- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Parents, elder brother
- Location of story:
- UK, Japan
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 08 November 2003
My parents were married in 1918 while my father was serving in the Royal Flying Corps. After the wedding father was sent back to France but was given compassionate leave later in the year beacuse Mother, now pregnant, developed influenza in the 1918 epidemic. She was one of the few in the town who survived and it was suggested that the hormonal effect of her pregnacny may have helped her recovery.
My elder brother Arthur, her firstborn, was born in January 1919 and although a normal baby was not exactly a strong child probably due to the effects of Mother's 'flu and the possible shortages of certain foods during the war.He was called up for military service in 1939 despite the family doctor assuring Mother that "..he would never pass the medical examination..". During interviews he gave his preference as an Air Gunner but was assigned to the Royal Artillery - not quite the type of gunner he envisaged.He went to France with the British Expeditionary Force and was evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. I remember him coming home (I was aged 10 at the time)with his battledress trousers stained in the blood of a colleague killed as they crouched for shelter in a scooped hole in the sand.Following various postings and courses he found himself with an anti-aircraft battery stationed in Finsbury Park during the "blitz".
As the German night-raids lessened, Arthur's unit was posted to Iceland where, I learned, they spent the rest of the war in total boredom. However, just before they went he developed accute appendicitis and was taken into a military hospital for its removal.
After a brief spell of recuperation and a last home leave wearing the distinctive Royal Blue uniforms of military hospital patients, he was posted to another unit, the 35th Light AA Regt., instead of rejoining his previous unit in Iceland.The 35th Light AA was part of the 18th Division, originally being sent to the Middle East but as a result of the deteriorating situation in Malaya, was diverted to Singapore, arriving there just as it surrendered to the Japanese.Apparently Arthur's unit was diverted to Java where they did their best to avoid capture but were eventually rounded up and shipped to a prisoner-of-war camp at Fukuoka in Japan. We were later told that by December of 1942 he had died from Beri-beri, Dysentery and general malnutrition but did not bear to think what his cause of death might have been, given the circimstances. After being informed that he was a POW, Mother wrote to him twice a week care of the Red Cross without ever receiving a reply. At the end of the war we were told that he had died in Dec 1942. What made things worse for Mother was that her three years of letters all came back in parcels. She and Dad never really got over it and until they died they both half hoped he would walk in one day.
His story, I suppose, is just one where the luck of a posting can change the whole course of one's life.
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