Railway of Hell - War, Captivity and Forced Labour at the Hands of the Japanese, Reginald Burton

Railway of Hell - War, Captivity and Forced Labour at the Hands of the Japanese, Reginald Burton

Reginald Burton was a British soldier who was sent to Singapore late in 1942, arriving just in time to take part in the unsuccessful defence of Malaya and Singapore. He then spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of the Japanese, spending most of his time in Singapore but most of 1943 working on the infamous railway between Siam to Burma.

Burton's account of his time in captivity was originally published in 1963, when the author was still a serving army officer. As a result he had to get official approval for his work, and some of the worst Japanese atrocities had to be removed from the text. In 2002 Burton revised his text to restore the missing sections, making this a more valuable and complete account of his experiences.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this book is that Burton attempts to explain why the Japanese treated their prisoners so badly, especially on the Siam to Burma railway, coming up with some unusual conclusions. He also presents a more varied picture of Japanese captivity, with some periods of more moderate treatment. These make it clear just how brutal the regime was during the railway work. He also notes how the treatment of at least the officer prisoners improved as the war began to turn against Japan.

Burton's willingness to examine the reason for his treatment make this a particularly valuable piece of work, as well as being a harrowing account of his time in captivity and the appalling cruelty that he and his comrades suffered.

1 - The Start of World War II - 1939-1941
2 - Outward Bound - 1941-1942
3 - Into Battle - February 1942
4 - Into Captivity - Changi, Singapore, February-July 1942
5 - Working Parties in Singapore, Changi July 1942-April 1943
6 - Valley of the Shadow Death, April-December 1943
7 - Evacuation from Hell - December 1943
8 - Return to Singapore - December 1943-1944
9 - Towards the end of the War - 1945

Author: Reginald Burton
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 173
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010 edition of 2002 revised version of 1963 original

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