Bastard Behind the Lines

He escaped from Singapore’s Changi prisoner of war camp to become one of Australia’s great World War II guerrilla fighters.

‘The way I look at it is this…When you’re behind the line and get yourself into trouble, you’ve got to get your bloody self out irrespective of anybody else. That’s why I like it.’

Scottish-born but a Queenslander to the bone, Jock McLaren was a true Australian hero. As a prisoner he escaped twice, first from Changi and later from the infamous Sandakan POW camp in Borneo. After paddling a dugout canoe across open sea, he fought for two years with American-led Filipino guerrillas, his exploits so audacious the Japanese put a price on his head.

Scottish-born but a Queenslander to the bone, Jock McLaren was a true Australian hero. As a prisoner he escaped twice, first from Changi and later from the infamous Sandakan POW camp in Borneo. After paddling a dugout canoe across open sea, he fought for two years with American-led Filipino guerrillas, his exploits so audacious the Japanese put a price on his head.

At the helm of his 26-foot whaleboat, the Bastard, McLaren sailed brazenly into enemy-held harbours, wreaking havoc with his mortar and machine guns before heading back out to sea. In early 1945 he joined Australia’s secretive Z Special Unit, parachuting into Borneo to carry out reconnaissance and organise anti-Japanese resistance ahead of Allied landings. He cheated death on numerous occasions and saved his own life by removing his appendix without anaesthetic, using ‘two large dessert spoons’ and a razor blade.

Drawing on Allied and Japanese wartime documents, Bastard Behind the Lines brings the story of a courageous digger vividly to life and throws light on a rarely explored aspect of Australia’s Pacific war.


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