Spring Newsletter March 2014

Dear FEPOWs, wives, widows & friends

I hope that as I write this newsletter Spring has started to arrive where you are, and that the floods of winter have passed you by. How awful it has been for so many with the loss of livelihoods, destruction of homes and separation from families, how lucky I feel this morning to see the sunshine, the blue tits starting to nest in the bird box on the garage wall and the spring bulbs appearing. I can hardly believe we are already into March and I am saying that I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas and New Year and that you stayed free of colds and flu. I know that a few of our members have been in hospital from the applications received for hospital payments and wish you all a speedy recovery. Please don’t forget to let me know when you are in hospital as the grants do come in handy. Perhaps if you are a family member or a friend reading this, I can remind you to let me know if you are aware of any FEPOWs, wives or widows that go into hospital or a nursing home or require any assistance whatsoever, as they are eligible for the grants from the Central Welfare FEPOW fund. As Grants officer for NFFWRA I can apply on behalf of all FEPOWs, wives and widows for this financial assistance.

WORTHING REUNION – 27th to 30th June 2014        

It is only 4 months to our first Reunion of 2014 and I would like to thank all those who have booked so promptly, making the organisation so much easier for me. We are almost up to our full complement of 80 attending the weekend Reunion, but the hotel has offered me some additional rooms so it is not too late to join us.    

Drumhead on Steyne Green outside the hotel

Drumhead on Steyne Green outside the hotel

Just as a reminder the weekend encompasses Armed Forces weekend and we have been invited to the Drumhead Service taking place in Worthing, a stone’s throw from the hotel, on Sunday morning 29th June at which I have reserved seats for us all. I am especially pleased to be able to welcome some new members to their first Reunion with us, not forgetting our regulars with whom we would not want to be without.

Many plans have been put in place to make this a very special weekend – get filling that form in if you have not already done so or contact me if it has been misplaced. We will have the usual coach picking up points in Gorleston, Norwich and Cambridge area – travel costs free for FEPOWs, wives and widows. This really is a very reasonable weekend – leaving very little to pay once you deduct the Reunion grant of £75 and £50 travel allowance. The Reunion grant is also available to assist a carer that accompanies you – this can be a son, a daughter or a friend. Why wait!

A final invoice for payment will be sent out to those who have already booked just before Easter, with the grant application forms for those who qualify. (FEPOWs, wives, widows and carers)

LLANDUDNO REUNION – 31st October to 3rd November 2014

As mentioned in our November 2013 newsletter I can now confirm our return to Llandudno following members popular request. In response to the questionnaire which was added to advise me of your interest and possible dates, I am pleased to report that we have sufficient interest to go ahead and our hotel has been booked and a deposit paid. This will be very close to the Remembrance weekend and as always our thoughts in organising the events of the weekend will be planned accordingly. However, in addition to that we will be encroaching on that time of year that I hardly dare mention so early on in 2014… that ‘C’ word! Yes dare I say it…Christmas! I am planning to include a time of ‘Carols and Readings’ during this weekend, as how good it would be to have a time as a ‘FEPOW family’ to celebrate this festival together when we are all usually far from each other. More details to follow and applications forms are available now and at Worthing. The hotel will also be preparing for its seasonal festivities – we look forward to having you with us and there will be a coach departing from our usual locations in East Anglia.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2015

Again as mentioned in the November newsletter we will return to Lytham St Annes on the weekend of April 17th-20th 2015.

Commemorations for the 70th Anniversary of VJ Day – 15th August 2015

Our plans continue to progress with all the organisations that need to be involved for this last major 70th Anniversary commemorative event of the second world war, especially with the help of the Royal British Legion, having met earlier this month in London with the National Chairman and other RBL representatives. It is probably a little early for most but accommodation has been reserved at the Union Jack Club, close to Waterloo Station and can be booked under reference: 12829 or you can book through me. Nearer the time I will have a reservation form for you, members of the UJC are entitled to a discount. As a reminder, our service is at the Church of St Martin-in-the fields, Trafalgar Square in London at 11am, home of the London FEPOW Standard and where many FEPOW Remembrance Services have been held over the years. We very much hope that there will be representatives of all FEPOW related organisations to take part in the service and that wreaths will be laid at the cenotaph by as many organisations as possible. We plan to have our NFFWRA Standard on parade, currently being organised by Nick Roberts. Arrangements are being made with coach and rail services to get you there and back and a veterans cab company has been approached to give you free transport to and from the UJC to the Church. Your ‘40’s entertainment has been booked and a hot buffet booked for the Saturday late afternoon/early evening (this will be free for our veterans, wives and widows). Our fundraising for 2015 continues with offers of sponsorship coming in and proceeds from our raffles at Worthing, Llandudno and Lytham St Annes will all contribute to this event. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible – do spread the word! If you have any ideas to put forward to make this a truly memorable day, or would like to assist in any way please do not hesitate in getting in touch.

