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Road of Bones: The Siege of Kohima 1944 - The Epic Story of the Last Great Stand of Empire [Kindle Edition]

Fergal Keane
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)

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Book Description

(This ebook contains a limited number of illustrations. Maps are best viewed on a tablet.)

The epic story of one of the most savage battles of the Second World War.

Kohima. In this remote Indian village near the border with Burma, a tiny force of British and Indian troops faced the might of the Imperial Japanese Army. Outnumbered ten to one, the defenders fought the Japanese hand to hand in a battle that was amongst the most savage in modern warfare.

A garrison of no more than 1,500 fighting men, desperately short of water and with the wounded compelled to lie in the open, faced a force of 15,000 Japanese. They held the pass and prevented a Japanese victory that would have proved disastrous for the British. Another six weeks of bitter fighting followed as British and Indian reinforcements strove to drive the enemy out of India. When the battle was over, a Japanese army that had invaded India on a mission of imperial conquest had suffered the worst defeat in its history. Thousands of men lay dead on a devastated landscape, while tens of thousands more Japanese starved in a catastrophic retreat eastwards. They called the journey back to Burma the ‘Road of Bones’, as friends and comrades committed suicide or dropped dead from hunger along the jungle paths.

Fergal Keane has reported for the BBC from conflicts on every continent over the past 25 years, and he brings to this work of history not only rigorous scholarship but a raw understanding of the pitiless nature of war. It is a story filled with vivid characters: the millionaire's son who refused a commission and was awarded a VC for his sacrifice in battle, the Roedean debutante who led a guerrilla band in the jungle, and the General who defied the orders of a hated superior in order to save the lives of his men. Based on original research in Japan, Britain and India, ‘Road of Bones’ is a story about extraordinary courage and the folly of imperial dreams.

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Product Description


Praise for Fergal Keane:

‘Keane’s real distinction was in his reporting talents, which as this book shows, are considerable.’ Evening Standard

‘His book is a memoir but it is so much more than that…a volume of the most exquisitely written and moving truth and honesty.’ TLS

‘A completely honest account of reporting conflict.’ Independent

‘An empowering story of triumph over adversity.’ Irish Times

‘Profoundly honest.’ Observer

About the Author

Fergal Keane OBE was born in London and educated in Ireland. He is one of the BBC's most distinguished correspondents, having worked for the corporation in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Asia and the Balkans. He has been awarded a BAFTA and has been named reporter of the year on television and radio, winning honours from the Royal Television Society and the Sony Radio Awards. He has also been named Reporter of the Year in the Amnesty International Press Awards and won the James Cameron Prize and the Edward R.Murrow Award from the US Overseas Press Association.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1499 KB
  • Print Length: 576 pages
  • Publisher: William Collins (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C0U72NG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #159,412 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Fergal Keane is multi-award winning foreign correspondent and best-selling writer whose account of one of the Second World War's most extraordinary battles has just been published by Harper Collins. The book 'Road of Bones: the Siege of Kohima 1944' tells the story of the epic struggle at Kohima where a tiny British and Indian garrison held off an entire enemy division and halted the attempted Japanese invasion of northeastern India. It is a story of heroism and brutality and the folly of imperial dreams. The book is the fruit of intensive research in Britain, Japan and India and brings vividly to life the intensity of the hand to hand combat and the horror of the Japanese retreat back into Burma. Keane's previous works include an account of the Rwandan genocide, "Season of Blood" (Penguin Books), which won the George Orwell prize as well as the top ten bestseller, 'Letter To Daniel.' He has also been awarded the James Cameron and Edward R.Murrow prizes, among many others. He is the author of four previous books and two collections of journalism. Keane works as a Special Correspondent with BBC News and lives in London with his wife and two children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of reality, now forgotten 7 July 2010
I gave this book to my father, who is a veteran of the Kohima seige, a member of the 'Forgotten Army'
His response was that the author's research was remarkable, and very clearly set out the grim reality of that part of the war, probably better that any previous attempt, as the book was so accessible to the reader
His view is that many more should read this book, so that there can be a better understanding of the 'Stalingrad of the East'and the contribution made by so many.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MalcolmC 5 May 2010
By Malcolm
I found this book informative and easy to read, which don't always go together.
A detailed account of the seige of Kohima and to a lesser extent the Japanese retreat.
The number of reminiscences by Japanese as well as Allied soldiers was unusual and welcome.
He also covers the mistakes and in-fighting of both sides commanders and senior offices.
The maps were useful but I felt could have been more detailed and possibly more frequent, there's nothing like a good map!
I was disappointed that the book did not cover the battle at Imphal at all, possibly Mr Keane is keeping this for his follow up book?
If he is it is a book I will read.
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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
By Withnail67 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Given the upsurge in well written popular military history, it is about time that the British and Empire campaign against Japan had a chronicler equal to Anthony Beevor or Richard Holmes. The Japanese attack on Imphal and Kohima, while not the fully fledged assault on India it was believed to be at the time, nevertheless threatened the supply lines to China, and might have extended the chaos of war in the Far East.

