Norfolk

My East Anglian Heaven and Hell: Guy Nicholls

Guy Nicholls, founder of Tru7 Group. Picture: Charlotte Bond

Guy Nicholls, founder of Tru7 Group. Picture: Charlotte Bond

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This week Gina Long meets Guy Nicholls, owner of Tru7 Group.

Guy Nicholls and Gina Long MBE with Sam and Euan Morley Picture: Sarah Lucy BrownGuy Nicholls and Gina Long MBE with Sam and Euan Morley Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Guy Nicholls, owner of Tru7 Group, a family-owned group of companies, is fiercely loyal to his East Anglian roots. Philanthropic Guy generously has pledged £100,000 to the GeeWizz Charity Legacy fundraiser that will be announced late October, to help build a new specialist SEND’s playground at the Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy. His companies employ more than 200 people in Suffolk. Here he speaks with Gina Long

What is your connection to East Anglia?

My father Percy was originally from Yoxford, moving to Ipswich in the 1950s, where his family had numerous garages. He was very innovative back then. He, along with his brothers, was one of the first families to sell second-hand cars – everyone locally knew them. He then left the family business and started on his own.

What is your East Anglian Heaven?

I just love the people and the area; I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. We have beautiful coastal areas and rivers. We are also very lucky having lots of wonderful pubs and places to eat. There are just so many places across Suffolk and Norfolk to choose from.

What is your East Anglian Hell?

The road systems are dreadful. In my opinion, the A140 must be one of the worst roads in the UK. The Orwell Bridge seems to have constant closures because of high winds and accidents. Very frustrating!

What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

I need to mention a few. In Suffolk, The Unruly Pig and Milsoms and, of course, The Talbooth.

What’s your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

At home with my wife and a G&T.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

Coming back from anywhere, I always breathe a sigh of relief when I see the ‘Welcome to Suffolk’ road sign.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

The Suffolk Show, I go to every year without fail, and the Heveningham Concourse d’Elegance has become a must. Both hugely missed this year, due to the unwelcome pandemic. We can only hope they will return in 2021, along with all other major events.

What is your specialist Mastermind subject?

That is not a difficult question, has to be trucks and diggers!

What is always in your fridge?

Gin and tonic. We buy as much local produce as possible. My wife Julie and I love the local farm shops. Our fridge has a vast amount of produce from Suffolk Food Hall in it!

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Work harder and smarter than your competition.

What’s your favourite film?

I like British gangster films, so 
it’s got to be Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and any Richard Curtis film is brilliant.

What was your first job?

Does it count if I say the work I 
did after school with my dad 
Percy from a very early age? Cleaning diggers was my first job there from memory.

What is your most treasured possession?

My family and our health.

Who do you admire most?

Lord Bamford, Owner of JCB. What they have achieved as a family is astonishing, and it’s still a family business.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Cars.

What do you like about yourself most?

I stick to my word.

What’s your worst character trait?

I cannot get out of bed in the morning…

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

The Italian lakes, but to be honest, I prefer to be at work.

Best day of your life?

The day my son Jake started working in the business. I must add, and having our three grandchildren, they have been a huge bonus to our lives.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

My wife’s brilliant home-cooked fry up – nothing beats it.

What’s your favourite tipple?

G&T

What’s your hidden talent?

Commercial deals.

When were you most embarrassed?

Trust me there have been many occasions…but none I’d let you print!

What’s your earliest memory?

Going to a van auction with my father, probably at the age of 
four.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

The Carpenters – Superstar.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I dislike holidays abroad, as I hate flying, regardless of the destination.

What is the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

Hearing the news my father would not survive.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else.

I am a real homeboy and Suffolk is definitely home. We are so lucky living here, especially as I think Suffolk has the best climate in the UK too.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

I am so proud to be able to support the capital project the GeeWizz Charity is fundraising for. Having met many of the marvellous children and their families at the Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy in Ipswich, having seen their current playground, the new playgrounds are going to be well and truly life-changing. We are not film stars; we are just normal Suffolk people; we want to give something back and help local people in our area. With our charitable giving, we also want it to be transparent and local. I hope others will follow our lead and consider getting involved in late October when it will be announced. From a business perspective, in this ever-changing landscape, the Covid-19 pandemic is beyond worrying. In the 40-plus years I have been in business, not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the world we find ourselves in today.

For more information go to: www.tru7group.com

If you live in Suffolk or Norfolk and have an interesting story to tell please do email me at gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: ginalongmbe


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7 things to do in Norfolk this weekend: September 12 to 13

The Nearly Festival Garden Party, which has been adapted for social distancing, is one of the events taking place this weekend in Norfolk, this picture is from the 2019 event in Oulton Broad. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Nearly Festival Garden Party, which has been adapted for social distancing, is one of the events taking place this weekend in Norfolk, this picture is from the 2019 event in Oulton Broad. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

From socially-distanced music festivals to a free market, there is plenty to keep you entertained in Norfolk this weekend.

