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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
This book is beautifully written, a moving account of a man born and raised in Kent, ending up as a POW of the Japanese for three and a half years, and surviving through the most horrific of situations with pure luck, instinct, willpower and magic!
The book pulls no punches, and creates a picture in one's the mind of the man, the conjurer, the survivor. Peter Fyans...
Published on 7 Dec 2011 by Mr. J. F. Robbins

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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Captivity, Slavery and survival as a far east POW
This book is completely over rated and quite boring. I bought the book hoping to read about the atrocities in the japenese POW camps but this book only skims the surface.
Sorry not for me!
Published 22 months ago by Cath


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, 7 Dec 2011
By 
Mr. J. F. Robbins (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai (Hardcover)
This book is beautifully written, a moving account of a man born and raised in Kent, ending up as a POW of the Japanese for three and a half years, and surviving through the most horrific of situations with pure luck, instinct, willpower and magic!
The book pulls no punches, and creates a picture in one's the mind of the man, the conjurer, the survivor. Peter Fyans has captured the spirit of Fergus Anckorn (the subject of the book), and the courage he shows not only in surviving at least four occasions when he should have died, but the willpower needed to get through each day without thinking about the tomorrow. Peter also describes the tenacity and will shown by Fergus in coming to terms with the 'real world' post war which took him many years.
This book is a 'must read' for us all to experience to some small degree what really happened to so many thousands of our ancestors, we owe it to them.Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The luckiest man alive, 14 Mar 2012
This review is from: Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai (Hardcover)
Fergus Anckorn, the subject of the book, is a remarkable man with a remarkable tale to tell. To call him the luckiest man alive might seem odd, given the horrors he endured. But luck and chance are threads that run through this book. In Singapore he was saved from being slaughtered in his hospital bed by the Japanese. He avoided the amputation of his hand, enabling him to carry on entertaining both his comrades and captors, securing priceless extra food in the process. He lost and recovered a gold ring - a precious reminder of home - on three occasions, risking life and limb in the process. But his luck came at a price, with hospital visits to treat his battered body continuing for six years after the war.

Author Peter Fyans has packed a lot in, as the bibliography at the back testifies. It is part autobiography and part history, and the two don't sit particularly well at times. Fergus Anckorn's narrative at times seems overlong and perhaps could have been more tightly edited. But it has the realistic ring of the man himself, who has opened his soul and his memories, so that we might learn what his generation faced.

The book will appeal to anyone with an interest in the Far East campaign and wants to understand why veterans have such an enduring bitterness of the Japanese. Anckorn provides the answer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magic and the "Toosey Effect" in the Hospital Camps, 1 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai (Hardcover)
Hasn't everything already been said about the Burma-Siam "Death" Railway even after a film about the story?

Just mention Alec Guinness as Col Nicholson in David Lean's famous or infamous Bridge on the River Kwai (incorrectly named as Kwai meaning river, whereas the river in question was the Khwae Mae Khlong)The Bridge on the River Kwai [DVD] [2000], and it is certain to transform a quiet Burma Star Association veteran into an angry old warrior. A book on Lt. Col. Philip Toosey, CO of 135th Field Regiment, the real Nicholson, has even been written by the granddaughter author, Julie Summers, to give a balanced reply to the invented storyThe Colonel of Tamarkan: Philip Toosey and the Bridge on the River Kwai. Surely, one might think that can be none other than equally enraged family propaganda?

The story of Gunner Fergus Anckorn, of 118th Field Regiment, RA, from Sevenoaks, is a tale of adventure and misadventure, but in particular of luck. He was wounded in the last days during the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore in February 1942; treated by Brig. Julian Taylor, the best surgeon in Malaysia Command; he experienced the first days and the gradual transformation of POW conditions ordered by the war criminal Gen Fukuye at Changi prison into a living hell; subsequently, he was sent north as part of the "supido" or "speedo" frenetic 18 months (initially estimated for 5 years) completion of the Bangkok-Rangoon railway, where thousands of Allied POW and Burmese and Thai natives died. Anckorn lived at the "hospital camps" at Chungkai and Tamarkan, and that is the uniqueness of his never recorded story.

