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A Lichfield woman is backing an appeal for the creation of a Repatriation Memorial dedicated to the survivors of WW2 Far East prisoner of war camps.
Polly Dixon’s father, John Mather, was captured in Singapore in 1941 with his regiment, the Northumberland Fusiliers. They were put to work on the notorious Thailand-Burma Railway.
CSM Mather was repatriated in the autumn of 1945, with his secret diary, which told of the hardships prisoners had to suffer.
In the last few years, Polly and her husband David have visited the sites of the railway and become active in Cofepow (Children of Far East Prisoners of War), a charity perpetuating the memory of the WW2 prisoners.
In her support of the charity, Polly is backing the Southampton Repatriation Memorial Appeal, launched by The Times on March 2.
The memorial will commemorate the arrival back in Britain of thousands of servicemen and civilians (including children) who had survived captivity under the Japanese.
The Southampton memorial will be the second such tribute in England, the first was dedicated in Liverpool in October 2011.
The Repatriation Memorials pay tribute to the survivors of war and not solely the war dead. For many Far East POWs, the struggle to survive continued long after liberation and their return home. For some that struggle proved too much, for others it continued for years – often for the rest of their lives.
Meg Parkes, chairman of the Researching Far Eastern Prisoners of War (FEPOW) History group said: “We need to raise around £5,000 and if the funds come in quickly we shall be able to unveil the memorial in October this year in the company of a few of the surviving Far East POW and internees.”
Over 50,000 British servicemen were captured by the Japanese in South East Asia and the Far East between 25 December 1941 and the end of March 1942. Approximately one in four of them died in captivity mainly due to gross neglect by their captors.
Polly’s father’s journey home started by flying (probably in a DC3 Dakota) over the mountains from Bangkok to Rangoon in Burma, then sailing, on September 26, 1945, on the Orient liner Ormonde to Southampton.
He was just one of more than 17,000 Far East POW and over a thousand civilian internees who disembarked in Southampton in the eight weeks from October 8 to December 11, 1945.
* There is a Far East Prisoners of War memorial building at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas.
Donations to the Southampton Repatriation Memorial Appeal can be sent to: Polly Dixon, 78, Gaia Lane, Lichfield WS13 7LS. Cheques should be made payable to Researching FEPOW History and marked on the reverse Repatriation Memorial.
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