Did Allied Strategy Prolong the Suffering of FEPoWs?

The Researching FEPOW History Group (RFHG) blog has published a post written by me about how Allied strategy prolonged the suffering of the Far East PoWs. Dad had what he called a ‘great thought’ about liberating the PoWs he’d left behind in Hong Kong. He teamed up with the US Air Force, who had a much bigger plan to win the war against the Japanese with air power. Retaking Hong Kong was part of their plan and this represented an opportunity to rescue the long suffering PoWs. Sadly, the plan was subverted at the highest level, in a battle of personality and attitude. If it had been properly resourced and supported it might have shortened the war by a year, saving millions of lives, in Europe and the Far East.

The RFHG was due to have a conference this June, at which I was going to discuss this. Sadly, it was a victim of Covid19, along with so many other events. I was looking forward to meeting fellow FEPOW families and hearing about their experiences. I hope there will be other opportunities to meet up and share these hidden histories of the Second World War.

You can still buy a signed copy of Stranger In My Heart in time for Christmas if you’re quick! 2020 has been so strange and sad, I’m sure we will all be glad to put it behind us. Whenever I start to flag with the relentlessness of it all, though, I have only to think of those brave souls who endured the privations of WW2 and I revive a little. Wishing all of you peace and joy at Christmas and looking forward to a Happy New Year.

Stranger

Originally this blog was intended to keep friends and family up to date with my travels in China. It worked far better than sending postcards and it was great to be able to share photographs and videos of my adventures. Now, though, I am going to start blogging about my publishing journey. The book is written but that seems to be a relatively small and simple part of the process – a journey from ‘twinkle in the eye’ to embryological development. I now have to get through the gestation process.

I am anxiously awaiting the return of the manuscript of “Stranger In My Heart” from the editor. I was expecting it last week but nothing has turned up yet. This is like the 12 week scan, when I shall see if there is a healthy heartbeat and the right number of limbs. After that I will have to do a lot of work. Everyone says that you have to ‘kill your darlings’ – allow cuts and changes even to your favourite passages – in order for the book to work well. I will try not to be too defensive but I hope that there isn’t a total rewrite to do as I am rather busy doing other things. I am also looking for people who might write reviews for me. I have contacted some celebrity supporters of the Riding for the Disabled Association (I’m donating some of the book proceeds to the RDA) and I have a well known author or two up my sleeve, but any suggestions gratefully received.

I am going to the Greek Islands in a couple of days for a holiday – it has been a tough year for me, healthwise, and I am hoping to come home with renewed vigour. I may or may not post while I’m away, depending on WiFi availability, inclination and newsworthy news!

On the road to Shangri-La

Today we headed north towards the snowy peaks of the Himalayas. First stop was the ‘first bend of the Yangtze River’. Three rivers rise in the north and head south through the mountains. Two of them continue south and join the Mekong, emptying in the South China Sea. The Yangtze makes a different choice – at this spot it makes a U-bend that then leads it eastward across China, ultimately reaching the sea at Shanghai. At this season, before the rains, the river looks charming and benign, but in a month or two it will be an iron-red raging torrent. We strolled through the little town next to the bend and snacked on deep fried potatoes with chilli.

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We continued on to Tiger Leaping Gorge (still the upper Yangtze, here known as Jinsha river). I had toyed with the idea of hiking the gorge for a couple of days but all the guidebooks say it is extremely steep and demanding, especially on the knees. Not for me these days. Instead we drove to the inevitable visitor centre, with walkways, viewing platforms and tat shops. Even so it was a considerable descent to reach the river and a stiff climb back up. No matter all the trappings of tourism, it is still stunning. Hydro power is growing massively in China and there was talk of flooding the gorge to create a dam. As well as affecting tourism, this would have displaced about 100,000 Naxi people. In a rare response to public outcry, the dam project has been shelved. However, there are still plans for dams higher up and lower down, so it is not all good news.

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We climbed from 2400m at Lijiang to 3200m at Shangri-La, via spectacular mountain scenery. We are close to Tibet here and the flavour of the town is very much Tibetan rather than Chinese. Goats gave way to yaks, pagoda style roofs disappeared and traditional Tibetan houses started to appear, signs started to be in Tibetan script as well as Chinese characters and prayer flags were flying everywhere. It’s also much colder here, but still good weather. There was a major fire in Shangri-La last year that destroyed about 400 houses in the old town. I’m not sure how much that will affect the look of the place.

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