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Her Majesty The Queen to Attend the full, all ticket, NFFWRA Service on VJ Day

This is an update on the programme of events in London to commemorate VJ (Victory over Japan) on Saturday 15th August 2015. It contains some important changes.


We are delighted that Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip are to attend the service, organised by NFFWRA, at 11am at the Church of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.

As previously announced, all 950 tickets for the service have been allocated so please do not attempt to enter the church without a ticket because obviously security will be tight and only ticket holders will be admitted. Ticket holders will not be admitted to the church before 10am and will now be required to bring photographic proof of identity in order to be allowed in.

Any FEPOW, wife or widow without a ticket for the service should email to be put on a priority waiting list for any tickets that may be returned.

Unfortunately the additional demands for space in the church arising from the attendance of The Queen, mean that there is now no possibility of Children of FEPOWS, or others wishing to attend, who do not already have a ticket, being allocated a returned ticket, so please do not apply for one.

The general public will be able to watch the afternoon events from Whitehall and St.James’s Park

After the Service

Those attending the service, and the general public, may proceed to Horse Guards Parade afterwards.

We are delighted that HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will attend the Drumhead Service and Wreath laying and the Reception at College Gardens, Westminster Abbey.

14:00               Drumhead Service and Flypast on Horse Guards Parade to include a Dakota

15:00               Veterans’ parade down Whitehall passing by the cenotaph where wreaths will be                                  collected from you where applicable. There will be the opportunity for others to                                     lay wreaths when the parade has passed.

There will be wheel chairs available (but do bring your own where possible) and a shuttle train will be available to take you from Horse guards to Westminster if you are unable to march

15:30                 Afternoon reception for veterans and VIP guests at College Gardens,                                                   Westminster Abbey hosted by The Royal British Legion

18:00                Close

An accreditation process for tickets is in place for those eligible to attend the seated Drumhead Service, as outlined below:-

  1. Accreditation for Veterans and Widows (Blue highlighted form)

(You will be able to attend full programme of events including the Drumhead Service, Parade and Afternoon Reception)

  • Veterans are Burma Star or Pacific Star holders.
  • Widows of those who held this military decoration are also eligible to attend.

The form is a little confusing so please be advised of the following instructions:

  • Veterans will be able to bring along a spouse if applicable and also a carer (who may be a family member) if needed
  • Widows will be able to bring along one guest or carer, who may be a family member.
  • Where a veteran has no spouse, a member of their family is allowed to accompany them as their carer.
  • You may not bring a member of your family (i.e. son/daughter) and a carer if there is no spouse as the member of your family will act as your carer – this is where the form is confusing.
  • Where a veteran and a spouse both need a carer, please contact

Otherwise all forms must be returned to the Royal British Legion direct by 24th July (the form says 17th July 2015 but this has been extended)

The form for accreditation for Veterans and Widows (Blue highlighted form) can be downloaded from the British Legion website under Remembrance VJ Day

Photographic proof of identity will be required

  1. Accreditation for Direct Descendants – (Red Highlighted Form)

(To attend the Drumhead Service only).

Where a veteran is no longer with us, or is unable to make the journey to London in person to attend the commemorations, there is the opportunity for one of their direct descendants to attend a key element of the VJ 70 commemorations on their behalf; the Drumhead Service which will take place from 14:00 – 14:30 on Horse Guards Parade.

The form for accreditation for Direct Descendants can be downloaded from the British Legion website under Remembrance VJ Day

 All forms must be returned to the Royal British Legion direct by 24th July (the form says 17th July 2015 but this has been extended)

Photographic proof of identity will be required

There will also be a facility to claim a financial contribution towards travel expenses. This contribution will be available for veterans, spouses (if applicable) and one guest/ carer. Or, for widows, plus one guest/ carer. Further details for how to claim this will be provided directly once accreditation has been successfully submitted and confirmation received. Please keep all your receipts.

It was expected that all submissions will be approved – with accreditation confirmation, joining instructions and pass collection details provided to all confirmed guests – no later than 24 July, but now that the deadline for applications has been extended to 24th July it is likely to be later.


Not Forgotten Association Garden Party at Buckingham Palace

NFFWRA Secretary Pauline Simpson  was delighted to be invited to send 10 FEPOW veterans, accompanied by a carer/member of their family to the Annual Garden Party at Buckingham Palace last year. From their responses it seems that all had a good time and the weather was beautiful. Pictured are two of our veterans, Eddie Hunn with the Princess Royal and John Lowe with his son Rohan.

