Sidcup author pens Goodbye Burma, inspired by her family's stories of Second World War exodus
PUBLISHED: 10:34 06 November 2017
Around 500,000 civilians fled the British colony
‘Singapore has fallen. The news is too dire and dark to be taken in fully.’
These are the opening lines of a diary which has inspired Sidcup author Jane Ellis’ Goodbye Burma, her new book true story of the civilian exodus of Burma following the Japanese invasion during the Second World War.
Penned by her second cousin Leo ‘Pab’ Robertson’s diary, Ms Ellis has been inspired by his writing during the invasion of the former British colony, as well as the stories she was told growing up.
The Hurst Road resident said: “I remember growing up and visiting my Burmese relatives in Catford.
“The house was adorned with all of items from the culture of Burma, it was a completely different atmosphere.
“I would hear stories about how my family fled Rangoon following the invasion, my aunt managed to leave in the December 1941 through a mountain pass but Pab and my uncle had to stay until late April 1942, they travelled together through the jungle to get to India, where many of the civilians fled.
“When my second cousin’s diary was passed in to my hands, I knew it would make a great story and my family agreed, the fall of Burma is not as well known as other events in the Second World War.”
In December 1941, Japan launched its attack on the city of Rangoon, which would begin its conquest of the British territory and mark a decisive victory for the Axis in the Second World War.
While many fled, Ms Ellis’ cousin Pab, a judge in the city, was ordered to say to try and continue his duties, eventually leaving as the situation worsened.
Up to 500,000 civilians fled to India during the invasion, with estimates suggesting up to 50,000 people may have died on their journey.
Following the story a fictional family, the semi-retired researcher and historian has visited her former family home in what is now Myanmar, looking deep in to the history of the exodus before writing Goodbye Burma.
She said: “The book is a work of fiction, it follows the story of refugees fleeing the country, but it is inspired by the true stories of my uncle, cousin and aunt, all of whom had to leave their homes.
“My family were more fortunate than some others, this story tries to tell the full reality of the exodus.”
To promote her new book, Ms Ellis will be holding a launch event at the Small Hall in Bromley Central Library on November 13 from 4.30pm to 6pm.
Goodbye Burma is available to buy via www.goodbyeburma-book.com.