What a great treat to find this battle's chronicler in the fine prose of BBC correspondent Fergal Keane. I have long been a fan of Keane's journalism, and the command of language he exhibited in his `Letter to Daniel'. You trust his description of the Far East in the 1940s given his time as a correspondent there, and the book is balanced effectively between the grand strategic sweep in Dehli, Washington, Tokyo and London, and the sharp end accounts of the Empire military and Burmese civilians. I learnt a good deal about the intelligence efforts against Japan, and the role of SOE and `V Force' behind the lines.

It's not perfect (`Worcester' Regiment??) but is a fine popular history. I was especially pleased by how Keane effectively used Japanese, Burmese and Indian voices without being clumsily revisionist or politically correct. It was refreshing to read of a Japanese enemy made of human beings.

Well written and harrowing in its description of combat, it does justice to the troops who `gave their today' for our `tomorrow'.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Account 18 Jan. 2011
I love this book, and just could not put it down. In fact, when I first knew that this book was due to be published, and by such a World class journalist as Fergal Keane, then it was on my 'most wanted' list. Fergal Keane writes authoritively, and captures the raw grit of how the battle was fought and seen from both sides; from Private to Officer.

Despite my fairly extensive personal 'Kohima' library, Road of Bones has given me an even greater depth of knowledge and understanding of the Siege / Battle of Kohima, plus it nicely compliments all of the other publications. Fantastic job, highly recommended and a must for anyone interested in the Burma Campaign of WWII. Thank you.Road of Bones: The Siege of Kohima 1944 - The Epic Story of the Last Great Stand of Empire
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential read 7 May 2010
One cannot find anything negative to say about this book. It's that good. Many readers will probably find themselves, as I did, simply shaking their heads at the terrible conditions both sides endured during this pivotal battle, which historians have pinpointed as crucial in the Allies victory over the Japanese in Burma. What strikes me most, however, is the touching moments of humanity amidst the slaughter, on both sides. As the Japanese juggernaut burst through the Indian frontier, we read of the young British infantry captains' valiant single-handed last stand against enormous Japanese numbers, but who was then laid to rest with full honors by those very same men who had killed him. At the siege itself the scene prior to yet another suicidal frontal charge by their company sees two Japanese officers catch one another saying farewell to photographs of their loved ones. Kean finds many uniquely emotive vignettes to decorate the epic, thus giving the reader the underlying humanity that was prevalent at this trench-warfare like battle.

It might not have the scale of numbers of men in arms of Beevor's 'Stalingrad', but in its recounting of what men on both sides suffered, and the heroism they displayed, then this book deserves just as many accolades.

A truly unique and important book, and one I am happy to recommend.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
By Karin
I am not a big reader of history books - my husband bought this book, I flicked through it and got caught. It is the story of one of the less well known battles during wwii, a dreadful siege, a terrible battle, but it is only a story about ordinary people in these circumstances and what war does to human beings. I loved that the author does not take sides, but that we are able to follow individuals from both camps. The language is absolutely stunning. The imagery vivid. Highly recommend it - even to the non-history book reader!
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