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Healing in Hell (Hardback)

The Memoirs of a Far Eastern POW Medic

Military WWII > Battles & Campaigns > Japan & the Pacific Front WWII > Battles & Campaigns > The Fall of Singapore

By Ken Adams, Edited by Michael Adams
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 180
Illustrations: 16pp B & W plates
ISBN: 9781848845756
Published: 12th October 2011



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Like many thousands of other unsuspecting young soldiers, Ken Adams was sent out to the Far East during the Second World War. He immediately saw action on the Malay Peninsula before being captured at Singapore. As a trained medic he was initially assigned to work at Changi Hospital, where conditions were bad enough. However, this was only the start of the three-year ordeal and many moves and far worse camps in Thailand were to follow.

In Healing in Hell, Ken describes his life, work and the terrible conditions endured at the hands of the Japanese and Korean guards and, worst of all, the Kempetai secret police. He found himself faced with cases far beyond his medical expertise. Diseases such as dysentery, malaria, avitaminosis, cholera and smallpox were prevalent and had to be treated with minimal or no medicines. Starvation was a fact of life.

He and his comrades and patients were frequently moved around from camp to ghastly camp and, in 1945, he took part in a gruelling march of many hundreds of miles, which proved fatal to many.

All books by former POWs of the Japanese are harrowing and this one is no exception given the Author's experiences. What sets this account apart from others is the way he deals frankly with issues like death when seen for the first time, and the powerlessness and endless frustration of indeterminate imprisonment. What also sets this account apart from others is the way he addresses the too often overlooked and painful difficulties of resettling back into his family and society after being cut off for so long in captivity of the worst kind.

For all these reasons, Healing in Hell is an exceptional memoir that demands reading.

There have been many books detailing the terrible plight of the Far East Prisoner of War but very few of these have told the story of the remarkable work of the medical personnel whilst in captivity. This is an excellent book and recommended to all military medics as an example of how one of their forefathers, despite his own suffering performed in the highest traditions of the RAMC during very difficult times.

The Medic

An almost addictive fascination…an utterly absorbing book.

Britain at War

Now, 70 years after his wretched ordeal began, the extraordinary story of his grim battle to stay alive has been laid bare in a vivid and revealing war memoir that explains not just the horrors of Japanese captivity but the painful psychological scars that have never healed. Healing in Hell is an astonishingly reflective and thought provoking record of suffering and survival against the odds that is notable for its searing honesty and searching self analysis. A deeply introspective account of one man's nightmarish odyssey to hell and back, it is a remarkable book born of an even more remarkable father and son collaboration spanning opposite ends of the world.

Eastern Daily Press

The traumatic war experiences of an Allerton Bywater-born Japanese POW medic and his adjustment to life after liberation are documented in a new book by his son.
It describes how he tried unsuccessfully to get into the RAF after renouncing his conscientious objections to fighting, after witnessing the bombing of Liverpool.
He instead remained an Army medic and was shipped out to Singapore in January 1942 where he saw action with the 18th Division before Singapore fell and along with thousands of other British servicemen he became a Japanese POW.

Yorkshire Evening Post

About Ken Adams

Ken Adams was born in 1919 at Alterton-Bywater near Castleford. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in early 1940 and was captured by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. For the next three and half years he worked as a medic in Changi and various POW camps in Thailand treating everything from dysentery to cholera. Post war, he studied government administration and economics at London University and became a senior government official.

He has been married to Marion for over seventy years and has two children, Diane and Mike.

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