One Fourteenth Of An Elephant

One Fourteenth of an Elephant - Ian Denys Peek

I am glad I read this book. It is brutal reading. It is detailed, and I mean very detailed! But if you want to know about the 200.000 Asians and 60.000 Allied POWs who were forced by the Japanese to build this 415km railway between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma, during WW2, this is the book to choose. 90.000 Asians were killed and 16.000 Allied POWs. This is what is often called the Death Railway.

It tells you everything, told by the author who survived. Every detail of the railways construction is there. The working conditions are worse than anything you could ever imagine. Every bit of this is detailed and true. At the same time there is comradeship and courage and bravery, shouldering brutality and cowardice.

First there is the barbarism of the Japanese. I want to emphasize that sentence, so it gets its very own paragraph.

As normally is the situation in POW camps, the officers of the captured army remain in control of their own men. There were plenty of officers who did nothing for their men. Let's just say, as always in real life, nothing is simple. To honestly portray all aspects of this event you must relate it in detail, and for that reason I do not see the abundant detail as a criticism of the book. It does make for hard reading. The author relates every detail, all his own experiences. The book moves forward chronologically. Each chapter states the name of the camp and the dates when Ian Denys Peek was there. There are clear maps. The author did not study other accounts or books in writing this. It is his account of what he went through from October 1942 to November 1945. His brother, Ron, was with him. Both had joined the Singapore Volunteers and had been taken POW when Singapore capitulated. His mother was in India. His father was in a Japanese internment camp in Singapore.

The book is written with detail and a lack of sentimentality. Here is what happened.

I can also recommend The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story Of Survival During The War In The Far East  by Alistair Urquhart. I have given both five stars. I do not recommend Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand....