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Thread: Three Years Today our "Lou" was taken away

  1. #31
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    Default Re: Three Years Today our "Lou" was taken away

    Yes I miss Lou too and all our shipmates who have crossed the bar like Alf. Long may they be remembered. I also miss a certain Liverpool member very much, my mate Jim. I am so very glad there is a place like this site where they will be remembered, we were shipmates by virtue of our love of the sea and our loyalty to each other, many of us also sailed together, long may that continue between all of us that are still here and able to talk to each other, members of a time gone now but never to be forgotten.
    When one door closes another one shuts, it must be the wind

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    Default Re: Three Years Today our "Lou" was taken away

    There is something about the comradeship between those who have been to sea that cannot compare with that ashore.
    Maybe the fact we had to rely on each other in tough times, no where else to go for assistance.
    Maybe the fact we had to work together at time sunder difficult circumstances and with people you may not have liked.
    Unlike being ashore where you can knock off and go home when times are tough, we had to stick it out and get the job done.
    We had to work as a team be we engineers, catering or deck. All part of the same team.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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  4. #33
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    Default Re: Three Years Today our "Lou" was taken away

    Don't forget little me Sparks. Rgds Den

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    Default Re: Three Years Today our "Lou" was taken away

    While looking for some information on Far East Prisoners of War I came across the site 'Children of Far Eastern Prisoners of War' on further research and to my pleasant surprise I came across 'A Story of a Merchant Seaman 1942-1945 by Lou Barron. Having looked back through this thread I do not think that this story has been fully narrated. As posting the links to the site is beyond my computer abilities if one of the moderators thinks it is worth reprinting try googling COFEPOW and look for the story under 'Merchant Navy'. Thanks J.W.

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  7. #35
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    Default Re: Three Years Today our "Lou" was taken away

    Hello John
    Yes i do have that on my list and was going to re post that come May again
    Thank you
    Cheers
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website

    R697530

  8. #36
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    Default Re: Three Years Today our "Lou" was taken away

    I will however post it again now ,as i am sure there are lots that will find his account most interesting while distressing as well.

