Far East, Companion Journal to The Prisoner of War, Vol. I, No. II, November 1945

November 1945 Far East 3 “Dear Earth I D a Salute Thee With Red Cross St.and John serve tea at Southamp­ tons dockside warehouses soon after the arrival of the “Corfu.' I'holograph: By courtesy of “The limes "UP the Water the coming of the Corfu to Southampton with its flags flying and a passenger list of more than 7.500 ex-P.O.W. from Thailand was heralded by sirens. The ship with its grey hull and white funnel stole alike shadow to the landing stage of Berth w 5 .'.The quay itself was lined with Army and Navy officials Red Cross St.and John representatives and dockcrs while above on a higher staging there was a large number of uniformed men and women. Cheers broke out from the brown ranks on the ship and welcome cheers and wavings came from the quayside. The passengers with their yellow to bronze faces most of whom seemed a little drawn or gaunt though they all looked surprisingly well became silent and intent as if they were trying to absorb this first piece of England after years of captivity in brutal Oriental hands. Most of these men had toiled from seven in the morning to nine o'clock at night building the railway through the jungle under callous task­masters. There was this silence then for a few moments. A quiet heavily charged with And emotion.^ then as the Corfu herself came to' a standstill the touching minutes of this English scene seemed almost overwhelming when the band on the quayside began to play the National Anthem. Then came the cheers again and counter-cheers loud and crashing. Lively airs from the band. The singing of "Tipperary "and other choruses when the gangway was fixed shore-to- Lordship. Nathan Sir Ronald Adam. Adjutant-General and the Deputy Mayor of Southampton (Councillor Rex Stranger) and civic officials went 011 board to welcome the men while on the quayside were the Countess of Limerick (Deputy Chairman of Red Cross St.and John) the Countess of Malmesbury (President Hampshire Red Cross St.and John) Countess of Eldon Lady Brick- wood Hon. Mrs. Cubitt and a number of Red Cross St.and John members. Soon carrying two kitbags the ex- prisoners began to file down the gang­way. A t the bottom a Red Cross nurse and a St. John nurse stuffed into the pocket of each man a letter of welcome from The King and Queen and choco­lates and cigarettes. The first to comedown the gangway was aR.A .F .cor- J li/ M ian tl* poral. lie stooped and stroked the first English earth he had touched for many years. The gesture was symbolic. It Tccalled to some of those who saw it the return of Shakespeare's King Richard II:— 1 weep for joy To stand upon my kingdom once again Dear earth /do salute thee with my hand Then came survivors ol Repulse and Prince of Wales. One ex-prisoner wore the faded kilt of a Scottish regiment, carefully preserved throughout the long years of captivity. Amid cheers and with laughs and smiles the men made their way into the cavernous depths of the flag-decked Customs shed. Here were chairs and tables outlaid gay with flowers. All this had been admirably arranged by Hampshire Red Cross St.and John. There were three mobile Red Cross St.and John canteens which under Mrs. Weir had come from London laden with "goo dies" of all kinds. The lovely bread and pastries had been specially baked by bakers in London who, when they heard they were for the Far Fast repatriates willingly undertook the task at 4 a.m. so that the Southampton- bound canteens should be able to pickup the supplies at 8.30 a.m.en route for Southampton docks. When supplies of fruit were bought at Covent Garden Market the suppliers said they would double at their own expense the order given. So that there was a splendid array of pears apples and oranges at Southampton. The tea and refreshments were keenly Continued overleaf) Donald the pet duck was brought all the way home from a Siam P.o.W. camp. There, she had inlaid, 18 months, 163 eggs. Photograph :By courtesy o f the “Daily Express"
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