VJ Day commemorations evoke poignant memories for Melton woman

Sgt Maj Frederick Wilmot, pictured far left, with two fellow servicemen in Singapore EMN-151208-133204001
Sgt Maj Frederick Wilmot, pictured far left, with two fellow servicemen in Singapore EMN-151208-133204001
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As the nation commemorates the 70th anniversary of VJ Day on Saturday a Melton woman is reflecting on the shattering impact the conflict with the Japanese had on her late father.

Barbara Shelton, of Alvaston Road, knew very little about the Second World War service of Sgt Major Frederick Wilmot because he never said much about it.

Sgt Maj Frederick Wilmot pictured here in Singapore where he served for nearly two years EMN-151208-132357001

Sgt Maj Frederick Wilmot pictured here in Singapore where he served for nearly two years EMN-151208-132357001

But he did refer occasionally to his harrowing experiences after arriving at the end of the war at notorious Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, Changi Prison in Singapore.

British soldiers had been treated appallingly and many died from malnourishment and ill treatment even after the jail had been liberated by Allied Forces following Victory over Japan (VJ) Day.

The memories disturbed Frederick until his death at the age of just 59 in 1984, after he had suffered a breakdown and several health problems.

Mrs Shelton said: “What he saw and experienced in Singapore affected him for the rest of his life.

“You have to remember he was a young man from a quiet town and not at all street wise.

“He never said much and we now wish we had asked him more about it but he did say those who came out of Changi Prison did not look human.”

She added: “In the late sixties my sister worked for Petfoods and remembers telling him that some Japanese businessmen were coming to visit the factory.

“She said he got very upset and angry, swearing and calling them all the names under the sun - she was shocked as she had never seen him like that before.

“About the same time I met my second husband, who was born on VJ Day. When I told my father it seemed to evoke memories and he started to say more about the war.”

Frederick, who lived in Asfordby Road, then explained to his daughters that he had been en route to fight the Japanese - on a ship in the Indian Ocean - when they surrendered and VJ Day was declared.

He disembarked in Bombay in India and was sent to the British base camp in Singapore, where he encountered those terrible scenes at Changi Prison.

After catching malaria, Frederick was treated in hospital alongside many of the prisoners of war and was upset when several of them passed away in adjoining beds.

Frederick, who had married Mrs Shelton’s mother, Esther Mary Dempsey, in 1945 after meeting her while serving in Belfast, was demobbed from the services two years after the war ended.

Mrs Shelton said she had a difficult relationship with her father, who grew up in Pall Mall in Melton, which she put down to his distressing period serving in the Far East.

She added: “Dad always used to watch the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph and he told us that those serviceman he saw in the Japanese camps were the forgotten army.

“He didn’t tell us much about his experiences out there but my sister and I remember everything he did tell us and we will remember those men on VJ Day.”