    A Story of a Merchant Seaman 1942-1945 by Lou Barron

    COFEPOWRecentlyLou wrote to Carol Cooper and told her,“ "I have just foundthis site (COFEPOW) while I was trying to find out some informationabout prisoners of war under the Japanese in Singapore of which I wasone”. He wrote that he left Singapore in February 1942 and arrivedback in the UK in the April. Carol then asked how he had become a FarEast POW? He wrote as he remembered the events. Lou’s story followsbelow:Iwas a seaman aboard SS Duchess of Bedford. We arrived and disembarkedin Singapore on the 29th January 1942 where the Indian troops weredisembarked. After, we were told to get the ship cleaned up as wewere taking on board 2,500 women and children. The Japanese bombedmany of the ships in the wharf, lucky for us we did not get hit, butwe received a few shocks.Asthe passengers started to embark we tried to help them, it was verysorrowful for them as they were leaving their husbands and fathersbehind and for some, it was the last they would see them. Things werein a bit of a flap for a while, but we got away OK.Onthe 2nd of February 1942 we sailed from Singapore to Java. The Japsdropped a few bombs but again we were lucky. Little did I think atthat time, that I would soon be back in Singapore under verydifferent circumstances.Wearrived at Java safely, picking up some other people, and after a dayor so we set off for Colombo. We felt sorry for those women andchildren who did not have cabins and having to sleep in the troopsections. It was very hot and sticky and there was very littleprivacy so we, the crew, tried to make things as easy as possible andwould take drinks and sweets for them. They would go on deck wheneverit was possible and we got to know some of them fairly well.Iremember a family of Mrs Hogg and her daughters and I think herhusband was a Sergeant in the Manchester Regiment. We played gamesand found other ways to help because it was no fun for them. Wearrived at Colombo OK and had a few days there. I think they wentashore for a while until we set sail for Durban, South Africa. Somepeople stayed behind in Durban which made things a bit easy for therest of the women and children. After we left Durban I think wecalled into Cape Town, but were only there for a short while. We thenleft Cape Town for the UK. We still had to go through the danger areaof the voyage so we increased speed and had lookouts everywherebecause it was here the German submarines were operating. We stilltried to keep our passengers entertained.Theweather became cooler as we sailed further north and the seas got alittle bit rougher as we neared the UK and we sailed into the Merseyabout the middle of April. I was not to know I would be going back toSingapore later that year.Afterwe arrived in Liverpool I had shore leave and I teamed up with my oldschoolmate, who was also a very young seaman. We always said that wewould like to sail on the same ship together so we both got a job ona ship called the Gloucester Castle as ordinary seamen. It was a veryold ship and had seen service in the First World War. We sailed fromBirkenhead on the 21st of June 1942, met a convoy of about 35 ships,just north of Belfast and set off for South Africa.Just,as we were off to Freetown, Africa, the convoy broke up and we sailedon alone. It was nice warm weather but little did we know what layahead. On the 15th July on a pitch black night we were attacked by aGerman Raider who savagely set the ship on fire, using machine guns,torpedoes and big guns. It was a massacre. Out of 152 people only 51survived. We were picked up by the Germans, they had guns and linedus up on deck and asked if anybody was wounded. I had a wound in myright hand and the next thing they put a blindfold on me and took meaway. Boy was I scared. They took me to their hospital, took off theblindfold and one of the Jerry’s gave me a cigarette and a mug ofsoup. Then a guy came and looked at my hand, it was very puffed upbut he said I would be OK then he stuck a needle in my arm that wasall I can remember.Imust say we were not treated too bad by the Germans. The raider sankanother three ships whilst we were aboard. It was a bit nerve rackinghearing the guns go off and they picked up more survivors. I think wewere aboard the raider for about two weeks, until we were transferredto their supply ship, a tanker. It was to be a big change from theraider and it was not very pleasant as they stuck us down the bottomof the hold. I think we numbered about 260. They gave us a mattress,and a not very clean blanket. The food was not very good and when wetried to sleep, the rats would run all over us. I could say a lotmore about our time on that ship but that is another story. We wereaboard that ship for about 8 weeks and told us they were taking us toSingapore.Ihad lost my school mate when he went down with the ship, but onlybeing a young guy, a couple of older guys looked after me. When welanded in Singapore the Japs would only take 50 of us. Together withthe couple of older guys, I was picked to go. We said goodbye to theother guys who was going to Japan, then the Japs loaded us into acouple of trucks and off we went.Theytook us to ‘Seletar’, the ex-Naval base and did not trouble us atall but that was to change. We got off the trucks and they lined usup. A Jap officer got onto a stage and in very good English gave us atalk that we were to be under the Japanese Navy and if we did notobey them we would be punished. And if we tried to escape we would beexecuted! They then put us aboard an ex Chinese river boat called the‘Tun Wo’ and six Japanese sailors. The idea was for us to getthis ship into working order. They did not seem too bad to startwith, but all we had to eat was one small bag of rice full of weevilsand a bag of split peas. They said we could catch fish. They gave usa couple of fishing lines but there are not many fish in the JohorStraits. They used to line us up on the top deck for ‘Tenko’ rolecall as they hoisted up the Japanese flag and we had to bow down toit. One of the Japanese could speak a bit of English so we asked himif we could have more to eat. The next day at Tenko he said we hadinsulted the Japanese by asking for more food and we had to bepunished. They lined us up and one of the Japs had a rope, we had tostep forward with our hands raised and he then gave each of us threesmacks across the rump. That’s when we knew what they could belike.Wewere to spend a few months on this ship, but we did get some morerice - how I hate that stuff; it was third grade rice and we also gota few veggies. We got to meet a lot of other POWs, some from‘Repulse’ and some from ‘The Prince of Wales’. We used totake turns each rowing the Japs ashore. One of the Japs was a bitolder than the others, his name was Nonaka, I think that’s how itwas spelt, but he was not too bad and he used to give me a cigarette.Sometimes he wanted me to teach him how to speak English, so I taughthim some words - that was to save me getting a few hidings. I taughthim a lot of swear words but it was to be a short lesson as theyshifted us to a place called ‘Loyang’, it was to be a betterliving place but it did not get us away from the Japs.Loyangwas an ex Royal Navy base and there was a jetty that the Japs