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:



Tags: , , , , , , , ,

← Back to all Blog posts


  1. Marjory Gardner So fabulous to see it finally in print Corinne! After all your research and dedication.
    July 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm · Reply
    • Corinne Fenton Thank you Marjory. There were times I thought this one wouldn't make it, but I'm so pleased it did.
      July 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm · Reply
  2. Sofia I love the tertius book. It's heart touching, I'm in year 4.
    August 24, 2017 at 3:49 pm · Reply
    • corinne Thank you Sofia. Are you the Sofia I met today? x
      August 24, 2017 at 10:26 pm · Reply
  3. Sarah Oh my jolly gosh Corinne, thank you SO much for making such a huge effort in researching and carefully putting together this amazingly touching story. I just finished reading ‘My Friend Tertius’ to my five year old and although some of the subject matter was lost on her due to her very young age, she sat and listened quietly until the very end! I thoroughly enjoyed it and balled my eyes out towards the very end (that emotional moment was very unexpected and a little hard to explain to her but hey, revealing our vulnerabilities to our children isn’t always a bad thing!?! Right?) Well done and thank you again for sharing this gorgeous story. Now to purchase our very own copy :) We borrowed this one from our local library!
    May 16, 2021 at 8:23 pm · Reply
    • corinne Oh Sarah. Thank you for your lovely post. This is one of my personal favourites and I will always be glad I persevered for so long. This one actually took me 10 years! I'm not sure where you live, but if you can't get a copy, please let me know. If it's not on a shelf, a bookshop can always order it in. I was also privileged to meet Arthur Cooper's son in London at the end of 2019.Thank you for contacting me. Corinne p.s. Do you mind if I put this up on my website?
      June 2, 2021 at 4:47 pm · Reply

Add a comment