Soldiers’ story told at last

Campbell Thomson, pictured with Tom Hannah.
Campbell Thomson, pictured with Tom Hannah.

The fate endured by Lanarkshire Yeomanry men at the hands of the Japanese Army in the Second World War is finally to be spelled out in detail.

In a new book to be produced by a leading military history publisher the individual details of hundreds of former prisoners of war will be charted.

The book follows on from works including Death Was Our Bedmate – whose title comes from a remark made by Blackwood man Tom Hannah, a Yeomanry veteran who passed away last year aged 92.

But unlike that account the new work is intended mainly for the families of those caught up in the fall of Singapore.

In straightforward terms it will say, where possible, what happened to each man, also detailing – for those who survived – their lives after the war.

It will be available as a public record in libraries, and aims to place on record – where possible – the individual fates of men who for decades seemed “forgotten”.

Campbell Thomson, a leading light in the Lanarksire Yeomanry Association, said: “At the end of the war all of the men who survived came back damaged in some way.

“They were told not to speak of their experiences as prisoners – ostensibly so as not to affect those whose men had not come back.

“But in reality it was more to do with the fall of Singapore.”

Churchill had promised a public enquiry into the debacle – regularly blamed on inept high command – but it was never held.

The Yeomanry, a Royal Artillery regiment, fought all the way down the Malay peninsula before being caught up in the mass surrender of British and Commonwealth troops.

Campbell Thomson said: “After the war we all saw films about prisoners escaping from German prison camps.

“Sometimes if they were captured it meant doing some time in the ‘cooler’.”

He added: “By contrast prisoners who were caught escaping from the Japanese were beheaded.”

He has appealed for a fitting commemoration of VJ Day in August, on a par with the recent events of VE Day.

The only surviving member of the 550 men of the 155 Lanarkshire Yeomanry is 87 year old Andy Coogan from Carnoustie, the great uncle of Sir Chris Hoy.