The Tall Man Who Never Slept by James Bradley

The Tall Man Who Never Slept

Far East Prisoners of War
ISBN 1-873203-20-9
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by James Bradley
Biography of Cyril Wild, a British officer who played a significant role in Singapore during World War 2

Remarkable story of a British officer whose Japanese language skills and unflappable demeaour made him a valuable asset as an official interpreter before, after and during his years as a FEPOW (Far East Prisoner of War) of the Japanese in WW2

This book is a biography of Cyril Wild, a British Army officer whose fluent command of the Japanese language led to his being a significant figure in the history of Singapore during the Second World War.

On 15th February 1942 Wild walked beside Lt-General  Percival, carrying the white flag when Singapore surrendered to the Japanese and was later the official British interpreter when the Crown Colony was officially handed over to General Yamshita. Wild was again present nearly four years later in 1945, when Japanese General Itagaki unconditionally surrendered to Lord Louis Mountbatten.

In the intervening years, Wild, along with thousands of other British servicemen, had been a prisoner of war, during which time they were subjected to brutal mistreatment by the Japanese.

Whilst in captivity Wild used his Japanese language skills to great effect, frequently  interceding on behalf of his fellow POWs. So tireless were his efforts that the Japanese referred to him as nemuranai se no takai otoko  (the tall man who never slept).

But the horrors he had witnessed made Wild determined to bring his former captives to justice when the war was over, when once again his ability to speak Japanese was a valuable asset, allowing him to interrogate an number of high ranking Japanese officers prior to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunals, at which he was a key witness. He was actively engaged in this work when, in 1946, he was killed in an air crash, which many believe was no accident.

The whole of Cyril Wild’s remarkable story is told in full in this detailed biography by James Bradley, who was a POW alongside Wild during the building of the infamous Burma-Siam railway.



The embedded video shows Major Wild carrying a white flag on his way to act as interpreter at the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942…

A very British kind of hero, Cyril Wild was the public school educated son of a bishop, quietly-spoken, erudite and well mannered. Before the war he secured employment with a petroleum company in Japan, where he learned to speak fluent Japanese. This skill would prove very useful in the years to come...

At the outbreak of war, Wild volunteered to join the army and was serving as an officer when Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1941. Due to his language skills he was ordered to act as interpreter at the surrender to the Japanese by General Percival. Newsreel footage taken at the time shows the surrender party on their way with Wild initially carrying a white flag, which soon he casts aside contemptuously, suggesting that he was not a willing participant in the humiliating event.

Following the surrender Wild, along with all the other British servicemen were taken prisoner, and so began an ordeal that has become infamous in the history of the Second World War. The brutal and callous mistreatment of POWs by the Japanese in the gaols of Singapore and the labour camps along the Siam-Burma railway cause outrage when they became public knowledge after the war. Thousands of men were confined in miserable conditions, starving and plagued with disease in the tropical heat. Many died, and those who survived were never the same again.

It was here, in the labour camp at Songkurai, on the banks of the River Kwai -- made famous by the film Bridge on the River Kwai -- that Wild used his Japanese language skills to great effect to intercede on behalf of his fellow POWs with their Japanese captors. He saved more than one life, including that of James Bradley, the author of this book.

When the war was finally over, Wild had the satisfying experience of being present at the surrender of the Japanese to Lord Louis Mountbatten, once again acting as interpreter. He brought with him  poignant memento of his years in captivity, the Union Jack flag that had once flown over the Governor's residence in Singapore. Wild had surreptitiously taken it and kept it during his POW years, when it was many times as a shroud at burials. The battered flag was hoisted once more, a fitting symbol of the suffering of so many in captivity.

details softback | 250 pages | b/w photos