Wild Fields Festival is heading to the Norfolk Showground and is a two-day socially-distanced event Picture: Supplied by Wild FieldsWild Fields Festival is heading to the Norfolk Showground and is a two-day socially-distanced event Picture: Supplied by Wild Fields

1. What: Wild Fields Festival

Where: Norfolk Showground, Dereham Road, New Costessey, NR5 0TT

When: September 12 to 13, 12pm to 11pm

Cost: Day tickets from £30, weekend tickets from £45 (both + booking fee), wildpaths.co.uk/wildfields

Wild Paths Festival launched last October with over 200 acts performing at 23 venues over four days, celebrating both local and international talent. The event was cancelled this year due to coronavirus, but organiser Ben Street is making sure music fans don’t miss out with a new socially-distanced version of the festival called Wild Fields. The biggest names on the line-up are KOKOROKO, Gengahr, Joe Armon-Jones, Another Sky and Olivia Dean and to keep audiences safe, there will be roped off zones spaced two metres apart for groups of up to six and marshalled queues for the food stalls, bars and toilets.

Dragon Hall in Norwich is one of the venues taking part in Norfolk Heritage Open Days Picture: DENISE BRADLEYDragon Hall in Norwich is one of the venues taking part in Norfolk Heritage Open Days Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

2. What: Heritage Open Days

Where: Various locations across Norfolk

When: September 11 to 20

Cost: All free, see the full programme at norfolkheritageopendays.co.uk

Explore Norfolk’s hidden gems for free as the Heritage Open Days festival, a nationwide celebration of history and culture, returns for 2020. Due to coronavirus and social distancing restrictions, the festival includes online activities to accompany traditional in-person events for the first time. Highlights include a heritage photo walk at the Former RAF Coltishall, the chance to explore Bishop’s House Garden in Norwich and botanical drawing for beginners in Thetford.

Interlude Fringe is part of Interlude, which is running for six weeks in Chapelfield Gardens and has been organised by Norwich Theatre and circus company Lost in Translation Picture: James RandleInterlude Fringe is part of Interlude, which is running for six weeks in Chapelfield Gardens and has been organised by Norwich Theatre and circus company Lost in Translation Picture: James Randle

3. What: Interlude Fringe

Where: Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich, NR2 1RP

When: September 13, 10am to 6pm

Cost: £15 for the day, 01603 630000, norwichtheatre.org

This event is a collaboration between Norwich Theatre and Norwich Fringe and it is part of Interlude, a six-week programme of live shows in a big top tent. Local acts will come together for a day of live music, comedy and theatre and all ticket sales will go directly to the artists performing, thanks to generous donations made as part of Norwich Theatre’s Crisis Appeal. See the full line-up for the day and timings on the Norwich Theatre website.

The Nearly Festival Garden Party is one of the events you can attend this weekend, this picture is from 2018 when the event was held in Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: Nick ButcherThe Nearly Festival Garden Party is one of the events you can attend this weekend, this picture is from 2018 when the event was held in Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: Nick Butcher

4. What: Nearly Festival Garden Party

Where: Wensum Valley Hotel Golf & Country Club, Beech Avenue, Taverham, NR8 6HP

When: September 12, 12pm to 8pm, September 13, 12pm to 7pm

Cost: Day tickets, over-14s £20, children (5 to 14) £7.50, under-5s free, weekend tickets sold out, gardenparties.musthavetickets.co.uk

This popular festival, which in previous years has come to parks across East Anglia, is back for 2020 and will present some of the UK’s finest tribute acts of legendary performers and groups such as Elton John, Oasis and on Sunday there is a Queen Live Aid tribute. There will also be food vendors and a bar and to adhere to social distancing, customers will need to book a four by three metre personal space for their group for two to six people.

Jamal Sealey (left) and Rahima Brandt (right), the organisers of the Norwich Free MarketJamal Sealey (left) and Rahima Brandt (right), the organisers of the Norwich Free Market

5. What: Norwich Free Market

Where: Back car park at Norwich Theatre Royal (outside Stage Two), Theatre Street, Norwich, NR2 1RL

When: September 13, 10am to 4pm

Cost: Free

A new monthly market where you’ll find live music, street food, coffee, clothes, bags, jewellery, ceramics and much more. There is no fees for stall holders or shoppers to enter and it is a thriving hub for community trade – you will be able to access it either by walking down Chantry Road or through the front entrance of the theatre.

