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.
Sir John Fletcher-Cooke was Senior Exhibitioner and a Kitchener Scholar at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, and graduated with First Class Honours in 1932. After three years as as Assistant Principal in the Colonial Office, he applied to be transferred overseas and was posted to Malaya. As described in this book, he was driven out of his District by the invading Japanese in 1941 and, having joined the R.A.F. in Singapore, was captured in Java. From 1964 to 1966 he was a Member of Parliament for Southampton (Test). He died in May, 1989.