When Jim Burrowes went to war in January 1942, he came from a family of seven. By the time he returned, his family of seven had been reduced to three.
“It was very hard on poor old Mum,” Jim said.
“[She was] a true heroine. She had got through the Depression following World War I, struggled to bring up the family, and then all this happened …
“My oldest brother was captured at Rabaul in 1942 and my twin brother was shot down on his first mission over Rabaul in 1943.
“When I got home I found out ... my brothers had both been killed …
“My father had died [of a heart attack] during the war in 1942 … and after I got home … my sister died in childbirth … I missed seeing her one final time by a few hours.”
Jim, now 95, served as a Coastwatcher with the Allied Intelligence Bureau’s M Special Unit during the Second World War.
The Coastwatchers were Allied military intelligence operatives stationed on remote Pacific islands to observe enemy movement and rescue stranded Allied personnel. The intelligence they gathered is often credited with turning the tide of the war in the Pacific, their radioed reports giving the Allies a decisive advantage in some of the most crucial battles, including the Battle of the Coral Sea, and acting as an early warning network.
“A lot of people say we were heroes, but I don’t believe that,” Jim said. “We just had a job to do and we did it … and fortunately most of us came home.”