Vicki Constantine Croke

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Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II

Elephant Company The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOKThe remarkable story of James Howard Billy Williams whose uncanny rapport with the world s largest land animals transformed him from a carefree

  • Title: Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
  • Author: Vicki Constantine Croke
  • ISBN: 9780812981650
  • Page: 154
  • Format: Paperback
  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOKThe 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 maNEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOKThe 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 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 But Elephant Company is also a tale of war and daring When Imperial Japanese forces invaded Burma in 1942, Williams joined the elite Force 136, the British dirty tricks department, operating behind enemy lines His war elephants would carry supplies, build bridges, and transport the sick and elderly over treacherous mountain terrain Now well versed in the ways of the jungle, an older, wiser Williams even added to his stable by smuggling elephants out of Japanese held territory As the occupying authorities put a price on his head, Williams and his elephants faced his most perilous test In a Hollywood worthy climax, 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 Elephant Bill s exploits would earn him top military honors and the praise of famed Field Marshal Sir William Slim Part biography, part war epic, and part wildlife adventure, Elephant Company is an inspirational narrative that illuminates a little known chapter in the annals of wartime heroism.Praise for Elephant Company This book is about far than just the war, or even elephants This is the story of friendship, loyalty and breathtaking bravery that transcends species Elephant Company is nothing less than a sweeping tale, masterfully written Sara Gruen, The New York Times Book Review Splendid Blending biography, history, and wildlife biology, Vicki Constantine Croke s story is an often moving account of Billy Williams, who earned the sobriquet Elephant Bill, and his unusual bond with the largest land mammals on earth The Boston Globe Some of the biggest heroes of World War II were even bigger than you thought You may never call the lion the king of the jungle again New York Post Elephant Company is as powerful and big hearted as the animals of its title Billy Williams is an extraordinary character, a real life reverse Tarzan raised in civilization who finds wisdom and his true self living among jungle beasts Vicki Constantine Croke delivers an exciting tale of this elephant whisperer cum war hero, while beautifully reminding us of the enduring bonds between animals and humans Mitchell Zuckoff, author of Lost in Shangri La and Frozen in Time

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      Posted by:Vicki Constantine Croke
      Published :2018-01-19T08:01:10+00:00

    One thought on “Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II

    1. Petra X on said:

      Elephant poo I've only just started on 'my' first elephant trek and have learned that an Asian elephant defecates 8-12 times a day. That is up to 200lb of poo! That's quite an impressive digestive system they have. There are four elephants in the party so that is up to 800lb a day. No wonder they are trekking and not staying in one place.Since African elephants are up to 25% bigger than Asian ones, you would think they might do up to 25% more poo, say 225lb. But you'd be wrong, they can produce [...]

    2. Diane S ☔ on said:

      This book was just incredible, I learned so much and in such a wonde3ful way. The author has such a natural way of telling the story of this amazing man. So many fascinating facts pertaining to elephants, had not a clue how complex and intelligent they are in actuality. The book also highlights the many extremes of life in a British Colony. The bug, the snakes. Williams bouts with malaria, the heat and yet they dined on white tablecloths and on real china. Life in Burma, at the logging camps and [...]

    3. Carol on said:

      Highly Recommended!Aptly narrated by Simon Prebble this audio edition is a must for nature/animal lovers and those who delight in hearing the personal stories of war. Thank heavens for writers like Vicki Croke who put wonderful stories like this to paper and keep a piece of history from being forgotten or buried. Yes, it’s another World War II story but a unique one, one I am glad to have read. Though Billy William’s Elephant troupe did become heroes during the war for their efforts in defea [...]

    4. Trish on said:

      NPR environmental and animal journalist Vicki Croke’s new book about the British elephant mahout and teak man James “Billy” Williams in Burma in the interregnum between the 20th Century’s World Wars easily began as the best nonfiction I’d read all year. Elephants and Burma--what a combination of mysteries. No matter how many non-specialist books about elephants that I read, I always learn something new. I love knowing of elephant skills, abilities, capabilities. In her introduction, Cr [...]

    5. Cheryl on said:

      James Howard “Billy” Williams was an avid outdoorsman. As a child growing up in Cornwall, England, he often set out alone to explore the countryside. He had a deep love for animals and an uncanny ability to connect with them.As a young man he fought in World War I in some of the most brutal battles in North Africa, Iraq, India, and Afghanistan. After four years of fighting, Williams returned to England where he hoped to forget the things he’d seen during the war. He longed for a peaceful l [...]

    6. Lisa See on said:

      I've been to Myanmar, I like elephants, I very much admire Vicki Constantine Croke as an author, but I wanted MORE from this book.

