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The Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacificby Alistair Urquhart
Synopses & Reviews
Alistair Urquhart was a soldier in the Gordon Highlanders, captured by the Japanese in Singapore. Forced into manual labor as a POW, he survived 750 days in the jungle working as a slave on the notorious “Death Railway” and building the Bridge on the River Kwai. Subsequently, he moved to work on a Japanese “hellship,” his ship was torpedoed, and nearly everyone on board the ship died. Not Urquhart. After five days adrift on a raft in the South China Sea, he was rescued by a Japanese whaling ship.
His luck would only get worse as he was taken to Japan and forced to work in a mine near Nagasaki. Two months later, he was just ten miles from ground zero when an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. In late August 1945, he was freed by the American Navy—a living skeleton—and had his first wash 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 encounters with death, any of which should have probably killed him. Silent for over fifty years, this is Urquhart’s inspirational tale in his own words. It is as moving as any memoir and as exciting as any great war movie.
"During WWII, Urquhart managed to survive several near-death incidents. Serving in a battalion of the Gordon Highlanders, he was captured by the Japanese in Singapore and sent to Changi prison. From there, he and other prisoners were packed into 'steel ovens' (train cars) for a five-day journey north, followed by a six-day forced march through the jungle. At the destination, he survived 750 days working as a slave laborer on the infamous Burma Railway, aka the Death Railway, a project that caused thousands of POW deaths. In 1944, he joined others in the hold of the Kachidoki Maru, where an 'overpowering mixture of excrement, urine, vomit, sweaty bodies, weeping ulcers and rotting flesh clogged the atmosphere.' When the ship was torpedoed and sank in the South China Sea, 244 of his comrades died, but he survived, drifting alone on the ocean until he was rescued by a Japanese whaling ship and deposited on an island with other shipwrecked POW survivors. Sailing away from the 'atomic wasteland' of Nagasaki at the war's end, he went through a succession of military hospitals, eventually arriving home at Aberdeen, Scotland, where he had to deal with recurring nightmares and a difficult adjustment to civilian life. Dredging up painful memories, Urquhart documents the horrors of his war experiences. 24 b&w photos, map. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
A remarkable story of survival during World War II—a Scottish soldier that survived work camps, five days adrift at sea, and the atomic bomb!
A story of almost unimaginable suffering.Riveting, powerful, moving.A remarkable memoir.In his memoir, Urquhart employs matter-of-fact prose that is somehow perfectly appropriate to describe the horrors he experienced. Although grateful and positive about the many benefits in his long life—he describes himself as a lucky man—he is angry at the Japanese government's lack of acknowledgment of Japan's wartime abuses, and he feels neglected by his own government. His story makes clear that he has every right to feel that way.Memorable, vivid, relentless.Urquhart. imprisoned in the Kanyu camps, forced to build the Death Railway, herded on the 'hell ship' Kachidoki Maru, and forced to work in mines around Nagasaki, is in a survival league of his own.
About the Author
Alistair Urquhart was born in 1919 and is the last surviving member of the Scottish regiment the Gordon Highlanders who were captured in Singapore. He teaches computer skills in Scotland. He is currently battling skin cancer--a probable result of his years of forced labor in the tropical sun. He lives in Dundee, Scotland.
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