In the course of the Second World War, more than a quarter of a million European and American soldiers were taken prisoner by the Japanese in Malaysia, the Dutch East Indies and the Pacific. They went on to suffer years of deprivation and brutality, most of them failing to survive at all. Harold Atcherley was fortunate enough to be one of the survivors. Throughout his time as a prisoner, from the fall of Singapore on 15th February 1942 until 14th September 1945, he kept a diary, which he was able to bring home with him. This book is based on that diary, along with other diaries and official documents. The original diary can now be viewed at The Imperial War Museum, London. He was fortunate enough to count among his friends and comrades the celebrated artist Ronald Searle, whose drawings have been used to illustrate his text; they give a far better impression of what life was like for a POW of the Japanese than mere words can, though neither words nor pictures could ever convey the appalling stench of disease and death on such a massive scale.
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.