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.
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 email@example.com
Photograph courtesy of Paul Murray: Kamikoge Aerodrome, Chitose on the 13th September 1945 as Major Francis Murray prepared to leave Hokkaido
The Researching Far East POW History Group (RFHG), in partnership with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)
6th International Research Conference: Legacies of Captivity
9 – 11 June 2017
Call for Postgraduate Bursary Applications
What was the personal impact of captivity in the Far East during the Second World War? How did survivors rebuild their lives post-liberation? And where do families share and preserve their stories today?
Combining medical expertise with the most current research, this three-day conference will be aimed at: families of former POWs and civilian internees; professionals in the heritage sector; researchers, writers and the general public. Events running throughout the weekend will encourage audiences to reflect on the myriad ways that histories of captivity in the Far East have influenced individuals, families and communities.
We are inviting postgraduate researchers to apply for a bursary that will cover their full conference delegate fee.
There are three bursaries available. To apply, please submit a one-page (A4) proposal explaining how the themes of this conference relate to your current research, and the benefits to your project/career development in attending.
Note that successful applicants will need to arrange their own travel and accommodation – the bursary covers delegate fee only.
Completed proposals should be emailed to Dr Lizzie Oliver: firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on 8 July 2016
Applications will be reviewed by Professor Geoff Gill, Dr Lizzie Oliver and Dr Bernice Archer.
A few links that may be of interest – particularly to those who saw Jon Cooper speak at our last conference.
The Adam Park book ‘Tigers in the Park is now available at:
Also updated are the Adam Park Virtual Museum:
and the Changi Virtual Museum
9 – 11 June 2017, Liverpool
In conjunction with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), the Researching FEPOW History Group (RFHG) are co-hosting the 6th International FEPOW History Conference, 9 – 11 June 2017.
Featuring FEPOW camps in Taiwan and Borneo; Friday Night at the Flicks – FEPOW history in film; PTSD and tropical disease, the post-war aftermath for FEPOW and their families, plus much more.
Confirmed speakers include: Anne Wheeler (Canadian film producer and creator of A War Story); Frank Taylor (Australian military history tours, Borneo camps); Rod Beattie (Thailand-Burma Railway Centre); Jeya Jeyadurai (Changi Museum Singapore); Michiel Schwartzenberg (International Committee of the Red Cross); Flora Chong (ALPHA Education – teaching younger generations about the war in the Far East).
Registration forms can be downloaded here: 2017 Conference – Registration Form
Delegate Fee held at £120 for the weekend. BOOK EARLY! – registrations must be received before mid-September 2016. Please send enquiries to Lizzie Oliver: email@example.com
Record Qty: 56,000+
Original Source: Transcribed from the National Archive reference WO392/23-26 ‘British Prisoners Of War Held In Japan Or Japanese-Occupied Territory’
In 1945, 37,583 British and Commonwealth soldiers were released from Japanese captivity and Forces War Records has their details.
During the course of the Second World War, over 140,000 Allied soldiers were captured by the Armed Forces of the Empire of Japan. These men were kept in barbaric conditions, utilised as forced labour, tortured for information and used for medical experiments. Japan, while a signatory of the 1929 Geneva Convention, never ratified it and thus ignored it. Treatment of Allied prisoners was so poor that over 30,000 died in captivity. Many of the guards responsible were subsequently tried for war crimes.
Immortalised in films such as “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957) and “To End all Wars” (2001), there is no denying the significant impact that these events had and continue to have on survivors, veterans and their families. Indeed, Japanese War Crimes against Prisoners of War are often a hotly debated topic.
This collection was compiled by the Directorate for Prisoners of War and lists the soldiers, along with the occasional civilian, who endured these conditions. Prisoners were only obliged to provide their name, rank and number so the amount of military information is limited, however the records do include the date of capture, the camp in which they were held and the date of liberation, be that through release, escape or death.
On the 70th Anniversary of the Empire of Japan’s surrender we are pleased to present this collection of 56,363 records, a permanent memorial to the servicemen involved and an invaluable resource for genealogists.
In addition, the record set includes such notable entries as:
Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, the senior Allied Officer held at Tha Maa Kham PoW camp and the officer upon whom Alec Guinness’ Colonel Nicholson from ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ was based.
James Clavell, born Charles Edward Dumaresq Clavell, co-writer on the films ‘633 Squadron’ (1964) and ‘The Great Escape’ (1963) and author of the novel ‘King Rat’ (1962), based on his experiences in Changi camp.
Ernest William Swanton, the BBC Radio Sports broadcaster and journalist who was a regular commentator on ‘Test Match Special’.
Tom Bennington – Network and Media, Forces War Records
Neil White – Network and Media, Forces War Records
Nicki Giles – Copywriter, Forces War Records