Jungle Survival Handbook

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  • Author:
    Ed Alan Jeffries
    This is a retrospective book on ‘How to fight the Japanese’ but I don’t think we will be doing that again. It is an American/British wartime publication which has been reprinted without amendment. Much of the book is about Brigade and Battalion jungle drills, and artillery support etc; it is quite interesting in that respect plus it also illustrates Japanese jungle tactics, which is also quite interesting.

    There are some pure Americanisms in the book, for example ’ No infantry soldier should feel himself a warrior until he has had Japanese blood on his bayonet,’ and another ‘ If the enemy attacks at night, don’t open fire and give your position away, go at him silently with your bayonet.’ This is almost an impossibility, as the jungle is as black as Hell at night, how do you find him to give your ‘thrust and parry’? Another instruction is ‘Always wear long trousers in the jungle’ ; also ‘The Topi is quite useless in the jungle and should not be worn’. In reading such instructions I get the feel that some, but not all of the text was written by junior staff officers over coffee in the Mess.

    Much of the individual stuff of survival, such as obtaining water from vines, and recognising edible plants, the symptoms of various disease etc, is very useful and reminds me of happy times being taught those very things in a Jungle School in Malaya, which now seems a hundred years ago, but still filed away in my ‘fond and happy memories’ file.

    An instruction in the books reads; ‘The Jungle favours the attacker therefore ‘passive defence’ should never be tolerated’ (The author was never on the Burma front for sure) Also stated; 'The Japanese soldier possesses an acute and peculiar odour therefore his presence, or places that he has recently vacated can be smelt out'!

    The book is useful to anyone that has an interest in Jungle operations during WW2 and shortly afterwards, there are some very useful tips on personal survival, and for the historian also interesting information on Japanese tactics. ‘The Japs always counterattacked a lost position within ten minutes’. Towards the end of the war the Japs were short of rations; their operational orders for a particular attack states, ‘ Rations will be taken from the enemy’... now there’s confidence for you!

    The book is worth a read, I wouldn’t buy it, there are better and more up to date books on the market. I give it 3 stars .
CanteenCowboy likes this.

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  1. overopensights
    As a comparison It has been often stated regarding the different 'smells' of the French to the German trenches during WW1 and I was aware of that, it just surprised me that the book states regarding the Japs; 'go and Sniff them out' . Though when I look back I can well remember the smells of Heximine? and toothpaste etc from adjacent jungle platoons some few hundred metres away from my own position . The book states that the Jap has a 'Peculiar and persistent bodily odor' which I don't doubt, and I take your point on that.
      Goatman likes this.
    1. Goatman
      Pm me an address and I'll send you the GMcD book if you can't find a library copy. Good read for anyone interested in the long slog of the Burma campaign.
      Goatman, Oct 22, 2017
      overopensights likes this.
  2. Goatman
    Read George MacDonald Fraser's 'Quartered Safe Out Here' - his first hand account of his time in Burma as a young Lance jack serving with (iirc) KOSB.

    He too mentions that the guys steadily killing the Imperial Army could 'smell Jap'.

    It is not, as you seem to imply, a throwaway 40s racist comment.

    I'll dig out the text in a bit.
      overopensights likes this.
    1. Auld-Yin
      Border Regiment, not KOSB. Different side of the Border.
      Auld-Yin, Oct 22, 2017
      Goatman and overopensights like this.