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By Sir Harold Atcherley - Prisoner of Japan: A Personal War Diary, Singapore, Siam & Burma 1941-1945 Paperback – 30 Oct 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Paperback, 30 Oct 2012
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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Memoirs Publishing (30 Oct. 2012)
  • ASIN: B00I62Y4Z6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,147,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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I read this book immediately after reading "the Forgotten Highlander" and I found much to contrast between the two books and the two authors. Whilst not at all belittling any of those who were P.O.W.s in the far East I became strangely irritated by "Prisoner of Japan" or more particularly its author. By comparison whilst both authors suffered long periods of enormous deprivation it seemed to me that Harold Atcherley had a very privileged position as an officer compared with Alistair Urquhart. Although he did spend nine months on the railway which must have been hell (but less time than Urquhart spent there) he spent most of his time in camps in or near to Singapore. There it seems he was not often required to work, had much better accommodation than the "other ranks" ( though no doubt still unpleasant and over crowded) was able to listen regularly to gramophone records, buy and cook food and read books at a prodigious rate - perhaps at least one a day. Yet he comes across as a constant complainer, regarding himself as much superior to the other officers incarcerated with him. By contrast Urquhart had a much harder time of it but was far more stoic in his approach to his suffering.
I'm glad I read both books and have enormous sympathy for what the authors and thousands of others suffered on my behalf ( born 1945) but in the end I empathised far more with Urquhart than with Atcherley
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very good nice read.
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could not believe he is still alive, great book
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Harold Atcherley records in his diary how he was walking through the camp at Changi one moonlit evening when he came across a body being carried to the morgue. He found himself wondering whether the man had a wife at home. If so, she would know nothing of how he died or what was on his mind. "It is just as well," he concluded for she would "never understand, as nobody will ever understand, who has not actually experienced life here." I am sure that is true yet the first-hand stories of POW can help us at least appreciate (if not fully understand) what happened particularly when they are told with Atcherley's powers of observation and reflection.

Harold Atcherley was on the way to a successful career with the oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell when war broke out. Commissioned as an intelligence officer at the HQ of the 18th British Infantry Division he arrived in Singapore at the end of January 1942. Two weeks later he was a Prisoner of War. He began writing the diary in May 1942 and continued it until he was repatriated from Singapore in September 1945. Besides the first few months of captivity, which he recreates from memory, the only gap is between April and December of 1943 when he was working on the Burma/Thailand Railway. After the war he returned to Royal Dutch Shell and a career in public service. He was knighted in 1977.

Atcherley's diary focuses on the day-to-day privations and tedium of camp life and on his state of mind throughout it all. But he writes with both perspective and perception. As an officer, perhaps, he was in a better position than many others to know what was going on in the camp even though what passed for knowledge was often little better than rumour.
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Format: Kindle Edition
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.
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What I found most impressive about this diary, which covers the three years the author spent in Japanese camps, is the maturity and independence of thought shown by a man in his mid-twenties. Free of the nationalism he condemns in his fellow officers, he describes the psychological and military catastrophe of the Fall of Singapore in the most uncompromising detail, and we witness the courage with which men survived the harsh conditions of wartime camps using all possible means at their disposal.
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