Researching Researching FEPOW History Group (RFH)
Seminar for Beginners
5 May 2007
NMA Alrewas, Staffs
The Seminar was organised in response to feedback from
delegates the RFH 2006 conference. The themes for the day were
how to make a start, where to find information, who can help
and the importance of sharing information.
Chairman, Jonathan Moffatt, welcomed delegates and introduced
guest speaker Roderick Suddaby from the Imperial War Museum,
FEPOW guests Harry Hesp (ex-Merchant Navy - Empress of Asia,
Singapore), Fred Seiker (Dutch Army, Java and Thai-Burma Railway)
and Victor Cole (RA, Changi and Thai-Burma Railway) and the other
members of the group: Meg and Mike Parkes, Julie Summers, Erica
Toosey, Keith Andrews and Martin Percival.
Delegates had travelled from all over the UK; some had attended
last years conference while others were new to both the
group and to FEPOW research. The Second World War Experience
Centre in Leeds sent three representatives including one of their
volunteer oral historians who works throughout the Midlands region
on their behalf.
Jonathan invited two of the delegates, Hamzah Muzaini and Dr
Nigel Stanley, to briefly outline their own particular research
interests. He then asked Julie Summers to give and overview of
sources of information and she was followed by Keith and Martin
who gave the first in-depth presentation of the day.
Keith is an acknowledged expert on the National Archives FEPOW
holdings. After detailing specific files and records he gave
a fascinating insight into the wealth of information available
as well as many of the vagaries and anomalies of the collections
held at Kew. He identified several key areas about which no papers
have yet been unearthed: repatriation ships and embarkation lists;
RAPWI (Repatriation of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees)
information, specifically camp rosters; part of David Nelsons
BRE Changi files. He warned delegates to be alert to the possibility
of finding hidden treasures in files, both at the
NA and elsewhere. Sharing such information is vital.
Martins specific area of expertise covers magazines and
newsletters published by FEPOW clubs and associations over the
past 60 plus years. He outlined how such documents can illuminate
and inform research and he stressed the need to read, and re-read
your own source information regularly.
A break for coffee allowed delegates and guests to visit the
bookstall and view exhibits brought in by speakers and delegates.
Next to speak was Roderick Suddaby, the Keeper of the Department
of Documents at the IWM in London and an acknowledged expert
on their FEPOW collection. He detailed the extent of the holdings,
including both the photographs (over 9 million images) and sound
archives, as well as the origins of the collection. He paid particular
tribute to the work of David Nelson in the Bureau of Records
and Enquiry at Changi, John Sharpe for his
post-war collection of FEPOW news cuttings and information and
most recently, Les and Pam Stubbs, for their exhaustive work
on documenting and publishing details of RAF personnel in the
Far East. Since Les died last year, Pam has continued with their
work on the Navy lists.
During an informal lunch many present took the opportunity to
visit the FEPOW Memorial building and FEPOW plot. Delegates,
speakers and FEPOW guests found time for informal chats with
one or two discovering connections, eg Keith Andrews discovered
that Victor Cole was in the same battery as his father and was
able to show Victor his name on the official roll, a copy of
which was on display.
The afternoon was a sharing session. First of all three of the
organisers outlined their current areas of research: Meg explained
the oral history project she has been taken on to run for the
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (part of Liverpool University).
This will involve interviewing around 50 FEPOW during the next
year about their experiences but with particular emphasis on
the post-war years and how those experiences informed their lives.
Two of the guests, Harry and Victor, have already been interviewed
and she is shortly to visit Fred. She appealed to delegates for
help in finding FEPOW who would be willing to be interviewed.
Jonathan explained his research on Argyll and Sutherland Highland
and Gordon Highlander POWs - some 1500 in all, his aim being
to create a database of use to FEPOW families and researchers
which would give the specific POW camps each man was in with
precise dates. Jonathan outlined sources of information including
Battalion Record Books [Nominal Rolls] before concluding with
a hands-on session looking at the account of a determined escaper,
Pte McGlade of the Argylls.
Julie spoke about her forthcoming publication REMEMBERED, A history
of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that is published to
coincide with the Commissions 90th anniversary on 21 May
2007. She then spoke about her research into Stranger in the
House, a book that will look at the effect of returning men on
family life after the Second World War. She invited any delegates
who would like to talk about their experiences to contact her.
Delegates then shared information about their own areas of research
and need for help and information.
In his closing remarks, Jonathan informed all present that the
focus of next years conference would be Hong Kong, Singapore
and Malaya. Key note speakers include: Tony Banham the acknowledged
authority on Hong Kong FEPOW research and Mr Jeyathurai A.(Jeya),
Director of the Changi Museum. A full line up of speakers will
be published in early June.