The Great Elephant Escape

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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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.