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FEPOW Artwork

2 LOYALS’ COLLECTION: LANCASHIRE INFANTRY MUSEUM FULLWOOD BARRACKS, PRESTON

By Jane Davies, Curator of the Lancashire Infantry Museum

I have worked at the Lancashire Infantry Museum in Preston for 15 years.  The Museum houses a wonderful collection, full of interesting objects and archival material; from an account describing the Peninsular Wars and Waterloo to letters back home from the Front during WW1, we hold everything that you can think of.

My favourite collection, without a doubt, is that of the 2nd Battalion, The Loyal Regiment dating from WW2. The Battalion was present at Singapore on the 15th February 1942 when the island fell to the Japanese. Over three years of incarceration began, first of all at Changi prisoner of war camp and then later on (for the majority of the Battalion) in Keijo, Korea.

I first ‘discovered’ the collection when I came across a bound ‘book’ called “Nor Iron Bars”.  Looking inside, the ‘book’ was remarkable.  It was full of magazines compiled by the Battalion’s Officers whilst being held as POWs.  Written on any scrap of paper they could find, mainly old Naval message pads and paper from Red Cross parcels, a series of magazines were produced containing humorous drawings, poems, educational lectures and essays about the Officer’s situation.  Photographs were also attached including ones of the men erecting defenses on Singapore before the Japanese invaded and also photographs of activities within the camp in Keijo itself.  These included photographs of camp shows, the vegetable patch and the funeral of a POW attended by Japanese Officials.

I found these photographs quite extraordinary and at odds to what I knew about other Japanese POW camps. These photographs of men from the Battalion seeming to enjoy themselves were so different to what I had read about the men from 18th Recce (previously the 5th Battalion, The Loyal Regiment) and their experience as POWs on the Thai-Burma Railway.  Further digging about the camp at Keijo was required and, after seeing those photographs it was no surprise to find that the Japanese treated Keijo as a ‘show camp’.  A camp that would be held up as a beacon of good treatment.

The fact that Keijo was a ‘show camp’ should not distract from the harsh conditions that 2 Loyals lived under.  Second Lieutenant Pigott was caught exchanging an old shirt with a Korean for a small loaf of bread.  His punishment was to spend the remainder of his time as a POW in the civil prison, without heating and in winter, a nightly 40 degrees of frost. Near the end Lieutenant Piggot re-joined the camp, but only lasted a few days.  He died on the 29th August 1945.

The danger of being caught with the magazine was summed up by Brigadier Elrington ‘If they were caught with the magazine their punishment would have been terrible. Production of it was punishable by torture and death’ – ‘ these pages were surreptitiously produced, passed from hand to hand and eventually smuggled out of captivity, in spite of the grave risks involved; indeed this constant fear of secrecy added spice to our enjoyment and each successive edition of Nor Iron Bars gave a fresh fillip to our morale.’

For the duration of the war the copies of the magazines were kept in a safe place, hidden from the view of the camp guards.  In 1947 the magazines were bound together and presented as an album to the museum where it is on display now.

Dr Bill Frankland – Train Name Campaign

A campaign has been started to have ‘Dr Bill Frankland as a name for one of LNER’s ‘Azuma’ locomotives.

LNER are running the naming exercise through an online submission form which is open to anyone to make a submission through. Although not bound by the number of votes alone, it is hoped that the more forms submitted for a particular name, the more weight it will hold with the judging panel.

To lend your support to the campaign please nominate Dr Bill Frankland as a name through this web form: https://www.lner.co.uk/tickets-savings/savings-rewards/special-offers/current-competitions/azuma-birthday/ ) by the deadline which is Monday, 1st June.

“Echoes of Captivity”

by Louise Cordingly

When I was doing research into my father’s experiences as a POW in Changi and Thailand, I kept coming across other men and women who were also pursuing research into their own fathers’ stories in the same dedicated way.  So I began to wonder why we were all so driven, almost to the point of obsession and, I decided that it might be interesting to investigate further into my fellow researchers’ backgrounds and motivation.  Maybe there was a book in it?  It felt like a new angle on the FEPOW story: when the war ended and the men returned home, what  was that like for their families?*  How did the men adjust to the peacetime years following the brutality and deprivation of their years in captivity, and how had it had affected their children who were now in their 60s, 70s and 80s?

