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White Coolies

4.39  ·  Rating Details ·  72 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
An account of the true story which inspired the film Paradise Road

It is October 1942. From the doorway of this small three-roomed cottage, which houses thirty-two of us, we look out beyond to a steaming jungle in Sumatra..

In 1942 a group of sixty-five Australian Army nursing sisters was evacuated from Malaya a few days before the fall of Singpaore. Two days later their s
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Published 1985 by Angus and Robertson Publishers (first published 1965)
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Jennifer (JC-S)
‘This is a story of women who fought in the last war.’

In 1942, a few days before the fall of Singapore, a group of sixty-five Australian Army nursing sisters was evacuated from Malaya. They were evacuated on the SS Vyner Brooke. Two days later, on 14 February 1942, the SS Vyner Brooke was bombed by the Japanese and sank. Fifty-three survivors made it ashore. Twenty-one survivors were shot and killed by the Japanese at Radji Beach on 16 February 1942. The other thirty-two were taken prisoner.

Bet
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Coralie
Feb 06, 2013 Coralie rated it it was amazing
This was a book given to me by my Mother...Her friend (Sister ) P.B.(Blanche) Hempstead was a White Coolie and died as a POW. She is mentioned in the book.
This book is a remarkable story of cruelty, courage, perseverance, and strength of spirit. In spite of all the difficulty, deprivation and terrible conditions, there is also humour in the story, which is only to be expected from we Australians.
Sixty-five Australian Army nurses were hastily evacuated from Malaya in 1942, prior to the fall of
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John
May 04, 2010 John rated it really liked it
My edition is from 1957 and has a very politically incorrect cover.

It is the story of a group of Australian Army Nursing Sisters and others who were captured by th Japanese in WW2 and held on Sumatra. Terrible conditions and many of them died but it was amazing the things they did to maintain the resemblance of a normal life.
Helen-Louise
Jun 08, 2013 Helen-Louise rated it it was amazing
Amazing how Miss Jeffrey could keep her spirits up the way she did. I suppose she only wrote in her diary when she could keep that "stiff upper lip." I read this book comparing the experiences of these Australian Army Nurse Corps nurses with the experiences of the American military nurses who were POWs at Santo Tomas in the Philippines. Both groups had it rough, the women in each group came home weighing less than 100 pounds, both were treated as civilian internees, not military POWs. Apparently ...more
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
Nov 13, 2012 Bronwyn Mcloughlin rated it really liked it
This is a raw story, reflecting the bitterness and animosity of captives for their captors through the long years of WWII after the fall of Singapore. Two cultures with little understanding and much misunderstanding forced into an uncompromising situation - each despising the other. There are times of joy and happiness in the little joys of pow life - fresh chooks in a stew, an uplifting choir performance, a birthday celebration. But the deprivations, illness, torture, starvation and inhumanity ...more
Helen
Jan 11, 2013 Helen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I lucked into television last night and saw a movie called Paradise Road which at the time I thought was very similar to one of my favourite books as a teenager called "White Coolies". No doubt the names is no longer politically correct! The movie was very good but I am not sure that it followed the book exactly. Specifically, I cannot remember the forming of the choir. This book has travelled with me through thick and thin in life and currently lives on my bookshelf along with my other cherishe ...more
Annalie
Jun 26, 2016 Annalie rated it it was amazing
I expected this to be a depressing book but found it very uplifting to read about these amazingly brave, creative and resilient women.
Wish I had discovered this book twenty years ago! I would have loved to meet the author or one of the other Australian nurses she wrote about. Sadly the last lady died in 2007.
Miss B
May 05, 2013 Miss B rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent read. I felt so connected to these women, the writing style of the book made me feel that I could feel what they were feeling. The fact that it was a true story made it even more powerful to me.
Leah Anderson
Feb 26, 2014 Leah Anderson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good read! Worth a read to know what the nurses captured in the war went through. In just one camp-about 60 went in and and only about 23 came out. Young ones too didn't make it. It was told by a nurse with a diary sewn in her pillow- amazing!
Ange
Jun 10, 2011 Ange rated it it was amazing
I haven't read this for many years, but I read it numerous times as a teenager. White Coolies is absolutely compelling reading.
Lorna
Nov 20, 2012 Lorna rated it really liked it
Extraordinary story of survival, told in very mater-of-fact way. These women were so admirable.
Amanda Hanrahan
Apr 15, 2011 Amanda Hanrahan rated it it was amazing
This book broke my heart, bless all of those wonderful women <3
Brooke
Jan 07, 2016 Brooke rated it really liked it
I really, really enjoyed this book. In the last few years I've read quite a few books about WWII and really enjoyed all of them because of the different aspects of WWII they highlighted and White Coolies is no exception. This was an aspect I knew nothing about I was so amazed by the courage and kindness and perseverance of all of the people in these internment camps in some of the Pacific Islands. I loved how matter of factly Betty Jeffrey writes about her experience.

I really love how she reads
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Yael
Dec 05, 2013 Yael rated it did not like it
I am surprised by the high marks this book received. The events described were difficult and sad. But I did not see any personal growth or great insight from the author's experiences. I was offended by the language she used to describe her captors, and was bored by the long minuscule descriptions of life as a POW. I am not diminishing her experiences or her determination to survive, but I feel the writing was a disappointment.
Beky-Mae
Feb 21, 2016 Beky-Mae rated it it was amazing
Its inspiring woman like Betty Jeffery or Vivian Bullwinkle that make me feel honored to be perusing a career as a nurse! Betty Jeffery has the positive Australian spirit that would of been so dearly needed in the POW camps . Lest we forget all of the Men , Woman and Children who have died as a result of Wars past , present and future !
Ishaansh Singh
Ishaansh Singh rated it it was amazing
Jun 19, 2015
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Agnes Betty Jeffrey, OAM was a nurse in the 2/10th Australian General Hospital during World War II. She was taken captive by the Japanese Imperial Army and interned in the Dutch East Indies. Her memoir, White Coolies, inspired the film Paradise Road.
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