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The Music Maker

One POW provided hope for thousands

(15 customer reviews)
Authors: Jaci Byrne
True Story, World War II
C Format

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Kenneth G Ross, Australian playwright of BREAKER MORANT – “I was gripped by this book. It is a must-read.”

On May 8 1945, forty-six-year-old Drum Major Jackson staggered towards his American liberators. Emaciated, dressed in rags, his decayed boots held together with string, he’d been force-marched for twenty days over the Austrian Alps after five heinous years as a POW in Nazi labour camps. He collapsed into his liberators’ arms, clinging to his only meaningful possession—his war diary. 

Having already experienced the horrific nature of battle in the First World War, Jackson had now survived another War—unlike hundreds of his mates, who’d succumbed to disease, insanity, or had been killed in action. Men far younger than he. But he could never have imagined what awaited him on the home front.

A captivating testament to human endurance, Jackson’s diary and photos, one of the last such memoirs to be published, is the inspiration for The Music Maker. An unforgettable and gripping true story about the life and times of a humble man who, through his passion for music, overcame extreme adversity.

Jaci Byrne

Jaci Byrne

Jaci Byrne is the granddaughter of The Music Maker, the late Drum Major Henry Barnes Jackson. A full-time writer, Jaci has published four novels and a series of children’s books. This is her first work of non-fiction. She lives in Avalon Beach, Sydney.

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15 reviews for The Music Maker

  1. The Music Maker is an incredible story, an inspiring book based on Drum Major Jackson’s treasured WWII POW diaries. Written for all audiences, Jaci Byrne has written this story with truth & sensitivity which will resonate to everyone who reads it. Good on you Jaci Byrne.
    Angela Farmer

  2. I have just finished The Music Maker by Jaci Byrne, and what a read! A true account of life as a prisoner of war in WWII, this gripping, heart-wrenching story is so beautifully written. I couldn’t put it down & now feel sad it is finished. Such a privilege to read about this wonderful man.

  3. Well I’ve just finished The Music Maker…. what a wretched, emotional journey I’ve been on with Harry Jackson and his fellow prisoners. To display such stout-heartedness and resilience in the face of such adversity shows the backbone of men of their day, the love of music and performance transcending both sides of the war and allowing Jackson to keep his sanity intact (although performing for the enemy was to be endured not enjoyed). Drum Major Henry Barnes Jackson went to hell and back, the love of his wife and family sustaining him through all. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to swim into the depths of your family’s fortitude, Jaci Byrne.

  4. I am in my eighties and my daughter bought me The Music Maker for Father’s Day this year. I am not a big reader, but I started the book one morning soon after receiving it and I did not look up until the following afternoon! I could not put it down, so much so that my wife kept checking on me! I loved the fact that it was easy to read and so engaging. I’m an Australian and most of the literature on WWII I have read has been pertaining to the Pacific theatre, so it was fascinating to read about the war in Europe from this amazing man’s perspective. Absolutely 5 stars from me!

  5. I found it The Music Maker the most harrowing and emotional book I have ever read. To read something like this from the diary of a man taken prisoner by the Germans and spending almost six years at WWII and five as a POW, is heart-wrenching. The courage, strength, determination, and downright guts it took for these men (and women) to survive is incredible. Personally, I think this story should be compulsory reading in high schools both here and overseas. For students to read a story like this, one actually from the mouth of a POW, I am sure would keep in their minds just the sacrifices these men and women made for their freedom. From the POWs who withstood capture, torture, starvation and more, to the women back home who kept our countries running, and those who sacrificed their lives for their freedom, I feel this beautifully written book is a must-read for everyone.

  6. My congratulations go to the author Jaci Byrne on what is the most wonderful read. An inspirational tale of survival in a POW camp during WW2, and the fact that Harry was able to keep a diary for all that time to document what would have been an incredible ordeal in itself is amazing. I laughed and I cried. Well done.