Picture of veteran Eddie Hunn with the Princess Royal

Veteran, Eddie Hunn with the Princess Royal

If you are a veteran and have never attended one of these events, please do let Pauline know or get your family to get in touch with her. Pauline  is hoping that these garden parties will continue and that invitations will continue to come to NFFWRA. In order to be fair to everyone the same veterans are not nominated two years in succession.



Veteran, John Lowe with his son Rohan


NFFWRA countdown to 2015 VJ Day Commemorations begins at Buckingham Palace

Already 2 years have passed since the National FEPOW Fellowship Welfare Remembrance Association (NFFWRA) began their initial preparations for their plans to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the end of the war in the Far East (VJ Day) on 15th August 2015.

Buckingham palace 2014 023Although still a way off , the 14-month count down has now begun following a visit to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday 21st May 2014.

FEPOW Chaplain Mrs Pauline Simpson of Neatishead was the guest of the Association’s Patron HRH the Duke of Gloucester, at a garden party held at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the achievements of a variety of charities and organisations up and down the country, which are supported by members of the Royal family. Her husband Mr Jeremy Simpson, the Association’s Chairman and Treasurer, Mr and Mrs Tony Burrows, and FEPOW veteran Stan Burridge, 95, and Stan’s daughter Mrs Karen Woodford, accompanied Mrs Simpson. NFFWRA Secretary Pauline Simpson & her husband Jerry with Chairman Tony Burrows and his wife, Treasurer Lynda Burrows.

Buckingham palace 2014 009

FEPOW Stan Burridge with his daughter Mrs Karen Woodford

HRH the Duke of Gloucester, having been introduced to Mrs Simpson, went on to spend several moments with the group and was immensely interested in the activities of the Association and was pleased to be associated as it’s Patron. Following afternoon tea and the opportunity to enjoy the gardens, there followed a walk about by the Royal party in which the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Beatrice, Princess Michael and the Duchess of Gloucester stopped briefly to chat with members of the FEPOW party.

The Association recognises that in the next 14 months the real hard work is now to begin with reaching out to all those FEPOWs still alive along with their families to bring this Anniversary to the nation’s attention – to remember the ‘Forgotten army’. A service is to take place in the Church of St Martin-in-the-Field, Trafalgar Square London on 15th August 2015 at 11am. The Rt Rev’d Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth, who was recently appointed as The Bishop to the Armed Forces is to preach at the service. It is hoped that HRH the Duke of Gloucester will be in attendance.

Arrangements are being made with local coach and rail services in East Anglia to get the veterans and their families there and back whether it is just for the day or the weekend.

Accommodation has been organised at the Union Jack Club near Waterloo Station for those who wish to stay over on the Friday 14th August and/or the Saturday 15th August. On Saturday there will be an evening of ‘40’s entertainment, which follows a hot buffet later in the day (this will be free for all veterans, wives and widows).

Update on 8th July 2015 – the response for applications for tickets for the VJ Day service at St.Martin’s in the Fields and for the dinner at the Union Jack Club has been overwhelming and there are now no tickets available for either the service or the dinner. Anyone without a ticket who still wishes to attend the service please email  from 1st August 2015 to see whether any tickets have become available as a result of cancellations.

Poppy Planting 2013

The FEPOW Poppy Plot

The FEPOW Poppy Plot at Westminster Abbey Fields of Remembrance in November 2013.

George Housego MBE represented all FEPOWs and was introduced to HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh and
HRH Prince Henry of Wales attended the opening of the Fields of Remembrance for the first time.


HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh





HRH Prince Henry of Wales







FEPOW Plaque unveiled in Southampton

NFFWRA organised a 2 night stay in Southampton for Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October 2013 to attend the unveiling ceremony of the FEPOW plaque dedicated to those who arrived in Southampton on their return from the Far East.

IMG_1299 The Researching FEPOW History (RFH) Group, led by Meg Parkes, was instrumental in erecting a Repatriation Memorial to mark the return of FEPOW and civilian internees to the port in the autumn and early winter of 1945.

The first Repatriation Memorial was erected on Liverpool’s Pier Head in October 2011.The very first ship to arrive back in Britain was the P&O liner, SS Corfu which docked in Southampton on 7 October 1945 with over 1,500 FEPOW and a few civilian internees on board.  Both plaques commemorate the arrival in British ports of over 37,500 FEPOW (British military personnel) and several thousand civilian internees (men, women and children.) All had spent up to three and a half years in captivity in South East Asia and the Far East. The majority, though not all, returned home by ship and disembarked in either Southampton or Liverpool.

