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To the Kwai and Back: War Drawings 1939 - 1945 [Hardcover]

Ronald Searle
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: 25.00
Price: 20.30 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

6 April 2006
In 1939, as an art student, Ronald Searle volunteered for the army, called up in September he embarked for Singapore in 1941. Within a month of his arrival there, he was a prisoner of the Japanese. After fourteen months in a prisoner-of-war camp Ronald Searle was sent north, to work camp on the Burma Star. In May 1944 he was sent to the notorious Changi Gaol in Singapore and was one of the few British soldiers to survive imprisonment there. Throughout his captivity, despite the risk, Ronald Searle made drawings, determinded to record his experiences. He drew his fellow prisoners, and their Japanese guards; he recorded historic moments, the Japanese triumphantly entering Singapore, the planes dropping leaflets that announced the end of the war. The drawings in this remarkable book were hidden by Searle, and smuggled from place to place, stained with the sweat and dirt of his captivity. They are a record of one man's war, and are among the most important, and moving, accounts of the Second World War. They document the sacrifice of those who served in the Far East and are testimony to Ronald Searle's unique talent.

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To the Kwai and Back: War Drawings 1939 - 1945 + The Colonel of Tamarkan: Philip Toosey and the Bridge on the River Kwai + The Railway Man
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285637452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285637450
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 2.5 x 29 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 178,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


You would have a struggle to name a greater cartoonist of the 20th Century, or, indeed, of any other century. -- Craig Brown, 'Mail on Sunday'

About the Author

Ronald Searle was born in Cambridge in 1920. He served in the Second World War and was one of the few British prisoners-of-war to survive Changi prison and forced labour on Burma Railway. He delighted millions with his comic creation of St Trinians, and has been a distinguished contributor of numerous magazines around the world, from The New Yorker to Le Monde.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Many things make this book extraordinary. Searle's amazing stamina to survive when overworked by the Japanese on the Kwai Railway, sick with jungle diseases, underfed to the point that you wonder that he could live - and yet he not only lived but kept drawing everything he saw: his fellow prisoners, his Japanese guards, the punishments, the sick, the wild animals, the railway - and always with the knowledge that such drawings were forbidden and, if caught, he might be executed. Yet this is a very encouraging story, even at times funny - as when he drew a Japanese guard asleep: the prisoners had made a deal with him that they would not escape if they let him sleep (instead of making them work). This is a book of illustrations and explanatory captions, making it highly readable. Searle tells of the (rare) Japanese officer who helped him draw, and of the way that many of his St Trinians ideas were inspired by the Kwai railway sufferings. Much more than a great cartoonist, Searle is a true artist, and his book explains how it happened.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning 12 Sep 2011
By Joe
These drawings are simply stunning and atmospheric. They capture the story of Ronald Searle from army recruit to the prisoner of war far better than any camera could ever do, some of them are haunting. A great tribute to the POWs and an essential record to that time.
I would strongly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to find the right words 8 Feb 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had seen a copy of this book before and I was reminded of it when seeing the Railwayman Film when Patti looked through the book to learn about what Eric had experienced.

Eric Lomax in his book and Ronald in this book in both the words and pictures with the grim statistics of those young men who did not return give more depth to the inscription on the Kohima war cemetary memorial.

"When you go home
Tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow,
we gave our today."

Harold Atcherley's book Prisoner of Japan also provides detailed background of the time.

Thinking about myself and my children at their age when prisoners I find it hard to grasp how young people in their early twenties found the reserves of strength to survive when isolated from everything else in their previous lives.

Hopefully with these records in pictures and text the awful and sad events described will not be forgotten.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book should be shown in every school in the country, this shows mans inhumanity to man, unfortunately Ronald Searle is no longer with us, and I wish I could have read this book while he was alive. If you can get a copy, get one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars POW art 6 Jan 2010
By Janet
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book, along with several others, was used by me for my dissertation on the motivation of prisoners of war to produce art under difficult conditions. It would be arrogant of me to criticize such a work, suffice to say that it is at times light-hearted, but never loses its impact and is well worth reading, if only to remind us all of the suffering endured by so many in times of war.
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