As we ponder the possibilities that await us in Myanmar next March, it's only natural that we are curious about the history and crave context. Our tour leader, Paula Swart recommended this gripping read for us: Flight By Elephant by Andrew Martin, the untold story of World War II's most daring jungle rescue.

The full synopsis is as follows:

"The incredible story of Gyles Mackrell and his Burmese, elephant-assisted wartime rescue mission.

In the summer of 1942, Gyles Mackrell – a decorated First World War pilot and tea plantation overseer, performed a series of heroic rescues in the hellish jungles of Japanese-occupied Burma – with the aid of twenty elephants.

At the age of 53, Mackrell went into the ‘green hell’ of the Chaukan Pass on the border of North Burma and Assam. Here, Mackrell and a team of elephant riders rescued Indian army soldiers, British civilians and their Indian servants, from the pursuing Japanese, directing the elephants through jungle passes and raging rivers, and territory infested with sand flies, mosquitoes and innumerable leeches. Those he saved were all on the point of death from starvation or fever: that summer was spent in a fight against time.

Now in Andrew Martin’s hands this never-before-told tale of heroics is given the shape of a suspenseful adventure, a wartime rescue whose facts are the stuff of fiction. ‘Flight By Elephant’ is a gripping chronicle of war and survival, starrig everyone’s favourite animal – the powerful, exotic and hugely loveable elephant."

You can also watch footage from 1942 on YouTube, here. The sound of the river rushing by is incredible!
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