The grim story of one soldier’s journey to PoW hell and back
ON FEBRUARY 4 1945, a number of Lancashire men were among a group of 73 men rescued from a Japanese prisoner of war camp on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, where the capital, Manila, is situated.
Their long journey home from captivity took them by boat and then plane to San Francisco, where they were given a hero’s welcome.
From there the journey home continued by train across the US to New York, where they boarded a boat back home, arriving in Liverpool on March 31.
From Liverpool they were taken straight to an Army camp in Buckinghamshire to be medically assessed, paid and given new uniforms and equipment. They were then given 42 days’ leave. Among the group was 26 year old LCpl Frank Faulkner, Royal Corps of Signals, of Cobbs Brow, Lathom.
Frank, born on September 12 1918, had attended Ormskirk Grammar School and had been a sorting clerk and telegraphist at Ormskirk Main post office from 1936 until signing up.
He spoke to a British journalist about his experience.
His work in civilian life made him ideal for the Royal Corps of Signals and his job would have been to set up communications in the jungles of Burma.
Frank was captured in Singapore in 1942 and set to work on the Japanese railway in Thailand. He explained how the work was relentless and the conditions almost unbearable.
Frank, along with 18,000 other PoWs was made to sign a form to say he would not try to escape.
He recalled how the Japanese guards would ask to be taught how to play bridge, as card games were the only kind of relaxation from the workload for the prisoners.
He remained there until June 7 1944, when all able-bodied men were sent to Japan by ship.
After a horrific journey with no fresh water and very little food, with 13 men held in a tiny, cramped 12ft x 6ft cabin, he finally arrived in Manila Bay where the ship stayed at anchor for six weeks.
Many men died from dysentery, beri beri or malaria, Frank was one of 50 sick men put ashore into a hospital converted from an old prison and staffed by American doctors who had plenty of medical kit but no food. Thirteen men died of starvation. The Japanese ship, Enoura Maru, at anchor in Manila Bay that Frank had left was sunk by American planes just a few days after he was sent to the hospital and many more PoWs were killed instantly or drowned.
Incredibly it is quite likely that Frank survived the sinking of the death ship Oryoku Maru in December 1944, being transferred to the Enoura Maru with 1,000 other prisoners.
The Enoura Maru was attacked by bomber planes from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier on January 9 1945, the same day that the US Army under General MacArthur’s forces invaded Luzon.
Frank’s father, Thomas, had bought their cottage at Cobbs Brow in the Lathom Park Estate Sale of 1924 for £80.
Frank returned home in early summer 1945 after having heard nothing from home as no Red Cross parcels or post arrived at the camps for anyone during his time there.
He married Joyce in 1951 at Ormskirk and died in 1994, aged 75.
Luzon PoW camp, above; the Oryoku Maru ‘hell ship’ which took Frank from Singapore to Japan, left; PoWs queue for rations in the forced labour camps working on the ThaiBurma railway in 1943, below