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Forgotten Voices of Burma
on 4 August 2010
This is one of the familiar IWM `Forgotten Voices..." series.
Much of it's content will also be familiar to those who have read Julian Thompson's books `The Imperial War Museum Book Of The War In Burma 1942-1945' and `The Imperial War Museum Book Of War Behind Enemy Lines' (which covers the Chindits), which are far superior to this volume. This one claims to be "a new history of the Second World War's forgotten conflict", but many of the other personal accounts included here are also available in book form or online; Calvert, Randle, Norman, Dillon, and the 2 Norfolk stuff, for example. Other accounts, like Hogan's, are welcome, if rather confused, additions. Hogan is repeatedly referred to as a member of the armoured car section of 2 Burma Rifles; surely it should be Burma Auxiliary Force. A few West African & Indian accounts have been included for the obvious reasons, but it is sad to say that they are not that enlightening. What remains are recollections, some quite vague, without editorial comment. There is an infuriating lack of detail concerning dates and places. No attempt has been made to check or confirm people's names. This has lead to very many errors. This may be expected in an oral history project, but surely some comment should have been noted in the transcriptions. For example; the constant reference to Lieutenant Nolan (instead of Knowland) is quite shameful in view of his Victoria Cross award. Readers may also be confused by references to Typhoons at Meiktila, when presumably Thunderbolts were meant. Such errors are too numerous to list.
Many of the accounts are very good, but this format, which necessitates the chopping up of the personal accounts in a failed attempt to create a comprehensive historical narrative, works against the strengths of the material. The Imphal chapter is particularly badly organised, and the constant shifting back and forth between operations on the Tiddim Road and in the Kabaw Valley shows a lack of understanding of the operations under discussion, and will only confuse the general reader. The later operations, Meiktila and the Rangoon Road battles, seem particularly rushed, and, as usual, the Chindit operations are over represented. As a result it cannot be seen as a comprehensive account of the war in Burma.
A good deal of Space has been wasted on rather pointless glossary.
This is an IWM book so good photographs are to be expected, although the cheap paper makes them look a rather grainy. It is also disappointing
that so many post-war portraits have been used.
It is difficult to recommend this book to the general reader while the volumes mentioned above are still easily available.
Although the hardened Burma enthusiast will find much familiar content here, there is enough of interest to make it worth ploughing through the unhelpful format and the numerous errors.