STOP PRESS: Bishop at Lambeth to preach at 2015 VJ Day Service

As I write this newsletter the post has just dropped through my letterbox and how timely. A letter has arrived from Lambeth Palace from The Rt Rev’d Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth, who was recently appointed as The Bishop to the Armed Forces. He has accepted my invitation to preach at St Martin-in-the-Fields, albeit in principle, for, as it is with each one of us, there are always certain unknowns that overtake us. How pleased I am to let you know of this news. I hope you will all be as delighted as I am.

Annual FEPOW Service at The Church of our Lady & St Thomas of Canterbury Wymondham,

Sunday May 18th 2014: Important Information

The time of the service has been brought forward to 12.30pm and the finger buffet lunch will follow after the service. The FEPOW books will still be available to look at; should you wish to view them, so that they can be looked for in advance, please would you let me know as soon as you can as this will only be possible if names are given early enough.

The Church of Our Lady & St.Thomas of Canterbury Wymondham Norfolk

A National Memorial Church of FEPOW

Give memory to others…

It was ‘The Unknown Soldier’ of WWI that showed the importance of ‘giving memory to others’.  Many will know of Wymondham’s Catholic Church dedicated to the memory of FEPOW and Internees who died in the Japanese Camps of WWII.  In a similar way a FEPOW of WWII requested in his Will to be re-united with his comrades, by adding his name to theirs in a Book of Remembrance there. He did not want the torch of remembrance to be borne by relatives alone; it needed to be shared. The bequest he left created a new Book of Remembrance and an opportunity for all FEPOW & Internee survivors to do likewise when their turn came.  You don’t have to be Catholic to have your name added to the electronic database, just a FEPOW or Civilian Internee of the Far East during WWII. The Books of Remembrance on display have over 25000 FEPOW names in them.

You or your relatives are well-placed do this if you wish to be remembered in this way.  We can help with this, but we do need to be told that a name should be added.  There is no formal cost attached, although a donation is always appreciated to continue this voluntary but important work.’  For more details, contact Peter Wiseman via The Administrator, Our Lady & St. Thomas of Canterbury, 1 Norwich Road Wymondham, NR18 0QE 01953 601976 or email administrator@wymondham_rc_church.org.uk

Since 1998 the church, built in 1952, has been seen as the National Memorial Church of FEPOW.  It tries to fulfil the Kohima epitaph’s bidding to ‘… tell them of us…’ and live out the FEPOW Prayer command to ‘…always remember, Every day, every month, not just in November….’

Help us to keep this FEPOW Church ‘A Living Memorial’ not a barren monument of stone.

Pilgrimage to The Far East, November 2013 – News from Gerry Norden (Committee member)

Unfortunately, the postcard we sent Pauline whilst in Singapore was simply not large enough to include all the news so we thought you may like to hear a little more! A total of 33 passengers made the 16,000 mile round trip including six veterans, two wives, two widows and a whole bunch of “children”. The oldest was FEPOW Jim Crossan (aged 96) accompanied by son Robin, and the youngest was Catherine Baxter (30) who with her Aunt and Grandmother looked after FEPOW Roy Massey (aged 92). After the War, Roy completed 30 years as a Police Officer in WestYorkshire! During the week in Singapore, we attended a remembrance service at Kranji, accompanied by Ships Company from HMS Daring with music being performed by Royal Marine Band Plymouth. We were fortunate enough to be invited on board HMS Daring where Jim Crossan presented the commander with a Fepow Shield. See the fabulous picture of Doris Burgess (wife of Fepow Cliff whose daughters were able to accompany their parents), being lifted up the gangplank in her chariot by muscular marines! During the week we visited The Ford Motor museum (scene of the surrender), guided tour of Adams Park, Changi Chapel/Murals finishing off with an evening at the defence advisor’s residence. (There was also time out by the pool and at the botanical gardens!)

The second week in Thailand featured a full itinerary where we were under the watchful eye of our personal guide – Rod Beattie of the Thai Burma Railway Centre. Rod and his staff escorted us to many of the old POW camps from Non-Pladuk in the south right up to Three Pagodas Pass on the Burma border. On 11th November, we attended the remembrance service at Kanchanaburi. The British Ambassador was also present and spent time talking individually to the group who laid a number of wreaths representing various regiments and organisations. The Fepow prayer was read by Maurice Naylor (aged 92), whose daughters Liz and Anne had joined him on the trip. In addition, a considerable amount of time was allotted for personal grave visits with a service being conducted by the Revd.Tim Eady who had travelled up from Christchurch in Bangkok. Following on from a visit to the British embassy in Bangkok on our final day I am delighted toreport that the whole group arrived safely back in the UK having completed their Pilgrimage in relative comfort compared to 1941-1945!

Note: Veterans with us were Jim Crossan (RASC), Cliff Burgess (Royal Artillery), Maurice Naylor (Royal Artillery), Roy Massey (RAF), Will Mundy (RAF), and Stan Dixon (RAF)  – and Doris Burgess given she spent 4 years in the regulars as a spotter with The Royal Artillery.

Well Done Team and Congratulations from NFFWRA to: Gerry, Lynda, Tony, Annette, Bernard and Sally for getting everyone there and back safely!

A note from Pam Stubbs, President of the Birmingham Association of FEPOW

All Asia War Graves Photos now available

The Taiwan POW Camps memorial Society now have photographed all of the graves in the Far East – i.e. Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Papua new Guinea, India and Ceylon and the names on all of the memorials. The photos of graves and names on memorials are free and are available in those respective area as follows:

TaiwanTaiwan POW Camps Memorial Society society@powtaiwan.org

ThailandThai-Burma Railway Centre admin@tbrconline.com

Hong KongTony Banham, Hong Kong War Diary tony@hongkongwardiary.com

Others Tony Beck – All Asia Cemeteries & Memorials nt872b@hotmail.com

‘Lest We Forget’

I would like to include an article sent to me by Sandra Smith the niece of:

Ivor Barker

FX86731 – Petty Officer Telegraphist Air Gunner in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, HMS Victorious

Ivor took part in the air raid on the Palembang Oil Fields, Sumatra in 1945 and his family were led to believe that his plane was shot down in the attack with no survivors. However in 2008, a few months after his eldest brother passed away and shortly before Ivor’s 100th birthday, Sandra, Ivor’s niece, discovered through family tree research that Ivor was in fact one of the servicemen known as the Palembang Nine. Two Japanese officers at Changi Prison cruelly beheaded these men after being held as prisoners at Outram Gaol, two days after the Japanese had officially surrendered. Ivor was only 21 years of age. 68 years after his death, Ivor’s name appears on the plaque at Changi Prison Museum and on a tribute to the Nine at the Fleet Air Arm Church in Somerset. A service of commemoration is to be held at Christ Church Hollinsend on Sunday 16th March at 10.15am and any FEPOW members in the area are welcome to attend. Do let me know if you would like to attend

In this issue we sadly record the loss of FEPOW Ernie Goff on January 5th. Ernie was one of our first FEPOW members and attended every one of our FEPOW Fellowship Reunions from Scarborough in 2006 to Southampton in 2013. He was indeed booked into Worthing for our Armed Forces weekend event. How we will miss him, Ernie was always the life and soul of the party with that twinkle in his eye and never ending charm when it came to the ladies on the weekend – both young and old! Our thoughts are especially with his family at this time and with our member Frank his dear friend. Sadly because of illness I was unable to attend the funeral.

In the November newsletter you may recall I reported on a wonderful visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea. It was with great sadness however, that I was to return on January 15th to attend the funeral and lay a wreath in memory of FEPOWHarold Tuck who passed away on the 3rd January. I was very privileged to be invited to read the Collect of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in memory of Harold by the Chaplain of the Royal Hospital. Imagine my surprise to discover that the ‘new’ Chaplain of the Hospital was none other than the vicar with whom I shared the service in Liverpool in October 2011 at the Repatriation Memorial on the Pier Head, Revd Steven Brookes the then Rector of Liverpool. It was a delight to meet with Harold’s family after the funeral despite the sad circumstances and I hope to stay in touch with John his son, and Emma his granddaughter who gave a wonderful tribute to her beloved grandfather.

