On 8th December 2021 it is the 80th anniversary of the the Battle of Hong Kong (HK80), the point of Britain’s entry into the Pacific War. To commemorate the day I have written a blog post for the Researching FEPOW History Group website. Please click the link and have a read.
You may remember that a wee while ago I appeared on BBCR4’s Saturday Live show. A couple of weeks ago I received an email via the website from a lady called Sarah, saying she’d heard my interview and was desperate for a few copies of my book but couldn’t find any. Unfortunately she hadn’t noticed the opportunity to buy a copy that appears on the sidebar on the right of the page. Anyway, I emailed back, asking how many she wanted and offering to put some copies in the post. I didn’t hear anything for a couple of days and, as she has an unusual surname, I thought I’d look her up to see if I could find an address for her. To my surprise she lives about ten minutes walk from my house! I went to find it but couldn’t find the correct house name. I knocked on a likely looking door:
‘Is this the White House?’ I asked
‘Yes’ said a surprised looking man in his 70s
‘Are you Mr X?’
‘I might be…’ I could see him wondering who on earth I might be and not coming to any happy conclusions.
‘Is your wife called Sarah?’ Now he was intrigued.
‘Is she looking for some copies of this book?’
‘Oh! Come in, come in.’ We had a nice chat and Sarah called me later to say it was the most extraordinary coincidence of their lives. Another happy customer.
I have recently taken part in #HistoryWritersDay on Twitter which generated some interest. It was the brainchild of @books2cover and he managed to get 250 writers/publishers involved to create a bit of a splash. Great idea and one that I hope will be repeated.
It’s 74 years today since Victory against Japan was declared. The war in the Far East carries some shocking statistics: 36 million dead, of whom 18 million were Chinese civilians; 200,000 Allied PoWs; 32% mortality among Far East PoWs compared to 4% among PoWs in Europe; the fourth deadliest battle of WW2 was the Ichigo campaign in China 1944, with 1.3 million casualties. Do these numbers surprise you?
The Pacific War is not given the same level of attention as the war in Europe and yet it arguably presented a greater challenge. For example, the terrain and tropical climate supplied an additional enemy in terms of conducting a war, with its poor lines of sight, gruelling physical demands, attendant diseases and difficulties for managing wounds and infections. Land transport links were poor making battle supply, communication, management and support extremely difficult and hazardous. The theatre of battle was spread over a vast area, much of it only accessible by sea, requiring complex logistical planning and long range resource capability. The Japanese fought a lawless guerrilla war rather than a traditional war, so that the Allied forces had no safe rear area and no respite at night. Co-ordination between the air, land and sea forces was critical, quite unlike any other theatre and any previous war. The Japanese Imperial Army did not abide by international law on the treatment of PoWs or civilians. The local languages and peoples did not allow for easy disguise and, along with the inhospitable terrain, made escape more or less impossible.
Let us celebrate the extraordinary endurance of both the Allied Forces and the civilian populations, and honour the dead on both sides. The silence of the combatants, the bamboo curtain raised by the Chinese Communists and our post-war trading and political alliances with Japan have all succeeded in allowing the Pacific War to become unjustly forgotten. Let us rescue the stories of the Pacific War before they are lost forever and commemorate this extraordinary chapter in our history.