By: James Leasor (588/35866)
One man went to war and found himself, by extraordinary force of circumstances, undertaking the longest unaccompanied march of the whole 1939-45 campaign.
The man was William Doyle, who joined the Royal Marines the day after the war was declared, served in the Middle East, in the Maldives and then, with a group of 100 other volunteers, landed in Rangoon on the eve of its capitulation in early 1942.
His group, known as Force Viper, harried the advancing Japanese from armed launches on the Irrawaddy, but, as fuel and ammunition ran low, as wounds and sickness decimated their ranks, they were finally forced to withdraw north of Mandalay.
Doyle was so severely wounded by shrapnel in his legs that he could not wear boots, and, in hospital in Myitkyina, in North Burma, he had to face the ultimate decision – to stay where he was and almost certainly be captured, or to attempt to march out of Burma on his own, unarmed and barefoot.
The Marine from Mandalay is the story of his long, solitary march to find his headquarters, re-group and fight again. On the way north he met streams of British and Indian refugees, men, women, children, many ill, nearly all destitute and in poor physical shape. He used his training as a Royal Marine to help them. He put heart and hope into hundreds who had long since abandoned both. In a war to take life, William Doyle saved it.
Eventually, after many adventures, he reached Calcutta, Bombay and finally, Plymouth Barracks. This book is an inspiration to all who have ever asked: What can one person on their own do to overcome what seem insurmountable obstacles? The marine from Mandalay shows how individual courage, resource and a sense of humour can triumph over what others consider impossible odds.
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