Researching FEPOW History Conference June 2015

Liverpool Conference June 5-8 2015 by Pauline Simpson

Despite it being her wedding anniversary I made my way unaccompanied from Norfolk to Liverpool to attend the FEPOW Researching History Conference not really knowing what to expect. Looking out for me on my arrival was our President Bob Hucklesby whose company it is always a pleasure to be in.

Without even time to check in to the hotel, the conference started promptly and from there on in from Friday through to Monday a series of illustrated talks from a brilliant array of speakers were a delight to behold. I could fill this newsletter with all the details of an exhilarating weekend. With the VJ 70 preparations so uppermost in my thoughts it was so great to put faces to names of those that I recognized from application for tickets to St Martins. It was wonderful to meet and make new friends with so many with like-minded interests and I do urge you to take the opportunity in the future should there be another conference to attend. It was a privilege to meet Jeya Ayadurai (Changi, Singapore), Rod Beattie MBE (Thailand) and Jon Cooper (Singapore) with my forthcoming trip to Singapore and Thailand this Autumn.
I even indulged myself and purchased a number of books, one of which I completed reading on my train journey home. I do so thoroughly recommend that you read this book, ‘The Changi Cross’ by Louise Cordingly, daughter of Eric Cordingly, an Army Chaplain in the Far East who was to become Bishop of Thetford, a town situated in the Norwich Diocese where I work as a Minister and who also knew my father. Imagine my delight in finding a name familiar to me within the pages of this book and discovering that Tim Hemmings, a comrade of my fathers in the 560th Field Company was still alive. I do hope to catch up with him in 2016.
I also purchased Meg Parkes’ book written with Geoff Gill, ‘Captive Memories’ and can’t wait to read this now that I have time on my hands!! Unashamedly I also confess to have come away with a print of a painting by Sally Gumbridge called …. ‘And the sun went down’, based on a journey by Sally to the Far East to piece together her father’s story as a FEPOW. There were a number of paintings and prints to choose from but I was particularly taken with the words from a saying by Sally’s father that read, “The sun went down like a blazing furnace in which a new world was cast.” Perhaps with the fall of Japan and the end of the war, a new world had been cast. We may not forget but we can move on. The painting depicts the railway line with the blazing sunset going down in the background. As yet it has not been mounted on the walls of my home, a DIY decorating project for the winter! Should you attend a conference, hopefully in the not too distant future, if you are a lover of books and paintings, it is imperative that you take your plastic cards with you!

Joining ‘our’ Bob were Tom Boardman and George Reynolds, Merle Hesp (widow of Harry), and civilian internees, Els and Connie Suverkropp, Romee Hindle and Olga Henderson. I was delighted to persuade and arrange for Olga to come to St Martin-in-the-Fields on VJ Day. Thank you and congratulations to Meg Parkes and the Researching FEPOW History team for making this such a worthwhile journey despite leaving my husband Jerry to celebrate our wedding anniversary on his own!