Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Mustn't Grumble.....

I was listening to last Wednesday's edition of Midweek on Radio 4 the other day with Libby "forward stroke" Purves. One of her guests left a deep impression on me.

Fergus Anckorn, now aged 91, is the oldest member of the Magic Circle and was once the youngest. A book about him called "Surviving by Magic" tells of his wartime experiences as a PoW of the Japanese for over three years during the Second World War, helping build the infamous 'Bridge over the River Kwai'.

This incredible old man told his tales in such a matter-of-fact and human manner he may as well have been discussing the queue at the Post Office.

He was one of only four or five survivors of the infamous Alexandra Hospital Massacre during the fall of Singapore in February 1941 when the Japanese ignored a surrender and bayoneted the patients in their beds, killing over 200 people including the male staff. Fergus had been a patient on a bed holding his badly bleeding hand to his chest and the profusion of blood made the Japanese soldiers believe he had already been "attended to".

Somehow he managed to survive as a Prisoner of War for the first 6 weeks with no food at all, living off snails, slugs, crickets, snakes and anything that moved. He survived "mock" executions and having a can of red hot creosote thrown over him and after three years was well below six stone in weight.

Fergus - I salute you. What an indomitable human spirit!

It does rather point up the assertion recently that those born after 1945 were the Lucky Generation , a concept which is somewhat dependent on postcode - not so lucky in Rwanda, the Balkans, Iraq, Palestine, etc etc etc.

Maybe we should all spend a little more time counting our blessing instead of our woes.


Dave said...

Here here.

Our blessings, though, just don't seem to make such interesting blog-posts.

Sir Bruin said...

Sort of puts things in to perspective, don't it?

Jon Storey said...

The stories that these people tell are little short of humbling!

We today, can still have little real idea of their suffering.

KAZ said...

I remember seeing the film (Bridge on the River Kwai) as a kid and being terrified for the prisoners - even Alec Guinness.
Good old Fergus - what a star!

Geoff said...

My parents' generation haven't done so badly, either. The War seemed to be an adventure to a lot of the kids growing up during it.

I can recreate Fergus' Far Eastern Frolics by watching I'm A Celebrity. If you think the POWs had it tough, imagine having to share living space with Jordan!

Z said...

Appalling as the physical conditions were, it seems that the deliberate mental torture was worse. It's impossible to comprehend how and why they were treated like that.

Your many blessings start with Mrs Rine, Ox and Lily, of course.

Dave said...

He has an ox now? Good grief, is he starting a zoo?

Z said...


Fancy you pointing that out, Dave. And after I kindly didn't mention the typos in "hear hear".

Rog said...

Dave: That's why the Daily Mail sells so many copies as well.

Sir B: You never know what's round the corner. There was a nasty nip in the air this morning.

Jon: Welcome! It makes my grumblings about Noel Edmonds seem a bit lame. Mind you, even Fergus found a few light moments. He explained how the Japs gave a reward to prisoners who caught 10 flies a day (to reduce dysentry) and when the flies were on the way he started a secret breeding programme!

Kaz: I can't watch that film any more. Fergus said they put termite larvae in in joints of all the teak bridges but only years later found out they didn't eat teak.

Geoff: It must have been a bit like boarding school to be sent off to be abused in the countryside.

Z: Thankyou for reminding me. And Dave is an Ass for mentioning an Ox.

Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z said...

He did make me feel quite Sheepish. But I shouldn't have been Catty, especially as he's been feeling Horse lately.

Christopher said...

Do you think he's crying wolf as well?

Sarah said...

Hear bloody hear Rog....too much complaining and not enough gratitude makes us all jolly well lily livered.

And while I'm here.... not true Dave, everyone really loves to read heart warming stories of good things that happen!

Rog said...

Z & Christopher: You two are making this Aardvaark!

Sarah: Let's make it Good News Week!!!