Friday, 16 May 2014

Military Memories 16: A POW's Lonely Homecoming

Military Memories: 31 Writing Prompts to Celebrate Your Military AncestorsMembers of GeneaBloggers are invited to commemorate their military ancestors during  May 2014 by participating in  Military Memories: 31 writing prompts,  created by author Jennifer Holik. 

Today's theme - Prisoners of War

The telegram sent to my father from his brother, Charles Weston (below)
  released from Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Charles'  story is  told in the poignant  words of my father. 

"Uncle Charles was a POW on the Bridge of the River Kwai — at least it was a bridge when the hundreds of POWs had finished it. Conditions were dreadful, 100s died through lack of food, mostly slops, no solids. Charles had beri-beri, dysentery, ulcers and malaria. 

After the atomic bomb fell on Japan,  the POWs on the bridge were taken to Singapore and stayed in Changhai jail until shipped home. My Mum and Dad never expected to see him again.

 In 1942 they got a card through the Red Cross — from the War Minister which read “Regret to inform you that your son has been posted missing”. Dad packed up work and the news broke him — he was never the same again.

 It was at Christmas 1943 that Mum got a card from the Red Cross with a few words “I am safe and well” — “Safe” yes…..”Well” -  Certainly Not. 

In August 45, lists of Japanese P.O.W.s  were coming out and I was looking for Charles'  name. 

I was so sorry for Charles, as he arrived in Liverpool with no-one able to meet him. I was in Burma and my mother could not leave my Dad.   You were just a baby and Mum was miles away and could not go.  It was lonely homecoming for a POW".


Charles and my father John Weston were close as brothers and had these nicknames for one another  -  "Ace"  and "Mel".  Unfortunately I failed to ask my father about the origin of the names and neither my cousin Janice nor I  have been able to find out anything.   Were Mel and Ace popular radio characters, for instance?   I would love to know, if anyone out there has any idea? 

Below   is a long letter Charles wrote to my father in November 1945.    It starts "Dear Mel" and is signed "Keep batting - Ace".

Brothers - John and Charles Weston

A year after the war, it was  a happier time when Charles married Vera Botell in December 1946. 

I am the shivering little bridesmaid, standing in front of  my  elegant mother
with my father on her right.


These stories of my family's military service have featured before on my blog.
But I am pleased to take this different approach suggested by Jennifer
and am proud to join in this challenge.  

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


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