I have been asked what was the inspiration to write The Fatal Flag. It was an old shoe box bulging with sweat stained hand written note books and letters which had been saved, without too much care, to be thrown out by someone another day perhaps. After reading a few pages at random, I sensed I held in my hands the ashes of a departed soul, and I immediately wanted to bring the spirit back to life. There began a fascinating revelation of a man's character, the rarely spoken of circumstances of imprisonment of so many senior officers at the one time, and their fortitude in adversity. Such a detailed and personal account has rarely been exposed, and it has been a privilege for me to accompany the author through some of his ordeals. I sincerely hope you will feel the same.
The foundations for this story are the personal accounts made by one man during captivity, and give a rare insight into senior officers' characters in some extraordinary circumstances.
Six months after the fall of Singapore in February 1942, the Japanese secretly moved from Changi prison all Generals, Brigadiers and Colonels, to the island of Formosa. No communication was permitted with home and no one knew the whereabouts of these elderly men, which only added to the debilitating effects of starvation and disease together with physical and mental abuse. Each officer employed his own psychological defences to withstand the continuous trauma of this criminal teatment, but for some the ordeal proved too much.
The title of this book is designed to distinguish the conventions of the white flag of surrender with all its honourable expectations of humanitarian protection, as opposed to the infamous and unprincipled violations perpetrated by Imperial Japanese forces.
Writing this particular history has necessitated much research to better understand and accurately describe such elements as climatic conditions, avoidable diseases, historical realities, and the details of a progression of camps in which these officers were kept. It also presented the opportunity to provide a partial biography of Brigadier Richards' interesting family when the misfortunes of war kept it apart.