Kanyu Camp - Working Men -2b

Sketch by Jack Chalker

Britain at War
Fepow Community
Far Eastern Heroes
Private 5776807
My Youth
Enlisting
Sailing to War
Under Siege
Death Railway
Going Home
Sorry
Prologue
Going Home

I couldn't believe it, freedom at last. British and Dutch paratroopers came into the camp and they soon got us organized. We were taken by plane to Bankok, then onto Rangoon, where hospital beds awaited us. One of the first planes out crashed killing all on board which included a Yarmouth lad from the Norfolks, J. Ferrow .

Plane Crashed Carrying POWS

Flight 66 of 117 Squadron RAF Dakota left Rangoon Mingladoon on the 8th September 1945 for Saigon to evacuate British Prisoners of War in the area who had been prisoners under the Japanese for three and a half years, all were suffering from starvation and tropical diseases.

On arrival the plane, loaded with 24 POW’s and the RAF crew of four, took off on the return flight, landing at Bangkok to refuel.

It is then reported that about 1pm on that day villagers to the village of Nuaunggangle about 13 mile north west of Moulmein in Burma and about 150 miles south east of the final destination of Rangoon heard an aircraft out at sea, followed by an explosion. The same evening at high tide they found various articles washed ashore and the next day at low tide saw the wreckage scattered over a sandbank. Several bodies which were unidentified were recovered but no trace of survivors were found.

The following is a list of crew and exprisoners who were known to be on the aircraft and died. All their names are recorded on the Singapore Memorial in Kranji War Cemetery Singapore.

Crew: Wing Cdr Samson AJDFC (30); Sq Ltd Grotrian RPD (36); Flt/Lt Bridge R (39); Flt/Lt Cuthbert JF DFC (37); all of 117 Squadron RAF.

POWs: Cpl Ablitt HR (33) RAMC; L.Sgt Arthur EA (34) 51 Fld RA; Gnr Bruce JB (38) k; Gnr Cotterill H (44) RA; Gnr Crawford JJ (29) RA; Bdr Daws F (33) RA; L/Sgt De Roux MF (40) RNF; Pte Edwards H (26) RAMC; L/Sgt Edwards EJ (29) Gordons; Sgt Hawthorn RH (37) RA; Gnr Hendy RH (37) RA; Pte Marskell GE (23) Suffolks; Gnr Payne JD (39) RA; L/Bdr Randell WJ (39) RA; Pte Ferrow J (25) 6 Norfolks; Pte Gadd RGV (23) E Surreys; Pte Jeeps L (24) 2 Cambs; L/Bdr Murfin R (28) RA; Gnr Pears JP (29) RA; Dvr Price M (33) RASC; Sgm Roy LFN (29) R Sigs; Pte Skeldon A (29) Argylls; Sgt Thomas V (29) RA; L/Cpl Warren FJ (31) RASC. 

 

The hospital staff were very kind to us and the food was like heaven, our bodies quickly responded. After various tests I was given the all clear and then the waiting started. Since our surrender no mail had reached me from home, the sudden awareness that I did not have any idea about the fate of loved ones, it started to worry me. To combat this I started putting my thoughts down on paper, so began my letters home. The following is a part of one letter.

 

"Rangoon

September 21st 1945,

My Dearest Phil,

I don't think we are allowed to post anymore letters as we will be leaving here soon. I am putting my thoughts down on paper as I will find it hard to talk about the last few years, you can read them when I get home.

We are getting very impatient here, waiting each day to hear your name called and then settling down again when it is not until eight o'clock the next day.

We are just getting used to being free, running around getting a collection of razor blades, cigarettes, uniform, etc. They have paid us 70 rupees and as these things are scattered about in various canteens one has plenty of walking to do. We hear goods are short in Blighty so we are trying to stock up.

The food is good and is making a lot of difference to us, our bodies should be normal by the time we get home.

The Nips played merry hell with us, a small amount of rice, a quarter of green water, plenty of work, filthy conditions, no clothes (apart from a 'G' string), no boots, no blankets, no cigarettes, no mail from home and plenty of bashings for the most trivial offense.

I sit on my bed writing to you, lucky to be alive, for we are leaving twenty or thirty thousand of our mates here. Please thank God for our deliverance. God bless our comrades who will not be coming home.

God bless you both,

Fred."

 

We boarded the Chitral on 1st October, and I found my cabin on C deck.

chitral

Chitral

The first CHITRAL was a P&O Liner, sister ship to the CATHAY and COMORIN, both of which were lost in the war. Built in 1925 by Alex Stephen & Sons, Linthouse, Glasgow, this was a 15,248 gross ton ship, length 526.3ft x beam 70.2ft, two funnels, two masts, twin screw and a speed of 16 knots. There was accommodation for 203-1st and 103-2nd class passengers and she carried a crew of 278. Launched on 27th Jan.1925, she sailed from London on July 3rd 1925 for Colombo and Australia. In 1930 her engines were modified to give her a speed of 17.5 knots, and in 1932 Bombay was added as a port of call. Commissioned as an Armed Merchant Cruiser in Oct.1939, she rescued survivors on Nov.23rd from the RAWALPINDI which had engaged two German battleships while trying to defend the convoy.

In 1943 she was converted to a troopship and served in this capacity until resuming passenger voyages to Australia on 30th Dec.1948 with 740 emigrants. On Apr.2nd 1953 she was sold and scrapped at Dalmuir.[Merchant Fleets by Duncan Haws, vol.1, P&O, Orient and Blue Anchor Lines]

I handed in sixty rupees and was given 5 0s 6d in exchange, I felt like a millionaire. We sailed the next day and my heart was thumping, I kept telling myself that everything had to be the same back home.

Our wage on board was one pound a week on the 5th we received four pounds which had to last the voyage. We also received 100 players (cigaretts) and a half pint of beer. The 6th saw us tying up at Columbo we were given refreshments and then allowed ashore. I got a rickshaw and saw the sights of Columbo, but the goods in the markets seemed very expensive. The St Johns Ambulance let us send a free telegram home, this was appreciated as I bought Phil a present and I was almost out of money. When we pulled out on the 7th I couldn't help comparing the colour of my skin to the sailors on board, they looked so pale and ill, since I was released every white face looked the same.

About fifty women and kiddies came aboard at Columbo, half of them were English interns released from Jap hands, they looked fit and well tanned, it was strange to be close to children again, some of them were my daughter Pats age, would she know me ?. The women started knitting classes for the men during the long journey home.

On the evening of the 12th October I was siting on deck and watched a brilliant flashing ball of light with a greenish tail traveling at great speed across the sky, it then seemed to sink into the horizon. The next day found us in the Red Sea when a Red |Cross ship bound for the Far East, I shivered to think of returning.

When we reached Gibraltar on the 18th October, I received my first mail for three and a half years, I quickly found myself a quiet corner and read the letters over and over. The release of finding everything was O.K. at home was so overwhelming a few tears were shed. Some others were not so lucky, one of the boys received a letter to say his wife was killed two weeks after we left England. After going through three years of hell, no one stopped him from jumping over the side of the boat, we said prayers for him.

We arrived at Southampton almost four years to the day we left Blighty's shores. The welcome was overpowering, crowds shouting and people trying to put cigarettes and chocolate into our kit bags, it was like a heroes welcome, I went down on my knees and kissed the ground, vowing never to leave Blighty again.

 

Mum_Pat_fourThe troop train took us straight to Vauxhall Station, Great Yarmouth, when I stepped off the train all my fears vanished, Phil fell into my arms and a shy little girl of four grabbed my coat and called me daddy. I was home.

 

 

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