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One Fourteenth Of An Elephant [Paperback]

Ian Denys Peek
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

28 Feb 2011

In February 1942, Singapore fell to the Japanese. Denys Peek and his brother were just two of tens of thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers and citizens taken prisoner.

Eight months later, he and his comrades were packed into steel goods wagons and transported by rail to Siam. They were to become part of the slave labour force destined for the massive construction project that would later become infamous as the Burma Thailand Railway. He would spend the next three years in over fifteen different work and 'hospital' camps on the railway, stubbornly refusing to give in and die in a place where over 20,000 prisoners of war and uncounted slave labourers met their deaths.

Narrated in the present tense and written with clarity, passion and a remarkable eye for detail, Denys Peek has vividly recreated not just the hardships and horrors of the railway and the daily struggle for survival but also the comradeship, spirit and humour of the men who worked on it. It stands as a haunting, evocative and deeply moving testimony to the suffering of those who lived and died there - a salutary reminder of man's potential for inhumanity to his fellow man.

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Bantam (28 Feb 2011)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0857500295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857500298
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 5.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 466,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'May become one of the great epics of our time.'" (SUN-HERALD)

"'A triumph of memory and passion.'" (WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN)

"'Denys Peek has forged a diamond out of the terrible degradation of the past.'" (MELBOURNE AGE)

"'Brutally frank and beautifully moving.'" (ADELAIDE ADVERTISER)

Book Description

A powerful memoir of life and death as a PoW working on the Burma-Thailand Railway.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth about the Burma Railway 11 Nov 2004
Like most people of my generation, I thought I knew all about the Burma Railway and the privations of the POW's that worked on it as slave labour. But now, having read this excellent new book, I realise I never knew the half of it. Mr Peek has written a warts and all account of his time spent building this railway, that the Japanese thought was so important to their quest to conquer all of South East Asia. They were unbelievably brutal to the POW's. Most of the 1000's of deaths occurred from neglect. The POW's were fed what amounted to starvation rations and consequently came down with every tropical disease in the book. The Japanese offered no medical facilities whatsoever. Mr Peek pulls no punches when he talks about his Japanese captors. His language may not seem to be terribly politically correct these days, especially 60 years after the event, but his account would seem to be honest. When you reach the end of this book its easy to see why so many of his generation can never forgive or forget. A special hatred was reserved for the British and Allied Officers, captured during the fall of Singapore. Whilst the men under their command were being brutalised on a day-to-day basis, the Officers, with a few notable exceptions, were content to stay aloof and did absolutely nothing to help. 1000's of men were reduced to wearing nothing more than a makeshift loincloth, but the Officers strutted around in carefully looked after, parade-ground standard spotless uniforms. Harrowing though this account of the Burma Railway is, it is curiously uplifting in a way, because the author shows how the human spirit can rise above almost everything that life can throw at it. I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn the truth about the situation in South East Asia during WW2.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provocking 7 Oct 2005
By A Customer
Having been to the Bridge over the river kwai, at the time I couldn't beleive how they managed to build such a engineering feat in the tropical humidity and heat and although I knew conditions were hard it wasn't until I read the book I realised how hard they really were.It was so well written and at times it left you feeling so humble, that thousands of men struggled and died in the terrrible conditions.He describes his feelings and thoughts and has you laughing ,crying and getting angry all the time you are reading it. It should be compulsory reading in all schools so we learn and do not forget what a sacrafice these men went through.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real Survival story 18 Dec 2005
I picked up this book by chance and really had no idea what it was going to be about , it was the title that caught me ! I ended up walking around the house reading it ~literally ! It is an account of his time as a Prisoner ( or should it be Slave ? ) of War in Burma and Siam. He was put to work with thousands of others in building the infamous Burma railway. How he survived I do not know. How he kept his spirits high, I shall never understand.The circumstances and conditions in which they were kept defies belief. Written in a diary format, it kept me gripped until the very last page. I too would recommend it as History reading for School children.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and moving 8 Sep 2004
By Panther
Although many of the author's experiences, which are vividly described in the present tense, are repeated, the book cannot be considered long-winded or repetitive because it is chock full with moving and absorbing anecdotes of both the author's and fellow POWs' usually dreadful (but sometimes amusing) stories. Although this is a long book, I could not help wanting to turn the next page and find out more of this gripping tale. No reader can remain a disinterested observer; the treatment of POWs described herein is too shocking not to engender anger and astonishment at the barbaric behaviour of Japanese and Korean soldiers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars rivetting 30 April 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was brilliantly harrassing, I wanted to be able to go offer the prisoners food and medicine, such were the vivid descriptions of deprivation. The tenacity of those young men wouldn't go amiss in todays society and how Denys Peek survived is a miracle, he must have had a wonderful constitution and strong mental health. I was very surprised at the officers behaviour.."I'm alright Jack mode" and very glad to be enlightened.
This book should be compulsory reading in schools, with its vivid descriptions and tons of truth about dreadful happenings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely lost for words 23 Oct 2008
Having read a few personal biographies from all aspects of the war I was handed a copy of Eric Lomax's excellent book "The Railway Man". This fed an interest in the subject and I managed to get my hands on a copy of this book, "One Fourteenth of an Elephant". The book starts not with the authors life story but delves straight into the nightmare that was to become his life for the next few years. It is an honest and raw account of life on the Burma-Thia railway written in such a way as to give you a full understanding of what happened, the horrors and the torture these people went though. It is disturbing but rewarding, he has a unique way of detailing aspects that have obviously stayed with his throughout the next 50 years until the book was written, you feel it could have been written during the time of internment due to it's detailed descriptions and details of daily life.
An excellent book. One of the best I have read (all for the wrong reasons!) and one that will stay on my shelf forever more as a tribute to him and his brave companions. If you have read the Railway Man you NEED to read this book as it fills in the blanks about life building the railway.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Japanes shame.
Well written account of a deeply harrowing period of the shameful callous treatment of prisoners by the Japanese. They will never be forgiven for their inhuman actions.
Published 1 month ago by Scottish gentleman.
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
this book tells it as it was on the death railway. a book all should read, starting with schoolchildren who should be aware of all that happened in ww2.
Published 2 months ago by P. J. Berry
5.0 out of 5 stars one fourteenth of an elephant
Fantastic read regarding mans humanity and inhumanity under extreme and harsh circumstances.written so down to earth. Read more
Published 18 months ago by easyreader
5.0 out of 5 stars A jolly good read
One of the finest books I have ever read.Kept me interested from page one ,onwards.Took me all my time to put it down,I was that engrossed.
Published on 18 April 2012 by bluey
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
If all you know about the Allied prisoners held captive by the Japanese is 'The Bridge over the River Kwai' then read this book. Read more
Published on 12 Jan 2012 by Mathsline
4.0 out of 5 stars one eighteenth of an elephant
Thank you for prompt delivery of this book, I had tried everywhere to get it to no avail
I have not read it but I have been told it is a very informative story of the... Read more
Published on 2 May 2011 by alice
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangely uplifting
I cannot add much to what other reviewers have already written - unanimous 5 stars say it all. I will add that this book is strangely uplifting and you are filled with admiration... Read more
Published on 6 April 2010 by Mick Knight
5.0 out of 5 stars Very moving book difficult to put down
An American General (Ike) entered the death camps in Germany he ordered photographs to be taken of everything all the local residents were taken to the camps to bury the dead and... Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2008 by M. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best written accounts of the Burma Railway
Peek's a good writer. He wastes no words. His account of the Burma Railway must rate as one of the best of the many written. Read more
Published on 25 Feb 2008 by Chie Higashino
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