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An Inspiring Story of Survival
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.