Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home
Men captive in the Far East in WWII and their families in Britain lived separate, and unspeakably stressful lives for three and a half years. Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home combines documents from both fronts to tell their story.
Barry, a young captain, and the 68 Royal Signals linemen under his command arrived in Malaya while it was still at peace. The men, mainly reservists with some regular soldiers – Dunkirk survivors, built lines through the jungles of Malaya until they were all captured at the Fall of Singapore.
In Britain, Barry’s wife Phyllis, had collected addresses for the families of the men before they disappeared behind a wall of silence. For the duration of the war and after she kept in touch with the wives, mothers, grandparents and others. She received letters – from the tenements of Glasgow to the East End of London – telling of their fears, hopes and concerns.
At the end of the war, Barry and Phyllis got in touch with all the bereaved relatives and most of the survivors, as the men tried to track down their missing friends and rebuild their family lives.
In later life Barry wrote his memoirs of life as a prisoner of the Japanese, mainly on the Thailand-Burma Railway. This is full of the details of survival, both of the drudge and disease of the up-river camps and the contrasts between the hospital wards and theatre fun,towards the end of that captivity, in the base camps.
The Art of Survival
Drawings by Fred Ransome Smith, prisoner of war 11 December 2015 – 28 February 2016 – See more at:
Art of Survival
The launch of Fred Ransome Smiths Exhibition went really well and an interview he did with Channel 7 is shown below. Some of the artwork exhibited was produced when Fred was as a Lieutenant POW in camps on the Burma/Thai Railway, whilst others were drawn later from memory.
Fred was pleased with the exhibition as he was keen to get across the suffering and brutality that the POWs had to endure at the hands of the Japanese.
Fred, now 96, was a POW of the Japanese, having been captured at Singapore in February 1942 and then sent to work on the Thai-Burma Railway. During his three and half years of captivity he took the opportunity, at great personal risk, to draw incidences of the appalling treatment of his fellow POWs.
Fred joined up as a Lieutenant with the 5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, and despite originally being destined for the Middle East, arrived in Singapore in late January 1942, which he described as being “in a bad shape when we arrived”. Fred was born in 1919, London and emigrated to Australia after the war where he continued his career in advertising. Following his retirement Fred lectured at La Trobe University in Bendigo, Victoria.
Unspoken: The Forgotten Prisoners of War
In conjunction with the 70th anniversary year commemorating VJ Day and the end of WWII, Wellcome Trust’s online science magazine Mosaic Science has published an audio documentary:
Based on Captive Memories, Far East POW and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
by Meg Parkes and Geoff Gill
The documentary features the eye witness accounts of eight former Far East POW veterans and others connected to this history who were interviewed for the Tropical School’s Far East POW oral history study.
Published 8 December 2015
Researched and narrated by Chris Chapman
Editor Mun-Keat Looi,
Click on link: https://soundcloud.com/mosaicscience/prisoners-of-war
Thursday 10 December
7 – 8pm
Hosted by the Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room
Meg and Geoff discuss the research that informed Captive Memories and the documentary, Unspoken.
Free, open to all
Bill Pearson – Malaya 1942
Published in the Times Newspaper today 06 November 2015, the obituary of Bill Pearson, the last British survivor of the Malaya sabotage group.
Interesting article on the Imperial War Museum Blog
IWM Research Blog