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.