Reader Feedback on Ray Parkin’s Odyssey

Ray’s experiences were shared by many of his generation, and continue to resonate and resound down through the decades.
Readers of “Ray Parkin’s Odyssey” are very welcome to contact Pattie with their feedback or stories.

Ross Dickson, son of HMAS Perth sailor Richard Noel Dickson

Richard Noel Dixon - HMAS PerthI have just finished the Mediterranean section and found it profoundly moving and immensely fascinating. I am almost overwhelmed at the horrific conditions the Perth boys endured during the battles and the Crete evacuation.

The section described by Ray when the sailors were detailed to collect the body parts of the bombed troops was particularly harrowing because I know Dad was one of those who performed the task. That was one of the few incidents he even spoke about and it was during a particularly difficult time when he had been drinking heavily and was hardly lucid.

Pattie, I don’t know what motivated you to devote such an incredible amount of energy into Ray’s book but I want you to know that the book and your personal contact with me has had a profound effect on my life.

I am so glad to have had the opportunity to understand the extreme conditions Dad experienced. For that I am truly grateful.

Bryan Wilson, NZ

Hi Pattie. My son sent me a copy of “Ray Parkin’s Odyssey”. POW writeups are particularly difficult in that so much of the time life was deadly boring and painful, but the way you presented it, together with the striking artwork, made it vivid & alive. In NZ we would call it a ‘taonga’ , i.e. ‘a special treasure”.

There was a period when many POWs clammed up about their experiences, but as time went by, they could start to talk about it. My dad, who was on Gallipoli , couldn’t bear to talk about it until he was in his 70s. He then dragged out a tattered notebook which was written in indelible ink and proceeded to get someone to type out a proper record in full. The silly bugger then burnt the original notebook!!

Thanks not only for an outstanding piece of work, but the fact that you’ve preserved for the next generation material that otherwise could well have been lost for good. A massive effort, well produced & worthy of an honoured place in every Australian library!

Ron Ferguson
Hon. Secretary
8th Australian Division Association

Hello Pattie, just finished reading the book and enjoyed it. I have Ray’s “Wartime Trilogy” and Ron Mckie’s “Proud Echo” in my collection of books, and I have a lot of the books mentioned in Odyssey’s bibliography, including Arthur Bancroft’s “Arthur’s War” and a book called “A Bar of Shadow” by Laurens van der Post.

Thanks for a great read!

Howard Brooks, ex-USS Houston, New Jersey USA

Your book is EXCELLENT !!! I just relived my WWII experiences, on the ship and in the jungles of Thailand & Burma building the railroad.

As you describe living and working on the railroad you get the feeling that you are actually there again. And one reading is not enough.

Pattie, thank you very much for writing the book.

Jeff Rigby, Australian painter

I want to congratulate you on an astonishing biography of an astonishing man. I have his Endeavour volumes and it is so wonderful to understand the man behind that remarkable work. I found the details of his life, and the absolute honesty with which it was handled by you, utterly compelling.

It is one of the few accounts of the many accounts of Australians at war which does not seek to perpetuate and magnify the usual mythology attached to the subject. Ray is not idealised and comes across as a very difficult, uncompromising but ultimately very great human being.

Son of a 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion ex-POW

I enjoyed your book immensely Pattie, as a history, as a document of fact, and of context.

I enjoyed the insight into the man, which I think was expressed frankly and without maudlin sentiment, and I have no doubt that, whatever frailties with which I may have chosen to endow him he was, nevertheless, quite a remarkable individual.

Mostly though I enjoyed the insight it has afforded me into my own father. He’s not the subject of a book nor should be, but his life emerges for me as one of substance, integrity, humility and endurance. You’ve allowed me to tell myself my own father’s story – not as a POW but as a man and a father. It is a story I am glad to have understood.

Quentin Fogarty, long time friend of Ray

Just finished the book. Loved it. That was the Ray I knew, trapped in his kitchen or den being lectured on Nature!!!!!

What happened to those men is still incomprehensible. How do we keep their stories alive for succeeding generations? Hopefully your book will go some of the way.

Peter O’Donoghue (whose uncle Ordinary Seaman Mervil O’Donoghue survived Perth’s sinking but died on the Thai-Burma railway)

The experiences of Ray and his comrades were so graphic, to the point of being painful. Naturally, I thought of my Uncle Mervil and wonder whether or not I would have coped and, if so, how? More particularly, would I have met the expectations of Ray?

I mentioned that Padre Matheson described Mervil as a ‘good bloke’ and this has more resonance for me now that I have read Ray’s negative view of some of the people who surrounded him in the many places he was forced to live and survive. I empathise very much with Ray’s view about loyalty, good conduct etc., but am not sure I would have not been so virtuous as to not steal or shirk in the aim of survival.

I hope you feel very proud of the biography, as I think it is an excellent literary work and deserves high praise.

Further comments from Ross Dickson, son of HMAS Perth sailor Richard Noel Dickson

Hi Pattie, I’ve had lots of time to complete your book and to reflect on the many responses and emotions it evoked.

I have a clear picture of the conditions Dad endured as the Perth served in the Mediterranean. It has been a rather harrowing but nonetheless clarifying experience to get a first hand account of the sheer bedlam and terror of a ship under almost constant attack. I was trying to picture my 18 year-old father being subjected to such incredible punishment. I’m in awe of him and of all those who endured those conditions. So, on a personal level, it has been almost cathartic in it’s effect.

I am excited to discover pictures of him that we had never seen before, especially as they depict a young man full of the innocence of youth abroad in an exotic world. I had never thought of him in that light before and I am warmed at the thought of him and his mates and their adventures ashore.

Our three kids will be with us this weekend, along with our seven grandchildren. They know very little about their Grandfather, mainly because I have never said too much about him other than he was a wonderful guy who had debilitating emotional problems. I plan to sit them down when the kids are in bed and tell the story of my “new” Dad. I will show them your book and tell them how inspirational it has been to me. Above all, I will tell them how it has helped me discover more of who I am.

Best wishes, Ross – British Columbia

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