To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”

Royal Norfolk-tn



John Alan Coast


1916/10/30 - Born Eastbourne

 Son of James Coast

Occupation Private Secretary

Royal Norfolk Regiment

4th Battalion


Japanese POW

1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore

PoW No. 3696

Japanese Index Card - Side one


Japanese Index Cards - Side Two


1942/10/31 - John was transported  overland to Thailand in Letter Party ‘R’

New PoW No. 3689

New PoW No. 302

Coast-John-Chungkai Show

During his internment John put together concert parties for his his fellow prisoners, these he stage managed.

1945/08/15 - John was liberated at Kanchanaburi, Thailand

1945/09/06 - Released for Repatriation


Post War

After the war, in 1946,  his story was released as ‘Railroad of Death’ this  became a best seller. In the book John does not use the correct names of the Allied prisoners but uses the correct names for the Japanese. The reason he gave was the prisoners deserved the right to get their lives back to normal without media attention. Later the book was to form the subject  ’Return to the River Kwai’, a documentary made in 1969 for the BBC.

After the war, Coast joined the press department of the Foreign Office in Bangkok and then became press attaché to President Sukarno during the Indonesian struggle for independence. He described his adventures in Indonesian politics in his book Recruit to Revolution written in 1952.

In 1950 Coast withdrew from politics and moved to Bali to write and organise the first post-war Western tour of Bali's finest musicians and dancers. Together with his Javanese wife Supianti, he brought such a troupe to Europe and America.

His book Dancers of Bali written in 1953, published in Britain as Dancing out of Bali in 1954 relates the story of this legendary tour.

In London in the mid 1950s, Coast became a manager to such artists as Mario Lanza, Luciano Pavarotti, Jos Carreras, Jon Vickers and Montserrat Caball.  He was the first man to present Bob Dylan in London and take Ravi Shankar to the West.

He also contributed articles to The New Statesman, The Economist, Ballet and Dance News. Making several films on Balinese culture with Sir David Attenborough for the BBC.



Dancing out of Bali

Railroad to Death (1946)

Recruit to Revolution (1952)

Some Aspects of Siamese Politics




Ballet Annual

Dance News

New Statesman

Dance News

The Economist



1989 July



KEW:- WO 361/2167, WO 361/2167, WO 361/2058, WO 361/2176,  WO 361/2069, WO 345/11, WO 392/23, WO 361/1979, WO 361/1954, WO 361/2196


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