Captured at Singapore by Jill Robertson and Jan Slimming

Grownup_Rafbrat

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This book caught my eye amongst those delivered from publishers this month. I have a particular interest in the topic, as my best friend’s father was a FEPOW, and his experience in Singapore and after 1945 shaped her life and that of her brother. I have met and drunk with a few FEPOWs and read quite widely on the subject, from political, military and human aspects, and was interested to read more on this topic.

1659104840941.jpeg


This is the story of Stan Moore, a despatch rider, his journey to Singapore, the desperate battle as the island fell to the Japanese and his life until repatriation in 1945. His fiancée Pat worked at Bletchley Park. It seems she was involved in the transmission of secret information about the Japanese treatment of prisoners back to the UK Government, an aspect of the war in the East that was new to me.

I find this an incredibly difficult book to review. On the one hand, there is the story of two young people torn apart for nearly four years, yet surviving that and the aftermath of those years to raise daughters and live happily after, albeit both having some mental health issues. There are painful descriptions of the atrocities and ‘business as usual’ behaviour committed by the Japanese Occupiers. And the heartrending description of Stan’s arrival home to his mother.

On the other hand, the book starts with a highly unnecessary but typically 21st Century warning that it ‘may contain upsetting material’. It then asks the reader to believe that two girls born in the early 1950s grew up completely unaware of what had happened to those who were prisoners of the Japanese in any theatre of the Second World War where they were involved. (Born in the late 1950s myself, I remember a one-legged neighbour of my Nan’s who had lost his leg through the actions of a Japanese Guard. The behaviour of the Japanese, the Prisoners turning their backs on the Japanese State Visit, the various apologies, and the laughable Millennium Compensation, have all featured in Mainstream News throughout the 20th Century. How could they have missed all that?). There are a number of military discrepancies, which could and should have been corrected by the Editor. A decent Editor could also have removed some very irritating tendencies to overlay 21st Century rewriting of history over 1940s values and standards. For instance, soldiers in transit stopped in India, and were apparently ‘horrified’ that Indian people slept in the streets ‘because of colonialism’.

I tagged a number of pages where what I read contradicted what I have read elsewhere and heard from those who were there and those who lived with FEPOWs as family and neighbours. I do understand that the two sisters have created this book from a tiny notebook kept by their father, some 1970s tape recordings he made where memory might have been unclear, and conversations with his very good friend from the time. There is an extensive bibliography which shows that someone has done a lot of work, it’s just that the book itself leaves one feeling that the man has been let down by the lack of attention to military, political and historical detail and the silly 21st Century baloney.

I am not going to award any stars for this book, but I would suggest that ‘The Forgotten Highlander’ by Alistair Urquhart is a better volume both for description of travel to Singapore, life there before the fall, during the occupation, and the Hell Ships. His coverage of the political aspects of the Japanese Surrender, the return home and the aftermath is also a more accurate reflection, as it is untainted by hindsight.

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"I would suggest that ‘The Forgotten Highlander’ by Alistair Urquhart is a better volume both for description of travel to Singapore, life there before the fall, during the occupation, and the Hell Ships."

To this I'd allso suggest the below, as they mention eachother at various points and cover the attempts to escape Singapore. Both are very good and also cover the loss of Force Z and some of the small ship activities.

51AvCQprEXL.jpg
5117VH9UshL.jpg
 

Grownup_Rafbrat

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"I would suggest that ‘The Forgotten Highlander’ by Alistair Urquhart is a better volume both for description of travel to Singapore, life there before the fall, during the occupation, and the Hell Ships."

To this I'd allso suggest the below, as they mention eachother at various points and cover the attempts to escape Singapore. Both are very good and also cover the loss of Force Z and some of the small ship activities.

51AvCQprEXL.jpg
5117VH9UshL.jpg
My bookshelf thanks you.
 

