Tag Archives: Ken Hewitt

More Conference Speakers Confirmed

We can excitingly now announce three more speakers for our June conference! Remember, to be the first to hear this news, make sure you are signed up for our newsletter.

Mary Monro

Mary Monro is an osteopath based in Edinburgh. She wrote a biography/memoir of her father, Lt Col John Monro MC, RA (1914-81), called Stranger in My Heart (Unbound, 2018). Her father (Brigade Major at the time) fought at the battle of Hong Kong, was imprisoned at Sham Shui Po and then escaped 1200 miles across China to the wartime capital at Chongqing. He was made Assistant Military Attaché in China 1942-43 and hatched a plan to evacuate the PoWs he’d left behind. He ended his war in the blood and sweat-stained hell of Burma 1944-45.

Mary transcribed her Dad’s wartime letters and diaries and comprehensively researched the context of his story. Not satisfied by the written word, she learned some Mandarin and retraced her father’s escape route across China. At her book launch, she was honoured by the presence of other families whose loved ones had served and suffered in Hong Kong.

Ken Hewitt

Ken Hewitt’s father, Colour Sergeant John Hewitt, served with the Leicestershire Regiment during the Malaya Campaign and became a prisoner of war with the fall of Singapore.  In 2006, 20 years after his father’s death, Ken started to research his father’s military career, and this led to an interest in all 936 men of the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment during the Malaya Campaign and subsequent captivity.

In 2015, to commemorate VJ70, Ken presented his research findings in an illustrated talk to FEPOWS, FEPOW relatives and other interested parties. Following this, he was strongly encouraged to document his research more formally and in 2022 Tigers in Captivity was published.

Ken has given a number of talks on various topics relating to his FEPOW studies, and the veteran’s association of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment now recognise Ken as the authority on this period of the Regiment’s history and refer all relevant enquiries to him for response.

Gautam Hazarika

Gautam Hazarika grew up in India and moved to Singapore 20 years ago. He is a history enthusiast and is researching the lesser-known aspects of World War II in the Far East. This started when he acquired a manuscript We Published in Prison typed in Changi Prison in 1942.

The authors Harry Miller and Gus Harold Wade of the Straits Times were the publishers of the Karikal Chronicles and Changi Guardian newspapers issued in the male civilian internee camps in wartime Singapore. Miller/ Wade were among the over 4000 men, women & children interned. Most of these men were British colonial officials, planters, rubber/palm oil brokers, doctors, lawyers, priests and teachers. The women (mainly housewives) and children were segregated. Their experiences were both similar and different from that of the POWs. He has spoken and written about this as he continues his research.

Gautam is also researching Indian POWs in Singapore. Many joined the Indian National Army, and most of the rest went in Hell Ships to New Guinea/ New Britain near Australia to forced labour camps with death rates of over 70%. He is doing oral histories with children of the few survivors, has found an unpublished memoir, and even met a member of the Rani of Jhansi (INA) regiment, a still sprightly 95-year-old grandmother.

New Book: Tigers in Captivity

By Ken Hewitt

Tigers in Captivity

The 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment in the Malaya Campaign and as Far East Prisoners of War 1941-1945.

by Ken Hewitt

Ken’s research into his father’s military career with the Leicestershire Regiment started in 2006 and quickly led to an interest in all 936 men of the 1st Battalion who fought in the Malaya Campaign, many of whom became Far East prisoners of war under the Japanese.

In 2015, to commemorate VJ70, he presented his research findings to an audience of 100 FEPOWs, descendants, Regimental veterans and other interested parties. Following the talk, he was strongly encouraged to document his findings more formally and now, seven years later after further research, writing and re-writing, sorting of photographs and creation of charts and maps, his book, Tigers in Captivity, is finally published.

The book starts with the Battalion’s move from India to Malaya in early 1941 and continues with the defensive actions and withdrawal, from Jitra in the north to Singapore in the south over a 55-day period following the Japanese invasion of Malaya in December 1941. It describes the early encounters with the enemy, the chaotic withdrawal from Jitra and the amalgamation with the 2nd Battalion East Surrey Regiment to form the British Battalion.  The subsequent defensive actions of the British Battalion at Kampar, Batang Berjuntai and Batu Pahat and on Singapore Island are all addressed. It continues with the eventual surrender of Singapore, the so called “Impregnable Fortress”. Those who are known to have escaped the island around this time are identified and, where known, their ultimate fate recorded.

Nearly 700 men of the battalion were now prisoners of war and Tigers in Captivity goes on to describe the movements of the captives around the Far East – the work parties in Singapore, the transfers of men to Japan and other Far East countries and the exodus to Thailand to build the infamous death railway. Even after the railway was completed the horrors continued with malnutrition, illness and disease, hard labour, brutality and ‘hellship’ transfers to Japan. Liberation finally arrived in August 1945 and the book addresses the repatriation of these now ex-POWs and the post war situation in which they found themselves.

Of the 354 men of the 1st Btn Leicestershire Regiment who were killed in action or who died as prisoners of war, 196 (more than half) have no known grave and are remembered on the Singapore Memorial, Kranji War Cemetery.

Every man who was killed in action, or who died as a prisoner of war, is remembered by name at the appropriate point in the text and specific information on the circumstances of his death and grave location is given.

Summary Charts present the statistics of the Malaya Campaign and the subsequent captivity. Movement Tables list the men in each of the POW movement parties and an A-Z listing of all 936 men summarises their fate and movements during this period. An extensive bibliography lists the sources of information and provides readers with a signpost to further relevant reading.

The main purpose of the book is to enable descendants of these men to develop a better understanding of the Malaya Campaign and the period of captivity which their relative experienced. Not only is Tigers in Captivity the definitive historical record of the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment during this period, it provides a tangible ‘family’ memorial not only to the men who died at the time but also to those who survived and are no longer with us.

We will remember them.

Copies of the book are available at a cost of  £25 + postage and packaging directly from the author, Ken Hewitt at kenhewitt@ntlworld.com   or the publisher at www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop

For further information visit:   www.tigersincaptivity.co.uk.