Introduction  – Journal 40 POW

The cover theme for this issue of Everyone’s War focuses on material donated by servicemen who were held in captivity during the Second World War.

We begin with Far East prisoner of war John Wyatt, East Surrey Regiment, who was captured in Singapore. John spent years labouring on the Thai-Burma Railway. In 1944 he was shipped to Japan for factory work and it is this sea voyage aboard the Japanese ‘hell ships’ which John describes as ‘the greatest horror of it all’. Another Far East prisoner, Stanley Gimson, Indian Artillery, also captured at the Fall of Singapore, recounts his experience of one of the main hospital camps on the Thai-Burma Railway.

RMS Laconia

Singapore features again in Disaster at Pom Pong Island which uses official reports and personal interviews from the archive to recount the history of two ships which fled Singapore during the Japanese invasion in 1942. Another refugee from Singapore, fourteen-year-old Josephine Pratchett, escaped to South Africa with her family from where they attempted to return to England on board the ill-fated RMS Laconia. The circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Laconia resulted in Grand Admiral Dönitz issuing the controversial Laconia Order which forbade the rescuing of survivors of enemy vessels.

An overview of the history and tactics of escape-minded aircrew by historian James Goulty is followed by a first- hand account of a prisoner in Stalag Luft III, one of the most active escape camps in the Second World War. Flight Lieutenant Gordon Cammell of 115 Squadron, the only survivor of his crashed aircraft, spent two years in Stalag Luft III. His memoir details the loss of his aircraft and an escape tunnel he worked on.
We have two personal stories of post-war journeys to the site of aircraft crashes that occurred in 1944. Arthur Smith of 109 Squadron returned to Belgium in 1995 to revisit the location where his Pathfinder Mosquito crashed during his 90th operation. Otley, UK resident Margaret Thompson, whose father was shot down over the Netherlands, discovered during her visit to the country that her father’s final actions had potentially saved the lives of residents of Gennep.

Continuing with Gennep, we have the interview of Braham Myers, Royal Artillery. Troop Leader Braham recounts his role in 318 Battery during the Battle of the Scheldt, the Allies surge towards the Rhine, and his subsequent injury at Afferden, near Gennep. In 2007, Braham revisited the Netherlands and the location where he received his injury.


Eighty years ago, on 21st May 1940, No. 12 Wireless Section, Royal Signals, departed from Dover to Calais, France. Siege of Calais, written from the original 1940 war report of Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Wright, one of the last men standing, tells of the desperate Allied fighting to hold the town of Calais from the German advance.
On 1st August 1940, the submarine HMS Oswald was rammed and scuttled near Capo Spartivento, Italy, and its crew taken captive. Michael Kryle Pope, Third Hand, was a reluctant prisoner who became a ‘pericolosi’ (a dangerous and persistent escaper) for which he was incarcerated in the impregnable medieval fortress of Gavi, the ‘Italian Colditz’.
Also in 1940 we have Arthur ‘Chester’ Morris, navigator in a Fairey Battle which was shot down over France. Chester recounts life as a POW in numerous German camps and the devastating effect on his morale of receiving a ‘Dear John’ letter whilst in captivity. Post-war, Chester had reunions with his fellow escapees, the pilot of his ill-fated aeroplane, and the son of a Frenchman who helped him survive the ‘hellhole’ of imprisonment in Meaux.

Holocaust Remembrance

2020 marks important anniversaries related to the memory of the Nazi extermination camp, KL Auschwitz. In January we have the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and in June the 80th anniversary of the first transport of Poles to Auschwitz. 2020 is also the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Stockholm Declaration, under which the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research was established.
We commemorate these anniversaries with the account of Arek Hersh, Holocaust survivor, author and international speaker.


The Centre was greatly saddened to hear of the loss of Major General Henry Woods CB, MBE, MC, DL, DLitt, MA, FRSA.

The Centre’s Life President, Dr Peter Liddle, commemorates the life of his friend and Centre Trustee in an obituary, giving tribute to Henry Woods’ Second World War service as a tank commander, his leadership, commitment to education, and his dedication to the Centre.


Amanda Herbert-Davies