Prisoners of the Japanese by Gavan Daws - review by Colin Smith

Colin Smith

King Rats

Prisoners of the Japanese


Simon & Schuster 462pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

When the first draft of American prisoners arrived at Changi, Singapore’s vast barracks complex in which the Japanese had allowed their British and Australian captives to immure themselves, two of their hungry number consumed an RAF dog, a mascot with 200 flying hours. To make matters worse, one of the culprits was half Japanese, though wholly Texan in outlook:

A dog of another nationality and he might not have eaten it, but he felt the same way as everyone else about the British ... Fujita got as far as picking up an iron bar, but he could see doggy eyes looking at him and a doggy tail wagging, and he had to wait until dark before he could bring himself to knock it on the head. Then, come to skinning, Rafalovich had not the least idea, he was a city boy. Fujita was from Texas ... but it was nothing like a rabbit ... he left a lot of hair on.

The Americans (a Texan National Guard artillery unit captured almost intact in Java, and sailors off the sunken cruiser USS Houston) arrived at Changi towards the end of 1942. By that time some 30,000 British and Australian POWs had departed Singapore for the well-documented horrors of building the Thai–Burma railway.

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