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Blackswanwood

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It’s a bit of an odd post but I find it quite moving watching the veterans who are appearing on the news at the moment in relation to VJ Day. What they went through puts so much of what we find to moan about in perspective.
 

Rorschach

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Be wary of those who use the troubles of the past to mask and promote complacency toward the troubles of the present. Those that do so denigrate the sacrifice made for us.
 

selectortone

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It’s a bit of an odd post but I find it quite moving watching the veterans who are appearing on the news at the moment in relation to VJ Day. What they went through puts so much of what we find to moan about in perspective.
I worked in Sydney as a teenager (RAF Dad, in Singapore, 6 months to kill before uni). This was 1969. I worked in a warehouse at Darling Harbour with a bunch of decidedly mis-fit Aussies and one of them was a skinny sickly-looking guy who kept himself to himself and hardly spoke a word. He used to come in at seven in the morning smelling of alcohol. This was in the days of "early openers" so it wasn't difficult to get a drink in a pub before work - the pubs would be full of raucous men getting a skinful at 6:30 as I walked to work. I had a counter lunch with him in a pub one lunch time and he opened up a tiny bit and mentioned that he had worked on the Burma Railway. Didn't go into any detail, and I didn't press, but something in his eyes when he said those two words has stayed with me ever since. He lived on his own in a crummy bedsit. His name was Bob.

I had to return to Singapore and back to Blighty shortly afterwards. Whenever the Burma Railway is mentioned I wonder what happened to Bob. In Singapore we lived in married quarters on Changi aerodrome, by the western end of the runway, and we could see Changi Jail from our garden. The whole of that end of the island was an open prison during the war. I've read a lot about Singapore and the Burma Railway since then. There are many excellent autobiographies to read. The novel 'King Rat' by James Clavell, who was imprisoned at Changi is a book I often revisit.

God bless you Bob, I hope you found some peace.
 

Blackswanwood

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I too hope Bob found his peace.

It seems a common theme that many chose or could not talk about what they had been through. James Clavell didn’t talk about his experience in Changi until fifteen years after the war and constantly had to fight the urge to forage in bins for food.
 

Blackswanwood

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I also did not know that James Clavell was a POW, I also did not know that prior to his capture he was shot in the face :eek:

.

For anyone who has not read "The Asian Saga" I say stop what you are doing and get the books read he is a great author.

... and he wrote the scripts for The Great Escape and 633 Squadron ... and worked as a carpenter beforegetting into films and writing.
 

Droogs

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For myself the most poignant book about the far east POWs is "Through the valley of the Kwai" by Ernest Gordon. This book gave me an actual lump in my throat
 

selectortone

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For myself the most poignant book about the far east POWs is "Through the valley of the Kwai" by Ernest Gordon. This book gave me an actual lump in my throat
Indeed. One of the best.

And there's JG Ballard, another fine author, who wrote of his experiences as a boy in Japanese-occupied Shanghai in "Empire Of The Sun".

Eric Lomax's "The Railway Man" is another. The film adaptation was on a couple of nights ago.

I knew very little about the Burma Railway while I was in Singapore. None of us schoolkids did. We'd seen "Bridge On The River Kwai" but that was it really. We did know that Singaporeans to a person loathed the Japanese. It's sobering to think now that the married quarters where we lived in such colonial luxury stood on ground once occupied by starving skeletal men living in unimaginable deprivation and cruelty.

The reason I persuaded my Dad to cadge me a lift on an RAF Comet transport and spent 6 months in Sydney was because I had read Nevil Shute's "A Town Like Alice" - another fine novel in greater part about the Japanese Occupation.

I watched "King Rat" again last night. That's a great movie.
 
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Trevanion

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I finished reading "Elephant Bill" the other day, not exclusively a book about the War in Burma but a good portion of it is and I don't think you can really imagine how tough it was especially for lads who had no prior experience of the jungle. Bill had spent twenty years in the Burmese jungles commanding teak extraction elephants and was clearly a very tough nut and had served during the first world war in the middle east but I think even he struggled in Burma during the second world war extracting refugees through "The Valley of Death" during the retreat and losing elephants to the Japanese.

