Until a few weeks before the fall of Rangoon, the British had not dreamt the Japanese would invade Burma. So in early 1942, British soldiers trained for desert warfare fought a Japanese Army trained and equipped for the jungle. Those who survived this fierce fighting faced malaria, air attack, and lack of food and water, on the long walk out through the Valley of Death. Ragged groups of soldiers and civilians were forced to trek out of Burma through some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. They hacked their way through jungle, forded rivers, and climbed steep mountainsides to escape. Many did not survive the journey. Among these incredible stories was that of Bill Williams, who led refugees out on a herd of elephants. Other civilians who had enjoyed an idyllic colonial lifestyle were ill-equipped for the journey. Setting off with the family silver and their pets, they soon had to abandon all but the essentials to survive. Thousands died, but many more crossed the border into India and safety.
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