RBMK

LE
Book Reviewer
This book caught my eye amongst those delivered from publishers this month. I have a particular interest in the topic, as my best friend’s father was a FEPOW, and his experience in Singapore and after 1945 shaped her life and that of her brother. I have met and drunk with a few FEPOWs and read quite widely on the subject, from political, military and human aspects, and was interested to read more on this topic.

View attachment 681450

This is the story of Stan Moore, a despatch rider, his journey to Singapore, the desperate battle as the island fell to the Japanese and his life until repatriation in 1945. His fiancée Pat worked at Bletchley Park. It seems she was involved in the transmission of secret information about the Japanese treatment of prisoners back to the UK Government, an aspect of the war in the East that was new to me.

I find this an incredibly difficult book to review. On the one hand, there is the story of two young people torn apart for nearly four years, yet surviving that and the aftermath of those years to raise daughters and live happily after, albeit both having some mental health issues. There are painful descriptions of the atrocities and ‘business as usual’ behaviour committed by the Japanese Occupiers. And the heartrending description of Stan’s arrival home to his mother.

On the other hand, the book starts with a highly unnecessary but typically 21st Century warning that it ‘may contain upsetting material’. It then asks the reader to believe that two girls born in the early 1950s grew up completely unaware of what had happened to those who were prisoners of the Japanese in any theatre of the Second World War where they were involved. (Born in the late 1950s myself, I remember a one-legged neighbour of my Nan’s who had lost his leg through the actions of a Japanese Guard. The behaviour of the Japanese, the Prisoners turning their backs on the Japanese State Visit, the various apologies, and the laughable Millennium Compensation, have all featured in Mainstream News throughout the 20th Century. How could they have missed all that?). There are a number of military discrepancies, which could and should have been corrected by the Editor. A decent Editor could also have removed some very irritating tendencies to overlay 21st Century rewriting of history over 1940s values and standards. For instance, soldiers in transit stopped in India, and were apparently ‘horrified’ that Indian people slept in the streets ‘because of colonialism’.

I tagged a number of pages where what I read contradicted what I have read elsewhere and heard from those who were there and those who lived with FEPOWs as family and neighbours. I do understand that the two sisters have created this book from a tiny notebook kept by their father, some 1970s tape recordings he made where memory might have been unclear, and conversations with his very good friend from the time. There is an extensive bibliography which shows that someone has done a lot of work, it’s just that the book itself leaves one feeling that the man has been let down by the lack of attention to military, political and historical detail and the silly 21st Century baloney.

I am not going to award any stars for this book, but I would suggest that ‘The Forgotten Highlander’ by Alistair Urquhart is a better volume both for description of travel to Singapore, life there before the fall, during the occupation, and the Hell Ships. His coverage of the political aspects of the Japanese Surrender, the return home and the aftermath is also a more accurate reflection, as it is untainted by hindsight.

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Excellent review thank you.
I will give this one a miss.
 

Grownup_Rafbrat

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An Australian perspective is “The Naked Island” by Russell Braddon, a PoW in Changi and on “the railway”. He pulls no punches about the Japanese barbarity he saw. Not only to captured military but to all they ruled in the Greater South East Asia Co-Properity Sphere.

He writes with a dry, laconic Aussie wit that describes not only much suffering but how, incredibly, they fought back with laughter and mockery.

It sold in its millions and several editions when first published. You can download it for free at library.many books.net

My father was 2nd AIF in New Guinea and then at Singapore’s relief. Like so many, he never talked about his experiences. His only career advice was “Never join up”. But then, a few days before died, he revealed how proud he was to have volunteered. I had nice letters from friends and family. But those from his army mates reduced me to tears.

Afterwards I found a letter he‘d written to Mum about Singapore. A gentle, very just man, his anger and disgust almost burnt the pages. He described meeting exPoWs including not recognising a mate he‘d knocked about with as a teenager. Jimmy was about five stone.