It's an excellent book by the way, working my way through the next one "Bandoola" which chronicles the life of the star elephant in "Elephant Bill".
 

Phil Pascoe

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I'll take a note of Elephant Bill - I've been given All Quiet on the Western Front and Primo Levi's If This is a Man, which I have yet to read (waiting for a sparky to put some lights in).

I was working on a civil engineering site in 1974, I was twenty. There was a heated discussion about tattoos (I loathe the things), and many there were much in favour of them, half the tea hut being "gypsies" who had mostly had home done ones or ones they'd acquired in gaol. Des the crane driver piped up and said how much he hated them. I said you're a fine one to talk, with a nine inch palm tree and a climbing monkey going up your arm. He grabbed me warmly by the throat, pulling me towards him. Take a better look, he said, see anything? Yes, I said ....... there's a number under every segment ............ Oh, God, I'm ever so sorry .......
 
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Blackswanwood

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Some good pointers here for reading material - thanks.

The veterans being interviewed on TV have really piqued my interest ... and have my full admiration.
 

Garno

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I read this whilst I was in the army, I am reasonably sure I read it whilst on basic training.

The people of France should read it to see how one Englishman single handedly did what hundreds of Frenchmen could not do.
I will hold my hands up and say if I was given the task I could not go through what he went through, to this day I don't think I have met anyone who could of.

I have never re-read the book as some parts of it still play on my mind some 50 years later, I think I will give it a try to see if it still has the same effect on me now.

If you never want to read another book again try and read this one, then look in the mirror and ask yourself would you of survived and do what he did. An absolute unsung hero and such a vital cog in our victory in WWII

I have tried not to include any spoilers, If I have then I apologise.

 

Bm101

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I'll take a note of Elephant Bill - I've been give All Quiet on the Western Front and Primo Levi's If This is a Man, which I have yet to read
Both masterpieces Phil.
If you get on with Levi try 'If not now, when'.
Going to get a couple of the suggestions on here myself I think.
 

AES

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I must say a definite +1 for "The Railway Man" by Eric Lomax (I didn't realise it had been made into a film) which I have not seen. But a brilliant read - not "entertainment"!

I've also had the opportunity to visit one of the war graves for the Burma Railway not far outside Bangkok.

And I once shared an office with a Dutchman, who was only about 3 years old on the walk through "Malaya" with his Mum, as per "A Town Like Alice" (though as Nevil Shute admits in the book's afterword, the walk through "Malaya" wasn't actually in Malaya, it was what is, today, Indonesia - Dutch East Indies at the time).

In all cases, VERY sobering and thought-provoking experiences for me.
 

Blackswanwood

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I read this whilst I was in the army, I am reasonably sure I read it whilst on basic training.

The people of France should read it to see how one Englishman single handedly did what hundreds of Frenchmen could not do.
I will hold my hands up and say if I was given the task I could not go through what he went through, to this day I don't think I have met anyone who could of.

I have never re-read the book as some parts of it still play on my mind some 50 years later, I think I will give it a try to see if it still has the same effect on me now.

If you never want to read another book again try and read this one, then look in the mirror and ask yourself would you of survived and do what he did. An absolute unsung hero and such a vital cog in our victory in WWII

I have tried not to include any spoilers, If I have then I apologise.

A brilliant book indeed Garno.

Paddy Ashdown’s book Game of Spies about the resistance in Bordeaux is also a good read. It shows both sides of the French Resistance - bravery and personal sacrifice in some but constantly undermined by treachery and self interest in their own ranks.
 

Garno

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A brilliant book indeed Garno.

Paddy Ashdown’s book Game of Spies about the resistance in Bordeaux is also a good read. It shows both sides of the French Resistance - bravery and personal sacrifice in some but constantly undermined by treachery and self interest in their own ranks.
I have not read that one but I will now :)
 
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