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A dreary homecoming

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The beginning of the end of the war
Brian Aldiss Writer
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And so indeed, we did manage to re-take Mandalay. And what happened from then? Well, we slowly dispersed; there was nothing more to do, except get the Japs out the way and they were packed off in groups and sent down to Rangoon and sent back to Japan. I don't think they were shot; I never heard the British shooting.

So, yes – and we were in Rangoon or on the edges of Rangoon.

There had been a story... was this about Rangoon or Singapore? I think it was about Singapore, when it was being surrounded by the Japanese, the Governor of Singapore phoned Winston Churchill, and said, 'Mr Churchill, sir, I have here 3000 rounds of ammunition. What am I to do with them?' And Churchill said, 'How about firing it at the enemy?' Yes, well, an instruction, I think, that was not carried out. Anyhow. Then, I suppose, the war was over. Did we celebrate?

Oh, first of all... Oh, Christ... no, there was another crisis because we were then going to have to do a seaborne operation to the islands occupied by Japanese. And while we were… we were on a beach somewhere, trying to get these ships ready to sail and a Sergeant-Major came among us, and said, 'Alright, you men, the war in Europe's over. Break off for a smoke'. The war in Europe was over, but our war wasn't.  But then, fortunately, it was and so we never invaded those islands.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Rangoon, Singapore, Winston Churchill

Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015