World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Alistair Urquhart
From Wikipedia
Alistair Urquhart (born 8 September 1919)  is a retired Scottish businessman and author of The Forgotten Highlander, an account of the three and a half years he spent as a Japanese prisoner of war during his service in the Gordon Highlanders infantry regiment during the Second World War.

Alistair was conscripted into the British army in 1939, at the age of 19, and stationed at Fort Canning in Singapore. He was taken prisoner when the Japanese invaded the island in the Battle of Singapore, which lasted from December 1941 to February 1942. He was sent to work on the Burma Railway, built by the Empire of Japan to support its forces in the Burma campaign and referred to as 'Death Railway' because of the tens of thousands of forced labourers who died during its construction. While working on the railway Alistair suffered malnutrition, cholera and torture at the hands of his captors.

After working on the railway and in the docks in Singapore, he was loaded into the hold of the Kachidoki Maru, an American passenger and cargo ship captured by the Japanese and put to use as a 'hell ship' transporting hundreds of prisoners. The ship was part of a convoy bound for Japan; on the voyage prisoners endured more illness, dehydration, and instances of cannibalism.

On 12 September 1943, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the US submarine USS Pampanito, whose commander was unaware of its cargo of prisoners. Alistair was burned and covered in oil when the ship went down, and swallowed some oil which caused permanent damage to his vocal cords. He floated in a single-man raft for five days without food or water before being picked up by a Japanese whaling ship and taken to Japan.

In Japan, Alistair was sent to work in coal mines belonging to the Aso Mining Company and later a labour camp ten miles from the city of Nagasaki. He was there when the city was hit with an atomic bomb by the United States.

In 2010, Alistair published The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East, an account of his experiences. In the book he expresses anger at the lack of recognition in Japan of its role in war crimes as compared to the atonement in Germany.

He was born in the City of Aberdeen, but has resided in Broughty Ferry, Dundee for many years. He spends his retirement teaching retired people how to use the computer and attends and teaches ballroom dancing at many Tea Dances

Alistair Urquhart sends his grateful thanks for so many comments and contributions to Little, Brown's Blog, since the publication of his book The Forgotten Highlander.

'Reading those gave me great comfort, that all of you felt the book, should be read by not only adults, but school and University pupils and the younger generation. This was my hope, as I worked on the manuscript, with my friend Kurt Bayer, as there are many things to learn, whilst reading the book.

'Such as: there is not such a word as "CAN'T", one never gives up, as there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, as I have proved, and always use the attributes you have to the fullest.

'I feel very humble at times, but am so glad the book has been such a success worldwide, and that all FEPOWs will now have their rightly place in the history of World War II, in the Far East, and in society.'

Alistair was finally awarded a veteran's medical pension when Prince Charles stepped in after reading Alistair's book. Charles invited Alistair to his home at Balmoral.


Unfortunately, Channel Five has blocked the You Tube copies of the documentary in which Alistair describes his life in intricate detail. 
The most comprehensive story I've manahed to find is on the Mail Online. As it's copyrighted, I won't paste the story on here, but you can click on this link to read it: Mail Online