Riverina children’s author, Katrina Roe, is launching her new wartime audiobook in Wagga Wagga on Remembrance Day.

Aimed at kids aged 9-12, When I was Twelve, is the true story of an entire childhood lived under the shadow of war. It’s about trying to be brave while growing up without your Dad.

Born in 1933, Katrina’s father, Nick Hutchins, was just six years old when his own father went off to war.

When I was six my father took me down to the bottom of the garden to have a man- to-man talk.

Now that there’s a war on, Daddy has to fight in France. You’re the man of the house now, Nicky,’ he said. ‘I need you to take care of your mother and your sister.’

When I Was Twelve tells the true story of Nick’s wartime childhood in the UK, as he shares his memories with his young grandchildren.

‘When I was young my father never talked much about his wartime childhood,’ Katrina explains. ‘Like many of his generation, they just ‘got on with it’. It was only as he got older that he reflected on the responsibility that came with trying to be the man of the house at age 6.’

‘It wasn’t until I had my own children that I realised what a huge sacrifice the war generations made. My Dad grew up without his father for all those years. They would put his photo in his place at the dinner table and kiss his photo goodnight at bedtime. When his father eventually came home, six year later, he was so thin my Dad didn’t recognise him. He said that’s not my father. My father is that man in the photo.’

Left behind during the evacuation of Dunkirk, Lt. Col. CDM Hutchins, was captured in 1940, marched across Europe on starvation rations and held captive in various German prisoner-of-war camps for five long years.

When I Was Twelve includes gripping first-hand extracts from his POW Diary. 

Hungry as I was I used to remove the meat out of my soup after seeing a gangrenous horses head being used for making it. One man had an eye in his soup and ate it. Ugh!

‘I never met my grandfather,’ Katrina says. ‘But when I visited my Aunty in the UK I read his POW diary and heard his voice for the first time. It was so clear to me that he wanted to share his story, he wanted it to be remembered. That’s why I included his voice in the book as well.’

When I was Twelve features the voices of four generations from one family: the diary of Katrina’s grandfather, first-hand narration by her father, writing and narration by Katrina, and Katrina’s youngest daughter Bronte also plays a small part on the recording.

‘I hope that kids are fascinated not just by the gory details, but also by the emotional heart of the story. It’s so important to remember that tough times do come to an end,’ Katrina says.