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Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an…

Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals… (2014)

by Vicki Croke

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2321449,816 (4.07)26
  1. 00
    The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild by Anthony, Lawrence, Spence, Graham (2009) Hardcover (AmourFou)
  2. 00
    The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (AmourFou)
  3. 00
    His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (2wonderY)
    2wonderY: I happened to read these books at nearly the same time and was struck by the similar rich attachments between man and beast.
  4. 00
    Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Sheldrick (AmourFou)
    AmourFou: Sheldrick spent years trying to develop a successful formula for milk-dependent elephant calves orphaned by poaching and culling. Her memoir chronicles that challenge as well as her life in her beloved Kenya. Not as literary as [Out of Africa] by any means, but a good read.… (more)
  5. 01
    Flight By Elephant: The Untold Story of World War Two's Most Daring Jungle Rescue by Andrew Martin (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: About an English elephant handler who made an epic rescue during the opening days of WWII along the Burma/India border.
  6. 01
    Now the Hell Will Start by Brendan I. Koerner (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Good coverage of Burma/India border region, native peoples and geography during WWII.
  7. 01
    Elephant Bill by J. H. Williams (Stbalbach)

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» See also 26 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
This is not a book that I would typically pick up, nor read, but my book group chose it as our October 2017 choice. It was an unexpected surprise!

The book tells the story of Jim Williams, a British WWI veteran who moves to Burma to work in the teak industry - mostly to work with Asian Elephants. Elephant Company tells the story of Jim (as he is called by family and Willy as he is called by friends/co-workers) and his decades long involvement & care for these elephants. The title comes from the usage of the elephants by the British military in WWII to help defeat the Japanese in Burma.

The book reads as historical fiction but it is very much a non-fiction, well researched book. I learned a great deal about elephants but also Burma/India during the early part of the 20th century. I walked away much more informed and pleased to have read such an interesting story. ( )
  mfbarry | Oct 13, 2017 |
Subtitle: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II

Jim “Elephant Bill” Williams was a veteran of World War I when he went to colonial Burma in 1920 to work as a “forest man” for a British teak company. He was immediately fascinated by the large beasts who were the true workers in this industry. He appreciated their intelligence and social structure, and keenly observed the relationships between the elephants and the uzis/mahouts who were their constant companions. One Burmese man, Po Toke, helped Williams develop a different method of training and caring for the valuable animals, and introduced him to the young male calf who would become his favorite tusker – Bandoola.

The subtitle really intrigued me and I was eager to read about this particular episode, but the author gives us more than 200 pages of background before we get to World War II and the vital role Williams and his elephants played in the fight against the Japanese. Admittedly all that background was interesting and helped to explain the extraordinary relationship Williams had with these animals and their riders. His respect for and loyalty to them was returned in kind, making him an exemplary leader.

Croke did extensive research. In addition to the memoirs written by Williams, she was able to access a treasure trove of personal papers kept by Williams’ children and other descendants of key people. I read all the notes following the main text, they were so interesting. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jul 25, 2017 |
A Brit goes to Thailand to work for a British teak company, with all the advantages of a colonial power, and ends up devoted to the elephants that do a lot of the heavy lifting, connecting with them more than with most people. In WWII, he first tries to keep elephants out of the hands of the Japanese, then leads teams of elephants to construct bridges for Imperial troops. Sold as a WWII story, though most of it isn’t set during WWII; one ends up with a sense that elephants are far more interesting than most of the people involved. ( )
  rivkat | Dec 23, 2016 |
From Amazon:

The remarkable story of James Howard “Billy” Williams, whose uncanny rapport with the world’s largest land animals transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill

Billy Williams came to colonial Burma in 1920, fresh from service in World War I, to a job as a “forest man” for a British teak company. Mesmerized by the intelligence, character, and even humor of the great animals who hauled logs through the remote jungles, he became a gifted “elephant wallah.” Increasingly skilled at treating their illnesses and injuries, he also championed more humane treatment for them, even establishing an elephant “school” and “hospital.” In return, he said, the elephants made him a better man. The friendship of one magnificent tusker in particular, Bandoola, would be revelatory. In Elephant Company, Vicki Constantine Croke chronicles Williams’s growing love for elephants as the animals provide him lessons in courage, trust, and gratitude.

My Thoughts:

WW II seems to have a never ending stream of stories to tell. This is rather unique In not being just an interesting true war history on a part of the CBI (China/Burma/India) front, as well as a love story, but also a moving and eduational tale of humans interacting with another animal species (elephants!) at the highest emotional and social levels. The lessons are legion, not least of which is a sense that the elephants are kinder, gentler and more sensitive than we are. You come away with a better understanding of what constitutes leadership among humans and/or animals. It makes reading about the decimation of elephants for their ivory in the current news ever so much more painful. The last section, on how the elephants helped the Allies in Burma in World War II, is a page-turning adventure! ( )
1 vote Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
Joy's review: The true story of "Elephant Bill" and his elephants. Set in Burma from early 1920's through end of WWII, it's an amazing story of the teak business, elephants and how they are treated, the destruction and changes brought by the war. Most in our book group would rate this a 5, but for me the writing was a bit too sentimental and I got tired of hearing how 'magnificent' this one elephant was... ( )
  konastories | Mar 25, 2016 |
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"In 1920, Billy Williams came to colonial Burma as a "forest man" for a British teak company. Mesmerized by the intelligence and character of the great animals who hauled logs through the jungle, he became a gifted "elephant wallah". In Elephant Company, Vicki Constantine Croke chronicles Williams's growing love for elephants as the animals provide him lessons in courage, trust, and gratitude. Elephant Company is also a tale of war and daring. When Japanese forces invaded Burma in 1942, Williams joined the elite British Force 136 and operated behind enemy lines. His war elephants carried supplies, helped build bridges, and transported the sick and elderly over treacherous mountain terrain. As the occupying authorities put a price on his head, Williams and his elephants faced their most perilous test. Elephant Company, cornered by the enemy, attempted a desperate escape: a risky trek over the mountainous border to India, with a bedraggled group of refugees in tow. Part biography, part war epic, Elephant Company is an inspirational narrative that illuminates a little-known chapter in the annals of wartime heroism"--Back cover.… (more)

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