Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

In 1897, James Howard Williams was born in England – the same year as Bandoola the elephant was born in Myanmar.

After fighting in World War One, Williams joined the Bombay Burma Trading Corporation who were based in Myanmar, transporting teak from the forests there – and aided by elephants. He became fascinated by these noble creatures and learnt as much as he could about them from the local people, particularly a man called Po Toke, who had raised the great elephant Bandoola. Po Toke and Williams set up an elephant school teaching others Po Toke’s humanitarian approach to working with elephants, and then set up an elephant hospital too.

Yet, when World War Two reached Myanmar in 1944, Williams was told to evacuate everyone to Assam, but he couldn’t bear to leave the elephants behind in what would quickly become a war zone. Therefore, he planned a dangerous journey, but one that would become one of the bravest escape missions in history: 64 women and children, 53 elephants, 40 armed soldiers, 90 elephant trainers and their assistants, and four British military officers made the journey through 190 kilometres of perilous jungle and towering mountains to safety.

William Grill’s stunning depiction of a deeply inspiring story of kindness and bravery might be his best book yet. Along with telling the wonderful story of Bandoola and of James Williams, an Englishman who came to understand the ways of a foreign land, its people and animals, Grill includes lots of information for readers about the history and landscape of Myanmar. A truly wonderful book.

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