    7. Chris on said:

      Disclaimer: Digital ARC provided via Random House and Netgalley. I can think of no higher praise than pointing out that after finishing this book, I ordered two other Croke books. Unless, the praise is that this book made me actually happy that the bus broke down because I could finish it. But I suppose, people want something more, so here it goes. Elephant Company tells the story of Billy Williams, a British man who after the Great War travels to Burma to work for a teak company. This means mon [...]

    8. Tasha on said:

      3.5I was hoping for more personal information on the elephants although we did get a good peek at Bandoola. This story was more about the man who helped the elephants which I guess is pretty evident from the title. I was just hoping for more about the actual elephants. Williams, the 'man' in the story was a pure hero. He lived a fascinating life and had a passion for the elephants. I think it was the storytelling itself that didn't fully engage me. Not bad, just not page-turning non-fic.

    9. Pamela on said:

      One might assume, based on title and subtitle, all 368 pages of "Elephant Company" is heavily entrenched in military jargon, battlefields, and horrific war imagery; typically not themes animal lovers and humanitarians gravitate toward. Such an assumption, however, is erroneous. And those who have previously shied away from reading this fascinating book about the brilliantly compassionate and brave – James Howard “Billy” Williams, might want to reconsider. Vicki Croke's extensively research [...]

    10. Barbara on said:

      I anticipated reading this book for a long time after viewing several glowing reviews. It was also of particular interest because of my long -time attraction to these amazing animals. I have read many accounts of elephants, including personal journals and other systematic, extensive discourses. Croke did not disappoint me!I was totally captivated to read of Billy Williams, who in the 1920's, after serving in the army, went to wild, undeveloped Burma to work with elephants. The book is part biogr [...]

    11. Dick Reynolds on said:

      Captain James “Billy” Williams was discharged from the British Army in 1920 after serving in combat for four years in WWI. Looking for adventure and a change of scenery, he accepted a job with a British company in Burma (known as Myanmar today) that was harvesting teak from the jungles. Upon arrival, he was dispatched to an outlying camp and soon became intimately familiar with the native handlers (called uzis) and the elephants who were doing the serious work of hauling teak logs to dry cr [...]

    12. Alexa on said:

      This read, to me, as if Kipling had set out to write a biography. It’s full of overblown colonial-romanticism, yet from a contemporary author - pure weirdness! Some examples of the ridiculousness: “Bath time for the elephants was always a draw for Williams, who was unfailingly moved by their joy.” Oh really? Always? Unfailingly? Individuals are allowed to make such statements of hyperbole, we excuse individuals their enthusiasm, but when a biographer states such things as fact, it is simpl [...]

    13. Beth on said:

      I wish all the poachers could read this book NOW! I am aware that Billy Williams wrote five memoirs of his life with elephants in the 1950's. But now is the time that people need to realize how intelligent and empathetic these animals are and what a wonderful addition they are to our world. We are so lucky that William's son Treve, wife Susan and adopted daughter Lamorna have been caretakers of this elephant-lover's notes and photos of the life he was living in teak growing country in Burma (now [...]

    14. Jessica Leight on said:

      I'm surprised by the high reviews here (and the positive critical reviews that this book received). I love elephants as well and did appreciate the interesting facts presented here about their unusual gifts - though it should be noted that this only amounts to a few pages - but I felt the other weaknesses of the book were much more salient. The author is oddly uncritical of both her subject and the broader colonial milieu in which he operates; in that respect, the book reminded me of Roald Dahl [...]

    15. Loretta on said:

      I'm torn on this book. On the one hand, it tells the story of a man becoming something of a proto-animal rights advocate, as his work with elephants makes him realize how intelligent, emotionally mature and generous they can be. On the other hand, it's the tale of the tragedies that are inevitable when humans exploit the labor and other products of non-human animals. Ultimately a good tale, if the story did have me sobbing a few times. And I try to be understanding of the practices of a century [...]

    16. Elizabeth☮ on said:

      I finished this one last night. I really liked it. It is funny that it is called Elephant Company, because the book isn't so much about how the elephants were used during the war (only about a third of the book covers it. If that). But perhaps the title means that Elephant Bill keeps company with the elephants. And what nice company to keep. He has a sort of insight into their personas and their mentality. Elephants are so smart and their lives so rich with emotion. This book just gives more exa [...]

    17. Jenny (Reading Envy) on said:

      This was the March selection for my in-person book club. I wasn't thrilled to read it based on the title and description, but both proved to be misleading. While a portion of the book is about the elephant company in World War II, it is more about Jim Williams, better known as "Elephant Bill," who worked for the British to oversee logging operations in Burma after World War I. It chronicles Burmese jungle culture and how that conflicts with British colonialism, Jim's affinity with the elephants, [...]