I put the word out on various FEPOW forums and to my surprise there was no shortage of people who volunteered to be interviewed and I also contacted various movers and shakers in the community.  Then, for about a year and a half, I travelled around the country or used Skype or Facetime to record their interviews.  I was amazed at the contributors’ willingness to be so honest in their accounts of their childhood and, for some, the effects of living with a damaged father.  I believe they trusted me to understand because they knew that I was also the daughter of a FEPOW.  I gathered thirty five interviews and then I decided that I also needed some professional observations on the mens’ trauma, so there is an appendix in the book with the thoughts of a GP who practised in the 50s, a therapist who specialises in working with trauma and torture survivors, and a professor who is running a MSc course called War and Psychiatry.

Thirty-five full length interviews amount to a lot of words – so I had to edit them all down into a manageable book length because I didn’t want to leave a single one of them out.  Then I sent each interviewee an edited transcript for them to check and approve.  This was an anxious time for me, but I needn’t have worried because the transcripts were returned with very few changes, mostly just points of fact.

There were various themes which ran through them all, such as the nightmares the men suffered, which terrified their children who were too young to understand.  The reluctance to talk about their experiences until they were much older, the heroism of the women who kept the households together and seemed to understand that many of the men suffered from undiagnosed PTSD. And the controversial theme of forgiveness: whether it was possible or necessary to forgive their captors.

The book covers quite a broad sweep of experiences, from the sad and the tragic to the amusing and the uplifting. I don’t think I recorded a single interview without a pause somewhere in the narration for tears.  I felt so privileged that these people were pouring their hearts out to me, maybe for the first time in such detail.  I was lucky to get to know so many members of the FEPOW ‘family’ who I can now count as friends.

My hope is that this vivid, eye-witness testimony, gathered together in one volume, will be a valuable addition to the archives of FEPOW research and knowledge.

 

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*Julie Summers’ book ‘Stranger in the House’, published in 2008, also covers this subject but with men returning from all theatres of war not only the Far East.  As the granddaughter of Sir Philip Toosey, she is also one of the interviewees in the book.

 

If you would like to contact Louise please do so through RFHG (researchingfepowhistory@gmail.com)

Dr Alfred William “Bill” Frankland, MBE

We are saddened to learn of the death of Dr Alfred William “Bill” Frankland MBE who passed away last night, 1 April 2020, aged 108.
Bill served as a captain in the RAMC during the Second World War. Captured in Singapore he remained there throughout captivity, first at Changi POW camp and later on Sentosa Island where he worked tirelessly to save lives. It was while a prisoner of war that his interest in allergy began. It was to become his life’s work: it was Bill who brought us the daily pollen count.
In 2012 Bill was the oldest FEPOW to contribute to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s FEPOW oral history project.
His remarkable story is told in From Hell Island to Hay Fever The Life of Dr Bill Frankland, written by Paul Watkins.

The Chindit Operations

Piers Storie-Pugh has travelled to Burma since 1985 and the Chindit Operations is one of his specialities; he has both written and made films about them. He regularly presents his talk “The Chindit Operations of Burma 1943-44”, which is supported by over 150 PowerPoint photographs, many never seen before.

From 1941 disaster followed disaster for Great Britain and her Empire and indeed for the Far East. The fall of Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941, was followed by the fall of Malaya and the disastrous surrender of Singapore in February 1942. A failed expedition into the Arakan sealed the fate of the Allies at that time.

Field Marshall Wavell sent for Orde Wingate, who had made his name in Palestine and Eritrea and told him to look at the feasibility of long range penetration into Burma. Wingate therefore paid a visit to Mike Calvert, then commanding the Bush Warfare School in Maymyo, right up in the Shan Hills. Together they walked through the jungle discussing the tactics and this was to be the embryo of the Chindits. Wavell decided that all operations into Burma in 1943 should be stood down but Wingate persuaded him that his 3rd LRP Brigade was eager to go ahead. Thus, Operation Longcloth was launched! Commanded personally by Orde Wingate three thousand men and five hundred mules and horses, with air support left Imphal and marched eastwards in February 1943. Along the way they bumped into groups of Japanese, crossed the very fast flowing Chindwin, continued eastwards, cutting railway lines, blowing bridges and perfecting the art of air re-supply lines and met friendly local Burmese. The Japanese were perplexed by both the purpose and how the Chindits were sustained in the field.

Having crossed the Irrawaddy, one of the widest rivers in the world, they were at the extreme range of air supply and becoming boxed in by a swiftly reacting enemy. Imphal Army Headquarters ordered their return to India. Wingate broke up the groups and under their own arrangements headed westwards; some went north via China, others through NE Assam; but some never made it – they had run into the Japanese force, which had gone ahead expecting a follow up Chindit Operation.

Wingate had his enemies not least because Operation Longcloth was expensive in the loss of men and most of those who got back were in no fit state for another such long range expedition.

However, the exploits were given triumphant coverage by the press, eager for some good news and entranced PM Winston Churchill. Wingate was sent for and accompanied the PM to the Quebec Conference. There he shared his vision for future operations, thrilled the American Chiefs of Staff who in any case needed support for their own efforts in China and Wingate gained the promise of sufficient air power to raise five brigades for 1944.

Given this American support it was decided to fly in the Chindits by glider on Operation Thursday, but with Ferguson’s Brigade marching in alone; he did so to protect Stillwell’s right flank advancing from China, south towards Myitkyina.

The most successful Brigade Commander was undoubtedly Brigadier Mike Calvert DSO*. Flown into Broadway with his 3,000 men plus mules and horses, he advanced to Pagoda Hill which dominated the Japanese supply line from Mandalay northwards. He attacked the hill, established White City Fortress and caused havoc in the area. Ferguson, when he arrived after an extremely arduous advance, established Aberdeen; later Jack Masters established Blackpool.

Wingate visited Calvert, and had a wonderful few days meeting officers and soldiers from his old brigade, before flying on to Aberdeen to see Ferguson. Wingate was killed in a plane crash and so in many ways did his dream. However, Mountbatten said that by this time the 14th Army was ‘Chindit minded’.

The Chindits now came under command of the American General Vinegar Joe Stillwell. He hated the ‘Lazy Limies’ but had a huge respect for Wingate.

Without Wingate to protect them and with the gentlemanly Joe Lentaigne as Wingate’s successor, the Chindits were driven ruthlessly hard by Stillwell. He ordered Calvert to head north and capture Mogaung. Described as a mini Passchendaele this battle started on 6th June 1944 (!) and lasted nonstop for three weeks by which time Calvert had only 10% of his force fully fit. Nevertheless, the Chindits captured Mogaung with Chinese support. Suffering from wounds, sores, malaria and other afflictions, not least the demands from Stillwell, they were ordered by Mountbatten to be flown out to India.

The Chindits cut the essential Japanese supply lines to their troops facing Stillwell’s Army: blew up bridges, had fierce hand to hand medieval battles and slowed the Japanese advance towards Kohima and Imphal; causing them to be beleaguered the wrong side of the monsoon. The Chindits lit a flame of hope and did a huge amount to keep the American Chinese Army committed to the front.

Slim’s 14th Army drawn from Great Britain and many parts of the Empire, as well as local troops, may have been the Forgotten Army, but their exploits live on and have become the stuff of legend: The Chindits are right up there in this catalogue of astonishing achievements.

Even in the most atrocious conditions against a cruel enemy, thousands of miles from home, The Chindit Operations will live on in history as endeavours of extraordinary courage, cheek, panache and considerable sacrifice.

Those who were killed on that operation are buried or commemorated in the Htaukkyan War Cemetery or on the Rangoon Memorial. There are over five thousand graves and some twenty thousand names on the memorial – testament to the sacrifice in this Forgotten War.

Some of the Chindits captured were flung in Rangoon Goal and suffered similar dreadful ordeals of cruelty, hunger, beastings, disease and despair as their FEPOW comrades in The Far East.

The infamous Burma-Siam Railway pushed through Three Pagodas Pass, where it crossed the border, to reach Thanbyuziat where one will find the third  Commonwealth War Cemetery in Burma.

Mike Calvert returned to Burma just once and is seen here with Piers on top of Pagoda Hill which he stormed in March 1944.
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For talk or tour enquiries please contact pierss-p@virginmedia.com

RFHG Workshop: 10 June 2019

The programme for our June workshop at the Institute of Historical Research has been confirmed, and it’s a packed day with an exciting range of speakers.

Only a handful of tickets are remaining for the day, so if you want to grab your place, you can do so using this link. We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Captivity and internment across the Far East during the Second World War

10am: Welcome (RFHG)

10.10 – 11.20: Cultures

10.10 – 10.25. Forgotten Men: Memory and Remembrance of Indian Prisoners of War of the Japanese during the Second World War (Kevin Noles)

10.30 – 10.45. Jewish POWs of the Japanese during the Second World War (Martin Sugarman)

10.50 – 11.05. Another Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence: nostalgia for a homeland and multi-culturalism in POW camps (Chie Inamoto)

11.05 – 11.20. Q&A

11.25 – 12.35: Generations

11.25 – 11.40. When objects tell the story: FEPOW memories and material culture (Terry Smyth)

11.45 – 12.00. Francis J Murray, Royal Army Medical Corps: Changi, Hokkaido (Paul Murray)

12.05 – 12.20. The ‘Other’ Railway Man: Mom and Pop’s Story (Phyllis Livingstone Pettit)

12.20 – 12.35. Q&A

12.35 – 13.25: Lunch (NB: hot drinks will be provided but please bring a packed lunch)

13.30 – 14.40: Medics

13.30 – 13.45. Behind the Wire: Australian Military Nursing and Internment during the Second World War (Angharad Fletcher)

13.50 – 14.05. Bill Frankland: A Medical Officer on Black Friday (Paul Watkins)

14.10 – 14.25. Doctor Cicely Williams: pioneering healthcare in captivity (Magda Biran-Taylor)

14.25 – 14.40. Q&A

 14.45: 15.55: Histories

14.45 – 15.00. Internment in Fukushima (Chris Best)

15.05 – 15.20. Ashley Prime, Royal Signals: Singapore, Thailand, Japan (Ashley Prime)

15.25 – 15.40. The ‘other’ steel bridges of the Thai-Burma Railway (Ken Hewitt)

15.40 – 15.55. Q&A

16.00 – Close

 

New book – by Dr Hilary Custance Green

Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home

Flyer SDR

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.

War Graves Visit – Yokohama, February 2017

From Paul Murray, member of COFEPOW:

As well as attending the 75th anniversary commemorations for the Fall of Singapore next February, I intend afterwards to visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Yokohama in Japan and what remains of the POW camps on the northernmost island of Hokkaido where my father was held captive, namely Hakodate, Yakumo, Muroran, Nisi Ashibetsu, Utashinai and Akahira. His name was Major Francis J. Murray and, as well as being the senior British officer at the camps at Yakumo, Muroran and Nisi Ashibetsu between June 1943 and September 1945, he was those camps’ chief medical officer.

I would like to place a poppy remembrance cross at the graves of the 12 men who died on my father’s watch (download Roll of Honour). The list is not an exhaustive one and there may well have been other men who died during the period. One of the men’s remains I have not been able to locate. If any of the deceased’s relatives would like me also to place a small memento at their graveside or even simply to get in touch in advance of my visit, then please do email me. My address is mutil1@hotmail.co.uk

Photograph courtesy of Paul Murray: Kamikoge Aerodrome, Chitose on the 13th September 1945 as Major Francis Murray prepared to leave Hokkaido