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Help us find £5,000 for POW plaque
A VETERAN of Japan’s brutal World War II prison camps has welcomed moves to commemorate the survivors’ return to Southampton.
A memorial is planned the city to mark the return of thousands of prisoners of war to the docks there – a moment many thought they would never live to see.
But £5,000 needs to be raised to pay for the granite plaque which will stand in the city’s Town Quay Park.
The first ship home, the SS Corfu, docked in Southampton on October 7, 1945, with 1,500 prisoners of war (POWs) on board. Between then and December 11, more than 17,000 servicemen and civilians – including children – disembarked there.
Bob Hucklesby, 92, from Parkstone, returned to Southampton on the Princess Giovanna, which landed on November 19, 1945.
He said: “I shall never forget it. There on the quayside was a band to welcome us home and one tune I particularly remember was the Cole Porter hit, Don’t Fence Me In.
“The people of Southampton could never know what that welcome meant. We had all been away at least four years, some as long as seven.
“I am pleased that finally this piece of World War Two history, relating to the war in the Far East, is to be recorded in Southampton. Unfortunately, almost a quarter of those taken prisoner did not return.”
The Researching Far East POW History Group has already succeeded in getting a repatriation memorial in Liverpool were thousands more docked, and is determined to do the same in Southampton.
Meg Parkes, chairman of the group, said: “The memorial will highlight the pivotal role that Southampton played in the lives of thousands of Far East POW and internees who returned from Far East captivity to the port.
“We need to raise around £5,000 and if the funds come in quickly we shall be able to unveil the memorial in October in the company of a few of the surviving Far East POW and internees.”
More than 50,000 British servicemen were captured by the Japanese in South East Asia and the Far East between December 25, 1941 and the end of March 1942.
An estimated one in four of them died in captivity mainly due to gross neglect by their captors.
Many worked as slave labourers, living in constant fear.
Approximately 37,500 survived the experience and, together with several thousand civilians, returned home to Britain.