06 October 2007

Unacknowledged war veteran turns 85

This is Ted, who lives in an aged care home near me and who turned 85 yesterday. His life has included war service in the Royal Marine band of HMS Exeter which was lost in the Battle of the Java Sea on 1 March 1942. Ted survived the sinking and spent the following three and a half years as a POW of the Japanese.

The band's war service has been outlined in an article written several years ago (as far as I can gather) by one of its members. The author hadn't heard of Ted since 1945 and asked anyone who knew his whereabouts to get in touch. I've tried to do so on Ted's behalf but am still waiting for a reply. Unfortunately British service records, at least for the Second World War, are not as accessible online as their Australian equivalents . It seems that a man who suffered considerably for his country is unlikely to have his contribution acknowledged or recorded for succeeding generations. In the Internet age there is little excuse for this.

That said, Ted is making the most of his life. He is mentally alert and is a familiar sight around the neighbourhood as he pushes his walking aid briskly to and from the shops: he always has a cheerful smile and friendly word for the many friends he's made in his time here. Even so, he's told me several times that he'd like to hear from any of his former shipmates (or fellow POWs). I will of course pass any messages on.

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