John Read's 'Dear Grandpa, Why?' asks tough questions

Local author John Read is used to writing about ecological discoveries, but seven years ago his writing took a different turn with the beginning of his third book; ‘Dear Grandpa, Why?’

His grandfather; Flying Officer Edward Tompson Mobsby, was killed in New Guinea during World War II, leaving behind a wife and two young daughters.

When Dr Read’s mother began compiling a booklet of everything she knew about her father, it brought up questions of why a man would voluntarily leave his young family to risk his life in an overseas war.

This question, and the desire of Dr Read’s mother to learn more about her father, took the family all the way to a small village in the Pacific, where Edward Mobsby’s crashed plane still remains.

After learning about his grandfather and coming to terms with his sacrifice, Dr Read’s thoughts turned to Japan, and the lingering hostility his family felt towards the country for their part in Edward’s death.

This lead him on a trip to Japan to learn from Miyuki, a woman with a very similar story to himself, but very different views on the cause of the war.

Throughout a three year journey, Dr Read documented his thoughts in a series of letters, which were published as part of his book earlier this year.

He said while he was initially hesitant to turn his letters into a book, he did so “so others could experience what we experienced.”

Visiting war memorials and watching his grandfather posthumously awarded the Silver Star medal for gallantry, Dr Read spent much of his time considering the role remembrance must play in the prevention of future wars.

He said “having conversations” was the most important thing, and that the opportunity he had to speak to Japanese people and understand how they saw the war was something that could help keep the peace.

“That’s really how wars start, when you don’t understand each other,” he said.

He said communicating with other cultures “at a personal and national level” was powerful, and he published the book so those who don’t have that opportunity might learn from his experience.

Dr Read is speaking about ‘Dear Grandpa, Why?’ at the Kimba School Community Library at 7pm on Thursday night.