August 15th 2007
Scotland - Glasgow
Well It's all over, though everyone is looking forward to meeting up next year and that the numbers will have increased.
The numbers were up as my local paper did a good article for me and then the Herald (National) put a small paragraph stating we were meeting and all were welcome. We had two FEPOW's, the others were daughters,neices, sons,daughter-in-law's & sisters.....some travelling from parts of West of Scotland to Glasgow to be with us
We met at the Cenotaph in George Square, the centre of Glasgow where I distributed the pins which arrived at 12.55pm and I had to leave at 1.00pm.
Gave a quick run down on the programme, asked for volunteers who had not already offered to take a small part in reading a poem or saying a prayer
We began with me introducing myself and Sandra and Maureen, explained about the website and our aim to have this day recognised by Goverment.
I then prayed:-
Let us remember before God all those who have died as a result of war, oppression and tyranny
Archie Hart read the FEPOW Prayer
Jimmy Hart the Kohima Epitaph
One minutes Silence
Two FEPOW's Jimmy Hart & Dick Lee laid the Wreath. The Wreath was of Red Silk Poppies for Remembrance, Red Roses for Love and Thistles for Scotland
Dick Lee's friend read 'They shall not grow old'
Maureen Donald read A Soldier's Memorial
We all said the Lord's Prayer and after a short chat and Press photo's we retreated to the Georgics Bar in the Square for refreshments and chat .
We stayed there for a couple of hours sharing and asking when we would meet again, definately this time next year or before.
I was really touched and so pleased to see the turn out with very little notice and publicity.
Our Sunday Post sent reporter and photographer.....who by the way may contact you as I told him you could tell him more about us than I could as you set the site up.
Jimmy Hart from Wishaw is travelling to Gt Yarmouth on Saturday to be with you .....he is 91 !!! What a gent.....he is a subscribibg member of Arthur Teddingham's ( may have the name wrong) Japanese Labour Camps Assoc.
I gave each of the gents one of the cards with the Logo on it, we used one to leave on the wreath and I gave the reporter one....I also gave the reporter and photographer a Pin.
It was a very successful and meaningful day
Be thinking of you all on Sunday......get someone to look after Jimmy if you can, please
VETERANS AND their families remembered the horrors of war in the Far East at a poignant ceremony in Glasgow last week.
The intimate group of sixteen gathered at the cenotaph in the city's George Square to mark FEPOW Day on August 15.
They want the day recognised as an official day of remembrance for the brave soldiers who remained Japanese POWs, while victory was celebrated in Europe.
Former soldiers Dick Lee and James Smith Hart joined the children of former POWs to lay a wreath of red roses and say prayers for the fallen.
It is the first time the day has been marked in Scotland. Avril Anderson, whose father was held at the Changi POW camp in Singapore, brought the group together.
She said, "Japan didn't surrender in World War 2 until August 15 1945. That's the day camp survivors got their freedom.
"We would like an official day so what they went through is remembered for by generations."
A ceremony is being held today at the FEPOW memorial on Great Yarmouth sea front, but Avril wanted to have a day for Scots families unable to reach Norfolk.
"We intend to make this an annual event and want to reach other Scots familes who felt the suffering of Japanese prison camps.
"My father died aged 39 because of his war injuries, leaving four young children behind him"
Japan's prison camps in World War 2 were notorious for their brutal conditions as the country did not recognise the Geneva Convention.
Forced labour and poor medical treatment led to a death rate around 30 per cent among 50,000 allied prisoners.
After the war many FEPOW associations were formed for survivors but with time their numbers have dwindled.
The FEPOW Community website on the internet has allowed Avril and other families to unite and seek government recognition for an August 15 remembrance day.
Far East survivors like 91-year-old James Smith Hart from Wishaw keep his past in Hong Kong locked-up.
"It was horrible," he said, "If I told you what it was like you'd call me a liar."
But others like 88-year-old Dick Lee from Bishopbriggs, tell their incredible stories in hope that fallen friends will never be forgotten.
I was just 20 years old when I was shipped out from Gourock on the Empress of Japan, believe it or not.
It was before Japan had joined the war, and the ship's name was change to the Empress of Britain soon after.
We were taken to Indian at first and then Malaya. The war hadn't reached us yet. It was like Butlins - young lads, lying in the sun with nothing to do for months, until the Pacific war began in December 1941.
I was a motorbike despatch rider with the 11th Indian Division. I was carrying a message from HQ to a gun position when two fighters swooped from behind at on a truck convoy on the road ahead.
With the bike engine roaring at 45 mph I couldn't hear them coming, otherwise I would have gone off the road into the cover of the trees.
The blast from the first bomb sent me into the air. My bike was crushed and my right leg shattered against the truck.
As I lay on the road shrapnel from a second bomb hit my left. I had been the only one hit.
The Aussie troops from the convoy took me to Jahore Hospital, but it was being evacuated. With blood pouring from my legs I was taken in. The nurse was clean and white, and I apologised for being such a mess.
She said, "don't worry" and injected me with a needle. I remember nothing else until I woke the next morning with one leg in plaster, the other in a cradle. There wasn't a soul to be seen.
I was moved to Alexandra military hospital in Singapore - that's where the nightmare began.
I was there during the British capitulation on February 15 1942. I was helpless in stretcher in the corridor when the first Japanese troops entered the hospital.
It was barbaric. They bayoneted surgeons and wounded men alike. There was no rhyme or reason to it. They took watches and rings from patients and went on their way.
A second lot of troops arrived and started killing again, they overturned beds, thinking we'd hidden valuables under mattresses. There was no way to communicate.
It went on for two nights. I would lie awake with the screaming echoing along the corridors.
A hospital is meant to be a place of sanctuary, but the red cross on the outside meant nothing to them.
It was simply the lucky of the draw that I survived. I recovered in hospital at the Changi prison camp over the next six months.
When I was fit I was taken to a labour camp at the River Kwai in Thailand. It was hell. We worked on construction of the Japan's railway towards Burma.
I was in a camp of 2000 men clearing virgin jungle. Elephants pulled down trees, while we laid sleepers and track.
I ate rice rations for three-and-a-half years. A mug of rice porridge, with a teaspoon of sugar, for energy in the morning. Plain rice with leaves for lunch, and rice with a mug of stew at night.
We all had vitamin deficiency, tropical ulcers and many died of malaria, cholera and other diseases. I had amoebic dysentery while I was burying others who died of the same thing.
If you were too ill too work you laid in a hut all day with your rations halved. You either got better or died.
We worked wearing just cloth pants and a hat. Some had the last tatters of their shirt to keep the sun off their shoulders.
On the day the last spike was hammered in the Japanese somehow produced clean uniforms to dress the workers. They were taken right after the ceremony.
I went back to Changi until Japan surrendered on August 15 1945. I survived. I was a lucky one.