The true story of one woman's struggle to survive years of incarceration in Japanese prisoner of war camps on the Philippine Islands during World War II. I have always loved true stories, stories of quiet courage and fortitude, stories of the common man or woman who survived against all the odds. These have always been my heroes so imagine how much it means to me to be able to tell my mother's story.
A synopsis for you.
It is December 8th 1941.
Fresh from England, Ronny Rynd, six months pregnant, has sought refuge in the mountain setting of Baguio far from the suffocating heat of Manila. Following the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor she finds herself caught up in the Japanese attack on the Philippine Islands. Alone and vulnerable she must learn ways to survive. Years of incarceration loom as she struggles to bring up her baby in primitive and hostile conditions. Desperate to be a family, the ever feisty and courageous Ronny fights for the opportunity to be united with her husband, Pat, who is imprisoned in distant Manila. But conditions there present further horrors and heartbreak as starvation, disease and the death toll rise for internees waiting for the longed for American liberation. This is the true account of one woman's experience of war. My mother's experience. Her recollections left in hand written notes, are the foundation of this account revealing how she had always wanted her story to be told. Written as a tribute to the men and women who remarkably created their own functioning society
within their camps with humour, inventiveness and determination. Hers is a story of a family life lived in spite of the brutal regime of years behind barbed wire.
Why I have spent the last four years writing this story?
As a child I was brought up with my parent's story and as children do, accepted their
accounts as normal. It is my mother's perspective of history that I am telling as Ronny always intended to write her story herself. I recall many evenings when she sat at her Chinese writing desk, positioned so that she could keep one eye on the television as she scribbled away. Always able to multi task, her energy levels were impressive. She wrote copious notes and told my sister Catherine and me tales of the humour and inventiveness of her fellow prisoners, always soft peddling the despair. I was only to learn the full degree of the horror from the accounts of other
Ronny never wrote her book. After she died Catherine, who luckily for me was a hoarder, gathered the notes and stored them to be forgotten in her attic. It was only after my sister's untimely death ten years later that I stumbled on these gems, as fresh as if my mother had just walked out of the room. In the moment when I decided to take up my mother's task, I had no idea as to the enormity of the journey in front of me. I had never written a book before so took myself off to an evening class for creative writing. I started to read every book I could lay my hands on to cover that forgotten war arena. The Philippines has not been covered as well as the more famous
horrors of Japanese occupation. Researching endlessly I hit lucky when I discovered a network of ex-internees spread across the world, still connected with each other on the internet clarifying memories and sharing information.
They have been extraordinarily generous with their time and interest and to my amazement some actually recalled Ronny, Pat and Catherine. I knew that I owed it to these survivors to be totally accurate historically as I checked and counter checked my mother's recollections. I wrote and rewrote Ronny's story and the deeper I immersed myself the more committed I became to telling the story of how these remarkable prisoners adapted and created a society to lessen their individual pain and distress.
There is anger, pain and humour in this story as Ronny became part of this mini world with its own structure with one solitary aim, to survive when it became evident that rescue was a distant fantasy.
A word about me.
I was conceived in the prisoner of war camp, Santo Tomas, in the Philippines and it is some sort of miracle that I survived! I was actually born in England, just, but by the time I was three months old I was on the way to Shanghai with Ronny, Pat and sister Catherine. I lived a nomadic childhood in mainland China, Nigeria, and the Channel Islands, deposited in boarding schools during term time from the age of seven. I trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and worked as a teacher before emigrating to Australia at the age of twenty one. I worked in a number of professions there including radio journalism before returning to the UK. After many false starts I finally found my vocation and re-trained as a psychotherapist and had my own practice for many years. I am the mother of three adult sons and have now retired to the Cotswolds where I enjoy another passion which is painting seascapes in oils. I have a website, exhibit and sell. This is my first book, triggered by my mother's unfulfilled urge to write the story of her war.