Let me set the scene: Not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan invaded Burma, a “backwater of the British Empire,” hoping to put the Chinese and British at a strategic disadvantage. (Get more details here.) Initially the Japanese campaign met with success, and, in early 1942, the British and local allies beat a retreat, trying to escape over the border to India. But when they reached the border, they found rivers, flooded by monsoons, blocking their way. That’s when a British tea planter named Gyles Mackrell stepped in and moved 200 refugees across the border using the only means available to them – elephants. This amazing story is now being told for the first time, thanks to the Centre of South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge and its short film (13 minutes) shown above. You can read more about the great elephant escape here.


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