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Blind to Misfortune (Paperback)

Military Biographies Military

By William Griffiths
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 191
ISBN: 9781844153725
Published: 1st January 2006
Last Released: 1st August 2007

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Bill Griffiths lost both hands and both eyes when he was a prisoner of the Japanese in Java in 1942. This book tells the story of how he overcame these two shattering handicaps, either one of which might have qualified him to spend the rest of his life quietly in a home for the disabled. But Bill had no intention of allowing himself to become an object of pity and it was not long after his return to civilian life that he began to make it clear that, even if he had no hands and no eyes, he still had his own two feet and he certainly intended to stand on them. Inevitably life has not been without its ups and downs, and he certainly Bill could not have got where he has without the care and devotion of Alice, his wife. Their story is one of remarkable courage, told with no trace of bitterness and with a generous helping of laughter. It is a measure of the man that Bill can end his story with the words, “I've been lucky”!

The place is western Java. The date is 16 March 1942, and Aircraftsman First Class William Griffiths, a young POW in Japanese hands, sustains the most terrible, disabling injuries, losing both eyes and both hands. Captivity for him would mean at least six different camps and, by the end of the war, he would be reduced to less than half his normal body weight. How does a man not only survive all this, but get to turn his life around? In this book, Bill tells the harrowing story of his fight against enforced dependence over the years, in a candid and very personal account. This is remarkable for its freedom from bitterness and rancour, and lightened, on occasion, by an engaging sense of humour. It can in fact be read on several levels: it is first and foremost, about the progress of this remarkable (and modest!) man, with the support of his wonderful wife, Alice; it documents the heroism and humanity during the war of personalities like Edward "Weary Dunlop", the Dutch Matron "Mickey" de Jonge and Andrew Crighton, those Bill describes as his "trinity of saints"--and the description of how Dunlop saved his life not once, but twice, is truly memorable; the bookt further stands as a fitting tribute to the work of the Charity St. Dunstan's, which then came to the aid of those whose blindness stemmed from military service. And still does.
With support like this and his own tenacious, independent personality, Bill showed himself able to go on to lead an extraordinarily full life to the point where he could look back on his time in captivity as belonging to "a past so distant and awful it seemed as if it had been another life," emerging as an inspiration to many.
Above all, this book is a triumphant illustration of the power of the human spirit, one that shows that the cold-hearted cruelty of Japanese troops did not get the last word.

Stephanie A. Jefford
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