The Forgotten Highlander’s story

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A FORMER Japanese prisoner of war, Alistair Urquhart, from Broughty Ferry, will give a talk at Gayfield Lounge at 6.30 for a 7 p.m. start on Wednesday (October 17). The event has been organised by Arbroath Round Table and the cost is £5 per ticket.

Mr Urquhart was born on September 8, 1919, and is a retired Scottish businessman. He is the 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.

He was conscripted into the army in 1939, at the age of 19, and was 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 Urquhart suffered malnutrition, cholera and torture at the hands of his captors.

Later 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 September 12, 1943, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine USS Pampanito, whose commander was unaware of its cargo of prisoners. Mr Urquhart 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, he 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 by an atomic bomb by the United States.

In 2010, Mr Urquhart 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 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.

This is a ticket only event. Contact Jamie Buchan on 07786 036470 for more details.