Thursday, 19 June 2014

Flight by Elephant by Andrew Martin

Burma was a British colony in 1942 when the Japanese invaded and thousands of British tea planters, civil servants and administrators suddenly became refugees. As the enemy closed in, escape routes via air and sea were soon cut off, leaving one party under Chief Railway Commissioner, Sir John Rowland, to take the treacherous overland route to India known as the Chaukan Pass.

Flight by Elephant is the true account of their escape and gripping reading it is too. Andrew Martin has delved into the diaries of several key players, including Charles Rowland with his British bulldog prose; and the man for the rescue mission on the other side of the pass: Gyles Mackrell, a tea planter and former World War One fighter pilot, with a connection with elephants.

The fierce determination of Mackrell to see the rescue mission out, the battle fought against leeches, malaria and a monsoon in full swing are all vividly brought to life. Andrew Martin has added plenty of interesting detail about the characters of those involved, the political and cultural background, to say nothing of the terrible terrain and weather conditions the party encountered.

The book is also a tribute to the mahout guides, without whom the rescue could never have gone ahead. With Martin’s lively prose, Flight by Elephant reads more like an adventure novel than a historical account - a rip-roaring read about heroism against the odds.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Flight by Elephant

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