Page 13, 4th May 2007

4th May 2007
Page 13
Page 13, 4th May 2007 — Mass and starvation

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Mass and starvation

Keywords: Malone, Starvation

Turbulent Times in the Far East: The Story of the Malone Family 1893-1946 by Desmond Malone, Athena £6.99 Desmond Malone, a history buff, trained as a City of London Guide after retiring from the Bank of England and is now part of a team which shows visitors round St Paul's Cathedral. He and his wife, Margaret, live in west London and have four children and five grandchildren. They regularly attend the Benedictine church of Ealing Abbey, as well as being keen swimmers and bridge players.

But Malone looks back to less peaceful days in Turbulent Times in the Far East, describing how during the Second World War he, together with his mother and sister, were interned in the Philippines. The three years he spent there culminated on his 15th birthday on January 27, 1945, when he was taken into the camp hospital weighing only four stone. The doctor told his mother that, on the starvation rations they had by then been reduced to, he would last about another three months. Fortunately the liberation of the camp was heralded within a week when a large American soldier burst into the ward and swept him up in his arms, promising jubilantly: -You'll have sugar on your mush tomorrow morning!" Not poetically expressed perhaps, but the sweetest possible poetry to that starving youngster's ears.

Undoubtedly, Malone's Catholic faith was something which helped see him through these travails, and he writes of the many priests he encountered, including a devout elderly missionary, Fr Patrick Kelly, for whom he regularly served Mass. Tragically, Fr Kelly was killed in a massacre by vengeful Japanese soldiers just as the Americans were landing.

The internees were housed in buildings which were normally the campus of the University of Santo Tomas, run by Dominicans. Among them were two American priests, Fr McMahon and Fr Ahern, who in the early years were allowed to stay in the community and also say Mass for the internees, and Malone notes their "fine sermons" in the Dominican tradition. And he remembers with gratitude a Mill Hill Missionary, Father McCann, who worked as an orderly in the hospital, and who regularly sneaked the starving youngster scrapings from the rice cauldrons, discreetly wrapped in paper.

Malone writes of the camp in a matter of fact manner compared with the many harrowing stories of life under Japanese rule.

He gives an interesting accountof the prisoners' routines, including the indignities which lack of privacy and living so close together involved. And his observant, thoughtful eye casts an interested look at his fellow internees, with amusing but tolerant accounts of the idiosyncrasies of some.

The Malone family first went to China at the end of the 19th century, and Turbulent Times in the Far East covers the period from the family's arrival there to their return to England after the


Elizabeth Payne

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