Customer Reviews: The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East
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on December 8, 2010
Author Alistair Urquhart was a member of the Scottish Gordon Highlanders. His group was sent to Singapore in 1939 and by December, 1941, the Japanese had seized control. Singapore, Britain's main outpost in the Far East, fell to an invading force only 1/3 the size of the defenders. Urquhart and thousands of others became prisoners of the Japanese. This began a 3 1/2 year odyssey for Urquhart which saw him endure sadistic treatment at the hands of the Japanese.

Urquhart was conscripted to work on the famous Bridge on the River Kwai, all the while surviving on a cup of rice and water per day. Beatings became the norm, and soon, Urquhart was suffering from several different tropical diseases. He worked on the bridge for 750 days.

After his work on the bridge, Urquhart was put on one of the Japanese "Hell Ships" to be sent to a labor camp in Japan. En route, the ship was sunk by an American submarine, throwing Urquhart and his comrades into the water. Some of the prisoners were rescued by friendly submarines, but Urquhart was not as lucky; he was picked up by a Japanese ship and resumed his voyage to Japan. Once there, he began working outdoors in a mine near the town of Nagasaki. By August, 1945, the Japanese were beaten. The first atomic bomb had fallen on Hiroshima and one day while Urquhart was working outside, he was knocked over by an extremely hot blast of air. Looking north toward Nagasaki, Urquhart saw a towering cloud over the city. He did not know it at the time, but he had felt the effects of the second atomic bomb that destroyed the city. Urquhart had somehow managed to survive the war, weighing only 82 pounds at the end. He managed to work his way back to Scotland and began to get back to life.

This is a very interesting story told through the eyes of a former POW. I've read many books about the fate of Allied POWs at the hands of the Japanese, but I'm still sickened each time I read about these terrible atrocities the Japanese committed yet still refuse to admit. Many Japanese companies, including the one Urquhart slaved for, benefited from POW labor, yet they still refuse to admit it. Urquhart had to endure virtually daily beatings, solitary confinement, little or no medical care, and virtually no food and water, yet he survived. it is a testament to all POWs who managed to survive such unimaginable treatment.

I recommend this book to all readers of Pacific War history. Urquhart's story is one of resilience, determination, and stubbornness, and this book accurately portrays the atrocities that Allied POWs were forced to face.
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VINE VOICEon October 8, 2010
Alistair Urquhart is an angry man.... and he should be.

The Forgotten Highlander is the non-fictional account of 20 year old Alistair Urquhart's fascinating and unbeliveable situtation in the Pacific during World War II. Now 91, Urguhart seeks to document his imprisonment at the hands of the Japanese as he survived more than two years doing slave labor. For Urquhart, this story was written partially as a catharsis, and partially to remind the world of the Japanese atrocities they have never fully admitted.

Readers will find this book to read more like fiction rather than real life as Urguhart relates details regarding prison conditions, punishment, food rationing and general interaction from one prisoner to another. Actually having worked on the Death Railway (the "bridge on the river Kiwi"), he relates in horrowing detail the constant day-to-day never-ending manual labor that drove men to cut their own throats, or simply lay their head on a track and wait a passing train. As if being a prisoner wasn't enough, he relates more unimaginable specifics about being aboard a ship bound for Japan, only to have it sunk by an American ship whereby he survived six days floating in the Pacific...only to be recaptured by another Japanese ship and ending up near Nagasaki--- the second city destroyed by they atom bomb.....which he also witnessed. His short, but powerful remarks about returning home should be read by everyone thinking they are living a life of "entitlement".

Some readers may believe this book is a fabrication. Prehaps some of it is, alas the writer is more than 65 years reomoved from the events he details and memories can be better or worse than we recall. At the same time, if just half of what he recalls is accurate, then this book is still chilling and fascinating.

