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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Friday 15 November 2013

Jungle soldier

The WW2 Far East project is back on track with some more reading on the Malayan campaign.

This time a compelling story about the 'stay behind' units and one Freddy Spencer Chapman. He spent over three years behind Japanese lines, mostly with Chinese communist guerillas. All the more remarkable given that he was more famous pre-war for his expeditions in the Arctic.

Brian Moynahan has written a gripping narrative of his story, 'Jungle Soldier'. He draws heavily on Chapman's own account in, 'The Jungle is Neutral' (1949). It was only half way through Moynahan's book that I remembered that I had a second hand copy of this tome in my reading pile.

Not a wasted purchase because Chapman wrote his account during the Malayan Emergency and therefore missed out some important details. Also frankly, Moynahan is the better writer and gives a wider perspective. I won't summarise the story because that would ruin what is an excellent read and a credit to a remarkable story of endurance.

One of the more interesting points for me is hinted at in the title of the book. The Japanese were far from being the expert jungle fighters they were portrayed as being at the time. Chapman shows how their jungle craft was limited and had the stay behind parties been better equipped and supported, could have done even more damage.

More progress on the figure front as well. These are the first of the 28mm Malayan project using Bolt Action. Perry 8th Army plastics work well for this project because several units earmarked for the desert were sent to Singapore. The issue of tropical uniforms convinced the troops that the desert was the destination. After arriving only to be captured by the Japanese, most would have wished the original plan had held up!

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