The blurb in the book, and Pen & Sword's Warfare magazine, makes much that Anckorn was a conjuror, "Wizardus", the youngest pre-war member of the Magic Circle, something particular, which makes his tale unique. I disagree; that it mere hype. The uniqueness of his tale is a combination of factors within his life in the Far East. Written in the first person, Peter Fyans, effectively unravels the protagonist's own memories, where even in the hell there existed certain foolish officers and vindictive sergeants who wished to introduce peace-time Army distinctions and privileges into POW camps, where the majority survived virtually as animals; more important, where much information and some medical supplies filtered into and exited the camps through a secret V organisation of brave hardened natives, and in the last days of the war bombings were carried out on the camps with grave casualties resulting entirely in error, despite the knowledge that these were camps of Allied soldiers. The vindictive treatment mentioned in other publications and documentaries of the Japanese and their underlings the Koreans and members of the INA - including obliging the POWs to beat themselves during TenkosChangi [ 2 DVD ] [2001] [Region 2] [PL Import]Tenko - Complete BBC Boxed Set [DVD], need to be continually repeated. Fergus Anckorn successfully managed to outlive his state of hell and leave less for his magic or his illusionary effect of his hands; it was primarily due to the humanity of the "Toosey effect": the influence of the superior camp officer in organizing orderly life where dignity and decency might still reign, his real desire for as many to survive against the odds; and being reported by someone independent of the family this message should be regarded as more powerful and much less partial
than Summers' very detailed and historically illuminating treatise.

The Toosey influence spread over to the brilliant doctors Capt Jacob Markowitz, and the surgeon Lt Col E.E. "Weary" Dunlop (a rugby Wallaby international), one of the century's Australian greats, who were allowed to help the men in their fight against dysentery, scurvy, beriberi, pellagra, impetigo, and the most annoying skin infection, tinea, with little medicine and no instruments available; the willingness of intellectuals ready to arrange sets of lectures, and individuals with creative and sporting skills: Dennis East, 1st violinist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the unnamed artisans who effortlessly constructed the musical instruments out of odds and ends, the artists Ronald Searle at Changi (recently died in February 2012To the Kwai and Back: War Drawings 1939 - 1945) and Jock Chalker (who each left their collection of sketches with the Imperial War Museum); as well as Sergeant Geoff Edrich of the famous Norfolk cricketing family, who organized competitive cricket matches, to attract all in the camps to partake in a variety of regular entertainment activities. As a conjuror, Anckorn had an important place in this area for building up morale, and an important historical person, especially as for the Japanese a non-worker, even if sick, didn't deserve the entitlement to live; so a "hospital camp" for them was synonymous of little more than a pointless "cemetery" for the "living" colonial "dead". The numbers who walked out of these camps was something special, and was entirely due to Toosey and all his worthy memorable helpers.

Living in such camps away from the construction, and being a lover of nature and beauty, the protagonist took advantage of the war to wander through the wilderness of the jungle. For him that was freedom; his re-entry was a march back into ritual inhumane imprisonment.

Perhaps the weakness of this book, which is the uniqueness of Lomax's Railway Man, is the unwillingness of the protagonist to speak of the trials he faced on his return The Railway Man. Unlike others he had a very helpful, caring and encouraging wife, Lucille, a trained nurse, who certainly would have insisted him to take advantage of the many visits to the clinics. In addition, he chose soon to join and regularly frequent both the Burma Star and his own unit association - two valuable common links both with the past which as veterans they might gladly reminisce as well as discussing the problems of the day they each faced since demobilization on an equal footing as they used to in the camps. This acted as a form of therapy, enabling him to open himself up without the embarrassment or cultural fear of talking to interfering nosey parkers about the sufferings of the past more known today as PTSD. Others who never attended had greater difficulties to explain themselves to their families, and created only permanent discomfort to themselves and to their loved ones Stranger in the House: Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War. There is, moreover a hint that Anckorn had an important post-war position in the police specials around Churchill's Chartwell, but embarrassment of speaking too much typical of an earlier age, or promises of a follow up publication may have stop him revealing anything more to present author Peter Fyans.I suspect it was more the former idea, with Fyans choosing to respect the protagonist's requests for silence during his remaining years.

