Moving Half the Mountain

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Sir Harold Atcherley is one of several former World War Two Prisoners Of War who have given interviews about their experiences of the construction of the infamous Burma Railway, for a new film  entitled Moving Half the Mountain. If the project is to be completed and the film widely viewed – and I believe strongly that it should be – it needs funding. Will you help?

“Up on the railway, we just ate, worked, slept under the rain.” Sir Harold Atcherley remembers working on the ‘Death Railway’. Picture by kind permission of Helen Langridge Wells / HLA.

In his book Prisoner of Japan, published at the end of 2012, Sir Harold Atcherley wrote: “we were part of the ‘forgotten war’. The post-war years have demonstrated that most people are ignorant about the war in the Far East and seem to be generally uninterested; an attitude which is hardly surprising, since it all took place so far away from the war in Europe so long ago.”

What a sad state of affairs this is! The war in the Far East, and the experiences of those who lived (and the many thousands who died) as prisoners of the Japanese forces during that period, deserve to be known about and remembered just as much as events in Europe and in the other theatres of the Second World War. To quote Sir Harold again: “Apart from the 40,000 British and Australians captured in Malaysia, 60,000 Dutch were taken prisoner in the Dutch East Indies and a considerably larger number of Americans in the Pacific. [...] All of us were subjected to inhumane and brutal treatment. The experiences I [describe] were therefore generally common to all. The death rate for Allied prisoners in Germany (excluding Russian prisoners) was about one per cent. For those held by the Japanese the rate was forty per cent. At Sonkurai camp on the Thailand/Burma border, the worst camp of the lot, the death rate was ninety percent.”

Moving Half the Mountain is a fantastic project which has captured on film the memories of Sir Harold Atcherley and others like him who worked on the Thai-Burma railway but were somehow spared the fate that befell so many of their fellow servicemen. Uniquely, I suspect, it has also recorded statements from some of the former Japanese servicemen who were involved. The film documents the terrible conditions under which the POWs worked, and the appalling manner in which they were treated by their captors. Yet it also carries a strong and perhaps unexpected message from those who survived: one of forgiveness. As Sir Harold says in his book, “in the end, hatred only damages those who hate.”

Please, if you can, support Moving Half the Mountain. Let us make the war in the Far East the remembered war, and let us also make the voices of those who survived one brutal part of it, heard by as many people as possible. If the survivors can forgive, the least that we can do is not forget.

For further details of the film project and how you can donate, visit Moving Half the Mountain at indiegogo.

Sir Harold Atcherley’s book Prisoner of Japan: A Personal War Diary is available from Amazon (in print and Kindle formats), WH Smith, Sony Reader Store (ebook), iTunes (ebook) and other booksellers; it also currently on sale via eBay.

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Recent site updates

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Although I haven’t posted any new articles here at since Quackery and and Atcherley last November, there have been a number of site updates in recent weeks. Here is a round-up of what’s new on the Atcherley family history site.


My research into the amazing Atcherley family was inspired by my Mum, who was born Elizabeth Mary Atcherley in 1937. Mum’s death, in February, was a terrible blow to me and to the rest of the family, a loss we have not yet fully recovered from. Following Mum’s passing, we found a treasure trove of family photos stashed away in various drawers in her bedroom. The pictures show Mum’s parents, Fred and Louisa Atcherley, and Mum herself in her younger years. I have scanned many of them, and a selection has been added to the page previously dedicated to Fred and Louisa, now renamed Fred, Louisa and Betty Atcherley.

Other photographs recently added to the site also feature Atcherleys who were closely related to me: Mum’s aunt and uncle, Fanny and John (Jack) Atcherley, plus their spouses, and almost certainly Fanny and Jack’s uncle Richard Atcherley, along with his wife Hannah, all of whom settled in Chase Terrace, part of the town and parish of Burntwood in Staffordshire. Check out Fanny Atcherley, Jack Atcherley and more.

Other members of the family who can now be seen in the Pictures section of the Atcherley family history site include merchant and aviator Roger Philip Atcherley, and two Atcherleys from “Down Under” Roger Atcherley and Elizabeth. In addition, there some newly-added photographs of memorials bearing monumental inscriptions relating to Atcherley family members: Dr John Atcherley and family of Liverpool (see Lancashire MIs) and Eleanor Vickers (nee Atcherley) with her husband William (see MIs in Wales).

I am enormously grateful to the people and organisations who have supplied me with these photographs and given me permission to use them here at – further contributions would of course be very welcome!

Trade and Street Directories

The Resources section of the website has been boosted by the addition of data extracted from historical trade and street directories, spanning the years from 1784 to 1941. These directories provide information on the whereabouts, and usually also the occupations, of many members of the Atcherley family in years falling before, after and also in between the years covered by the censuses of England and Wales. Eventually I will hyperlink each record to the relevant individuals in the Atcherley trees (and vice versa).


The extracted census data in the Resources section of the website has been updated to include Atcherley records in the censuses of the United States (1850 onwards – national censuses and some state censuses) and of Canada (1871 and 1911). In time I will add records from the 1920 – 1940 US censuses, plus electoral register data from England, Australia and New Zealand (plus hyperlinking as described under trade and street directories above).

Family Trees

Many of the family tree pages have received minor updates since they originally went online, but one page in particular has recently had a major update, that of Henry of Kinnersley and his descendants. Full revisions of the other tree pages will also be carried out over the coming months.

In the pipeline…

There are many, many Atcherley family stories waiting to be written and I hope to get some of them researched, typed up and posted online in the not-too-distant future. Further additions to the Resources section of the site are also being planned, along with a full name index to all the Atcherley family members in the family tree pages. In the meantime, I hope to add further brief articles and updates on my Atcherley research, in the form of more typical blog posts, to this section of the Atcherley family history site. Lots of promises – let’s hope I can deliver!

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