Japanese which eventually saw a price put on his head.

QX21058Captain R.K. McLaren MC and Bar, or Jock to his mates, enrolled in the Citizens Military Forces at the age of thirty-nine,  transferring to the  Australian Infantry Forces before being sent to Singapore as a member of the 2/10te Ordnance Workshop. Unfortunately the Japanese arrived not long after and he was one among many who were imprisoned in Changi.

He was not about to remain a prisoner longer than he needed to and promptly set out planning his escape, the first of several as it was to turn out in the coming years. He became a proverbial thorn in the side of the Japanese, often facing death but somehow his luck held. He was supported during his time in the Pacific by brave and courageous people, who gave up much, often at great personal cost, to help allied serviceman escape and established themselves as a force to be reckoned with against the Japanese Army.

McLaren fought with the Filipino lead guerrilla groups, under the command of the Americans, used a 26 foot whaleboat, the Bastard, to wreak havoc on the Japanese sea based bases and then was seconded to  the new, very secretive Z Unit, the forerunner of the SAS, to move into Borneo for reconnaissance before ‘D’ Day.

Although though this story is predominantly about Jock McLaren, it also pays homage to the many that placed their lives, those of their families and villagers, at risk to thwart the Japanese, get messages back to Australia and move escapees into safer locations.  

Considered as one of the unsung heroes of the Pacific theatre of operations, Jock’s story is one of great bravery; one that is long overdue to be told. In the interests of transparency and accuracy, Gilling refers often to additional sources and other books based on the same story, all supposedly verified by McLaren while he was still alive, which in many ways tends to distract from the body of the broader story.

As with much that is remembered by mates and others down through the years, the essence has remained the same, the detail often left in the murkiness of time passed, memories clouded by trauma, time and distance, but overall, neither add or detract from the truth of one man and his personal quest to deal with the Japanese on his own terms, that of Jock McLaren.

Author Tom Gilling
Publisher Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760875879
Distributor Allen & Unwin
Released February 2021