One Fourteenth of an Elephant: A Memoir of Life and Death on the Burma-Thailand Railway by Ian Denys Peek - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

Burmese Days

One Fourteenth of an Elephant: A Memoir of Life and Death on the Burma-Thailand Railway

By

Doubleday 522pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

This is a horrifying and extraordinary book. Nobody will read it for pleasure. It is a record of man's inhumanity to man, an appalling story of Japanese brutality during the Second World War; but - and one can only be grateful for this - it is also testimony to the resilience of the human spirit, to courage and endurance, and to the strength of comradeship. Otherwise it would be utterly intolerable.

Ian Denys Peek was a very young man, serving in the Singapore Volunteer Force, when he was taken prisoner of war after the fall of Singapore. Like all who shared that experience, he knew the surrender of Singapore to be shameful (like the Malayan campaign that had preceded it): the

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