THE son of a Prisoner of War held by Japan during the Second World War is encouraging people to find ways to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day during the Covid pandemic.

Eric Ward’s father, Russell Ward, was a Prisoner of War (POW) in Taiwan. The Lance Bombardier in the Royal Artillery of the 5th Field Regiment was taken prisoner and confined in Changi Jail, along with thousands of others, when Singapore fell in 1942.

Eric, 79, who is married to Mair, said: "During October 1942 hundreds of POWs, my father among them, began a three week horrifying voyage to Taiwan, where he was taken to Camp Taihoku and later to Kinkaseki Camp, the infamous copper mine camp where the Prisoners of War were semi starved and brutally beaten with hammers if they did not mine the required quota of copper every day.

“On arrival at the camp, my father saw a young POW of about 20 years of age. On his hat he had written the words ‘Sunny Rhyl’ and my father discovered Eifion Roberts was a native of Rhuddlan. Two young men from a small Welsh village meeting on the other side of the world in the hell that was Kinkaseki.

Rhyl Journal:

Vale of Clwyd MP Dr James Davies with Eric Ward of Rhuddlan, and his brother Russell Ward. Their father, also called Russell, was a Prisoner of War in Japan during World War II.

“They remained lifelong friends.”

Eric, of Rhuddlan, said that although VE Day is quite rightly commemorated for the ‘wonderful day it was’ and in remembrance of the many thousands who died and suffered to achieve it, he feels sad that VJ Day is not as widely remembered.

“My father didn’t return home until the beginning of 1946, as he had to go to Manila in the Philippines, and then to Australia to recuperate. I was five at the time and it was the first time I met him,” Eric added.

“He’d always been a very fit man prior to his time in Taiwan, He was an amateur boxer for the army and played all types of sport. But when he left Taiwan he was about six stone and suffered a chronic chest condition for the rest of his life.”

Eric has teamed up with Dr James Davies, Vale of Clwyd MP, in the hope of encouraging more residents to hold commemoration events to in their gardens on the 75th anniversary on August 15; VJ Day marks the day on which Imperial Japan surrendered in World War II, which in effect, brought the war to an end.

Rhyl Journal:

Eric Ward’s father Russell Ward of Rhuddlan who was a Prisoner of War in Taiwan.

Eric, who has two sons Russell and Martin who are ex military, a third son called Gareth, a guitar tutor, and two grandsons who are in the military, had intended to go to London at St Martin in the Fields to mark the anniversary. This has been cancelled due to Covid.

He said: “My father didn’t talk a lot about his experience as a Prisoner of War and I’ve always regretted that I didn’t ask enough questions.

“My wife and myself went to Taiwan six years ago in 2014 and were taken around the camps. It was an incredibly emotional trip. We happened to be there on Remembrance Sunday and the ceremonies they had were incredible. We met a whole group of other people whose family members had been Prisoners of War like my father and now we meet up regularly.

“My father sadly died in 1992 and Eifion in 2012. It is vitally important that we all mark VJ Day. The act of remembrance is for the thousands who suffered and who have often been forgotten.

"The present Coronavirus situation does make family gatherings difficult but we were hoping to gather all the family together on August 15 to mark the day. We will have to take it one day at a time for now and see how advice on distancing between families develops.

"It is important we remember not only our relatives but all ex FEPOWs. Many suffered badly physically and mentally for the rest of their lives. Post traumatic stress syndrome was not a recognised condition then and many suffered in silence.

"Dr James Davies and his staff have shown a keen interest since my contact with them. I am grateful for that."

Rhyl Journal:

Eifion Roberts of Rhuddlan who was a POW alongside Russell Ward

Dr Davies aid: "It was a real privilege to meet Eric and I thank him for sharing his story. It must have been very difficult for him to visit Taiwan and to learn more about the horrific suffering that his father and thousands of other POWs were forced to ensure.

“Sadly many events to mark VJ Day have had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all pay tribute to the tens of thousands of service personnel from across the UK and the Commonwealth who fought and died in the war against Japan, including all those who were held Prisoners of War by the Japanese.

“I therefore urge people to replicate the fantastic events they held at home with friends and family for VE day, to ensure that the 75th anniversary of VJ Day is commemorated in the way in which it deserves to be.”