HEROES SHORT-CHANGED BY HISTORY; One of the Scandals of the Last War Is the Lack of Recognition for the Terrible Suffering and Extraordinary Courage of the British Soldiers Who Fought the Japanese in the Jungles of Burma.A Newbook Puts This Right

Daily Mail (London), April 7, 2009 | Go to article overview

HEROES SHORT-CHANGED BY HISTORY; One of the Scandals of the Last War Is the Lack of Recognition for the Terrible Suffering and Extraordinary Courage of the British Soldiers Who Fought the Japanese in the Jungles of Burma.A Newbook Puts This Right


Byline: by Christopher Hudson

THE BRITISH and their allies might not have underestimated their enemies had they heard a Japanese general issue his Order for the Day to his troops.

'Continue in the task till all your ammunition is expended. If your hands are broken, fight with your feet. If your hands and feet are broken, fight with your teeth. If there is no breath left in your body, fight with your spirit. Lack of weapons is no excuse for defeat.'

The British campaign to push the Japanese out of Burma was the longest and bloodiest of World War II. Thousands of miles away from the battles in

Western Europe, its soldiers were often known as the Forgotten Army -- but those who fought in it would never forget.

Japan had long envied British possessions in the Far East, such as Malaya and Burma, and in late 1941, when Hitler seemed certain of victory, they took the opportunity to invade those territories and seize valuable raw materials such as rubber and oil..

As the Japanese dared to menace our Empire, the biggest in the world's history, the initial British reaction was to scoff at these cartoon-like Orientals with their poor eyesight and buck teeth.

Peter Young, a British Commando and veteran of the war in Europe, jeered at these 'dwarf-like figures under their medieval helmets, their mongol faces, many with glasses and gold teeth which made them look like creatures from another world'.

'The little yellow bastards shouldn't give you chaps too much trouble, they're only little runts,' a corporal was told by his officer.

British staff officers ridiculed the idea that the Japanese could be a serious fighting force. Their weapons and aeroplanes had been copied from the

West; their military competence would be no match for a modern European army.

Then came the brutally effective Japanese attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbour, on December 7, 1941. Three days later, Japanese bombers were in action again, attacking and sinking the famous British battleship The Prince Of Wales and the battle-cruiser Repulse in the South China Sea with the loss of about 1,000 men.

The news reverberated around the world. Those brought up to believe that Britannia ruled the waves were in a state of shock. So was Winston Churchill.

But a greater shock was to follow almost immediately with news that Singapore, Britain's invincible fortress in the Far East, had surrendered to the Japanese. It was a desperate situation.

The fall of Singapore was Britain's greatest military humiliation since General Cornwallis surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown in 1781. It ended with 140,000 troops and citizens in Singapore captured, wounded or killed.

An arsenal of guns fell into the hands of the Japanese, some of whom celebrated by bayoneting their captives to death.

They slaughtered captured gunners from an anti-aircraft battery, as well as patients in a medical station and the nurses and staff of 2/13 General Hospital.

More than 200 Indians and Australians who had fought for the Allies in Malaya and who were too badly wounded to be moved, were kicked, beaten, tied with telephone wire and machine-gunned -- and then, dead or alive, doused in petrol and set alight.

It was episodes like these which tempted British troops not to take Japanese prisoners.

As William Fowler writes in a gripping new book on the Burma campaign, the fall of Singapore was followed by two and a half years of disaster and defeat for the British-led 14th Army, as it retreated northwards through Burma in the face of this terrifying enemy.

The push north was part of Japan's game plan. By doing so, they could cut the Burma Road which carried vital fuel and ammunition supplies to its enemy, China.

It would be years -- and cost the lives of thousands who died in appalling circumstances -- before the 14th Army finally took hold of the country again. …

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HEROES SHORT-CHANGED BY HISTORY; One of the Scandals of the Last War Is the Lack of Recognition for the Terrible Suffering and Extraordinary Courage of the British Soldiers Who Fought the Japanese in the Jungles of Burma.A Newbook Puts This Right
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