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Royal Naval Writers’ Association

Formed in 1887 - The Oldest Military Association

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Life as a Prisoner of War of the Japanese

Life as a Prisoner of War of the Japanese

I received the article below as a result of my request in the RNWA December 2018 newsletter for members to send in any “dits” or personal experiences that might interest other members. I recommend this article to all members especially the recorded interview. It gives insight into an episode that is not talked about and shows how much we owe to those who suffered so badly during the war.

The article in the Daily Mail in October 2016 concerning the sinking of the Lisbon Maru entitled “Was this the Most Heinous War Crime committed by the Japanese in World War II” triggered the memory of life member and ex Leading Writer Michael Moss who served from 1960 to 1967 when he left the Navy Discharge by Purchase.

The following is in his own words:-

On return to the UK from the Far East in May 1964 I was drafted to Devonport Reserve Fleet (HMS ORION) and subsequently in January 1965 as a Leading Writer to HMS ADAMANT (2ND Submarine Squadron). I worked in the Pay Office where CPO Writer George Bainborough was in charge. Whilst alongside I and other staff were RA (Ration Allowance) and lived ashore with our families. We did manage to get to sea occasionally and I remember a good “run ashore” in Copenhagen and a memorable visit to the Isle of Mull. When alongside George and I would eat our packed lunches in the office whilst other members of the staff would visit their respective messes.

We talked together on various subjects, e.g. families, experiences, etc. and I enjoyed our conversations. One particular thing that I couldn’t understand was his habit of eating a large oggie (Cornish Pasty) and a very large Spanish onion every day for his lunch. He ate the onion as if it was an apple, with gusto. I plucked up courage and asked him “Chief why do you eat a huge onion for lunch?” He replied “It’s like this “boy”, when I was captured by the Japanese, I had a “fiddle” going on with one of the guards and he supplied me with onions and they kept me alive and I have continued eating them regularly since.” I didn’t question further as he appeared not to want to elaborate further on his experiences and at the time I didn’t feel like prying further.

Fast forward to October 2016 when my wife, Christine, and I were on holiday in our static caravan in Pembrokeshire. She had bought the Daily Mail locally and I casually scanned through it and noticed the article mentioned above.   I read on with interest and a name was mentioned: “George Bainborough” who had been interviewed by the author. George was described as a Naval Administrator. This triggered my memory from 51 years ago.   I realised after reading the article and further enquiries that the person mentioned was in fact the same CPO Writer George Harry Bainborough that I knew on HMS ADAMANT.

I was astounded to read of his exploits and the treatment be received from his captors after Hong Kong was overrun by the Japanese in early 1940. The Royal Naval Writers’ Association, after consulting its records, has confirmed that the said George Harry Bainborough was a Leading Writer who served in HMS TAMAR (Hong Kong) from 1939 till its downfall in 1940.

As a postscript to this and following further research online it has been discovered that George’s complete wartime experience in captivity and subsequent return to Uk can be accessed on  George Harry Bainborough Oral History. This contains a recorded interview of George on 4 tapes and shows us an unassuming man whose courage, determination to survive and selflessness on being liberated is an inspiration to us all and is a credit to the Writer Branch in particular and the Royal Navy in general.

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