Ex-Far East prisoners of war set for emotional reunion

LEST WE FORGET ... organiser Eileen Bacon with veterans at a previous Far East Prisoners of War reunion.
LEST WE FORGET ... organiser Eileen Bacon with veterans at a previous Far East Prisoners of War reunion.

FORMER soldiers who suffered the horrors of Japanese prisoner of war camps will take part in an emotional reunion in South Tyneside.

Next month will see the sixth reunion of the group Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOW) in the borough, which will include a memorial service at Carr Ellison Park, Hebburn.

From 1942, hundreds of Allied PoWs were sent to Taiwan, where they were forced to work for the Japanese war effort.

Many endured terrible conditions while toiling in copper mines, digging ore in blistering heat, while often close to starvation.

In 2012, the FEPOW reunion in South Tyneside coincided with the fall of Singapore and the start of the soldiers’ incarceration by the Japanese.

This year’s reunion, which will take place on the weekend of September 12, 13 and 14, has again been organised by Eileen Bacon, of Johnston Avenue, Hebburn, who came up with the idea of the local reunion after attending a similar event in Taiwan more than six years ago.

She said: “The men will be staying at the Sea Hotel in South Shields with family of past, but not forgotten members of FEPOW.

“There will be a sightseeing day around the local area and Sunday, September 14, will bring us all together at Carr Ellison Park war memorial in Hebburn for a service of remembrance, starting at 11am.

“Coun Richard Porthouse, the Deputy Mayor of South Tyneside, will give a short speech of welcome to South Tyneside.”

After the service, members of FEPOW will be welcomed at Hebburn Legion Social Club, in Mountbatten Avenue, where they will chat with members of the TS Kelly band and the Royal British Legion.

Mrs Bacon added: “Sadly, through ill health, we don’t have the usual number of FEPOWs, but others still wish they could come, because they are all made so welcome by the people of South Tyneside.”

Harry Brant, of Hebburn, who died several years ago, was the last remaining Taiwan PoW veteran from this area, and next month’s ex-soldiers will be drawn from different parts of the country.

Twitter @terrykelly16