Sunday, 13 November 2011

Story on fall of Singapore survivor Alistar Urquhart

SECOND World War hero Alistair Urquhart from Broughty Ferry has become a television star - at the age of 92.

Mr Urquhart, a former Japanese prisoner of war, became a surprise publishing sensation with his book ‘The Forgotten Highlander’, a number one bestseller and international hit in 2009. It is his account of torture, death and slavery on the Bridge of the River Kwai.

Mr Urquhart celebrated his 92nd birthday on Tuesday by watching a film of this extraordinary story of survival entitled ‘World War Two’s Luckiest Man’ which was screened on Channel 5. He revisited locations from his childhood in Aberdeen for the film, which was an episode of the ‘Revealed’ series.

He enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders in Aberdeen and was sent with his battalion to Singapore where he was captured by the Japanese when they over-ran the colony in 1942. He then spent 750 days in slavery working on the Death Railway in Thailand where 120,000 people died. Mr Urquhart was finally moved from the prisoner of war camp but while being ferried by a Japanese ‘hell ship’ to mainland Japan, a US submarine torpedoed the vessel.

At this point weighing less than six stones, he swam for hours through an ocean ablaze with burning oil until he found a raft, then he drifted on the shark-infested China Sea for five days.

Though he has no recollection of being rescued, somehow he found himself alive on another hell ship, this time bound for Nagasaki, where again he was imprisoned until the US dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan, ending the war for good at the cost of 80,000 lives.

Mr Urquhart said it is not everyone who gets to make a film in their nineties, but he did find it very tiring. One of the reasons for taking part, he stated was so more young people would learn how much the British prisoners of war suffered at the hands of the Japanese army. For many years Alistair kept his astonishing tale to himself only to publish his memoirs in his 90th year. He feels that the response to his book was amazing.

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