My Friend Tertius – some background
In Saturday’s Age there was an article by journalist Tony Wright about Monterey, where code-breakers, code readers and support staff worked in signals intelligence during World War II.
I first came across Monterey when I was researching for my picture book My Friend Tertius which came out in March this year – published by Allen and Unwin and illustrated by Owen Swan.
Although I describe my book as a love story between a man and his gibbon, it is also a wild, sweeping adventure set in World War II in Hong Kong (where Arthur Cooper rescued Tertius), Singapore, southern Australia and finally Melbourne, where Tertius ended up at the Melbourne Zoo.
During my research I could only find one person who had worked with Arthur Cooper and at the time he was a retired Vice Principal of Scotch College. When I spoke to him he talked of Arthur Cooper and his friendship, he knew of Tertius, but had never met him. And of course, his name was Bond.
In both Hong Kong and Singapore Arthur Cooper was part of the Far Eastern Combined Bureau and when in Melbourne (at Monterey) he worked in Signals Intelligence for the Foreign Office as a Vice Consul on Japanese Signals Intelligence which was part of the Diplomatic Code Breaking section.
The writing of this book has been my most challenging so far (more so than Queenie: One Elephant’s Story) and took me ten years. About five years ago, I managed to find Arthur Cooper’s son, which was cause for celebration for us both. Through my research Edward has learned things about his father’s work, which he never knew of as a child.
My Friend Tertius is a true story of two lives brought together by chance. Arthur Cooper, working in intelligence for the British Government in pre-war Hong Kong, rescues a small gibbon and names him Tertius. Together they escape to a safe place – but is it for always?
‘One question kept echoing in my mind – if I had to leave, what would I do with Tertius?’
My Friend Tertius is part of an exhibition of war books for children. Read more about the exhibition and learn more about Tertius at: