Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific by Alistair Urquhart

Alistair Urquhart was among the Gordon Highlanders captured by the Japanese in Singapore during World War II.

 He not only survived 750 days in the jungle working as a slave on the notorious “death railway” and the bridge on the River Kwai, but he was subsequently taken prisoner on one of the Japanese “hellships” which was later torpedoed, killing nearly everyone on board—but not Urquhart. He spent five days adrift on a raft in the South China Sea before being rescued by a Japanese whaling ship. He was then taken to Japan and forced to work in a mine near Nagasaki. Two months later he was struck by the blast from the atomic bomb—dropped just ten miles away. In late August 1945, now a barely-living skeleton, he was freed by the American Navy and was able to bathe for the first time in three and a half years.

This is the extraordinary story of a young man, conscripted at nineteen, who survived not just one but three separate encounters with death—encounters which killed nearly all his comrades. Silent for over fifty years, this is Urquhart’s extraordinary, moving, and inspirational tale as an ex-POW.

Paperback, 320 pages
First published March 4, 2010
 by Skyhorse
4/5 stars

This was a very difficult book to read.  When reading historical fiction as a novel it can be graphic and some of the elements toned down, therefore not portrayed accurately in terms of how bad things really were but in this book the author doesn't hold anything back when he describes his experiences during World War 2.

Alistair Urquhart is only 18 when he steps into the war effect, eventually being sent to Singapore and captured by the Japanese.  He endures so much that  it was hard to read at times. I had to stop reading a couple times but I honestly felt I owed it to the author and the thousands of others to read this story and realise what they went through.  This is a part of the war that I was totally unfamiliar with, suffice to say that I will never watch the movie The Bridge of the River Kwai (a romancized version so far from the truth).  I learning about the Death Railway,  Hellfire Pass and the names of officers on par with concentration camp officers.

This book isn't for the faint of heart, its sad while maddening, heartbreaking while showing the resilience of the human spirit and while triumphant in the end it came with the cost of both physical and emotional scars - how could it not. It's a book that will stay with me.

This book was part of my 2022 Reaidng Off My Shelf Challenge (#8) and also the January selection for out Family Blessings Book Club.

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