The British Empire Library

Rainbow Through the Rain

by Geoffrey Scott Mowat

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Bill Fox (Malayan Civil Service 1946-1958)
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 in Australia.

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.

British Empire Book
Geoffrey Scott Mowat
New Cherwell Press


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