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on 14 April 2010
I had the priviledge of reading the final manuscript of this book a few months ago. It was outstanding and I couldn't help feeling that there are so many riveting "stories" in this book (even if some of them are very harrowing), that it stands on its own special pinnacle amongst war histories.

Throughout it all, I marvelled at Alistair's fortitude, gave thanks for his physical fitness and athleticism and wondered at his ability to keep sane when so many comrades were driven mad by the brutality of the Japanese and the hopelessness of their situation.

His treatment on coming home to Scotland was no less barbarous in its own way and I wondered how he was able to survive it all? I expect his passion for dancing, the love of his family and his own inner fortitude brought him through.

As a child and young adult, I had no real idea about the war in the Far East and only in my 30s was I able to begin to comprehend what Alistair and his comrades went through. I only knew that Alistair felt passionately about not buying Japanese products - so much so that it took me 2 years to tell him that I had bought a Japanese car!

You see this wonderful man is my Dad. Growing up, I had absolutely no idea about what he had gone through. It wasn't until I read his early short memoirs - crafted when he was in his late seventies -- that I had any notion of how incredible his experiences were and what a remarkable man he was to have survived and lived a good life on his return. He was and is an incredible father and uses his experiences to "coach" others on being positive, staying active both mentally and physically and giving back to family, friends and community.

I am so proud of him and astounded that he has written this book (a bestseller too!) in his 90th year. All I can say is that you are an inspiration to us all, Dad. There truly is no such thing as "can't"!
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on 1 March 2010
The most incredible story I have ever read. I am a former serviceman and can accept war can be hell, but Alistair's war experience went beyond imagination.
Captured by the Japanese at the surrender of Singapore, Alistair was put to work on the notorious Death railway, and the bridge over the River Kwai, in Burma. Surviving this, he was shipped to Japan, only to be torepoed by the Americans. After drifting for days he was recaptured and imprisoned at Nagasaki where he saw that city's annihilation but was unaware, that it was by the Atomic Bomb.
Alistair's letters home to his family are all typical of the ready prepared version to give the impression of a "holiday camp", where he was working for pay!
Alistair's determination is the reason he survived all the suffering, the hardship, the beatings, and the starvation to eventually write this incredible memoir.
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on 1 March 2010
The facinating insights into a by-gone era of Aberdeen's pre-war dance halls are the simple backdrop to this story of a simple man yanked out of his life at the point of reaching manhood to have it changed forever.

This was the lot of Mr Urquhart's generation, but The Forgotten Highlander is no hackneyed World War Two memoir, and I've read a few.

A reader may be familiar with the events that Urquhart found thrust upon him, but never have they been laid so bare as here. The joyous, simple life of dancing away his evenings with the girls of Aberdeen cast a depressing shadow over the man as he fights so hard to suppress these memories to survive.

The Forgotten Highlander is not a book for the faint-hearted yet it demands to read by all. Mr Urquhart never fired a shot, he never asked to be involved in the events in which he found himself and a warrior hero will not be found here. This is a story of an ordinary man who survived some of humanity's most atrocious acts of barbarity and destruction in a century littered with them.

That the man is still alive to again dance the evenings away is a miracle for him, but it is an opportunity for us. The reader will gain an insight in to what man is capable of both in terms of evil and what is required to survive it - for Alistair's war was not one of battles but of the conflict's most grim example of raw physical and emotional endurance. What this memoir offers is an unflinching account and it pulls no punches.
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on 4 April 2010
This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart's incredible story of survival in the Far East during World War II.

After recounting a childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen, Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on Germany in 1939.

From then until the Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr Urquhart's tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.

After a wretched journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore's big but useless garrison.

Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,
+ part of a death march to Thailand,
+ a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
+ regularly beaten and tortured,
+ racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,
+ a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore's docks,
+ shipped to Japan in a stinking, closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
+ torpedoed by the Americans and left drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
+ a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until blessed liberation thanks to the Americans' "Fat Boy" atomic bomb.

Chronically ill, distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life.

Only in his late 80s is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this unputdownable book.

There are very few first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical document.
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on 1 March 2010
This is a fascinating book of a man's courage and determination. It is a book that should be read by everyone to keep alive the horrors experienced by people like Alistair during the second world war. The pace of the book never drops and I read it in one go. A fabulous read.
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on 1 March 2010
I was lucky enough to be given an early copy of this wonderful book. It is a must read for everyone of all ages. I am an avad reader of all types of books, but have never in my life enjoyed one as much as this. Often terrible and heartbreaking but what a story of survival! All credit must go to the author for surviving such hell and all credit to him for having the courage to allow the world to remember events that should never be forgotten. It should make us all proud to have had folk like him giving us the freedom we enjoy today and yet ashamed that we grumble about so little in life. 5 star perfection that I'm about to read again for the third time. I salute you sir.
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on 30 March 2010
First of all my interest in this book was spurred on by the fact that my father was a Gordon Highlander, but did not take part in the Japanese theatre of the Second World War, he was involved in the campaign in Europe. However, I found this book really interesting as a social history of that time. Alistair Urquhart's experiences as a POW with the Japanese are almost unbelievable and you can see why many men who lived through this experience have hardened hearts towards the Japanese ever since. In Mr Urquhart's case he has shown a great deal of restraint and in one incidence reported in the book assisted a doctor in giving a helping hand to a Japanese family who's young daughter was ill. I am amazed that anyone survived what the allied prisoners got through when working on the railway in Burma and Thailand, and I am also appalled at the treatment that was meted out by the British Government to the returning POWs. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to know about the social history of this period. Quite often amateur genealogists regret not haven spoken to people who lived through such periods, this book is a treasury of personal information. Thank you for writing it.
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on 1 March 2010
This is an amazing story and one that should never be forgotten! I have made sure my children know all about Alistair's journey so they can appreciate the horrors of war and the determination of the human spirit. What an incredible man he is!
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on 7 July 2016
I love true stories from the war and have read dozens over the years. Somehow The Forgotten Highlander must have escaped me, but better late than never.

We follow Alistair Urquhart and how after becoming enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders and travelling to Singapore he became captured by the Japanese. Beaten, starved and half dead he was then sent to work on the infamous Burma railways. Being one of the ‘lucky ones’ he managed to survive the work gang, only to be taken aboard one of the Deathships and Torpedoed.

Such a well written book (in what I believe was the authors 90th year) that manages to really transport the reader back to those dark days. He describes the situations perfectly without bogging the reader down in too much detail or allowing his own personal feelings to cloud over his recollections. I enjoyed the way that he described his life before and after the war so that the reader can make up their own minds as to how life changing an experience like this really was, affecting him decades after the event.

If this story should stand for anything then it should be a loud cry out for how poorly our soldiers were treated by the very country they fought for.

A must read for anyone with an interest in the horrors of war or human endurance.
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on 16 March 2010
I have the very great fortune to know Alistair Urquhart well. He is a quiet unassuming gentleman with a wonderful sense of humour. He is intelligent, quick witted, and has a real twinkle in his eye. He is remarkable in that at the grand old age of 90 he is still dancing!

Take all of the above and then read his book. How he can be such a lovely man given the absolute hell he endured during the ww2 years is beyond me?. I was fortunate enough to have an early copy of the Forgotten Highlander and I read the book in one sitting, couldn't put it down.

It is gruesome, heartrending, terrifying, but it shows a great sense of endurance and the resolution to survive. I admire Alistair very much. Please read the book it is one you will never forget!
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