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Daniel Brown: July 1941

ProvenanceProvenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", refers to the origin and chronology of the ownership, custody or location of a historical object. of the Diary

My father, Dan Brown, kept a diary from the day when, with RAF 605 Squadron, he embarked on H.M.T. Andes at Liverpool Docks in December 1941 until his return to Southampton Docks on the Queen Mary in November 1945. He spent 3½ of those 4 years as a prisoner of war (POW) of the Japanese Imperial Army in the Far East.

For more than 70 years there were two surviving notebooks, one to December 1943 and the other from September to November 1945. The book or books from January 1944 to August 1945 were missing, that is, until 9 May 2017 when I received an email, out of the blue, from a Laura Foster, saying "I have one of your Dad's diaries! I'd be pleased to arrange to give it to you." She went on to say, "Ironically, I live in Wolverhampton (well Coseley!)". I replied almost immediately, an hour or two later she telephoned me, and we arranged to meet, which we did that evening. Coseley is about 5 miles away from where I live, and the diary had been in the possession of her late grandfather who as a Royal Marine had played some part in the evacuation of POWs from Japan after August 1945. It had passed to her aunt upon his death, and then to Laura. Neither Laura nor I know how her grandfather came to have it. She gave it to me when we met at her house that evening.

The no longer missing diary also answers my question as to whether there was just one or perhaps more missing diaries, as it fills the gap period. So now there is no missing diary .

Diary, Dec. 41 - Dec. 43: This sketch is on the first page of the first notebook. My father "borrowed" it from an illustration of the Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, in the English-language Nippon Times newspaper dated 27th June 1943.

Many diaries were kept by prisoners during the War; some were found and destroyed, others survived. Mostly they were written on scraps of paper and hidden, for example, inside bamboo canes. I know now that my dad wrote up much of the diary while he was very ill and in the prison camp hospital in 1945, and he may have written up more of it before the liberation of the camp, or rather, its abandonment by the Japanese soldiers.

In transcribing and publishing the diary I have reproduced it exactly as it was written, except for a few instances when I have spelt out acronyms and abbreviations, broken very long sections of text into shorter paragraphs, or added a missing word here and there. Also, my father recorded the names of many of those who died during the imprisonment, and I have linked the names to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site wherever possible.

Fred Goodwin: a talented artist

I wish to pay tribute to two in particular of my dad's fellow prisoners, Fred Goodwin and Fred Pugh. They too survived and both reached old age: Fred Goodwin died in 2001 and Fred Pugh died in 2002.

Fred Goodwin was a talented artist who sketched and painted what he saw and, remarkably, his drawings and paintings stayed with him throughout and he brought them home. I have inherited prints of some of those pictures and reproduce them to help illustrate the Diary. In some cases, they depict scenes that are so similar to what my dad was writing down that the two men must surely have been standing next to each other. Later, Fred Goodwin's son Bob exhibited the collection of sketches at Buckfast Abbey near Dartmoor from 26 November to 2 December 2007. Read more...

Fred and Lil Pugh: Evening Mail, Friday 27th July 2001

My dad and Fred Pugh were on different ships in the same convey that left Greenock and Liverpool in December 1941. They met on Java, probably in Boei Glodok prison in Batavia (now Jakarta) and they went through the next four years together: the voyage to Japan, the same POW camps and returning to England on the Queen Mary. They remained friends throughout their later lives.

On returning to England my dad lodged with Fred's parents in Birmingham, where Fred had married Lily Tovey shortly before he left for war. Lily worked in a factory converted to war production with a Winifred Pearce who had been her matron of honour at the wedding, and they were such close friends that they were known as "the two sisters". In January 1946 Fred and Lil arranged a blind date for Dannie and Winnie, and they married in September 1946. I came along in 1950.