Tears as Far East veteran’s speech touches hearts in Great Yarmouth
- Credit: Nick Butcher
For many years they were known as the “Forgotten Army”. But the Far East Prisoner of War Association (FEPOW) in Great Yarmouth were not forgotten on Sunday, with people gathered at the Memorial Clock on Marine Parade to pay their respects to those who, as a result of their captivity in the Far East, gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Several people were moved to tears as Eddie Hunn, one of the last surviving FEPOWs, gave a poignant speech.
Mr Hunn, from Yarmouth, joined the Territorial Army in 1939 and was sent to fight the Japanese in the Pacific, where he was captured.
“We were used as slave labour to build a level trackway in Singapore for the railway to run on,” said Mr Hunn, 95. “We worked from dawn until dusk each day, with only a meagre ration of rice, we were always starving.
“Many men died of exhaustion, and we had no sun protection in temperatures which would reach 49 degrees, we always had red and blistered skin. We had no sunglasses to shield our eyes, no hats to cover our heads and no shoes. We wore only a small, black loincloth, which hardly covered anything.
“As we worked the guards were very brutal and would beat us with sticks. If one guard starting beating they would all join in,” he said. “They would shout ‘speedo’ but we would work as slowly as possible. I was beaten many times. I would roll myself into a ball to prevent internal injuries.”
Mr Hunn was one of an estimated 60,000 prisoners of war who worked on the 258-mile Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, which was constructed between Ban Pong, Thailand, and Thanbyuzayat, Burma - running through Singapore - so that Japan could support its forces in the Second World War Burma campaign.
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One in four men died constructing the Death Railway Mr Hunn said, if not from exhaustion then from illness.
Mr Hunn said it was heartwarming to see how many people had gone to the FEPOW service, which was held after the civic service in St George’s Park.
“I appreciate you all coming, if my comrades were here they would not believe we’d have such a service today,” he said.
“It’s lovely to see you all here but we must remember them every day, not just in November,” he added.
The service was led by FEPOW chaplain Pauline Simpson, whose father was a FEPOW, and she added: “It just seems to increase year on year, and this memorial clock is so special. It’s the only one of its kind.
“This year is particularly special because of the 70th anniversary of VJ Day, it’s great the nation is finally recognising not only that day alongside VE Day but also the FEPOWs, they are no longer the ‘Forgotten Army’.”
During the service wreaths were laid by many, including the Mayor Cllr Shirley Weymouth, borough council leader Cllr Graham Plant, High Steward of Great Yarmouth Henry Cator, and Mr Hunn
“It’s a very important thing that we remember the FEPOWS,” Paul Williams, chairman of the Great Yarmouth Royal British Legion said. “I’ve said in the past how key it is, especially when the world is beginning to forget with all the conflicts going on today.”