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NEWS FROM THE ST TUDY HISTORY GROUP RESEARCH TEAM
A personal story this month …
VJ Day, the 15th of August, marks the date of the Japanese surrender that ended fighting in the Pacific.
It is always marked with sadness for me, as my Uncle, whom I never knew, was one of those who didn’t return. My Uncle Leonard was born just 9 days after his own father was KIA in France in WW1.
I found there were three brothers who all ended up in the Workhouse aged 6,5, and 3. He was finally fostered out to a family in Watford and never saw his mother again. He joined up for service with the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment in WW2.
I started researching Leonard many years ago when the records just were not available. Everyone said to give up, as you would never find information on a single solder. I didn’t, and found his Prisoner of War Card written in Japanese at Kew on line. I then got it translated and found out he was captured at the fall of Singapore and was sent to Changi Prison, and from there was sent to work on the infamous railway.
I also joined a group called FEPOW (Far East Prisoners of War). A FEPOW member from Australia got in touch with me, and told me that his Grandfather was friends with Leonard, and had written a small booklet about his captive days which Leonard was mentioned in. In this, his Grandfather describes his friend, Leonard, and how he would go and find coconuts for them to eat, the conditions they had to endure, and the regular punishment. Collecting coconuts seems a simple enough act to us, but if he was caught it would have been certain torture and death for Leonard, as food was for the Japanese, not the captives.
This information has given me an insight into the personality and fate of this brave man who I never knew, who seemed intelligent and wanting to do the right thing for his comrades. It has been an emotional journey, and I wouldn’t have know about him if I had given up on my research, so I say, always have a look and see what you can find and don’t give up!
Leonard died from Cholera on the 5th of July 1943, and is remembered with honour at Kanchanaburi Cemetery, and by his family who now know and are very proud of him.
(This, and much more news, is in the current magazine)