We also remember at this time the families of FEPOWs Jack Blanchflower and Raymond Masters and others unknown to us who have sadly passed away over the winter and since we last met.

MAY THEY REST IN PEACE – forever in our hearts

Associate Membership

A Warm Welcome to all our new Associate members who have joined us since September at Southampton.

  • Just as a reminder that Associate Membership shall be to relations of FEPOWs, and those with an interest in learning more of the FEPOW experiences.
  • The Annual Subscription in respect of Associate membership amounts to a minimum of £10.00 per household or a voluntary subscription of £10 per person per household.

Anyone interested in Associate Membership should get in touch with our Treasurer Lynda Burrows who will pleased to hear from you, you can contact Lynda via enquiries@nationalfepowfellowship.org.uk

If you are a FEPOW, wife or widow, there is no membership fee to pay, as you are automatically members.

Just a note to say that all of our membership fees go directly towards funding ‘extras’ for FEPOWs, wives and widows at our Reunions and other events, e.g. Anniversary meals, Drinks Receptions etc

THE RAILWAYMAN – FILM PREMIERE

‘A night to Remember’by Bernard Gray-Esson (Associate member)

FEPOW Members Jim Crossan and Maurice Naylor with Patti Lomax (Photo courtesy of Bernard)

FEPOW Members Jim Crossan and Maurice Naylor with Patti Lomax (Photo courtesy of Bernard)

Having just returned from a Far East tour to Singapore and Thailand in November 2013, I was delighted to receive an invitation from Lionsgate Films to attend the premier of ” The Railway Man ” at the Odeon Leicester Square on December 6th 2013, and to take with me a group of FEPOWs and family members who had been with us on that tour.

We arrived at our London hotel having agreed to meet at 4.00pm before going to the pre-film gala evening to meet other FEPOWs and Lionsgate directors, screenwriters etc. It was at the gala evening I had the opportunity to talk with Patti, wife of Eric Lomax, and to introduce her to FEPOW Jim Crossan aged 96 who was in the same camp as Eric Lomax and was aware of the terrible beatings and cruelty he was subjected to.

This was a very emotional meeting as Jim spoke in depth to Patti about that period of captivity, and included in this conversation was Andy Paterson who produced the film who listened in awe as Jim recapped his experiences. We were then transported to the Odeon Leicester Square and walked along the red carpet into the cinema. Onstage introductions were made before the film started including Colin Firth, Jeremy Irvine, Patti Lomax and her daughter. The film itself was very powerful, full of emotion, forgiveness, brilliantly acted and one, which will leave a lasting impact with me. I thought the performance of Jeremy Irvine as the young Lomax was particularly strong. Afterwards we were driven to a drinks gala evening to meet the stars, engage in some wonderful opportunities to speak with people associated in the making of the film, have photo opportunities and get autograph souvenirs. We eventually got back to our own hotel just after midnight, exhausted but full of wonderful memories.

Thanks to Bernard for sharing this with us – What are your views, we would like to hear from you, please write to the usual address, or if you have email, our address is: enquiries@nationalfepowfellowship.org.uk

NFFWRA WEBSITE

We apologise that there has been a delay in publishing the details of our new website. We very much hope that soon we will be able to inform you of the details. Thank you for your patience, a lot of time and effort is required to get this underway and to ensure that all the information is included and accurate. We are very grateful to Richard Brown for undertaking this on our behalf.

A final reminder of the NFFWRA Reunion dates to put in your diaries:

WORTHING REUNION – 27th to 30th June 2014 – as part of Armed Forces weekend

LLANDUDNO REUNION – 31st October to 3rd November 2014

LYTHAM ST ANNES – April 17th-20th 2015

The Church of St Martin-in-the-Field, Trafalgar Square, London

Commemorations for the 70th Anniversary of VJ Day – 15th August 2015

I look forward to catching up with you all very soon, whether in person, on the phone, by email or letter. Perhaps it will be at Wymondham in May.

Don’t forget to note all the dates down in your diaries. Keep healthy and warm for the remainder of the winter. Lets hope for some warm sunshine in the not too distant future and safe travelling to all the FEPOW events planned wherever during 2014.

Wishing you all a blessed Easter time at the end of April

God Bless

Pauline Simpson
FEPOW Chaplain