- Contributed by
- BBC Open Centre, Hull
- People in story:
- Leonard Law
- Location of story:
- Changi Jail and the 'Death Railway'
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 19 August 2005
This account was related to Denis Price of the BBC People's War Team, the BBC Open Centre, Hull by Mrs. Margaret Watling. It recalls the experiences of her late brother Len, a former P.O.W of the Japanese.
My brother Len who was eight years older than me, was captured by the Japs almost immediately on disembarking at Singapore. He wouldn't talk about his experiences for many years but eventually told us about the brutal treatment meted out by the Japanese military to their unfortunate prisoners where beheadings were commonplace.
( During this account Margaret produced items her brother Len had managed to make during his long captivity working on the infamous 'Death Railway'where as he said, 'One man died for every sleeper built'
These items were a tiny effigy of Jesus on the Cross, a necklace of hardened tropical beads on wire with a Cross, and a ring he made out of animal bone for Margaret his little sister back home. Other items were a converted games board fashioned into his RASC Unit's Title and Singapore Designation.)
Margaret continues, ' I firmly believe that Len's strong Faith together with a robust physical constitution contributed to his survival when many of his friends and comrades died. His two closest friends through all his imprisonment died shortly after repatriation.
We in the family all assumed he was dead throughout the war as all the news we ever had from the War Office kept saying he was missing. Eventually when these official letters would arrive I'd tear them up without opening them.
The first inkling we had that Len was alive was when we saw his photo in the 'Hull Daily Mail'with two of his friends. He'd been released from the Camp and had volunteered to stay behind to help in the medical rehabilitation of those much more in need, an extra three months, that's how he was.
When he came back to us, even though he suffered from all the tropical diseases such as malaria, beri beri and blackwater fever and in later life health problems as the result of vicious beatings from the Japs, he lived a full and long life with his family. Even though he prematurely lost his sight through his experiences the only words of reproach I heard him say about his former captors were, 'They just didn't know any better, that's how they treat their own'.
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