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The Emperor's Guest (Hardback)

WWII Prisoners Of War

By John Fletcher-Cooke
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781783400720
Published: 20th May 2013

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Seen through the eyes of John Fletcher-Cooke, the horrifying, but by now often-told story of the treatment meted out by the Japanese to their prisoners of war takes on an entirely new light. His is a book written without bitterness but at the same time a book which does not look back on suffering shared in the self-congratulatory spirit of an old comrades' reunion. For Sir John has two remarkable advantages, one possible unique and the other certainly very rare. Firstly, throughout his captivity he kept a diary on which this book is based, and which, as the reader will discover, he was almost unbelievably lucky to preserve. Secondly, as the reader will discover by reading between the lines, he never for one moment gave way to despair.

During his years as a prisoner of war he witnessed and was subjected to a wider spectrum of man's inhumanity to man then he could have expected to experience had Torquemada himself been his tutor. To say the he emerged from his descent into hell a wiser and better man is not to condone is suffering. It only emphasizes the fact that indomitable courage and great strength of character are often revealed only in adversity.

Sir John subsequently revisited Japan and the places where he was imprisoned. He also met some of the men who had once been his persecutors. The final chapters of this very remarkable book reveal once again the humanity, compassion and understanding which enabled him to survive when so many others died.

A brilliant account of John Fletcher-Cooke's experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese, based upon the letters and diaries which he kept throughout his captivity. It is this which makes it a remarkable narrative as the keeping of diaries was strictly prohibited and so there are few in the position of being able to present so clear a record. The monstrous behaviour of the Japanese towards their prisoners has been well documented, and this account shows them at their worst, yet the author remains remarkably composed and understanding despite the suffering to which he was subjected. In this we get a glimpse of the inner mental strength which was required to survive the ordeal; a strength which did not turn to bitterness and retribution when he was freed, but enabled him to return to Japan in 1969 to meet a few of his former guards, and, despite the language barrier and the odd awkward moment, one could almost say that it had the appearance of an old comrades reunion.

Pegasus Archive

Sir John Fletcher-Cooke graduated from St Edmund Hall, Oxford University in 1932 where he was a Senior Exhibitioner and Kitchener Scholar. He then joined the Colonial Office and after three years as an Assistant Principal he requested to be transferred overseas. He was assigned to Malaya and was driven out of his District by the invading Japanese in 1941.

After the invasion of Malaya he joined the RAF in Singapore and was captured in Java. This book re-counts his story for the next three and a half years that he spent as a Prisoner of War with the Japanese.

It is written without bitterness but at the same time it does not look back on the PoWs’ suffering in a self-congratulatory spirit.

One remarkable aspect is that after many years he re-visited the camps and tried to meet some of his ex-captors. He overcame the bitterness that could be expected and the volume provides an outstanding angle on the experiences of many PoWs. It is an eye-opener and he vividly recollects his fate. If you are seeking an article on PoWs of the Japanese then this tome gives an excellent first hand account. It is highly commended and is a remarkable read.


Military Archive Research
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