Daughter grants prisoner of war father’s wish – The Voice
A woman from Whaplode St Catherine has kept her promise to her father by having her memories of being a prisoner of war in Sumatra published in a book.
After John Geoffrey Lee (known as Geoff) failed to find a publisher for his novel during his lifetime, his daughter Christine Bridges vowed to ensure her father’s story lives on.
Taking her own writings and details of conversations with her husband Eddie started in the 1970s, POW on the Sumatra Railway was published by Pen and Sword Books, 20 years after Geoff’s death.
“He wrote his book in the 1990s with two fingers on a typewriter,” Christine said. “After many rejections he never saw it in print because he died in 2002 and I promised him his book would be published and eventually I kept that promise.”
Geoff has lived in Nottingham all his life and joined the RAF on his 20th birthday in June 1941.
He left Liverpool on a troop ship in December 1941, not knowing where he was going.
He eventually arrived in Java with RAF 84 Squadron, where he was captured by the Japanese, along with many others.
During his captivity, he survived several camps in Java, Ambon and Singapore and three hellish boat trips.
After being stranded in Sumatra (when a ferry he was being transported on blew up), he was later recaptured and endured living hell as a slave on the Sumatra Railway. Persistent bouts of malaria, beri beri, tropical ulcers, and a starvation diet were bad enough, but this was exacerbated by the scorching heat and extreme cruelty inflicted on prisoners by Japanese and Korean guards.
Geoff miraculously survived, weighing just six stone when he returned to Liverpool in December 1945.
After his release he found he had a hard time convincing people of his whereabouts because no one had heard of the Sumatra Railway, only the other, thousands of miles away Burma.
The letters to the newspapers were dismissed as “just another Burmese Railway story”.
The Ministry of Defence, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Imperial War Museum had no record of POWs building a railway in Sumatra.
Geoff took it upon himself to persuade them that it had happened, made contact with other prisoners and traveled to Sumatra in the 1980s to collect evidence.
Christine, who left Nottingham five years ago to be near her daughter Dawn and her family, said:
“It’s really amazing that my father’s book is published. Since my father passed away in 2002, my husband Eddie and I were unsure how to proceed with the book, but two years ago I approached Pen and Sword and it was accepted.
“To see all of his work and photographs, taken so long ago, turned into a book is beyond words and I am so proud that we have finally published it.
“His incredible story needed to be told. My father would smile too. It has been 20 years since he died and he would have been 101 on June 26 this year.