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Ceremony recalls Far East prisoners

A dedicated group of people from Bognor Regis and Chichester have paid tribute to their wartime prisoner fathers.


The handful of relatives gathered at St Mary’s Church in Felpham to mark the day the PoWs’ suffering ended after three-and-a-half years in the Far East.


They took part in a ceremony led by the church’s vicar, Father John Challis, to commemorate the anniversary of the end of the Second World War on August 15, 1945.


The date last Thursday was important to them because it marks the real finish to the atrocities and degradation they had suffered.


One of those present, Jill Robertson, the West Sussex co-orindator of the Children of Far Eastern Prisoners of War (CoFEPOW), said:


“We listened with silent mutual understanding of what our fathers went through as Mr Challis recited the exhortation after a minute’s silence: ‘They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old…we will remember them’.


“A wreath and crosses were laid at the Royal British Legion field of remembrance plot, just inside the lychgate of the church, for the public to visit.”


The event was organised by fellow CoFEPOW member Christine Beer-Hall.


Also present were Linda Martin, Jean Gillings, Far East PoW expert Frank Clark and Mary Boswell. They were joined by their supportive partners.


Their wreath stated they were keeping alive the memory of their fathers, grandfathers and uncles ‘who were slaves to the Japanese Imperial Army’.


“We must never forget the suffering they endured for three-and-a-half years at such a young age,” the tribute continued.


The relatives they remembered were Driver Stanley Moore, Driver William (Nobby) Hall, Private Arthur Peddie, Sergeant Percy Hagmaier, Gunner Victor Clark, Private Norman Whittaker, Gunner Lawrence Bilham and Claude Humphreys, of the RAF. The men were enrolled all over the country, in different brigades, and would have had no idea their children would be gathered 74 years later honouring their memories.


Mrs Robertson said CoFEPOW was determined to keep endeavouring to have a national remembrance day designated each August 15 on the men’s behalf to ensure it gains equal prominence in the national calendar to VE Day three months earlier.


The government overlooked the Far East campaign in the early war years because it was a failure for the Allies.


“The enemy forces took over 80,000 prisoners on February 2, 1942,” she said.

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