- That amazing Singapore war veteran Fergus Anckorn on BBC R4 Midweek. The surgeon said that he would have to amputate his hand. The orderly said "you can't cut his hand off, he's a brilliant magician. So the surgeon did a bad job of patching up his hand. So he was in a hospital bed with his hand across his chest blood pouring out. The Japanese soldiers rushed in the hospital bayoneting all the patients, but when they looked at his chest they presumed they'd already done him.
- Later in the prisoner of war camp the Japanese had a rule you can't get your food until you have handed in 20 flies. Later flies began to be rare so he first made flies from tyre and then started a fly farm.
- Sent to the death railway he was ordered to carry a wooden viaduct with a bucket of creosolte. He had only one functional hand and one functional leg, the guard reached for a bamboo so he fled up to the top, but then he was paralysed with vertigo. The guard ran up and emptied the creosolte over him.. luckily a hat prevented his face been burnt. He woke up in the river as other prisnoners washed the creosolte off him. The Japanese decided he was no good for work so sent him back to Singapore, whereas with later prisoners just worked them to death.
From the Magic Circle webpage
- Fergus Anckorn was held as a PoW by the Japanese for over three years during the Second World War, helping build the infamous 'Bridge over the River Kwai'. Now aged 91, he is the longest serving active member of the Magic Circle. Having performed as a magician since he was a small boy, little did he know that his performing skills would save his life. During his time as a PoW, he sometimes did magic tricks for the guards and soon found that if he used their food as part of the trick, they let him eat it afterwards. A book about his life, Surviving By Magic is written by Monty Parkin
- "My regiment was 980 when we were taken prisoner and 250 when it finished. We
didn't even get a chance to take our guns off the boats and so we were lambs to the
slaughter," said Fergus. "I was blown up, I was shot, I survived the massacre, I was
buried alive twice and I was up in front of the firing squad twice. Apart from that it
was all right!
"For the first six weeks we had no food. We ate anything that moved - snails, slugs,
crickets, snakes, cats, mice, dogs, grass, leaves - anything at all and that's how we
- "Their captors, the Japanese, were complicit in the prisoners' torture, as Fergus
recalls." One day the Japanese decided to shoot five of us. Just for fun; there was no
real reason for it. And they took five of us out and I was one of them and they took us
into the jungle, stood us against some trees and got a machine gun out and put it on a
tripod and aimed it at us. "We didn't have blindfolds or anything. And we waited for
the bullets for ten minutes. You would've heard my knees knocking from here I tell
you.” We were talking to each other; you know 'why don't they just get on with it, get
it over with, when are the bullets coming' and then they decided against it for some
reason or the other, thought better of it. They put the gun away, they took us back to
the camp and when we got there we found the war had been over for three days.
So now you know why I'm lucky."