Writing to a Ghost – POWs 16

While Barry is slowly recovering his strength in the big base camp at Chungkai, Phyllis has managed to move out of her parents house. Like so many other relatives, she struggled to write again and again with absolutely nothing coming back. It was, as someone said, like writing to a ghost – which sadly many of them were.

In November 1943 Phyllis wrote:

DEAR DARLING I HAVE NOT WRITTEN FOR SOME TIME, BECAUSE THERE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN SO MUCH DOUBT ABOUT WHETHER YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE THE LETTERS AND THE MUST BE TYPED [IN CAPITALS] NOW. I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO BORROW THIS TYPEWRITER FOR A SHORT WHILE THIS MORNING. ROBIN AND I MOVED UP HERE AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER AND ARE NOW REALLY GETTING SETTLED IN. I HAVE A VERY NICE SITTING ROOM OF MY OWN. … ROBIN HAS BEEN RATHER SEEDY SINCE WE CAME HERE … BUT IS NOW PICKING UP AGAIN.

Robin

Robin

HE IS, NEEDLESS TO SAY, A CONTINUAL SOURCE OF DELIGHT TO ME. HE IS DEVELOPING IN SOME WAYS VERY LIKE YOU, AND IS REALLY AN INTELLIGENT COMPANION TO GO ROUND WITH NOW, THOUGH THE CLARITY OF HIS VOICE IS MATCHED BY THE DIRECTNESS OF HIS QUESTIONS AND OFTEN EXERCISES ALL MY TACT AND PATIENCE WHEN IN COMPANY, BECAUSE HE NEVER MISSES A POINT OR ALLOWS ME TO EVADE A DIRECT ANSWER. … HE IS ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT WHEN DADDY COMES HOME. … AND WHEN HE COMES HOME AND WE ALL HAVE A …HOME, AND A LITTLE BABY SISTER (PLEASE I WOULD LIKE A LITTLE BABY SISTER) LIFE WILL BE PERFECT.

HOW AM I? QUITE WELL, VERY BUSY, AND GLAD TO BE SO. TRYING TO POSSESS MY SOUL IN PATIENCE, NOT TO THINK WHAT LIFE MAY BE LIKE FOR YOU NOW, AND TO CONCENTRATE ON DOING ALL I CAN FOR YOU NOW BY WHAT I CAN DO FOR YOUR SON. ALSO TO SAVE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE TOWARDS OUR FUTURE, … TO ONE IDEA I HANG ON FIRMLY, NAMELY THAT YOU WILL NOT BE WASTING YOUR TIME MORE THAN CAN BE HELPED, AND WILL BE LEARNING ALL THAT YOU CAN FIND ANYBODY TO TEACH YOU. ALSO, IF I KNOW ANYTHING OF YOU, YOU WILL BE DOING A LOT OF HELPING OTHER PEOPLE, TOO. SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE SAID TO ME THAT IF ANYBODY COULD ‘TAKE IT’ YOU CERTAINLY COULD. AND THANK GOD I KNOW THEY ARE RIGHT, MY DARLING. NEVER FORGET THAT I LOVE YOU, WILL YOU? EVER YOUR OWN, Phyllis

Sadly, Phyllis has missed notices in the post office saying that correspondence to Far East POWs has been limited by the Japanese to 25 words. Her letter is returned by the  censor.

Her next communications look like this.

permitted Far East POW letters

permitted Far East POW letters

11 thoughts on “Writing to a Ghost – POWs 16

  1. When I read these posts about your father, I can’t stop thinking of those drama series produced in England that my wife watches and that people say how good they are.

    • Remember the scene on the docks with the soldiers dancing… That would be the first scene of the first episode. Then a flashback to Dunkerque where I believe your father was.

      • Some of the men in 27 Line section were at Dunkirk, but not my father. He should have been in France, but a young Canadian driving on the wrong side of the road got him first, so he was recovering from head wounds.

        Other people who have read the whole text have also suggested a TV version. I have been giving this some more serious thought since your comments. As you will see in future posts, there are several more suitable events on which to base episodes. I will investigate further.

      • Then we have our first seen,,, Father at hospital,,, Flashback accident,,, Dunkirk (Dunkerque in French), full of Stukas in the skies with the sirens… then music and the scene of the dock.

      • That would be fine for the docu-drama, but in real life he was not yet in the same unit as the men at Dunkirk and when the retreat occurred, he was already recovered and at desk work prior to being redeployed. I think you are right though, the story should be a drama based on a true story.

    • Hi Charlotte, post to Prisoners of War was sent free, handled by the War Office and the Postmaster General. It was restricted because everything had to be censored, so relatives were asked to be brief and only one or two people to write per prisoner. At the Japanese end, they had enormous logistic problems and much of the post piled up and was not handed out – especially to POWs in the jungle. The really tricky thing was to find a route through neutral territory for the post to travel. Such letters as Barry and other men received went via Siberia! It is not surprising they took more than a year to get through.

    • I am a perpetual student, so research feels like playtime to me. Of course, some of the subject matter has been very dark, but there are amazing light moments as well. My respect for my parents and their contemporaries has grown with each day’s work.

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