    18. Lisa on said:

      I loved this book although I love books with animals and their relationships with people. This is an amazing real life story of an Englishman, Billy Williams, who went to Burma in the 1920's to work with elephants for a teak company. By the time WWII came about he knew over 600 elephants by name just by the sight of them. He then formed the first Elephant Company to make bridges and also save refugees by helping them flee Burma and into India.A truly fascinating man, life and story.

    19. Book Concierge on said:

      3.5***Subtitle: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War IIJim “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/mahou [...]

    20. Jean Poulos on said:

      This is a fascinating story. I can highly recommend this book. I not only learned more about the days of the British Empire in Burma but also about WWII in Burma under the Japanese rule. The special treat for me was the vast knowledge about the Indian Elephant that was provided.This is the story of J. H. “Billy” Williams. Williams fought in WWI and like many men returning from the war he was restless. He was hired by the Bombay-Burma Teak Company and went off to the jungles of Burma. He ende [...]

    21. Chris on said:

      Absolutely fascinating. The best and most beautiful book I've read all year. This should be titled "In the Company of Elephants" rather than "Elephant Company" because the first two thirds of the book is all pre World War II and it's the most engaging part. Croke tells the story of Bill Williams and also Bandoola, an unusual male bull elephant. It is masterfully told without getting into anthropomorphism and over the top sentimentality. Bill Williams was called "Elephant Bill" and was a man of s [...]

    22. Kay on said:

      I kept thinking, as I read this book, that the author had gotten too close to her subject’s family and perhaps lost some objectivity as a result. Her acknowledgements at the end of the book, along with the notes, make it clear that she relied heavily and primarily on her subject, Billy Williams’, memoirs, books, notes, letters, and the remembrances of his family. There is nothing wrong with this, really, but she didn’t seem to balance it out with much else. In particular, I was struck by h [...]

    23. Adrian on said:

      Charming biography of Jim Williams "Elephant Bill" who answered an ad just released from duty in WWI and became an elephant wallah in Burma for the teak forester Bombay Burmah. In the 25 years (1921-1946) he worked for this company he rose to a position of top elephant man. Much of the book is about his relationship with a special elephant Bandula. Williams lead two remarkable treks out of Burma in 1944 leading refugees to safety from Japanese troops. The second of these treks was over a steep e [...]

    24. Elizabeth on said:

      I had the great pleasure of reading this book last year and I was entirely swept away, both by the outstanding storytelling, the lush setting, but especially, the writer's intuitive and empathetic way of describing the animal human bond. One of my favorite recent animal stories, and a terrific book to recommend. I gave a number of copies as gifts to people of various ages, and everyone loved it!

    25. Hal on said:

      A fantastic book. I truly enjoyed it. I'll try to do a review later.

    26. Noah Goats on said:

      General William Slim said about the life of James Williams, "This is the story of how one man, over the years, by character, patience, sympathy and courage, gained the confidence of men and animals, so when the time of testing came, that mutual trust held." That quotation describes Elephant Company in a nutshellThis is a beautiful book, imbued with a deep sense of adventure, about a man who went into the jungle to work with elephants and how he grew with the experience. It paints a vivid picture [...]

    27. Darlene on said:

      I love elephants. Such smart sensitive beings. And this book is by a woman so it sort of fit my requirements of reading diet. The guy was a human being who cared, so I dismissed my final mission of female main character. Besides, it is about WWII so the chances of the main character being female was diminished as women were back then.The writing was dry, historic. I wish there was a way to get into it all more deeply. It seemed to be a his-story. Bits about elephants were interesting but I wante [...]

    28. Brennan on said:

      This was an intriguing story. I learned a lot of about elephants and about the life of a British Colonialist in India between 1920-1945. It started very strong but lost steam in the middle and it was difficult to finish. I am glad I read the first half, but would not really recommend it as there are probably better things to read out there.

    29. Vikram on said:

      Sometimes I wonder how different the Earth would be had we evolved from another species, like elephants, rather than the neurotic and self-destructive primate. Known for their patience, a gentle nature, their generosity and the tight bonds they form amongst one another, elephants manifest traits that humans should strive for. This book features James Howard Williams (aka Elephant Bill), who oversaw a British logging program in Burma from the 1920s until World War II, as Burma entered Japan’s c [...]

    30. Jean on said:

      Wait for the movie. I found the subject interesting but didn't like the way the book was written. Here's what I mean: First, she pretty much told the whole story of the book in the introduction. After I read it, I thought, why would I bother to read the book?Second, I was put off by the way Croke's love of the main character - J.H. "Billy" Williams. The term is "hagiography" (that is, lives of the saints). Williams could do no wrong. Much of her material was from his own writings - memoirs, lett [...]

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