Daily Mail ; Thursday, August 17th 2000
How a chance glance at a computer reunited old soldiers after 57 years
As young men going off to war in 1939, they vowed to try to stay together come what may.
But four years later, after being captured by the Japanese, Jack Symon and Freddie Taylor were parted in a prison camp - where their last sight of each other was at an impromptu football match.
After the war, Mr Symon tried in vain to trace the friend who had suffered alongside him. But 57 years of searching were in vain and he thought Freddie must be dead. Then - while looking for a computer for his wife Clare - the 80 year old retired publican walked into an electrical shop a few doors along from his home in Great Yarmouth and saw a photograph on a computer screen .... of Freddie Taylor.
Stunned, he asked for the manager, who told him his name was Ron Taylor. and added `Freddie´s my father - and he´s alive.´
Then Ron expanded the picture - to show a young Mr Symon standing behind Mr Taylor in the wartime photograph.
`I just couldn´t believe it,´ said Mr Symon. I told him, `Ron I´ve been looking for your father for 57 years.´
`He told me his dad was now living in Cromer in a residential home run by the Royal British Legion.´
`I asked why I had not come across Freddie in all these years and Ron told me his dad had not been to any of the reunions and did not like to talk about his prisoner of war life.´
Mr Symon later paid a surprise visit to Mr Taylor. `He was in his room and I decided to introduce myself in a humorous way, so I said `Stand by your bed´, the way they used to in the Army.´
`He didn´t recognise me, but when I told him who I was, he remembered our pact.´ The two were among five young recruits who shared a railway carriage in October 1939 as they left Great Yarmouth for Colchester to enlist in the Royal Norfolk Regiment.
Mr Symon recalled: `We put our hands on top of each others and I said, `This is a new life for us, guys. We don´t know what´s going to happen, but let´s keep with one another.´
Jack Symon and Fred
picture by Yarmouth Mercury
One of the five later left the army, one was killed in action and three - including Mr Symon and Mr Taylor - were taken prisoner at Singapore in February, 1942 and put to work on the infamous Burma railway.
Mr Symon, a Scot, said: `I last saw Freddie in 1943 in Chungkai PoW camp. We used to get one day a month off and we could play football. He played for England and I played for Scotland.´
The other soldiers who made the 1939 pact are now dead - so Mr Symon is delighted at finding Mr Taylor after so long. He puts their reunion down to fate. In 1945, he survived the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki because, at the time, he was working down a coalmine.
`I believe I came back from the war by being in the right place at the right time.´ he said, `It looks like I was in the right place at the right time to see this photograph in Ron´s shop.´