Burns, Jack Lusby (Lieutenant, b.1918 - d.2010)

Accession Number AWM2016.485.1
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement 2 wallets: 2 cm
Object type Diary, Letter
Maker Burns, Jack Lusby
Place made Japan
Date made 1942-1945
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

Collection relating to the Second World War service of VX39159 Lieutenant Jack Lusby Burns, 1st Independent Company, Papua New Guinea and Japan, 1942-1945.

Burns enlisted in the AIF in 1940, at the age of 22, and was rapidly promoted to lieutenant. In July 1941 he embarked with the 1st Independent Company to Kavieng, New Ireland. With the threat of war looming with Japan, the company’s role was to protect Kavieng’s airfield. On 21 January 1942, between 3000 and 4000 Japanese troops landed on the airfield, hopelessly outnumbering the Australians. Lieutenant Jack Burn’s final job was to destroy 84,550 litres of fuel, before escaping with his company, aboard the Induna Star schooner. The schooner’s intended destination was Port Moresby, however it was bombed by a Japanese plane, and then met by a Japanese destroyer. Thereafter Burns and company were transferred to the destroyer and became prisoners of war.

The collection includes Burns’ six handwritten war diaries, which date from his capture. He was a prisoner of war for three and a half years, from the 1st of February 1942, through to liberation in late August 1945. As a prisoner of war, Burns was starved; his weight at capture was 78.5 kilograms, and on release he weighed 43 kilograms. He only had the clothes he had worn in tropical Kavieng, thus Japan’s wintertime was harsh. The opening entry of the first diary is dated Sunday 19th July 1942, and begins ‘Arrived at Zentusi Prisoner of War camp at 13.35 hrs, after a very uncomfortable trip in the train all night from Yokohama …’ Burns’ diaries are highly detailed, describing at length the conditions, facilities, supplies, activities and experiences. The final entry of the sixth diary is dated Monday 20th August 1945 and reads ‘”Wonderful”. Received 5 letters from home … ‘Tis wonderful to think that soon I shall be seeing them again. Gosh we have a lot to make up. Various conjectures as to when our movement orders will come ….’ The entry ceases mid-sentence.

The collection also includes many letters, approximately 50; the majority of the letters have been written by Jack to his family. Remaining letters are from friends, addressed to the Burns family, and there are four letters to Jack from his mother.

Also see AWM2016.633.3.