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Prisoner of Japan: A Personal War Diary, Singapore, Siam & Burma 1941-1945 Paperback – 14 Nov 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 404 pages
  • Publisher: Memoirs Publishing (14 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1909304530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909304536
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Born in 1918, Harold Atcherley served in the army throughout the war. He had the misfortune to land in Singapore with the 18th British Infantry Division in January 1942 and became a prisoner shortly afterwards when the island was surrendered to the Japanese.

The War diary, which he kept during his three and a half years in captivity, records his experiences in Changi Prisoner of War Camp and hard labour on the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway. He returned home at the end of the war in 1945 and resumed his career with the Royal Dutch Shell Group the following year.

He married Anita Leslie, with whom he had three children, and was posted to the Middle East in 1946. Some four years later he went to South America.

He returned to work in England in 1960 and retired from the oil industry in 1970. For the next thirty years he served in a voluntary capacity as chairman of a number of government advisory groups, in recognition of which he was awarded a knighthood in 1977. He was also chairman of several charitable organisations including Toynbee Hall and the Aldeburgh Foundation.

For the last 10 years he has lived in London with wife Sarah, finally retiring at the age of 80.

Product Description

About the Author

Born in 1918, Harold Atcherley served in the army throughout the war. He had the misfortune to land in Singapore with the 5th British Infantry Division in January 1942 and became a prisoner of the Japanese shortly afterwards when the surrender of the island to the Japanese. The War diary which he kept during his three and a half years in captivity records his experiences in Changi Prisoner of War Camp and hard labour on the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway. He returned home at the end of the war in 1945 and resumed his career with the Royal Dutch Shell Group the following year. He married Anita Leslie, with whom he had three children, and was posted to the Middle East in 1946. Some four years later he went to South America. He returned to work in England in 1960 and retired from the oil industry in 1970. For the next thirty years he served in a voluntary capacity as chairman of a number of government advisory groups, in recognition of which he was awarded a knighthood in 1977. He was also chairman of several charitable organisations including Toynbee Hall and the Aldborough Foundation. For the last 23 years he has lived in Suffolk with wife Sarah, finally retiring at the age of 80.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tony Tingle on 23 April 2013
Format: Paperback
Harold Atcherley records in his diary how he was walking through the camp at Changi one moonlit evening when he came across a body being carried to the morgue. He found himself wondering whether the man had a wife at home. If so, she would know nothing of how he died or what was on his mind. "It is just as well," he concluded for she would "never understand, as nobody will ever understand, who has not actually experienced life here." I am sure that is true yet the first-hand stories of POW can help us at least appreciate (if not fully understand) what happened particularly when they are told with Atcherley's powers of observation and reflection.

Harold Atcherley was on the way to a successful career with the oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell when war broke out. Commissioned as an intelligence officer at the HQ of the 18th British Infantry Division he arrived in Singapore at the end of January 1942. Two weeks later he was a Prisoner of War. He began writing the diary in May 1942 and continued it until he was repatriated from Singapore in September 1945. Besides the first few months of captivity, which he recreates from memory, the only gap is between April and December of 1943 when he was working on the Burma/Thailand Railway. After the war he returned to Royal Dutch Shell and a career in public service. He was knighted in 1977.

Atcherley's diary focuses on the day-to-day privations and tedium of camp life and on his state of mind throughout it all. But he writes with both perspective and perception. As an officer, perhaps, he was in a better position than many others to know what was going on in the camp even though what passed for knowledge was often little better than rumour.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lottie McGregor on 11 Jan 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What I found most impressive about this diary, which covers the three years the author spent in Japanese camps, is the maturity and independence of thought shown by a man in his mid-twenties. Free of the nationalism he condemns in his fellow officers, he describes the psychological and military catastrophe of the Fall of Singapore in the most uncompromising detail, and we witness the courage with which men survived the harsh conditions of wartime camps using all possible means at their disposal.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Madeleine Renton on 19 Dec 2012
Format: Paperback
A true, moving and at times harrowing account of what it was really like to be a POW under the Japanese. How does a person endure such horrors.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Moss on 8 Jan 2013
Format: Paperback
What makes this book stand out for me is the DETAIL. You feel you really are suffering the same unforgettable experiences as the author (still alive and kicking!) I cannot recommend it highly enough. Buy it. Please.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By peter carvell on 3 Dec 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Most of us have heard of the infamous Changi camp and the hell that British prisoners suffered from the Japanese in that Singapore island prison camp, but I had not really understood what life was really like in those three or more years, until I read Harold Atcherley's book 'Prisoner of Japan:a personal war diary, Singapore, Siam & Burma 1941-1945.'
Together with 7000 others from F Force Harold was a prisoner of war, and somehow survived for 43 months. He kept a diary of those days, except while working on the Burma-Thailand railway, and these make up the narrative of this book. They describe the incessant cruelty, the starvation, the heat, the bizarre food they ate to survive, and the discussions they held on the meaning of life and how to reconcile their present lives with the great dreams that they had held before the war.
Most of can never even imagine such existence, or how men could survive it, but some did. Among them were Harold and a young artist called Ronald Searle. His sketches of life in the camp and in the jungle are spread through the book. If anyone can only think of Searle as a drawer of impudent schoolgirls, take a look at his drawing of a prisoner dying of cholera.
Yet the book is not about despair, but triumph. In spite of all the Japanese obscenities Harold and those around him seem able to have kept up their spirits and kept their minds open, even if their bodies were restricted to existing in closed surroundings.
'A prisoner in Japan' is an inspiring memoir. Sir Harold - as he became in '77 - is still alive in his nineties,and still a powerful speaker. Please read this book; it is a unique story of a unique English gentleman.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ali B on 27 Jun 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent! This book demands to be read! Human nature's triumph over adversity and atrocity in all it's gory glory! That this man overcame the atrocities heaped upon him and his fellow prisoners and survived to tell the tale is nothing short of a miracle. It is because of men like these we wear poppies and live the life we do.
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