usedfor their different jobs for the Japanese Navy and they wanted us todo some work helping them. We refused. They said no work, no food, sowe worked on a go slow. There were a number of barracks and we werein one of them and with us we had a larger number of POWs. We had aguy who had been a rubber plantation manager who could speak Japanesepretty good. The other barracks was full of Jap sailors, they used togive us a bit of a hard time when they came back from Singaporedrunk, one of their tricks was to line us up into two lines facingone another and we had to hit the one in front of you, if theythought you were not hitting enough they would come along and hityou.Loyangwas not too bad, as we could get showers and there was a bit of wildfood around. There was a big swamp not far away and one day we chaseda big lizard down the monsoon drain, they are pretty big drains andwe caught it. One of the guys said let’s eat it, it was just likechicken. We also had snails on the menu and other things. Some of thegrass was OK. The only thing was the Japs got a great delight inmaking us do things in front of the native people. It was to be ourhome until about October 1944 then they shifted us to ‘Changi’Jail and that was when things got worse.Wewere put into Block ‘C’ Floor 3, it was mostly Merchant Seamen,Royal Navy and a few Air Force guys in there. We were six in a cell,the place was very crowded, the hygiene was nil. The rice was cutdown but when we went out on working parties we tried as much aspossible to get some form of food and black market was all on the go,but if you got caught it was not very nice. We did manage to get somethings with the help of the local people. They were very good to usand they suffered very badly, the Japs gave them a terrible time. Idid not think the Japs could be so cruel, but I would like to saythat there were a lot more POWs worse off than us.Wesaw the guys that came back from the railway and they lookedterrible. The Japs had started to build an Airstrip, where the modernairport is now. In those days it was mostly swamp country, we had towork 12 hours a day, the beatings increased and things did not lookso good. Malnutrition was starting to take effect and most of us hadsome illness, beri- beri, dengue fever, malaria, dysentery plus a lotof skin complaints. We used to wear what the Japs called a‘fundoshit’ a linen ‘G’ string but it was good in the veryhot and sticky weather. The death rate was getting higher all thetime and it was touch and go for some of the POWs.Wewere getting short on rice and the Japs were getting even nastier, wehad to salute the Jap guards, but tried to keep our spirits up bysinging as we marched out to the strip. Matters were getting veryserious, American bombers started to come over and we knew thatthings were turning against the Japs. We knew there were secretradios in the jail but we heard so many rumours we called it ‘bore-hole news’ after the toilets that were dug in the yard of the jail.Webadly needed some medical supplies to help the lack of hygiene as wehad body lice and other things wrong that I cannot mention. We hadnick names for most of the Japs like ‘the ice cream man’, ‘thebamboo man’, ‘the trumpet player’ and a lot more. The Japs musthave known that the British were going to invade Malaya and Singaporethey then had us digging tunnels and trenches getting ready for theinvasion. On one of the working party that I was on, there were sixof us digging a tunnel so we would go as slow as possible, but theJaps would scream out ‘ speedo speedo’, then they would take overto show us how fast we should go. It was the only time we could havea rest but one time it did not go to our way, the head Jap took to uswith his bamboo stick and laid into us then the other Japs to alsohave a go. This would have been about a week before the Americansdropped the atom bomb. But we did not know it then, it was to be abit later on before we learnt about it.Weknew things were getting pretty hot for the Japs on the last workingparty, although we did not know it was to be the last one. Aboutmidday the guards told us we were to go back to the jail but it stilldid not come to our minds that the war was over. A couple of daysafter, planes flew over and dropped leaflets telling us to stay wherewe were as help was on the way. Then next the British droppedparatroopers not far from the jail. This was to be our happy day.Then they dropped medical teams. All the Japs had disappeared, thenin the next few days things got really busy as more of our peoplestarted to arrive. Lorries were sent to the jail from Navy WarshipHMS Sussex, and they picked a few of us up and told us they weretaking us to their ship. I was lucky to get in that lot, so was oneof the older guys, Tommy Davies, who had lost some of his eye sight.Themedical people gave us a going over, they had rigged up showers andsprayed us with some stuff, I don’t know what it was. Then theyweighed us I was just over 6 stone. They then graded us intodifferent lots and six of us merchant seamen were to be on the firstship home. This was about two weeks after the big bomb.Whenwe arrived at the wharf, HMS Sussex was there. The sailors took usaboard the ‘SS Monawai’’ and they could not do enough for us.They took our arms and took us down to the mess deck. They said theywere going to give us a good feed but the first thing I saw was a bigloaf of bread and a tin of plum jam. I said to Tommy about it and hereplied let’s get into it. It was to be the first bread we had inover 3 years, boy was it good. Then the sailors brought in eggs andchips, but our stomachs couldn’t take it and it was to be awhilebefore we could eat a big meal. The Navy guys gave us shorts andshirts and also a lot of other things we also had a beer. It was tobe the best voyage I have ever taken, they really looked after us andit took 29 days to reach the UK.Aswe sailed up the river Mersey and saw the 'Liver Birds', tears cometo our eyes. There where crowds of people and flags flying, bandsplaying. I was dying to get home as we had been posted as 'dead'. Mymother told me this when I got home. The Red Cross people took mehome and I can still remember the street with a banner saying“Welcome Home Lou”. There was not a soul in sight as I got out ofthe car but the next thing I was mobbed then my father came out, thenmy mother, all of us were crying and that was it, I was home!N.B.Iwent back to sea after I had been home after the war and sailed on acouple of ships. I was very restless and I could not settle down. In1947 a ship I was on came to New Zealand and I loved it, but I stillfelt I was not happy. Then after a while I met this girl and that gotto me. We have been married 63 years and blessed with a lovingfamily. Since I have been retired my wife and I have done a lottravelling having visited the UK five times as we have a daughter wholives there, but I still love New Zealand.
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website

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  9. #37
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    Default Re: Three Years Today our "Lou" was taken away

    Sadly missed. He was a good one
    Ron The Batcave

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