This is the history of some of Emily’s family who lived through the Second World War in Asia. You will read that Emily’s great grandfather, who was captured by the Japanese army and held as a prisoner of war, never spoke about his experiences (just like Ellie’s Great Uncle Frank). War is often unimaginably terrible and even those who survive are affected by the experience for the rest of their lives.
In 1937, before the war started, my Grandmother moved to Singapore because her father was in the British army.
Life in Singapore was at that time very different from England. The family had servants and they had a pet monkey.
In 1942, Singapore was threatened with invasion by the Japanese army. Singapore is on a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides and the British were confident that the attack would come from the sea. They planned their defence but the Japanese attacked by land, through a jungle. The Japanese surprised the British and successfully captured Singapore.
My Grandma was nearly six years old. She had to escape. She left Singapore with her mother by boat heading for Australia. Her father stayed behind to continue to fight. They caught the last boat which was not bombed or sunk. They had to leave almost all of their possessions including the monkey and all Grandma’s toys. She had her sixth birthday on the boat. They arrived safely in Australia and my grandmother spent the rest of the war in Australia where she went to boarding school.
My Grandma’s father was captured and was a prisoner of war for the next three years. He and other soldiers built a railway. They were treated badly and many prisoners died. My great grandfather survived until the end of the war. He received a letter from King George VI after he returned. He never spoke of his experiences as a prisoner of war.
The letter (on Buckingham Palace notepaper) reads:
The Queen and I bid you a very warm welcome home.
Through all the great trials and sufferings which you have undergone at the hands of the Japanese, you and your comrades have been constantly in our thoughts. We know from the accounts we have already received how heavy those sufferings have been. We know also that these have been endured by you with the highest courage.
We mourn with you the deaths of so many of your gallant comrades.
With all our hearts, we hope that your return from captivity will bring you and your families a full measure of happiness, which you may long enjoy together.