This book will delight members of the Burma Star Association who still know themselves to be the survivors of the Forgotten Army; it will interest veterans of other campaigns as it has enough material for them to appreciate. However, it is a book which should be read in most schools still unaware of the horrors of the Japanese during the Second World War. Anckorn does not bear grudges and wish to keep up hatreds; however, his story is very much about remembering not forgetting. Finally, it should be the first jig saw for any future film producer to remake Bridge on the River Kwai, and the rehabilitation of Colonel Toosey - something which the Toosey family will be very relieved. It has something for all. Most recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Captivity,Slavery And Survival As A Far East POW, 14 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai (Hardcover)
Very good read about the life of Fergus Anckorn written by Peter Fyans.It gives a real insight into his captivity following the fall of Singapore and the trials and tribulations suffered by him and the thousands of men captured at that time.But also looks at his life prior and up to him joining the army,also more importantly his very hard adjustment to life back in post war Britain.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conjuror on the Kwai, 18 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai (Hardcover)
Wonderful story, well written of a True Hero.
We will never know the Unbelievable Cruelty these Guys were subjected to by Sub Human Captors.
Every one of them a True Hero.
I recommend the read to anyone who is interested in this Infamous chapter of our recent history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Friend Fergus., 27 Nov 2012
By 
Baewatson "Barrythe builder" (Westerham Kent) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Hi
Fergus is an old friend of mine and I have to tell you he really is an amazing man.
I have ordered a book from him and will pick it up when I visit his soon.
His first book was great and I believe that this now book is even better.
You would never know Fergus is over 90 yoars of age.
He still does a magic show and always fills the halls up.
Fergus IS magic.
Barry Watson, Sundridge Kent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave, Captive, Fergus Anckorn. Lucky to be alive!, 8 Aug 2012
By 
J. Robertson (Horsham, W.Sx. UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai (Hardcover)
Reading the book took me less than a week reading it, in not very much spare time, but I couldn't put it down! This account of Fergus's is full of amazing anecdotes; some funny, some serious, some unbelievable (in the amazing sense) and some very emotional. Hearing his story in a nice, but factually correct as possible ( leaning on other publications for some historical facts for example) filled a huge gap in my father's history, who was also a POW, in Changi, and he never told his family /relatives of his time there. Thank you Fergus it eases the deliberation of our younger generations by hearing of the horrors that may have been experienced by him. Amazingly in the references used to compile the book, there is another book I must read, as it is written about/by the Capt. whom my father was in the same troop. More reading. More information. JR.Singapore Diary: The Hidden Journal of Captain R M Horner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 14 Mar 2012
By 
B. Young (sunderland UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai (Hardcover)
This is an amazing story of life as a POW with the Japanese. Everyone should read it to realise what these men went through to try to provide a safe Britain for us. It's a pity some of the young yobs around today do not appreciate the sacrifices made. Thank you to all servicemen in conflicts to defend our country.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 2 May 2013
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A must read, you won't be able to put it down once you've started reading. A remarkable story about a far East pow by a remarkable man. These men should never be forgotten.
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4.0 out of 5 stars If you like reading about WWII survivor stories, you'll like this., 25 Jan 2013
This review is from: Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai (Hardcover)
Fantastic book ... i have read quite alot of WWII books but never one regarding the Japanese POW's ... a very honest & powerful account told in the first person by a very brave & humble man ... the photo's were also very interesting and the drawing of the 'dysentry tent' was especially disturbing .. these stories should not be brushed under the carpet and kept quiet ... we should all know about the 'true' horrors that these ordinary & everday men had to endure on behalf of us ...
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