The grim story of one sol­dier’s jour­ney to PoW hell and back

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Nostalgia -

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

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