The Emperor’s Guest
By John Fletcher-Cooke
Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
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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. After the war he rejoined the Colonial Service and had an outstanding career in the civil service.
During his captivity he witnessed the most barbaric actions and scenes committed by his captors. This is his story and it covers the four years of his life from December 1941 to December 1945. Many thousands of his fellow countrymen and thousands of our allies experienced the horrors of Japanese imprisonment and had similar horrific experiences.
Large numbers of his fellow inmates did not survive to tell their tale and many may have suffered more grievously whilst others were too damaged in mind and body such that they were unable to record what they had endured. He was one of the very lucky ones who managed to overcome these aspects.
Throughout this period the author managed to keep a secret diary in which he kept notes and records of various kinds. These included letters that were never sent home. The last entry in his diary is dated 10th October 1945 and it was written many thousands of feet above the earth’s surface whilst in a Halifax bomber flying from Kunming (in the Chinese Province of Yunnan) to Calcutta (India).
Seen through his eyes the treatment meted out to the PoWs by their Japanese captors takes on a new light. 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.