Alistair Urquhart · 321 pages
Rating: (1.6K votes)
“Life is worth living and no matter what it throws at you it is important to keep your eyes on the prize of the happiness that will come. Even when the Death Railway reduced us to little more than animals, humanity in the shape of our saintly medical officers triumphed over barbarism.
Remember, while it always seems darkest before the dawn, perseverance pays off and the good times will return.”
“I could soon see outlines of people in the water in the distance, all of them covered in oil. I had no way to know who they were, whether Japanese or POWs. It was easy to mistake a Japanese for one of my own. I made up my mind that if it came down to me or a Japanese, he would be going to meet his ancestors.”
“enough to make us keep our heads down. It was a long first day and if I had realised then that it was just the first of 750 days I would spend as a slave in the jungle, I would have broken down and cried like a baby. After another”
“The construction of the Death Railway was one of the greatest war crimes of the twentieth century. It was said that one man died for every sleeper laid. Certainly over sixteen thousand of us British, Australian, Dutch, American and Canadian prisoners died on the railway – murdered by the ambitions of the Japanese Imperial Army to complete the lifeline to their forces in Burma by December 1943. Up to a hundred thousand native slaves, Thais, Indians, Malayans and Tamils also died in atrocious circumstances. Even Japanese engineers”
“These slightly older men in their thirties and forties seemed to survive in much greater numbers. Surprisingly it was the young men who died first on the railway. Perhaps the older ones were stronger emotionally. Perhaps with families they had more to live for.”
“This book is my answer to those who would doubt the scale and awfulness of Japan’s murderous policies during the war. Germany has atoned for the holocaust its Nazis conducted in Europe.”
“the motto of the ancient Urquharts was curiously unwarlike for a Highland clan and its admonition to ‘Speak well, mean well, do well’ could have been written specially for us. My”
“Near by spectacular Dunottar Castle towered above sheer cliffs, jutting out defiantly into the grey waters of the North Sea. Here ‘Braveheart’ William Wallace had burned the English garrison alive in the castle chapel and, later, 167 radical protestants had been squeezed into a small dungeon and left to die in Scotland’s own ‘black hole of Calcutta’.”
“The words of the famous Declaration of Arbroath echo across the ages: ‘It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”
“payments because I was still unfit for work. They tallied up my pay for my time as a POW and after deductions for ‘subsistence’ I received the grand sum of £434.00 – for the period from 15 February 1942 to 18 November 1945. The charge for ‘subsistence’ infuriated me – they were making us pay for those handfuls of maggoty rice. Yet it was standard practice and applied to all returning prisoners. It is a miracle that they did not charge me for the loss of my rifle, as they did some men.”
“Across the South China Sea in Hong Kong it was anything but a perfect day. After a seventeen-day siege the British surrendered to the Japanese. Hours earlier Japanese troops had entered the city and celebrated Christmas in their own special way – by torturing and massacring sixty wounded patients and doctors in St Stephen’s College Hospital.”
“massacre at the Alexandra military hospital. Three hundred and twenty-three patients, doctors and nurses were systematically murdered in the shadow of the Red Cross that was meant to protect them. The invaders actually bayoneted some of the patients on the operating table. When I read”
“As we stood there in the blazing sun without food, water or shelter, the horrible reality broke over me in sickening, depressing waves. I was part of Britain’s greatest-ever military disaster, a captive – just like some 120,000 others captured in the Battle of Malaya. I was a prisoner. It was a gut-wrenching realisation to think that my liberty was gone and no telling for how long it would be so. I kept a brave face on for the boys, whose eyes were on stalks but who stayed mute. This was the worst moment of my life. Hours later the”
“For the rest of his life Freddie would phone me every night, no matter what was happening in either of our lives. He just wanted to talk – always about the camps, which had left a fatal impression on him. He had to be checked in to Roehampton hospital several times, for a month or more at a time, and had even been granted a twenty-four-hour telephone line to a psychologist. Yet he preferred to phone me and chew my ear for an hour every night, sometimes two hours at a time.”
“The building of the bridge on the river Kwai took a terrible toll on us and the depiction of our sufferings in the film of the same name was a very, very sanitised version of events.”
“I knew people were dying around me on the railway but I didn't really want to know. It was too dispiriting. It was difficult to judge the full toll of casualties and by this stage I had become so self-obsessed, in a true mental battle just to get through each day. I had very few friends at Hellfire Pass and most of us were the same. We all worked so hard that, just trying to survive, each person became more and more insular as it became more difficult. It required a superhuman effort to make it to the end of each day.”
“Soon after we were ushered on to an awaiting trawler, which had been commissioned to take us across the English Channel to Cherbourg in the darkness of that very cold winter’s night. Herded on to the deck we had only our kit bags to serve as seats. Slowly the trawler edged out of the harbour and into the Channel. It was a rough crossing and my first experience of sea-sickness. Within an hour the relentless heavy swell had me, along with many others, hanging over the rails being violently sick. I decided to move up near the bridge, thinking if I went higher I might not feel as if I were dying. From out of nowhere a hand grasped my shoulder and a voice said, ‘Here, laddie, get this down you.’ The trawler captain handed me half a mug of brandy and I did my best to gulp down the burning liquid. It was the first time alcohol had passed my lips and it tasted so awful that I could not imagine how anyone could actually enjoy the taste. The captain waited until I had finished then told me to go and sit at the stern. Thanking him, I did so and felt a bit better.”
“I was so burned and emaciated and ill that I staggered through the streets like a drunk. Some of the locals turned their backs on this terrible procession but others jeered and spat at us. I was past caring. There must have been at least a hundred of us, and then came an incredible and inspiring episode. As we stumbled along in the pouring rain someone started singing. It was ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, and slowly we all took up the song and joined in, singing a very rude version of the hit – complete with altered lyrics crudely deriding our Japanese captors. Even in this terrible condition and after all we had been through, my comrades, ravaged by exposure, naked and in slavery, were defiant, their spirits unbroken.”
“How does one describe the feelings of a person who has been through something like we had, something no one could ever have envisaged? They could never comprehend the depths of man's inhumanity to man or the awfulness of an existence that consisted of surviving one day at a time.”
“There is no such word as can't”
“As you sow, so shall you reap has a neat ring to it but you are making a grievous mistake if you put your faith in that kind of cheap sentiment. There are no just deserts. The wages of sin are not necessarily hell and the path of goodness is often lined with treachery for the world is predicated upon the principle of randomness.”
“Yet contrary evidence supports a claim that the Master was unjustly aligned with evil. Fragments of manuscript survive which expose the entire religion of Light as fraud, and award Arithon the attributes of saint and mystic instead.”
“Indolent and unworthy the beggar may be—but that is not your concern: It is better, said Joseph Smith, to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition.”
“You stick your finger in the water and you pull it out, and that is how much of a hole you leave when you're gone.”
“What I've found about it is that there are some folks you can talk to until you're blue in the face--they're never going to get it and they're never going to change. But every once in a while, you'll run into someone who is eager to listen, eager to learn, and willing to try new things. Those are the people we need to reach. We have a responsibility as parents, older people, teachers, people in the neighborhood to recognize that.”
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