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Army August 16, 2012
The kid in the POW camp
A new book details the experiences of
Australia's youngest POW in World War II,
Michael Brooke reports.
World War II POW believes
the 2nd AIF would have writ-
ten a more glorious chapter
to the legend of Anzac if they had the
same level of professional training that
prepares today's soldiers for war and
Billy Young, who at age 15 joined
the Army and within a few months
found himself in a Japanese POW camp
in Singapore, said military training in
WWII was a "joke" compared to the high
standards of today.
"Our training was little more than tar-
get practice and some bayonet training
because we believed all the propaganda
about the Japanese being inferior to us in
every way," he said.
Mr Young said he received no training
on what to do if captured by the enemy.
"Nothing could have adequately pre-
pared me as a kid for the horror of a
Japanese POW camp, but with better
training the AIF would have conducted a
better defence of Singapore," he said.
Mr Young hailed the professional sol-
diers of today and the extensive training
they received while promoting a new
book about his struggle for survival dur-
ing the war.
The Story of Billy Young is a first-
hand account of the effects of war and
a captivating tale of suffering, mateship
and survival against all odds by a kid
who should have been in school and not
in a war.
Mr Young said the Australian soldier
enjoys a well earned reputation in the
region as a professional peace keeper
because of the diplomatic and cultural
awareness skills developed through train-
"But back in WWII we had no under-
standing or appreciation of foreign cul-
ture, which is why we struggled so much
as prisoners of the Japanese, who were
completely alien to us," he said.
Mr Young, who was bestowed
with the nickname "Billy the Kid" by
his mates, said his life story had valu-
able lessons for soldiers and young
Australians about the value of mateship
in overcoming adversity.
"I still believe that Australian soldiers
today are lovable larrikins in spite of all
the waffle about political correctness,"
is a gripping read
The Story of Billy Young
By Anthony Hill
Publisher: Penguin Australia
RRP: $29.99, 420pp
ORPHANED after his father was killed in
the Spanish civil war, Billy Young joined
the Army in search of security in the form
of food, a bed, blanket and five shillings
But he soon found himself in a POW
camp in Singapore being brutally tortured
by the Japanese Kempeitai.
After his capture with the 2/29th Bn in
Singapore, he spent his adolescent years in
some of the most barbaric Japanese prisons
in Singapore and Borneo.
The story of Billy Young documents
how this street-wise kid escaped from the
POW camp in Sandakan but was quickly
recaptured and sent to Outram Road Prison
in Singapore for the duration of the war.
It's a first-hand account of the effects of
Army has a copy of The Story of Billy
Young autographed by both the author
and Mr Young to give away. For your
chance to win the copy correctly answer
the question "what was the name of the
Japanese Army's military police branch
during WWII?" in an email to competi-
email@example.com by August 30.
war and is a captivating tale of suffering,
mateship and survival against all odds.
Billy Young survived the war and
lives in Sydney, where he told his story to
Anthony Hill, a noted author, who wanted
to immortalise the story of Australia's
youngest POW in WWII.
The Story of Billy Young tells how
Billy and his treasured mates managed to
maintain a grim sense of humour in the
face of adversity and how this helped them
-- Michael Brooke
Hard times: This 1945 aerial
photo shows the Sandakan
air field and Japanese
POW camp from which Billy
Young escaped. Mr Young,
Australia's youngest WWII
POW, is pictured inset on
the cover of a new book by
Aerial photo provided by the Australian
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