Boyhood Trials shape the Chindit: Living through the war in Burma

CharlesAuthored by Charles Stephenson: Edited by Trophy D’Souza
Charles Stephenson had to cope with a difficult childhood. It was quite a problem for his parents to try to control his boyhood exuberance. They imagined that school would sort him out but moving him from one school to another proved unproductive. Perhaps he lacked motivation, or maybe he was not meant for serious or methodical academic work. These were reasons enough for the education systems of the time to single him out for the rough treatment that they meted out to rebellious or failing children in Burma. His father too believed that only corporal punishment was the answer to poor academic achievement. Guidance, counselling, understanding and support-learning were not on the agenda of either home or school those days.

So, Charles had it rough all the way: from home and school right through to the army and war. Perhaps there was a certain built-in resilience in Charles that helped him cope with pain and failure. It may have stemmed from an inner belief or strength he had occasionally shown in the way he spoke of his trust in the Divine. He endured punishment and humiliation without losing hope or looking for redress.

The trials he endured in his early years in many ways prepared him for the hardships of army life. His near-death escapes however left their own scars in the lack of confidence he occasionally showed or in the fear of the unknown that developed in later years.

In a strange way the skills he acquired in his boyhood adventures served to hone the techniques required in battle situations. They made him a soldier who was willing to take risks and to take the lead in the most difficult of circumstances. His gregarious instincts kept him close to his buddies and made him a mate his colleagues could trust and rely on. His linguistic skills contributed hugely towards the intelligence required by the British army fighting an enemy hiding in the unknown terrain of Burma.

He was proud to fight in the British army and was glad to have benefited from the time he spent in training and in combat. His loyalty to ‘King and Country’ as the British put it, helped to keep his enthusiasm alive and his mind focused.

The story of Charles and the narrative in the book resonate with the drums of World War II, even if the agonies and ecstasies take place in the peaceful and harmonious settings of the lush-green mountains of Burma. The descriptions and the delicate use language help to weave through the unpleasantness of war and disaster, and bring out the softer side of incidents while enriching this truly human story.

Trophy D’Souza who writes the book for Charles has five other books which also speak of human endurance, but in dysfunctional situations. The protagonists survive or evolve through seemingly complex situations. Their resilience and self-belief also help them find solutions through unexpected human or divine intervention in their lives.

Amazon and Google sites tell you more about D’Souza’s motivating books which should really be on the bookshelves of families, homes, institutions and libraries.

But Charles’ story is really special. It is one for the road –one that has to be read and appreciated before it gets forgotten on the shelf.

The book was published on 13 October 2014.

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