An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific
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The Battle of Singapore was waged for seven days before Lt. General Arthur Percival negotiated the surrender of Allied forces to the Japanese Imperial Army on February 15, 1942. Winston Churchill described the humiliating event as the “worst disaster in British history.” 140,000 Commonwealth troops were lost in the battle. More than 80,000 Australian, British and Indian soldiers became prisoners of war. Gordon Highlander soldier Alistair Urquhart was one of them.
For more than sixty years Urquhart remained silent about the atrocities he experienced as a POW. Now, he breaks his silence in The Forgotten Highlander. “I am fortunate enough, despite the best efforts of the Japanese Imperial Army to have the vim and vigor required to tell a new generation how we suffered” he writes. “I hope that this book will stand as an indictment of the criminal regime that ran Japan during the war years and the failure of successive Japanese governments to face up to their crimes.”
An Aberdeen native, Urquhart was drafted at nineteen and sent to Singapore in 1939. When he arrived on the island, he found the British Army in disarray. The soldiers stationed there were woefully inexperienced and the commanding officers were complacent, convinced the Commonwealth could not be defeated. Many of the weapons were outdated and barely functional; Urquhart was assigned an antique, rusted rifle from 1907. Despite Singapore’s importance to the British Empire, the island was left surprisingly vulnerable. It was a recipe for disaster. When the Japanese invaded, the British Army did not have a single tank on the island.
After the British surrendered, Urquhart was forced into slave labor as a POW. For 750 days, he worked in the jungle building the infamous “Death Railway” and the bridge on the River Kwai. The living conditions were appalling. Urquhart contracted malaria, developed skin ulcers, was brutally beaten, and watched in horror as a commanding Japanese officer beheaded a prisoner with a samurai sword. Subsequently, Urquhart was sent to work on a Japanese “hell-ship,” which was torpedoed by the Allies. He survived the sinking, and after five days adrift alone on a raft in the South China Sea, he was rescued by a Japanese whaling ship. Taken to Japan, he was forced to work in a mine near Nagasaki. He was just ten miles from Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped. Urquhart was finally freed by the American Navy in late August 1945.
The Forgotten Highlander is the extraordinary story of a young man who suffered unimaginable cruelty at the hands of his captors—and survived three close encounters with death. It is a story that demands telling, and one that readers won’t soon forget.
Hardcover Book : 336 pages
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing ( October 01, 2010 )
Item #: 13-162607
Product Dimensions: 6.0 x 9.0 inches
Product Weight: 17.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)