Filed under: Heroes Return | Tags: Bill Frankland, Black Friday, Cenotaph, Death Railway, Far East, funding, Heroes Return, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Okinawa, Pearl Harbour, Peter Ainsworth, Rangoon, Remembrance Day, Singapore, Sir Alexander Fleming, Thai-Burma
World War II veterans will be able to apply for funding for a second commemorative trip under the Heroes Return 2 programme, the Big Lottery Fund announced today.
Over £25 million has been awarded since 2004 to more than 52,000 Second World War veterans, widows, spouses and carers across the country for journeys in the UK, France, Germany, the Middle East, Far East and beyond. From today, veterans will be able to apply for funding to go a second time.
Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund UK Chair, said: “It is for me a very real honour and pleasure to announce that our Second World War veterans who have already been on a Heroes Return commemorative visit can now be supported to make another journey to a place where they fought or served. They let us know how important these visits are to them – whether it be a trip to London’s Cenotaph on Remembrance Day, a visit to the beaches of Normandy, or journeys to war cemeteries in the Far East. The experiences they revisit remind us that we must never take for granted the peace this generation secured for all of us and the debt we owe for the freedoms we enjoy and value today.”
London Second World War veteran Bill Frankland, a renowned allergist and registrar to Sir Alexander Fleming in the development of penicillin was studying medicine at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School when war broke out. Bill accepted a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps and in late 1941 with the rank of Captain he joined a team of 30 doctors as they embarked on a two-month long voyage to Singapore.
Bill, who is approaching his 101st birthday in March recalls: “We were on our way to form a new general hospital in Johor Bahru. But when we arrived it was decided that there would be no new hospital and we would be split into two groups.
“I spun a coin and went to Tanglin Military Hospital and my friend went to Alexandra Military Hospital. It was three days before Pearl Harbour.”
Two months later on Friday 13th February 1942, known as Black Friday, allied forces were in full retreat as the Japanese seized most of the reservoirs leaving the city with only seven days water supply.
Caught under constant heavy mortar fire Bill transferred his patients from Tanglin to a makeshift hospital in the Fullerton Theatre in the centre of Singapore.
When the Japanese invaded Singapore Bill’s friend and colleague was murdered along with nursing staff and patients, one in the middle of surgery, as the marauding soldiers, armed with bayonets, and ignoring a white flag of truce stormed the Alexandra Hospital on a killing spree.
Bill recalls: “The Japanese had no plans on how they would deal with prisoners. We were sent to Changi. It was an 18 mile march, but I went by lorry with my patients. There was a lot of dysentery and after six months we were all starving. I was looking after one of the dysentery wards and saw little of the Japanese. Our guards were mostly Koreans and later Indians.”
But soon the PoWs were being sent to work on the notorious Thai-Burma death railway. Bill was transferred to a working camp, formerly a British Artillery barracks on Blakang Mati Island, known then as Hell Island, now Sentosa.
He remembers: “I never saw the sea, even on the island. In the camp there were 75 per cent Australians and men from the British 18th Division. In my working group I knew every man personally. We lived off meagre rations of rice and everyone suffered from gross starvation. All we could think of was food. When we could we ate rats, mice and dogs.”
Apart from chronic dysentery other tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and starvation beriberi were rife amongst the prisoners. However, even this didn’t save them from the relentless forced labour instigated by their captors.
Bill recalls: “The Japanese kept us all busy. If my sick parade got too large a Japanese private, non medical would take my sick parade and put them to work if they were strong enough to stand.
“If the men’s behaviour was bad the Japanese would bash the officers. They would line us up and just punch us in the face.
“The best bashing I ever had was when I was knocked unconscious. I didn’t feel much but when I got up I realised I had lost a tooth.
“Once a soldier came up to me and said he was going to kill me and he tried but I survived it. I think at the time it may have been in revenge for some allied victory abroad.”
Those who attempted to get away ran a hazardous course with the Japanese paying local people 100 dollars to give up escapees.
He said: “I looked after a marvellous man who had tried to escape. He had ulcerated legs, dysentery, malaria and starvation beriberi. After two months he was getting better and I was about to return him to his unit when a police officer from the much feared KEMPI Military Police came round with an armoured guard of Sikhs.
“They ordered him to dig his own grave but he was much too weak to do it so the Sikhs had to dig the grave. They were then ordered to shoot him but only one hit him so the police officer finished him off with a pistol.”
In May 1945, Australian troops landed in Borneo and British, American and Chinese forces defeated the Japanese in Burma, while American forces also moved towards Japan, capturing the islands of Iwo Jima and finally Okinawa.
Bill recalls: “Each corner of the prison parade ground was covered by machine gun posts. There was a Japanese order that if the Americans set foot in Japan all PoWs were to be killed. This would include 120,000 in all.”
“When the atom bomb was dropped we thought the war was finished but the local Japanese command said it wasn’t and fired on the VJ planes coming over Singapore. Five or six days after VJ day we asked to see a Japanese officer. It was a very risky thing to ask anything from a Japanese officer but we wanted to be released.”
The next day they were allowed to leave Blakang Mati and went back to Singapore Island. It would be Bill’s first taste of freedom for three and a half years. Bill remembers: “I was flown from Singapore to Rangoon 12 days after VJ day. There was this marvellous Red Cross woman at the airport who gave me sandwiches. It was the first time I’d had bread in over three years.
“Shortly after I was examined by a doctor who pressed my stomach and said I had an enlarged spleen. But I said ‘no ‘it’s bread!’ But he still had me admitted to hospital.”
Arriving back in England in November he recalls: “The first thing I was asked was whether I wanted to see a psychiatrist. I said ‘no, I want to see my wife’.”
