4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Time to remember, 3 Dec. 2012
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.