Bill Reed was one of the many unfortunate British soldiers who arrived in Malaya just in time to take part in the final stages of the campaign in that county and the Japanese victory at Singapore, spending the rest of the Second World War as a prisoner of war. For much of this time he was made to work on the notorious Burma Railway, which cost the lives of at least 15,000 Allied prisoners and 85,000 Asian civilian labourers.
Reed's experiences over the next few years are graphically recounted. The overwhelming sense one gets is of senseless and often random violence, dished out by both the Japanese and Korean guards, with only a few unwilling to participate. Surprisingly the one figure who Reed eventually respected was one of his first camp commanders, executed after the war, but who Reed believes was trapped between his loyalty to the Army and the Emperor and his own religious beliefs.
Even the relatively light hearted sections, recounting the steps the prisoners took to relief their suffering often end in tragedy - perhaps most notably when two prisoners were shot dead after being caught attempting to break back into the camp after a fishing expedition.
The account of Reed's time as a Japanese prisoner is supported by a brief summary of his early wartime service, an account of the fighting in Malaya and Singapore and the immediate aftermath of the British surrender, while we finish with his repatriation at the end of the war, and a summary of his post-war life and the impact his wartime experiences still have on him.
1 - Over the Brink
2 - Baptism of Fire
3 - Fighting Retreat, Inevitable Defeat
4 - Prisoner of the Japanese
5 - The Railway of Death
6 - 'Speedo!'
7 - Logs and Ducks
8 - Raids, Repairs and Rackets
9 - The Road to Liberation
10 - Rest and Rehabilitation
11 - Homecoming
12 - Settling Down
13 - Coming to Terms
Author: Bill Reed with Mitch Peeke
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2009 edition of 2004 original