Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The sky looked down on a young Dutchman in the East Indies in the Nineteen Forties. He was enjoying a life of ease and security from which he was suddenly hurled into the abyss of war. This book is not merely a narrative of happenings but a dramatisation of actual events as they took place, sharply outlining the emotional effects on himself and, as observed by him, on others. It is a moving picture of how he met the girl who changed his life in the tumultuous days of preparing for war, the brief wedding ceremony and, shortly afterwards, the outbreak of hostilities with Japan. The unconditional surrender, separation from his family, and transport to Changi and the infamous Burma Railroad.
It also records two examples, never published before, of the perfidy of a former fortress commander and the dual personality of an officer of a famous regiment. It tells of the young man's solitary nightly excursions across the river in the jungle of Thailand, and the hairbreadth escape from detection and death. More than anything else it shows that, in spite of the general privation and back-breaking work under the tropical sun and monsoonal rain, attacks of dysentery and malaria, there was the ever prevailing spirit and sense of humour breaking through.
It was an inexplicable spirit of faith in the ultimate victory over an inhumanly cruel enemy and filth and disease, bringing him and his small group of friends moments of quiet contentment and friendly jest amidst all the squalor and misery.
Then there was the dangerous sea voyage with the torpedo attack and the sweltering heat in the lower hold. The arrival at Japan, followed by more hard labour and the great earthquake lasting six days. The hell of American air force bombardment and finally the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending the war.
The long trail, delayed by stopovers at rest camps, began back to the Indies and his beloved Lisa.
Frank Samethini, 1992