Tuesday 6 November 2012


It's rapidly approaching 11th November, the time when we remember all those who fought, were injured and died in so many wars.

This year I've been thinking especially about 'heroes', a much devalued word.  If someone who scores a goal, or wins a race, for example, is a hero, then what word can we use for the courageous men and women who fought in all these battles and were unbelievably HEROIC?

As well as remembering those who died, I wanted to dedicate this post to all the brave men and women who performed heroic deeds, but was no-one was there who could record and report on their bravery as worthy of a medal.

This double page spread in my journal is my tribute to my father, one of the unrecognised heroes of World War 2.

My father was a regular in the Royal Navy, and served on several different ships, the last being HMS Prince of Wales, a brand new ship that was commissioned in January 1941, completed in March, and sunk on 10 December 1941, with the loss of 327 men.

The irony is that, like the 'Titanic' and the German battleship 'Bismark', the Prince of Wales was said to be unsinkable, and it was even nicknamed 'HMS Unsinkable'!

The Prince of Wales, along with the Repulse, was sunk by Japanese air attack in the South China Seas.  Churchill had sent the two ships out to the far east to fight the superior Japanese navy without any support by air or any other means.  There is a great deal on the internet about this terrible, and it seems, almost forgotten event, if you should be interested.

My dad survived the sinking, was rescued and picked up and landed back to Singapore - which not long after was captured by the Japanese.

This post is not to tell you of all his adventures or the brave things he did, because he was only one among so many in all the wars we are remembering - just this one thing.  

He was one of the last navy personnel to escape from Singapore at the very last moment, saving a group of civilian women and children, but that ship too was bombed from the air.

They were among a group of islands and all managed to swim ashore.  After a week there they woke up one morning to find Japanese soldiers with guns pointed at them. 

My mother received a telegram to say that her husband was missing.  She was convinced he was not dead, and although she had so little money went out to buy a red coat and scandalised the neighbours by wearing it.

Quite a while later she heard that he was a prisoner in Changi Jail, a Japanese Prisoner of War camp, where he remained in the most terrible conditions until after VJ day, 15th August 1945.  But it was some time before he arrived home.

The photo of my father was taken when he was 29 or 30, I think, and he was 36 when the Prince of Wales went down.

After the war several men who had been in Changi with my father visited our home and told us of the things my father had done, and how good he had been to them in the prison camp.

For all of them, coming home was not a return to the life they, or their families, had led before the war.

So this year perhaps you could spend a little time remembering those who survived their war-time experiences, as well as those who gave their lives.

Writing this has been very emotional for me, so thank you for reading this.

I found the painting of the Prince of Wales on the internet
but lost the name of the artist, and then couldn't find the site again.
So apologies to the artist, and I hope he will forgive me for using it.


  1. What a touching page - your father was a hero indeed!

    My dad only just caught the last year of the second world war (in the RAF), and to be honest I don't think he saw much actual action - but having seen this I think I ought to make a real effort to document some of my dad's wartime memories while he is still here for me to ask him about them ..... thank you for the push ....

  2. what a beautiful tribute to your dad, and what a difficult time it must have been. thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. Thank you for sharing this very moving post, it is very true that for many surviving any war means a return to a very different life back home, and it is important to remember all sacrifices made by servicemen and also their families.

  4. Jez, what a wonderful, warm tribute to your father... i totally understand how writing this had to be emotional, but i loved reading it, and it paints your father as such a beautiful, brave man. Thank you so much for sharing... xox

  5. what an amazing story... and this is a wonderful tribute to your father and what he experienced...xx

  6. What a compelling story Jez, sent chills through my body. So sorry your dad endured such atrocities!!
    This is such a wonderful tribute! He must have been an amazing man...and a hero to be sure!! Thanks for sharing this intimate side of your life!!

    Hugs Giggles

  7. Such an amazing post Jez. Makes you think they should stop labelling things as 'unsinkable' etc as they placed to much into it by not sending them with any support. What fantastic people both your Dad and your Mum sound. A lovely tribute you've paid to them too x x


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