I strongly recommend this book as an easy to read, fascinating recallection of World War II.... possibly one of the last we will be seeing from that generation.
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on June 17, 2010
This book will leave you speechless. There is nothing even close in this genre today. I cannot thank the author enough for finding the courage to write this book ...So many vets are dying - taking their amasing stories with them....
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on June 25, 2011
One of the first books I bought on my Kindle and I re-read it immediately. This is a truly shocking (yet inspiring) account of an unimaginable feat of endurance. To think the Urquhart was only 20 at the time reminded me of the line from King Lear: "The oldest hath borne most: we that are young/Shall never see so much, nor live so long." The generation that went through this is humbling.I could not go through a fraction of what he suffered. Probably the most shocking part was that they were asked to sign documents after their return promising not to discuss their experiences, in case it affected trade with the Japanese.
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on May 15, 2010
The explanation of the product was enough to confirm my interest in ordering it.The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East.
A very moving account of the personal hardships lived by Alastair Urquhart as a POW . Many messages of courage, faith and steadfastness.
Highly recommended reading or listening to the abridged version on three CDs.
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on October 4, 2010
Somehow the Second World War is often thought of as a kinder War than Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan. Urquhart's memoir graphically details the horrors of ANY war. As a 20 year old he's drafted into the British army and spends almost his entire war in the hands of cruel Japanese and Korean soldiers as he's forced to build a railroad in the Malaysian jungle along with other UK and Australian soldiers. His keepers completely ignored the Geneva Convention and its tenets. It would have been easy for Urquhart to slip into self pity while telling his story but he doesn't, he doesn't need to, the facts are horrible enough. Almost worse was how he was treated when he returned home. The British government asked for documentation of the atrocities he endured. Of course none existed so he was denied the extra pay that would have provided. Instead Urquhart did what so many veterans did and still do and made the most of the life he had ahead of him.
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on April 3, 2015
Horrific story, unbelievable cruelty but also filled with the determination for self-preservation and for that fact alone this book is very inspiring. My personal problem was the bland, almost monotone way that it was written. At least that is the way it came across to me. If you want to know how the Japanese really treated prisoners of war, and how their government covered it up, and still wants it covered up, read this book. Just don't expect engaging monologue or narrative that will make you feel that you are a part of the story and that you are right there with him. Overall, it was a good book, worth the money.
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on July 22, 2015
It took me a while to become engaged with this memoir. I've read so many personal POW accounts that it's only when I start spotting the differences that I really get interested. Urquhart's account is probably the loneliest I've read. Where Wade's account in "Prisoner of the Japanese" was extremely clinical, factual, and emotionally distant, he touched on some of the relationships he had with other prisoners and there was a sense of camaraderie with his fellow prisoners. Urquhart had a few people that he engaged with in certain camps, but mostly he was left alone.

The writing style of this is very simplistic, but the content is more graphic and unfiltered than most of the other memoirs I've read. Urquhart describes all the illnesses and tortures with details that other POWs had left out. Other important details were those that Urquhart mentioned on the British government's end; their complete disrespect and mistreatment of their own soldiers after they returned from the camps.

This was a good book, and I believe it's an important book. Urquhart suffered and survived an incredible amount. I think he deserves a spot up with Zamperini when categorizing by "unbroken" and "invincible." For anyone looking for a clear, uncensored account of a Pacific Theatre POW, this is great, but it's definitely got a bitter-pill ending. If you're looking for a beautifully-written POW account with a more uplifting ending, I emphatically recommend Lomax's "The Railway Man."
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on August 22, 2014
The late summer and fall of 1995 found me on active duty in England. It was a sunny mid-August day that I visited London, fine weather for the VJ Day parade and fireworks. While at a restaurant before the festivities, I happened to glance at that morning's copy of The Times, which included a large spread about how badly UK POWs were treated in the Far East prison camps during World War II. Of course I had seen the film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," but the gravity of it hadn't registered with me.

Before reading "The Forgotten Highlander," I read Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" about American POW Louis Zamperini, sobering enough about the hellish conditions. Now I had an inkling, but even armed with that, I could not have imagined "The Forgotten Highlander." What Alistair endured and lived to tell about was so incredible that only one who knows human nature can truly fathom it. "Man's inhumanity to man" may be a catchy phrase, but it captures the depths to which anyone without a moral compass could go. We do ourselves a disservice when we say, "Not I! That could only happen at the hands of imperialist Japanese captors or Nazis." Better to say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Lest we forget and partake in new atrocities.

This book should be standard reading for military service personnel going into harm's way. Better to dispel illusions of wartime glory before one's first deployment. Alistair certainly never expected his tour in Singapore to end up the way it did. Some day, I hope to see a movie based on his story, as one on Zamperini's experiences is scheduled for release in December. I will see "Unbroken" when it comes out, but only after viewing "The Bridge on the River Kwai" again. And I will keep in mind that Alistair called the latter film "sanitized." Fr. Dennis
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on July 24, 2015
Incredible!! This book is so realistic that everyone needs to read it to gain a perspective of how demoralizing, damaging and unbearable it was for prisoners of the Japanese Army during WWII. One man, who was from Scotland, wrote his story in detail. One wonders how he survived, mentally and physically. Most didn't. His story is a real eye-opener. I gained a different perspective on the mind-set of the Japanese. They were cruel beyond belief. The 'death march' process brought tears as I read it. The Forgotten Highlander is not just a war story, it's a chronicle of years of captivity and torture. It is a reality check on what could happen if..........

Beth Bristow
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