A work in progress – the fuller biographies will emerge in due course: please sign up to the Newsletter (bottom of the page) and we’ll let you know when we’ve done more justice in writing up our extraordinary signatories.
9th Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, representing the service and sacrifice of his own regiment, as well as Far East Prisoners of War (POWs) alongside other civilian victims of savage war, atrocities and repression, particularly in Asia beyond the Mukden Incident, Japanese Occupation of Manchuria, and First Battle of Shanghai Sep31-Mar32; also recalling all those who helped them in small and big ways, and their dead comrades, of every nationality, whose endurance and suffering on the Burmese Railway and elsewhere often defy all human understanding and imagination. Older men were usually more likely to survive with greater will to live. [AP?]
“You could sense when someone was going to die – you could see it in their eyes. The men knew it, too, and more often than not they were so ill or badly beaten that they wanted to die. We were lucky: we were allowed to bury our dead. In other camps, bodies were either left by the side of the railway track or thrown down the latrines…Everywhere you went there were headless corpses of the local Chinese lying in the streets of Singapore. At every corner there were heads impaled on poles. On one work party we had to clean up the Alexandra Hospital after the Japanese had massacred virtually every doctor, nurse and patient. On another we were made to build a wall around the headquarters of the Japanese secret police. Each day was made unbearable by the screams of people being tortured inside…For a long time I would get nightmares, and would wake up sweating and shouting. One particular memory still haunts me. A truck load of wounded Japanese stopped near where we were working. Most were in a pitiful state, and were pleading for water. Even though our men had been brutalised by the Japanese, they stepped forward to comfort them, but were beaten back with rifle-butts by the guards. When you see something like that, nothing is ever quite the same again…We felt as if we were an embarrassment; while everyone else had been involved in a war of tanks and machine guns, we had been engaged in one of disease and malnutrition. Nobody was very interested in us, so we formed our own FEPoW associations to look after one another.” (Billy’s fellow 9th Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusilier, Henry McCreath, interviewed in 2005).
‘William Brown. Fusilier. 4272934. Born 1920. Enlisted 1939. August 1940 the battalion HQ was at Coltishall and the platoons patrolled the Norfolk coast. January 1941 the Battalion moved to Scottish Boarders for training. 24th October 1941, Sailed from Liverpool in the ‘Warwick Castle’ to Halifax with the 18th Division. 10th November changed to USS Orizaba; which was part of the William Sail 12X convoy, sailing to unknown destination. 6th January 1942 landed Bombay, India and travelled by train to Deolali for training. 21st January 1942 set sail in the ‘Felix Roussel’. 5th February 1942 arrived Singapore. 15th February 1942 captured by Japanese, Singapore. Japanese PoW. October 1942 transported to Thailand; (Lt-Col. Flowers commander). May 1944 left Thailand for Singapore. June 1944 transported to Japan in Singapore Maru to Iruka Branch Camp, Nagasaki 4B (Capt. Thornhill commander). The camp was liberated September 1945. Survived.’ (Source: Roll of Honour)
The excellent Children Of (& family and friends) of the Far East Prisoners of War (COFEPOW) website continues to tell this underheard story of FEPOWs who “were prisoners on the Thai/Burma railway, the Sumatra railway, the Sandakan Death Marches, in copper mines in Formosa, steel factories in Japan, building roads in Burma, air strips on Ambon, Haruka, Java, Rabaul, New Guinea and the Solomons. Also, thousands died battened down in holds on the ‘Hell ships’. Many of the Far East prisoners were civilian internees and their story should also be told and remembered. But thousands survived to return and for them the suffering continued for years after and many of our members bear testament to their fathers’ constant nightmares and recurring illnesses.”