The Missing Years
very local associations with this week’s book review. The Missing Years
(ISBN 9-7818-770-5877-6, Rosenberg Publishing, 2009), written by Chiang Mai
expat Stu Lloyd, details the experiences of Captain Pilkington, a POW in
WWII from Changi prison in Singapore to Hellfire Pass in Thailand. His
period as a POW was four years - the “missing years” which author Stu Lloyd
has meticulously researched and documented to produce this book.
The book begins on February 14, 1942 with the memoirs of Captain Pilkington
who was in the Alexandra Military Hospital in Singapore, recuperating from
having been shot in the shoulder. He writes that he was living in a world of
fever and pain, but little did he know as he wrote in his diary that worse,
much worse, was to come.
What stands out from reading this book is that no matter the privations and
cruelty, the POWs still managed to put on a brave face. As well as cholera
and dysentery, the POWs also suffered with beriberi, lice, scabies and bed
bugs, tropical ulcers, diphtheria and malaria. “No more gallant action was
fought in the war than that of our desperately sick men, against death. Day
after day they willed themselves to live, knowing their chances were almost
Captain Pilkington was an avid book-keeper as he has the prices of all items
noted, right down to the final cent. It also was interesting that the POWs
were actually paid a “wage” and from that had to buy their own food. I must
admit, I had never thought of their existence in that way. However, they
were very skilled at growing crops wherever they were stationed.
I have never been a war buff. My father was also a POW, but I do not hold
grudges. It is the Geneva Convention that has me flummoxed. The “It is OK to
kill someone today, but because of some circumstances, not tomorrow,”
concept, is a situation that cannot morally be defended.
The final chapter is emotionally heart-rending, and it should be taken
slowly, there is so much emotion between the lines.
Writing and researching this book was obviously a watershed for author Stu
Lloyd who admitted at the end of it all, “…after years of vacillating
ambiguity - I am now firmly, undeniably, resolutely anti-war.” He went
further, writing, “Every gravestone is not just a casualty or statistic: it
is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s flesh and blood, a bundle of hopes
and dreams cruelly and prematurely dashed.”
This book will also make you look at yourself and your own attitudes. It
should be made compulsory reading for all teenagers, of all nationalities
and religious persuasions. We are all capable of atrocities, but surely we
can keep that side of our characters under control? However, when I read
about Iraq and Afghanistan I have to say we cannot. This grieves me.
Stu Lloyd’s book records a major milestone in the history of WW II. Asia
Books is handling distribution, so it may also appear in Bookazine. The
author has let me know the price will be B. 850, and well worth it.