The era when the men of Bill Slim's XIV Army could justifiably call themselves 'The Forgotten Army' is long passed. Happily their outstanding achievements have been deservedly well-recorded by historians. Quality memoirs of those who fought and defeated the formidable and resourceful Japanese have always been sought after but, inevitably, fresh ones are becoming increasingly rare. John Hudson's Sunset in the East is well-worth reading for its vivid description of the brutal and sustained fighting through the seige of Imphal on the central Burma front, yet it offers a rare insight into the strange events in Java after VE Day
As featured inThe Times 22/6/19
There was a time when it could have been said of the men of Bill Slim's 14th Army that "Fame Never Found Them." Happily, now, in this book by John Hudson, they receive due recognition. Written in the idiom of the time and reflecting its attitudes, it describes the fierce fighting at the siege of Imphal on the central Burma front, and the relentless savagery of the enemy under the command of the dreaded General Mutaguchi, whose name, says the author, who was there, still chills the spine.Stephanie A. Jefford
This is, however, much more than an account of the combat. Hudson shares with us the complexities of his task as an 0fficer in handling troops of different castes, tongues and religions within one company, and he challenges as over-simplified some media portrayals of the "Green Hell". We learn of some innovative methods of warfare (it is fascinating to learn that certain types of booby-trap were in use in Burma 20 years before they would be adapted to deadly effect elsewhere by the Vietcong) and on a lighter note glimpse a little of that eccentricity in which the British sometimes excel, in the Brigadier who keeps a duck for a pet!
Following an expeditionary effort in Malaya gone wrong, the action switches to Java, scene of insurgency, assassinations and voodoo murders at the time of the movement for independence. Here Hudson and others faced a curious, unexpected dilemma, reflecting the awkward nature of reality: would they fight for survival, together with their former bitter enemies, the Japanese, or die with them?
This vivid account of events, augmented by well-chosen illustrations, is both a memoir from a fighting man and an important historical document.