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Monday, 23 May 2011

image for British soldier discovered still fighting WWII after 65 years No place in the modern world: 'The Old Contemptible'

The stench is overwhelming. Discarded empty Woodbine packs, Bisto and Bird's instant custard tins, Camp coffee bottles and a galaxy of once-glittering Cadbury's chocolate bar foils decorate an anniversary cake of human excrement - piled up over sixty-five years on the jungle floor.

Testament to a life lost. Thrown away on the the dung-heap of misplaced patriotism and hatred. History is littered with such detritus.

In 1974, presumed to be the last active combatant of World War II, a lone fanatical Japanese 'holdout' soldier surrendered on a far-flung Pacific island. Mistrusting to the last, he was eventually persuaded by his commanding officer of 30 years before that the war was over. Hard as it was, he finally acknowledged the fact and re-entered the post-war modern world.

Incredibly, that Japanese soldier was not the last man to still be fighting World War II.

It is 2011. I peer up into the tree above. At first glance it is an ordinary gnarled tree in a public park in Thailand's capital. In it, a solitary British man still carries on the campaign, sixty-five years after its end.

Perched high on a branch with his trusty, rusty Lee Enfield, defiant in the face of history - and reality - is octogenarian Dave 'Dai' Howard. The last man still fighting the second world war.

At home in the Banyan tree since 1944, the doughty 'Dad's Army' Brit is defiant to the last.

"F***ing Japs... nothing but slanty-eyed animals" he dribbles, "Pigs deserving of no help or sympathy. In fact, if I had the chance I wouldn't piss on their burning bodies."

Dai's is an extraordinary story. Equalled only by his extraordinary hatred of the Japanese.

For him the clock stopped in 1944. He knows nothing of the last sixty-five years since he took to his tree fortress and awaited his fate.

Howard dissolves into fits of laughter when I tell him of the Japanese surrender as a direct result of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atom bombs. "Frying tonight" he jokes. "Me no-likeee Big-Boys" and "slant-eyed yellow bastards" roll off his tongue. And his toothless mirth continues when told of the recent earthquake and tsunami tragedies in Japan.

"The Nips deserve no less, they're not human for what they've done" he says, then asks, "Have they said 'sorry' yet?"

"I see myself as one of 'The Old Contemptibles'" wheezes Howard as we say our goodbyes. "Sticking it up Hirohito, Tojo and all the other yellow-bellied torturing bastard Nips. Well, all of Japan, basically.".

The rancour is too much to bear. As I take my leave from his tree-house I can't help reflecting on the truth behind the decrepit and bitter old man's parting words.

He's 'contemptible' alright.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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