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Scattered Under the Rising Sun (ePub)

The Gordon Highlanders in the Far East 1941-1945

WWII Prisoners Of War Japan & the Pacific Front The Fall of Singapore Military

By Stewart Mitchell
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 5.3 MB (.epub)
Pages: 212
ISBN: 9781783830367
eBook Released: 8th January 2013

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While there have been many fine and inspiring individual POW accounts, Scattered Under the Rising Sun is unusual in that it describes the horrific ordeal at the hands of the Japanese of the officers and men of 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders.

The Battalion was posted to Singapore in 1937 with their families. When the Japanese invaded Malaya in December 1941, the Gordons fought bravely until the surrender of Singapore on 14 February 1942 and those who had not been killed became POWs. After initial incarceration in Singapore the Battalion was dispersed. Many were sent to work on the infamous Thai-Burma railway, others in the mines of Taiwan and Japan and the remainder to other slave labour projects. Many also had to endure long periods in 'hell-ships', only to be killed when torpedoed by allied submarines.

All suffered crippling hard labour, starvation, brutality and tropical diseases. Rank was no protection from death. Of the 1,000 men involved initially, only some 600 lived to be liberated in summer 1945.

The author of this moving and superbly researched book captures the strong collective regimental spirit and the humour
and cooperation without which so many more would have otherwise succumbed to the unimaginable conditions and brutality. By any yardstick, this is an inspiring tale of sacrifice, courage and survival against appalling odds.

Scattered under the Rising Sun” is a valuable addition to our understanding of war in the Far East. The book recounts the history of the 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, almost 60% of whom were recruited from Aberdeen and the surrounding area. The Gordons’ war began in Singapore at the outset of the Japanese invasion in December 1941. The Japanese ability to attack from inland rather than the sea rendered Singapore’s heavy costal batteries impotent, while the lack of allied air cover left the Royal Navy paying a heavy cost with the loss of the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and cruiser HMS Repulse.

Initially occupying a defensive line on the mainland, and subject to air and ground attacks, the Gordons were withdrawn across the Johore Strait separating Malaya and Singapore. Author and Highlanders’ Museum volunteer Stewart Mitchell draws on survivors’ accounts to tell the tales of the land battle which resulted in 62 killed and 79 wounded prior to surrender on 14 February 1942. Several died in the Alexandra Hospital massacre, sadly a familiar feature of Japanese treatment of non-combatants. After incarceration at their former barracks in Changi, many Gordons were transported to assist in the construction of the Burma-Siam railway, including the real-life “Bridge over the River Kwai.”

Beatings, starvation, dysentery and disease were daily companions for the Gordons for the next three years. The relentless abuse is well told and many of those liberated suffered premature deaths as a result of their ill treatment.

A key feature of the book is the reproduction of a treasured part of the regimental archive, the nominal roll of those present in Singapore. The roll was begun in Singapore and secretly maintained and updated in captivity. Many Gordons will have received only unnamed WW2 medals for their service. Their names live on in this book and I am proud to have the medal to one who helped build the railway and survive the war.

Peter Weedon

As featured in VE Day commemorations

The Press and Journal and Evening Express (Aberdeen), 8th May 2020

The triumph of the human spirit of the men of the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders in overcoming incredible odds and adversity in the Far East during World War 2 has been brought to life in full in 'Scattered Under the Rising Sun'.

Fraserburgh Herald

Stewart Mitchell tells the compelling and heroic stories of members of the Gordon Highlanders regiment who were posted with their wives and children to the far east, where caught up in the Pacific War.

Scottish Memories

Including an appendix listing each member of the battalion (as well as a portrait where available) the author, a volunteer researcher at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, examines its fate in the Far East.

Britain at War

What Stewart Mitchell's book, about the Gordon Highlanders in the Far East during the Second World War, has achieved is to highlight the true ethos of the old regimental system, its geographic family ties that extended well beyond that of the fighting unit. It was those ties that allowed Stewart Mitchell to so well carry out his outstanding research. mitchell has captured perfectly how the regimental spirt made The Gordon Highlanders a remarkable, durable body of men.

Scottish Field

The book contains some excellent photos including the last draft of Gordon Highlanders , liberated POWs at Funatsu and repatriated Cpl William Gray with Donald the Thai Duck. The nominal roll of the battalion is supported by small portrait images of most of the men. Altogether, a very readable and valuable record of a fine battalion.

Jonathan Moffat - Researching FEPOW History Group

The triumph of the human spirit of the men of the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders in overcoming incredible odds and adversity in the Far East during World War 2 is brought to life in full in a new book.

The Sun (Scottish edition)

The book tells the story of the men and their families, bringing to light many previously untold accounts of courageous spirit, humour and compassion.

Deeside Piper

Stewart Mitchell is to be commended for writing this memorial and celebration of their sheer fortitude in condidtions we cannot now imagine. Many will read this book with sorrow, even tear: but it should be read with pride, to remind us how ordinary Scots can rise to unheard-of levels of endurance and resistance against a bestial enemy. Book of the Month.

The Scots Magazine

An extraordinary 'band of brothers' are celebrated in a new book commemorating the 70th anniversary of one of the darkest chapters in the history of the Gordon Highlanders.

Press and Journal (Aberdeen)

The human side of a story so horrific that few survivors ever spoke of it again is set to be told in a new book. Stewart Mitchell, a volunteer at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen, has written a book commemorating the 70th anniversary of the event.

Aberdeen Evening Express

“Scattered under the Rising Sun” is a valuable addition to our understanding of war in the Far East. The book recounts the history of the 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, almost 60% of whom were recruited from Aberdeen and the surrounding area. The Gordons’ war began in Singapore at the outset of the Japanese invasion in December 1941. The Japanese ability to attack from inland rather than the sea rendered Singapore’s heavy costal batteries impotent, while the lack of allied air cover left the Royal Navy paying a heavy cost with the loss of the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and cruiser HMS Repulse.

Initially occupying a defensive line on the mainland, and subject to air and ground attacks, the Gordons were withdrawn across the Johore Strait separating Malaya and Singapore. Author and Highlanders’ Museum volunteer Stewart Mitchell draws on survivors’ accounts to tell the tales of the land battle which resulted in 62 killed and 79 wounded prior to surrender on 14 February 1942. Several died in the Alexandra Hospital massacre, sadly a familiar feature of Japanese treatment of non-combatants. After incarceration at their former barracks in Changi, many Gordons were transported to assist in the construction of the Burma-Siam railway, including the real-life “Bridge over the River Kwai.”

Beatings, starvation, dysentery and disease were daily companions for the Gordons for the next three years. The relentless abuse is well told and many of those liberated suffered premature deaths as a result of their ill treatment.

A key feature of the book is the reproduction of a treasured part of the regimental archive, the nominal roll of those present in Singapore. The roll was begun in Singapore and secretly maintained and updated in captivity. Many Gordons will have received only unnamed WW2 medals for their service. Their names live on in this book and I am proud to have the medal to one who helped build the railway and survive the war.

Peter Weedon
 Stewart Mitchell

About Stewart Mitchell

Stewart Mitchell became Volunteer Researcher at the Gordons Museum, Aberdeen in 2005 after a career in environmental protection. He lives with his wife at Bridge of Don, Aberdeen.

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