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Twenty Ways to Get Malaria in the Burmese Jungle

By Gordon Thorburn

Pen & Sword Military, $39.99, 207 pages

This book provides an unbelievable wealth of information on the daily lives of the Scottish soldiers that were sent to fight the Japanese in Burma, known today as Myanmar. Unfortunately the author in his enthusiasm for his story left this reader confused and buried under a minutia of detail. We start with a quick history of the Cameroonians, the Scottish Rifles, and their emergence during the Scottish religious struggles back in the 15th century. In chapter two we jump into a confusing account on how two divisions of these soldiers were sent to the jungles of Burma. The author is not all to blame as the bureaucracy behind sending in troops was as indecisive as the written story. The gist of the story tells how men that were barely trained in jungle warfare went up against the Japanese, one of the toughest foes of World War II. The challenge for the ‘Jocks’ was to turn themselves into jungle fighters as good as the Japanese. Unfortunately this was easier said than done. Although the men fought courageously, in three months the two divisions were pulled out and sent home. Of the 7,677 officers and men going into the jungle, of which 531 were killed, captured or missing, and around 1600 were wounded. By the end, some 3,800 were too sick to fight. Only 1,754 could be classified as ‘effective’ when they came out and, in truth, half of those were fit for no more than a hospital bed.

“The challenge for the ‘Jocks’ was to turn themselves into jungle fighters as good as the Japanese.”

For those readers that have a specific interest in this time period and place the book provides an in-depth account of the struggle the soldiers faced on a daily basis.

Reviewed by Brian Taylor

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