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Felixstowe war veteran honoured

PUBLISHED: 21:04 06 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:18 03 March 2010

WAR veteran and campaigner Frank Champkin will tomorrow be reliving memories of a famous event from the 1939-45 conflict.

For Mr Champkin, of Felixstowe, has been invited by Countess Mountbatten of Burma to attend a reception to mark the 60th anniversary of the fall of Singapore.

WAR veteran and campaigner Frank Champkin will tomorrow be reliving memories of a famous event from the 1939-45 conflict.

For Mr Champkin, of Felixstowe, has been invited by Countess Mountbatten of Burma to attend a reception to mark the 60th anniversary of the fall of Singapore.

The event is taking place at the Imperial War Museum in London.

"I am thrilled to be invited and I am really looking forward to it. It should be a really interesting event," said Mr Champkin, who is currently recuperating after a knee operation.

"The Countess has been very supportive of all the work we have been doing to get recognition of the sacrifices made by soldiers serving in the Far East during the last war."

Mr Champkin, 80, recently appealed for help to pay for pieces from the "railway of death" on which many Suffolk soldiers lost their lives to be brought to Britain to featured in a memorial to the prisoners of war who suffered and died building the track.

Four lengths of the original rail line, plus sleepers and spikes, were obtained from Thailand and being shipped to Britain.

These artefacts have now been placed in the 150-acre National Memorial Arboretum as part of the memorial there to the thousands of men who died as they worked on the Burma-Siam railway during the second world war.

Despite the horrific memories which the rails will rekindle for many survivors, Mr Champkin – chairman of the Kwai Railway Memorial Three Pagodas Group – said it was important that the artefacts are seen by future generations.

He thanked Evening Star readers for the tremendous response to help him raise the £3,800 to complete the project.

"I just want to say a very big thank you to everyone who supported us and for the donations I received from many kind people," said Mr Champkin, who survived four years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

"This will now be a fitting memorial to all the men who gave their lives for us all in the last war – those who were captured as prisoners of war under the Japanese suffered horrific conditions of slavery and brutality.

"It is a memorial to those who did not return – to those who died out there. It will ensure that those brave men will not be forgotten."

More than 13,000 Allied serviceman, including many from the 4th and 5th Suffolk Regiment, died building the 250-mile railway, which ran from Ban Pong in Thailand to Thanbyuzayat in Burma to supply Japanese forces.

Royal Artillery men from Felixstowe and Woodbridge, and field ambulance brigade staff from Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds also worked on the line.

The National Memorial Arboretum and its Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness is at Alrewas, five miles north of Lichfield, Staffordshire.

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