The Jungle Is Neutral

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by Bennett, Dec 11, 2006.

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  1. The Jungle Is Neutral by F Spencer Chapman

    Excellent book covering Chapmans adventures in the stay behind parties in Malaysia after Singapore fell. Originally published in 71 in Singapore released in the UK this year, tap a relative for it for crimbo.

    eddited to insert link.
  2. I think you may be mistaken about that date. My copy is from 1969 but says in the front cover that the Chatto and Windus edition was published in 1949. My copy has a forward by Wavell dated 1948. This book was quoted in Devil's Guard by George Robert Elford.
  3. My bad. still bloody good read, another good reads people could recommend concerning this theatre in WWII, other than Quartered Safe Out Here?
  4. Ditto - I've a copy of the 1950 edition by Col. Chapman & it was definitely a 1949 publication. Regardless, it's an excellent book and reading it here in Asia certainly gave me a fresh perspective on the period in question and the relationship between ourselves and the local Malay/Chinese/Indian communities.

    Two books I'd recommend reading after it are firstly "Running Dogs" (perhaps not the full title) by Noel Barber which picks up with the same Chinese guerillas (Chin Peng) post war in the Malayan Emergency - another insightful piece. The second would be "Jungle Green" by Arthur Campbell - it's written as a piece of fiction in 1952/53 - but since the author was a company commander in the Suffolks at the time I'd argue the story is fairly accurate on the conditions relevant to NS men during the Malayan Emergency.

  5. As a sad postscript, IIRC Spencer Chapman may have ended up taking his own life as his experiences caught up with him in later years. He ended up Headmaster of St. Andrew's College, a very upper-crust South African boarding school.

    It's definately an old book. I had a copy that was 'liberated' from the decorative bookcases in The Dublinner pub in Bangkok. It may have been a first edition and I wish now I'd kept it.
  6. It's a good marketing idea though. re-releasing good books long out of print and presenting them as if they were new and recently written!

    I wonder if the publishers picked that idea up from New Labour!
  7. I have the 49/50 copy as well.

    A classic read, but to my mind it actually highlights the limitations of SF operations in general war: S-C carries out a couple of minor acts of sabotage, then has to hide for most of the war as an ineffectual guest/prisoner of the much more organised Communist guerillas. The first thing he does when back with UK forces is rave about the latest gucci kit hes been issued with!

    There are one or two parts I found a bit distatsteful: despite the mission orders he was engaged on during the fall of Malaya, I wonder if any conventionally-commissioned officer could have sat there and observed lost and leaderless parties of British soldiers trying to exfiltrate from the Japanese, without intervening to at least give them some direction and encouragement.
  8. I was influenced by the opinions of the old Malayan Scouts before they morphed back to the SAS. There are several inaccuracies in the area of time / distance travelled. The 'Scouts' reckoned the time he quotes to have travelled from A>B was impossible to do, as they had covered the same routes. The 'spirit' of the campaign is there, but the vets feel that there's too much 'poetic licence' in it and as a consequence never rated this tome.

  9. I have this book too, published 2003, got it from Amazon so it is back in print. I have to agree that although a fantastic read, Chapman achieved virtually nothing during his time in the Jungle, The resistance forces in the Jungle were never more than a mild irritation to the Japanese forces in Malaya.

    The impression I got though was that if trained stay behind parties with access to pre positioned supply dumps hidden in the Jungle had been in position at the start of the Malayan campaign, then the Japanese advance may well have been slowed down so much that the large British reinforcements heading to Singapore may have had the time to make a difference.

    Another book worth reading is "Moon over Malaya" telling the story of 2nd Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, the only British unit to come out of Malaya with their reputation not only intact but actually enhanced.