Less than two months later Bill was back at work at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. A renowned allergist, whose achievements include the popularisation of the pollen count as a vital piece of weather-related information and the prediction of increased levels of allergy to penicillin, Bill is also a key expert witness in matters of allergy.
Recently making a Heroes Return 2 trip to Singapore with his daughter, he said: “I don’t think I would have gone without the grant. I went up to the Kranji Memorial to pay my respects to those who lost their lives. It was very quiet in November and I was all on my own. It was quite emotional.”
For more information about Heroes Return, call the advice line on 0845 00 00 121 or visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn
Filed under: Army, Heroes Return | Tags: BIG, Big Lottery Fund, funding, Heroes Return 2, veterans
The Big Lottery Fund is committing over £1 million in extra good cause funding in the year ahead for the country’s WWII veterans so they can make battlefront commemorative journeys to the places they saw action.
The additional funding comes on the day BIG named the 50,000th individual to benefit from the Heroes Return grant scheme - 91-year old Gordon Mellor, a former RAF bomber command navigator.
Gordon Mellor is awarded a grant to fund the visit he made to pay his respects to those of the fabled Comete resistance group who helped him escape across Nazi-occupied Belgium and France and over the Pyrenees into Spain.
Serving with Bomber Command 103 Squadron, Gordon aged 22 was shot down in November 1942 while his Halifax bomber was returning from a raid over Germany.
He recalls: “Returning from a short night raid over Aachen we were chased by a Messerschmitt 109. I managed to bail out and crashed into a tree. The Flight engineer came out behind me but his parachute failed and he hit a roof on the side of a house and was killed. I saw the plane burning in a field about 2km away. I managed to get out of the tree, stuffing my parachute between the branches. As I stood in the darkness looking at the flames I had the loneliest feeling of all my life. I decided I had to get away as quick as I could so started heading South West across the blackness toward Spain.”
Gordon’s long journey took him through Belgium, France, over the Pyrenees and then took him to Bilbao, Madrid and finally Gibraltar where he was flown back to Britain in a Dakota.
Recently returning to France to pay his respects to those who helped him escape to freedom, Gordon now 91 said; “It was like going back to meet old friends. The efforts of those people were amazing. They were just ordinary people yet so extraordinary. We can never pay back the debt we owe them.”
Here is a short film from the day…
Filed under: ceremony, Heroes Return, memorial | Tags: BIG, Big Lottery Fund, funding, Heroes Return
As the nation prepares for ceremonies to commemorate the heroism of a special generation on this Remembrance Sunday (Nov 14th), the Big Lottery Fund announces its latest round of funding made today across the UK enabling veterans to embark on poignant visits back to the places they saw action almost 70 years ago.
Since launching in April 2009, the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2 programme has enabled more than 11,300 veterans, widows, spouses and carers in the UK to go on emotional trips, home and abroad, to honour and remember those that did not return from the battlefields of 1939-1945.
These are very special people and as Remembrance Day approaches we are glad that we can pay tribute to them in this way. A huge debt of gratitude and recognition is owed by today’s society to the men and women who fought across the world during the Second World War. They built the peace and protected the freedoms we enjoy today.
Filed under: D-Day, Heroes Return | Tags: Big Lottery Fund, funding, Heroes Return 2, Normandy
Lawrence Emerick served in Europe in the Second World War and here he recounts his trip back to France where the D Day landings took place.
‘So after 66 years I saw an advertisement for the 4 day weekend to visit Normandy and the D Day beaches. I had been thinking about this trip but did not get round to it. Now I thought it was about time I went back to see how much things had changed.
Obviously they had, there is very little sign of the destruction that occurred everything seems to have been repaired and in the sunshine it would hard to imagine the utter desolation we had seen.
Our journey took us via Dover and Calais to Caen. The roads are so much different to 1945, wide and easy to drive along. Then they were crowded and rather difficult to negotiate. From our base in Caen out journey took us to the landing beaches and I was particularly interested in Arromanges Looking over the beach you cannot see anything of the Mulbery Harbour where in June 1945 I had driven onto not knowing what lay before us (at 19 I think it was more apprehension than fear). Parts of the outer breakwater are still visible but you have to see the models in the museum to realise what a feat of engineering it took to put in place. From the top of the hill I could see the exit we made from the beach driven on by shouts of the Beachmasters “to get off the beach as quickly as possible”. You can see a section of the Mulbery Harbour behind the museum which houses models which show how much it was used by so much traffic. We visited the new Pegasus Bridge over the Orme river, where so many paratroopers were lost. The original bridge is still preserved in a nearby field. We visited the 5 landing beaches Omaha, Juno. Sword, Gold and Utah where so much carnage took place, now it looks so peaceful in the sunshine with miles of golden sand and sand yachts skipping along.
On to Pointe du Hoc where the only remaining pill box of the Atlantic wall remains. The bomb craters have been left as they were made a grim reminder of what bombing can do. Ste Mere Eglise now appears a peaceful village.
The visits to the American war graves cemetery and the British and Commonwealth cemetery brings home the utter futility of war and the suffering it brings.
One headstone read “Driver RASC 19. Another “Unknown seaman 20” (I was 19). Standing looking at the rows of headstones made me feel sad and grateful and tearful to the many servicemen and women who lost their lives.
Another visit was the American Air Museum where the town church still sports a parachute hanging from the steeple where the paratrooper got hung up on – he played dead so was not shot at and was rescued.
I am glad I went on this trip at last to see how the museums have preserved the weapons of war and tributes to all who took part from D Day onwards.’
Filed under: Burma, Far East, Heroes Return | Tags: Big Lottery Fund, Far East, funding, Heroes Return 2, veteran
Read this moving BBC article as David Norman Davies plans on returning the Burma to honour his fallen comrades: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/8586591.stm