History Mysteries: Diamond Jack
Puffin Books, 2017
88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99
March 1942 – the Japanese have reached Indonesia and there is a constant stream of flights shuttling refugees from Java to the safe haven of Broome on the north-west coast of Western Australia. Russian flying ace Captain Smirnoff is piloting one of the last planes to leave Bandung Airport, an old DC3 stripped back to the bare minimum to allow for as many passengers as possible including five Dutch pilots, a trainee flight engineer, a mother and her 18 month old son.
Just as they are about to take off an official jumps on board and hands Smirnoff a package, tell him to “Take great care of this. Someone from the bank will collect it when you land.”
Unfortunately for Smirnoff, his crew and his passengers, the Japanese have switched their target to Broome and just an hour from their destination they are shot down. Despite injuries and continuing Japanese fire, Smirnoff manages to bring the plane down on the edge of the beach…
What happened next – the survival and rescue of the passengers; the finding and the contents of the mysterious package and the enigmatic man who became known as Diamond Jack are the centre of this intriguing true tale that still remains unanswered 75 years on. Should he have done what he did? Is “finders keepers” really the rule to live by?
Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” and in this new series from self-confessed history-hunter Mark Greenwood there are stories told that would otherwise have been forgotten, if they were ever widely known in the first place. Short, engaging reads written in short chapters, large font and liberally illustrated they are not only perfect for the young reader moving on to independent reading but also those who may not have yet unlocked the key. Greenwood writes an introduction that personalises the story as though he is talking directly to the reader, drawing them into this tale that is about to unfold and then, the tale told, he talks about the sources he has drawn on and provides a lot of extra information so not only is the story authenticated but there is scope for further discovery.
Something special to add to the collection and promote an interest in times past in a way seldom done. Australia- a country full of stories!