Review: The tea planter's club - the horror of an evacuation from Birma through the jungle towards India


Two English sisters arrive in India a few years before the Second World War. Edith is rather plain but smart and Betty is the spoiled little sister.

Forty years later one of the sisters wonders like she does often what happened that the other sister never contacted her again.

Then something happens that shines a light on that mystery.

The novel is written as a book in a book. I takes you a bit to get into as the story changes between Edith, Betty and a woman called Olive. A large part deals with the evacuation of Rangoon via the mountains to India. It kept me awake so horrifying that was.

I found it well written and extremely interesting.

 


 Here is a link to a history site dealing with this largely forgotten part of history: https://scroll.in/article/967459/the-indian-exodus-from-burma-in-1941-is-a-forgotten-piece-of-world-war-ii-history

 

 


The fall of Southern Burma resulted in a mass movement towards Mandalay. By the middle of March, more than one lakh Indians were living in refugee camps around Mandalay. With the Japanese shifting their campaign’s schwerpunkt towards central Burma, bombing intensified, and the paucity of proper bomb shelters resulted in the deaths of many residing in the camps.

The resulting chaos caused thousands of migrants to begin moving towards the Tamu Pass, anticipating a quick collapse of the military. The route involved moving Northwards by road towards Kalewa along the Chindwin Valley, after which a long dirt trail led to the Tamu Pass and then onwards to Imphal.

(...)

At the end of April, the British called for a general retreat. Whatever little logistical and humanitarian aid was being provided to the evacuees was now prioritised for the quick exit of the British Army. The same week Governor General Smith, the senior-most civilian officer, flew out of Burma. Even though there were thousands of migrants slowly making their way to India, the armed forces kept little rear guard resistance. With the military command essentially having called quits, there was little between the defenceless migrants and the Japanese.

Moreover, the onslaught of the monsoon in early May made the trek across to India even more treacherous. Trails were washed away, rivers flooded, and malaria became widespread. What had been difficult before had turned nightmarish. Corpses lay littered throughout the trails with death striking in multifarious manners; starvation, physical fatigue, disease and natural calamity. Thousands, however, continued enduring their way across the Tamu Pass. Members of the Congress, the Marwari Association, and the Indian Tea Platers Association had been organising temporary camps to receive the migrants and were shocked upon meeting the scores of emaciated families.

 

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