In 1986, I asked Jimmy if he hated the Japanese. “I don’t like them” he drawled in that country Australian way. “But I’ll tell you this. They never broke their Honour Code. Unlike the Germans.”
l
 
An Australian perspective is “The Naked Island” by Russell Braddon, a PoW in Changi and on “the railway”. He pulls no punches about the Japanese barbarity he saw. Not only to captured military but to all they ruled in the Greater South East Asia Co-Properity Sphere.

He writes with a dry, laconic Aussie wit that describes not only much suffering but how, incredibly, they fought back with laughter and mockery.

It sold in its millions and several editions when first published. You can download it for free at library.many books.net

My father was 2nd AIF in New Guinea and then at Singapore’s relief. Like so many, he never talked about his experiences. His only career advice was “Never join up”. But then, a few days before died, he revealed how proud he was to have volunteered. I had nice letters from friends and family. But those from his army mates reduced me to tears.

Afterwards I found a letter he‘d written to Mum about Singapore. A gentle, very just man, his anger and disgust almost burnt the pages. He described meeting exPoWs including not recognising a mate he‘d knocked about with as a teenager. Jimmy was about five stone.

In 1986, I asked Jimmy if he hated the Japanese. “I don’t like them” he drawled in that country Australian way. “But I’ll tell you this. They never broke their Honour Code. Unlike the Germans.”
l
Thanks for that link and sharing your family experiences.
I've just downloaded The Naked Island, link to site below.

 
Indeed a classic.
I read that, and Lord Russell of Liverpool's 'Knights of Bushido' in my mid-teens. Later on, I started collecting FEPOW books, something that occupied me for many years- there were so many.
One of the interesting things I found with Braddon's book was unusually for the time it was published was the mention of the brutality if the Indian, mainly Sikh, guards against the prisoners in Singapore. Later books reveal how commonplace it was but it seems that in The Naked Island's time - almost as if the perfidious nature of those troops was a subject to be kept quiet.
Another book by a POW contemporary and compatriate of Russell Braddon (indeed Braddon is mentioned a few times) is one that I think should also have been a classic except that the great Australian public didn't like the title, is also available for free* on the internet.
It covers the just about the whole spectrum of POW experience; The battle down the Malay Peninsula, Evasion, Capture, Death Railway, transit on a Hell Ship to Japan, forced labour, freedom and illicit visits to what was left of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and finally repatriation back to Australia.

"The Brave Japanese" by Kenneth Harrison is available in several formats - Amazon Kindle will set you back £2.99 but other formats have been made freely available on the author;s son's website;
Harrison Web Page

For the PDF version which I find perfectly adequate can be downloaded and saved direct from here.
PDF Version
The title is not made with irony, Harrison actually respected the fighting abilities of the foe. Sometimes funny, often sad, I recommend it as a worthwhile read.

NULL
 
Thanks for this. My own impression from Dad and his friends was of a kind of grudging admiration for Japanese fighting qualities. He compared them to the Ghurkas. “They (the Ghurkas) were great blokes but utterly terrifying in battle. I was glad they were on our side” is one memory.
 
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In 1986, I asked Jimmy if he hated the Japanese. “I don’t like them” he drawled in that country Australian way. “But I’ll tell you this. They never broke their Honour Code. Unlike the Germans.”
Just as a side note, I came across this recently,
One of the captions read;
"These surrender leaflets were dropped on the Japanese. When "I surrender was changed to an honourable "I cease resistance", results were better."
surrenderLeaflet.png

Source (left) Anti Japanese propaganda

Source (right and below) Psyops Against Japan (masses of info)
…Even at the start of the war there was extreme reluctance to make use of surrender passes bearing the word “Surrender” in either Japanese (kosan, kofuku) or English. “I Cease Resistance” was the preferred euphemism. According to the linguist Kennosuke Ezawa, both kofuku and kosan have the component ko, which indicate descent, or going down from high to low. Kofuku, used exclusively to describe military surrender, actually is rarely articulated, since the literal and figurative lowering it entails often led in the past to suicide or to being killed by the enemy…
 

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