The granite memorial has been erected on a wall within Southampton’s Town Quay Park, facing Southampton Water and the docks where the ships arrived. The park is run by a local community group, the Friends of Town Quay Park, and Southampton City Council agreed that such an important memorial should be sited within this small historic park. Town Quay Park, surrounded by the medieval city walls, is one of the few places where there is a good view of the waterfront so it is very fitting that the memorial overlooks where the POWs arrived home.

IMG_1324The area around the plaque has been landscaped with a sympathetic planting scheme including bamboo and grasses, helped by donations from NFFWRA members. The plaque, like the one in Liverpool, has been inscribed with a central dedication and flanked by the names of the ships that docked in each port.
FEPOW Bob Hucklesby, 93, the NFFWRA President, who lives in Bournemouth, has been a great supporter of the appeal. He vividly remembers arriving back in Southampton on board the hospital ship, Principessa Giovanna: “I shall never forget it. There on the quayside was a band to welcome us home and one tune I particularly remember was the Cole Porter hit, Don’t Fence Me In. The people of Southampton could never know what that welcome meant. We had all been away at least four years, some as long as seven. I am pleased that finally this piece of World War Two history, relating to the war in the Far East, is to be recorded in Southampton. Unfortunately, almost a quarter of those taken prisoner did not return.”

The service, held iP1050324n the Church of St Michael the Archangel, was an all ticket affair, and it was attended by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, the Mayor and other local dignitaries. At least 13 FEPOWs and many relatives of FEPOWs and internees were there. The photograph on the cover of the Order of Service was of Tom Boardman playing the ukulele he made in Thailand, on his disembarkation from the SS Corfu in Southampton on 7th October 1945. It was a moving service, including a reading by Maurice Naylor, the Act of Remembrance led by FEPOW Chaplain Pauline Simpson, the NFFWRA Secretary, and the FEPOW Prayer given by Stan Vickerstaff, FEPOW Chaplain and NFFWRA Secretary Pauline Simpson.


After the service there was a walk past the memorial led by a lone piper – fortunately the rain held off.

NFFWRA welcomed special guest Captain Tom Tulloch, Naval Advisor to the Canadian High Commission, and his wife Bonita. As it was too windy to lay the wreaths at the memorial on Sunday, the St. Jude gale hitting Southampton just a few hours later, they were laid around the altar rails in the church and moved to the memorial site on Monday. Refreshments were then provided at St.Joseph’s Hall giving us all a chance to talk and share our thoughts with FEPOWS, internees and their families.

That evening many NFFWRA members enjoyed a Thai meal at the Kutis Royal Thai Pier Restaurant, the only surviving part of the Royal Pier, opposite the memorial plaque and gardens. FEPOW Tom Boardman gave a heartfelt and moving address recalling his emotions on his return, and expressing his thanks, on behalf of himself and all of his comrades, to the people of Southampton who had turned out in large numbers that October day in 1945 to cheer and welcome the FEPOWs and civilians home. Tom paid tribute to those of his comrades who did not return. Later Tom’s son Ron told us how much thought his father had put into the various drafts of his short speech and it showed – the care to say what he wanted to is entirely typical of Tom.


Our thanks go to Meg Parkes for inspiring the idea of the memorial and for ensuring the delivery of the memorial and service. Pauline Simpson, NFFWRA Secretary and the FEPOW Chaplain, played a key role in the events, delivering the Act of Dedication, and also organising a coach to Southampton, hotel accommodation and tickets for many FEPOWs, widows and their families. Pauline discovered as part of the preparations for the event that her father had returned from Rangoon on the ship SS Chitral on 28th October 1945. Additional photographs of the FEPOW Memorial dedication event are now available on the Researching FEPOW History Group’s Facebook page

Singing To Survive Concert Chichester

Singing to Survive Palembang Camp Sumatra 1943

Singing to Survive Palembang Camp Sumatra 1943

In October 2013, NFFWRA arranged for members to attend this extraordinary musical performance commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the first performance of the Women’s Vocal Orchestra created in the Civilian Internment camp at Palembang in Sumatra in 1943.

