A biography — Jungle Soldier: The True Story of Freddy Spencer Chapman

The phrase The Jungle is Neutral has acquired cult status.

But not much is known of the hero Lieutenant- Colonel Freddy Spencer Chapman who was promoted from a Major to Lieutenant- Colonel and awarded a DSO for his exploits behind Japanese lines.

This book does a reasonable job in fleshing out his life story. We learn that Chapman lived a very rugged travel experience in Greenland, Sikkim etc prior to joining the war in Singapore.

We also learn of Chapman’s exploits laying bombs to detonate railway tracks over a fortnight period. Thereafter, Chapman struggled to survive with the help of Chinese communist guerrillas {Leu Kim, Chin Peng who became good friends with Chapman} for 3 years. {page 373} The writing is brisk and easy to read.

But it does not have the immediacy and details that one gets when reading The Jungle is Neutral. This book mentions that many Chinese were massacred due to the exploits of Chapman and a few of his soldiers. {p 185 and 196}

The bigger picture is not addressed. Were the exploits of Chapman useful enough to justify the innocent massacres of Chinese villagers? One is reminded of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 where the Poles were massacred due to a premature uprising.

Earl Wavell in his foreword to The Jungle is Neutral lamented that Chapman did not get his deserved publicity compared to TE Lawrence. The reality is that TE Lawrence contributed substantially to the fight in the Middle East. Chapman was just trying to survive with the help of the Chinese Communists guerrillas.

This book sadly has no endnotes.

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