There are many books about the horrors of internment by the Japanese and the infamous
Burma Railway. This is one with a difference. As Geoffrey Mowat's wife, Louise,
who contributes some chapters explains, its purpose is "To follow God's mysterious
ways of working his pattern out, and eventually to see 'The Rainbow through the Rain'
in spite of the difficulties, humanly speaking, which were put in our way". This is indeed
at the heart of the book and the reader is conscious throughout of a beneficence overseeing
the author's experiences.
Appointed as a cadet to the Malayan Civil Service in 1939, the relaxation of peacetime
regulations allowed Geoffrey to marry a week before he sailed in July 1940, and to
take his wife with him, enjoying a near-idyllic year as Assistant District Officer, Alor
Gajah, Malacca, learning his trade. He was also embodied in the Malacca Battalion of
the Straits Settlements Volunteer Forces which was mobilised on the Japanese invasion
and posted to the defence of Singapore. In the shambles of the surrender he and a fellow-
Volunteer, who had rather more experience of the country and.was the prime mover, decided to escape to the mainland with the idea of finding a boat somewhere on the
western coast and sailing to freedom. Ill-equipped, without maps or, vitally, quinine,
they floundered for six weeks up the hinterland of Central Johore, sustained en route
mainly by Chinese labourers and Jakun aboriginals who provided food and shelter
despite the very real risk of Japanese reprisals. Some wonderful experiences - some
good, some fearful - culminated in severe malaria, which was their downfall, leading to
betrayal and recapture near Labis in North Johore. Amazingly they were not killed outright
but were taken to join other prisoners in Pudu Jail, Kuala Lumpur, where conditions,
as POW camps went, were comparatively reasonable. It was here that Geoffrey's
Christian beliefs were first immensely strengthened which, I sense, gave him the
strength to surmount the horrors to come. Transfer to Changi Jail, Singapore, was followed
by seven months on the Railway and a merciful return first to Sime Road Camp and
then to Changi again until the end of the war, after which he was reunited with his wife
During the latter part of his captivity the support of several charismatic priests led
Geoffrey to feel that he might have a vocation to the ordained ministry, but Louise, who
had married a Colonial Service cadet and was looking forward to a renewal of this
career and raising a family in this ambit, could not accept that the time was ripe.
Geoffrey accepted this and resumed his career in the Colonial Service until Malayan
Independence in 1957. By then, not only had he found it possible to overcome his
intense hatred for his captors and find forgiveness, but Louise had become more reconciled
to his call to the ministry. Geoffrey was ordained in 1959, and "These last thirty
years and more have proved a wonderful time of ministry together, sharing God's grace
in a world of conflict, turmoil and - glory!"
This is an inspiring book which you must read for yourself.