Silence in England – POWs 7

After the Fall of Singapore in February 1942, Phyllis and the other wives and mothers of 27 Line Section wait anxiously to hear what has happened to their men. The silence is absolute. No one in authority can tell them anything, The men of 27 Line Section could be dead, evacuated or prisoners of war. Phyllis has addresses for many of the wives and mothers. She sends out a circular and several write to thank her for: “…your kind letter which has given me new heart at a time when I have nearly made myself ill with anxiety.”

Phyllis starts writing to Barry: “Dear Love, I haven’t written a letter for a fortnight hoping each day may bring me good news  from you…”

Nine months later she is still writing and waiting. So are almost all the other relatives, though there is now a presumption, unless they died in the battle for Singapore, they are now prisoners of the Japanese. The War Office finally thrash out an agreement with Japan to exchange information and send post using the Swiss Red Cross and a complex route across Russia. Relatives can now write – though it is into the blue and they still have no idea where the men are. For the Japanese, overwhelmed by the numbers of prisoners they have captured, the gathering and release of names is very low priority.

Finally, on the 12 December 1942, Phyllis hears that Barry is a prisoner. She writes :

My own dear husband, At last that blessed news has come to me – the assurance that you are a prisoner of war. I am awaiting the letter from the war office now with further details. The relief has left me a little lightheaded, I think. Dear darling, I fear my letters have been dreadful lately – but it was like holding a telephone conversation with a deaf & dumb person. Things have become real again now, & worth while.

Phyllis is lucky and she knows it, because she keeps in touch with the other wives and mothers. Some have to wait several more months for that news. Others hear nothing at all for another two and a half years.

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