Margaret Dryburgh, the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister, who was the Principal of KuoChuam Girls’ School  in Singapore, and Norah Chambers, nee Hope, a music teacher in Singapore, both fled from Singapore just before it fell on 15th February 1942. By chance they were interned together in Sumatra after being captured on Bangka Island later that month.

Margaret Dryburgh

Margaret Dryburgh

Norah Chambers

Norah Chambers

After several moves in dreadful conditions they moved to a dilapidated barracks in the middle of the Sumatran jungle at  Palembang where 600 women and children were crammed into this insanitary compound with 50 to a hut and just 27 inches of bed space.

This was the internment camp upon which the BBC TV series Tenko was based. To restore morale and to overcome the language difficulties (there were 21 nationalities in all, although  the original Palembang vocal orchestra was made up principally of British, Dutch and Australian women) Norah Chambers had the inspired idea to form an orchestra by using women’s voices in place of musical instruments. She and Margaret Dryburgh wrote from memory the music of various pieces on little scraps of paper that they could find. They then set about condensing complex classic works, taking main themes with the right modulations and harmonic changes and weaving them into miniature works – complete in themselves. Instead of words they would hum, la or sing vowels to the music.

St Paul’s ChurchThis 70th anniversary celebratory concert was performed by the Chichester Women’s Vocal Orchestra (which had been created for this concert) at St. Paul’s Church, Chichester because one of organisers of the event is a member of the church and is the daughter of Shelagh Lea (nee Brown) one of the survivors from the prison camp who was a member of the vocal orchestra.  Shelagh was interned with her mother who subsequently died in captivity and is buried at Palembang. The concert was organised by five women who each have a deep and abiding interest in the history of internment in the Far East during World War II. They are: Dr Bernice Archer PhD, author of The Internment of Western Civilians under the Japanese 1941-1945: A Patchwork of Internment (2005) Margaret Caldicott, flute teacher and daughter and granddaughter of two of the Palembang women (Shelagh Lea, nee Brown and Mary Brown) Barbara Coombes (MA), lecturer and biographer of Margaret Dryburgh and Shelagh Lea Meg Parkes MPhil, a researcher in WWII Far East captivity and author of two books based on her father’s Far East POW experiences Lavinia Warner, author of Women Beyond the Wire (1982), which tells the story of the women and Palembang and the creation of the Vocal Orchestra. Lavinia, an independent film and TV producer, created and storylined the successful 1980’s TV series Tenko which gave a fictionalised account of the experiences of the women and children imprisoned by the Japanese. It was during the Researching Far East POW Group conference at the National Memorial Arboretum in 2011 that Meg Parkes first suggested to Bernice Archer the idea of organising a concert in 2013 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Vocal Orchestra’s creation. Margaret Caldicott, Barbara Coombes and Lavinia Warner eagerly supported the idea. The organisers shared the belief that the women of Palembang, and in particular Norah Chambers and Margaret Dryburgh, should be remembered and honoured for their courage, tenacity and creativity. Their example is as vital and life-enhancing today as it was 70 years ago. All felt a duty to bring this history to life for a new generation and to encourage anyone who is inspired by it to mark the 70th anniversary (or any future anniversaries) in their own way. The narrators of the concert, who told the story of the vocal orchestra, and read poems written by some of the internees, in between the music, were the well-known and accomplished actresses, Stephanie Cole and Louise Jameson. They, and Veronica Roberts, who was the concert’s producer, were very familiar with the story of the women prisoners of the Japanese having all previously starred in Lavinia Warner’s drama Tenko. To close the concert the audience joined with the Vocal Orchestra to sing the words of The Captives Hymn which was composed by Margaret Dryburgh in 1942 and was sung originally at a camp Sunday service.  Thereafter it was sung every Sunday throughout their years in captivity. This same hymn was sung at the Service of Dedication to the Repatriation Memorial at The Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Southampton the next day.

The concert was sponsored by the Malayan Volunteers Group  and any profit will be divided between a memorial for those civilians who died in this area of Sumatra and the local school in Kampong Mengelang village in Muntok, on Bangka Island, Sumatra.

Those of us privileged to be present for this moving and historic performance were astonished to learn afterwards that the all women choir had only been rehearsing for six weeks. More details about the concert can be found at website The Singing to Survive concert was professionally filmed in full so that it can be retained as an important record for the Imperial War Museum and other archives. A documentary about the vocal orchestra incorporating footage of the concert is also in the planning stages which may eventually be made publicly accessible.