At Sheringham situated on the North Norfolk Coast in England UK - Our community newspaper online
@ Sheringham Community Paper Issue No 4 - Friday 27th December 2002 - Choose another issue
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A little Birdie told me you'd been really nice - leave a little message on my Wall Messages on the wall are free unless you would like to make a small donation to our current charity, The Royal British Legion, we have a collection box in the office.

 

Happy Birthday Kristian
from
Uncle Bob, Aunty Jacky & Michael

Marvellous Mag
love it ... Jennie, New Zealand

You are mad Lesley luv Stephen

Good Luck with the panto 'Cinderella'
luv Jacky R

Wishing all my work colleagues at Budgens Happy Christmas from Jacky

 

MY DAD - MY HERO. A Tribute to Leonard John LOUDWELL
18th Division. Reconnaissance Corps.
Dad's troopship, the Empress of Asia, was bombed and sunk by the Japanese in the Sundai Straits between Java and Sumatra. He was rescued by an Australian sloop the 'Yarra' and taken to Singapore.

Following capitulation and the fall of Singapore, Dad became a Prisoner-of-War (P.O.W.) and was interned in Changi Gaol by the Japanese. As far as his family knew he was simply "missing" and did not learn of his P.O.W. status for over 18 months.

He was then sent up country from Nakon Paton to Non Pladuk, Banpong, Tamuang, Kanchanaburi, Tamakan, Chunkai and Takanun, some 120miles.

He was put to work on the 'Bridge over the River Kwai' (or more correctly, the Tamakan Bridge) and the notorious Burma/Siam railway, known as 'The Death Railway', where it is said that for every railway sleeper laid a P.O.W. died.

He often travelled in cramped, oven-hot steel railway cattle carriages, shared with acutely sick and dying colleagues and surrounded by vomit and excrement. For the most part he marched through jungle in either ankle-deep mud and monsoon rains or under the tropical sun, with no shoes or clothes for protection except for a 'Jap Happy' (resembling a G string).

He, like so many of his fellow P.O.W.'s suffered severe malnutrition, impossible workloads and working hours, tropical leg ulcers (for some this resulted in amputation, often without anaesthetic, as the Japs kept such Red Cross supplies which were meant for the P.O.W.'s for themselves) malaria, dysentry, cholera. beri-beri and incessant and systematic beatings and torture from petulant Jap guards.

The more psychopathic Jap guards had developed a technique whereby they could work themselves up into a maniacal frenzy and then would think nothing of unleashing a ferocious attack with whatever came to hand on a P.O.W. for some trivial and often imagined misdemeanour.

On one occasion a fellow P.O.W. gave Dad a piece of canvas, which had previously been used as a groundsheet, to give him at least some protection whilst sleeping out in the open under monsoon rains.
This piece of canvas was identified by a paranoid Jap
guard as a piece of Jap Army tent and claimed it had been deliberately destroyed by P.O.W.'s. For his crime Dad was made to stand to attention unprotected in the tropical sun outside a guard hut. He was made to move into the sun each time he found himself in the shade. During this time he received repeated beatings with each successive guard change until the Jap Commandant decided the 'debt' had been repaid.

On another occasion Dad was given what had become the commonplace task of filling in a mass grave. He noticed that one P.O.W. in the grave was still alive, Dad jumped in and carried the man to the edge of the grave. The Jap Guard screamed "you or him", laughed hysterically and then smashed the butt of his rifle into the side of Dad's head. Dad consequently lost the sight of his right eye. Dare to defend yourself and you would be either beaten to death or beheaded.

Throughout all this Dad retained his dignity and spirit. He was one of the lucky ones (everything is relative) as, unlike most of his pals, he survived.

Upon returning home he was skeletal and had recurrent nightmares of the hell he had been through. No routine counselling in those days and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder hadn't been 'invented'. Dad just had to get on with his life and, typical of the man, he was very successful at this too.

Later in life he suffered many 'mini strokes' and on two occasions broke his back following collapses. He was diagnosed as having Cerebral Atrophy and Osteoporosis. He spent the last eight years of his life bedridden, unable to speak, eat or move.

All this was attributed to his P.O.W. experiences. Somehow, he retained a wonderful sense of humour and laughed in the face of such terrible adversity.

Dad died at home on 14th September 2001 aged 82. He was the most courageous person I have ever known. He was also my best friend.

Oh, and for the benefit of the forty something lame-brain referred to on page 5 of Issue no 3 of @ Sheringham, he didn't have a wrinkle in his face!
Terry Loudwell, Woodland Rise West.
Published by Norfolk A2Z. 14, Waterbank House, Station Approach, Sheringham, Norfolk. NR26 8RA
Tel: 01263 826005  Fax: 01263 823235  website: www.at-sheringham.co.uk   e-mail: info@at-sheringham.co.uk