  7. From the moment I picked up this book I was immersed in “Drummie’s” world and the immense courage he showed. It made me appreciate the world my own grandfather faced, locked up in a POW camp in Korea before liberation.
    I could not put this book down and I agree that it is a must read!

  8. A must read. A brilliant, moving true account of this amazing man’s life. This book at times made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think and it made me want to learn more about these times. It also left me feeling a little ashamed that I didn’t know more about these amazing, courageous men that went off to war. By the end of the book, I felt I knew Drummie and his family. A true inspiration. A beautifully written book, Jaci Byrne. I didn’t want it to finish. This is a book I could pick up and read again. Thank you so very much Jaci, for sharing your family story.

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Music Maker.” What a wonderful man the author’s Grandfather was; “Drummie” was a true inspiration to his fellow soldiers, and what an inspirational story for readers today. I personally think that “The Music Maker” should be required reading for High School students so they can read this emotive account of war from the perspective of an everyday man who used music as a means of finding peace in hell.

  10. The hero – and he was one – of this story is Drum Major Henry “Harry” Jackson of the 5th Battalion, The Border Regiment (British Army) in the Second World War. He had also served in the Royal Field Artillery in the First World War. He was a talented musician and a major theme of the book relates to his ability to procure instruments, play and conduct music, greatly helping many of his fellow inmates and helping to sustain his morale during five captive years. This is a worthwhile book and it is great that an Australian publisher has taken up this British story – read it to understand a great deal about the POW experience!

  11. It’s not often that a book captures your attention right from the outset. It can sometimes take time to get into the author’s pace and thinking, but that is not the case with The Music Maker. From the outset we are drawn immediately into the amazing and heart-wrenching experiences of Drum Major Henry Barnes Jackson as a prisoner of war over the span of World War II.

    It is truly remarkable that in the face of such dire circumstances an individual can find the energy to record events to such an extent that the arrogance, the cruelty and, the absolute misery afforded him by his captors is brought into stark reality, and he did so with complete determination over the five years of his captivity.

    The Music Maker also provides an insight as to how an individual can motivate his fellow captives to carry on in the face of such adversity. In the case of Drum Major Jackson, he used music as a vehicle for shifting the focus from the day-to-day misery to lifting the spirits of his fellow captives, whether they were participants in, or spectators at musical events.

    There are few examples of day-to-day prisoner of war experiences such as those documented in this well constructed book by Drum Major Jackson’s granddaughter Jaci Byrne. In acknowledging the astonishing daily discipline, he exercised to capture his and others’ experiences I must also acknowledge Byrne’s ability to craft a living record from often-minimal recordings.

    The Music Maker provides a rare insight into the motivation necessary to endure years of a miserable existence at the hands of a cruel captor, and separation from family and loved ones.

    Jaci Byrne’s book has given us an opportunity to comprehend the misery that many experienced but were unable to articulate in the way her grandfather did. Well done!

    Philip Hillsdon

  12. An absolutely fantastic read. I travelled along side Major Jackson with every word of his granddaughters writings.
    I truly believe that this book should be a must read in schools, to give students a thorough insight as to what happened in all aspects of War and in the POW camps.
    I noticed also Jaci that you thanked your brother Gary at the end. I was in class with him at RTHS in 1979 – I believe it is the same Gary!

  13. I could not put this book down! This is an extraordinary non fiction spanning from Drummie’s capture during the retreat to Dunkirk, throughout the entire period of the WWII to his homecoming. I have never before come across a story like it, and to have managed to hide his journal only for it to be found in an attic all those years after is incredible.
    A very moving story

  14. I have just read The Music Maker. I could not put the book down. What a fascinating read, including the chapters after the War. My wife also read the book and she described it as ‘unputdownable’!

  15. I was enthralled in The Music Maker by Jaci Byrne, not only because Harry Jackson left to go to WWII from and returned six years later to the north of England, where I grew up but also due to the accuracy of the book. Very factual indeed. I could relate to the use of local idioms, geographical descriptions and war history while still finding myself engrossed in the story of a most remarkable man, who thought of himself as just one of the lads. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this well written book.

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