The Summer Spectacular at Yarmouth's Hippodrome Circus, with social distancing measures in place Picture: David StreetThe Summer Spectacular at Yarmouth’s Hippodrome Circus, with social distancing measures in place Picture: David Street

6. What: Summer Spectacular

Where: Hippodrome Circus, St George’s Road, Great Yarmouth, NR30 2EU

When: Until September 20, various times

Cost: Adults £20 to £25, concessions (over 60s)/carers £17 to £22, children (0-14) £12 to £16 (babies on laps don’t need tickets), bookings must be made by phone 01493 738877 (box office opens from 10am daily), find full details at hippodromecircus.co.uk/summer-spectacular

The show must go on and Yarmouth’s Hippodrome Circus is making sure families don’t miss out this summer with Covid-safe performances, featuring amazing acrobats, aerialists, daring stunts, dancers, swimmers and its world famous Water Spectacular. The hosts are Jack Jay and Johnny Mac and there is a reduced capacity and running time, approximately 70 to 75 minutes, with no interval to prevent crowding – masks are also mandatory in the auditorium.

An assortment of Star Wing's bottled beers Picture: Star Wing BreweryAn assortment of Star Wing’s bottled beers Picture: Star Wing Brewery

7. What: Hops ‘n’ Hogs

Where: Star Wing Brewery, Unit 6, Hall Farm, Redgrave, IP22 1RJ

When: September 12, 12pm until 11pm

Cost: Free

Just across the border and a few miles from Diss, expect a fun day out for all the family, including four-legged guests, this weekend at Star Wing Brewery. There will be community hop picking, live music, food trucks and a free hog roast for the first 50 pickers.

Make sure to check online before heading to event as they made be cancelled or postponed at short notice due to coronavirus guidelines or weather conditions.


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Cyclist dies in crash on A134 at Northwold

The junction on the A134 at Northwold, where a 17-year-old cyclist died after a collision Picture: Chris Bishop

The junction on the A134 at Northwold, where a 17-year-old cyclist died after a collision Picture: Chris Bishop

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A man living next to a junction where a 17-year-old cyclist was killed has seen almost 100 crashes outside his home.

Adrian Jenkinson outside his home in Northwold, which stands beside a junction which has seen almost 100 crashes since he moved into the property in 1984 Picture: Chris BishopAdrian Jenkinson outside his home in Northwold, which stands beside a junction which has seen almost 100 crashes since he moved into the property in 1984 Picture: Chris Bishop

The teenager died on Thursday night after he was involved in a collision with a Mitsubishi pick-up truck on the A134 at Northwold.

Police say the driver left the scene of the crash, but a man in his 30s was later arrested in Attleborough, on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

Adrian Jenkinson, 60, has lived next to the scene of the collision, at the crossroads where the A134 meets Northwold Road and Methwold Road, since 1984.

He said in that time 98 accidents involving the emergency services have happened outside his home.

Adrian Jenkinson has kept a list of the 98 crashes whch have happened outside his home in Northwold, since he moved into the property in 1984 Picture: Chris BishopAdrian Jenkinson has kept a list of the 98 crashes whch have happened outside his home in Northwold, since he moved into the property in 1984 Picture: Chris Bishop

Design technology technician Mr Jenkinson, who has kept a list of the collisions, was first on the scene on Thursday night.

“We always go out,” he said. “You never know what you’re going out to.

“People blame the roads, they say they’re dangerous, but they’re only as dangerous as the drivers choose to make them.

“There’s been two fatalities since we’ve lived here. That’s two too many.”

Adrian Jenkinson has barricaded his home with reinforced steel girders, concrete and metal plating to prevent it being hit by vehicles Picture: Chris BishopAdrian Jenkinson has barricaded his home with reinforced steel girders, concrete and metal plating to prevent it being hit by vehicles Picture: Chris Bishop

So far, the house where Mr Jenkinson lives with his wife Janet has not been hit by a vehicle involved in an accident. But a car has ended up in his front garden.

Mr Jenkinson has barricaded the front of his property with reinforced steel joists, concrete and metal sheeting to protect it.

Emergency services attended the crash on Thursday but the cyclist was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Mitsubishi failed to stop. Police later attended an address in Attleborough where a man in his 30s was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

The road was closed while emergency services dealt with the incident and scene investigations were carried out. It was reopened around 5am on Friday.

Officers are keen to hear from anyone who saw the collision, or has information concerning the driving manner the Mitsubishi or riding manner of the cyclist.

Anyone with information should contact the serious collision investigation unit at Wymondham on 101 or email SCIU@norfolk.pnn.police.uk


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RAF Honington personnel save Norfolk father who suffered heart attack at the wheel

Darren Ruck (centre) with his family at RAF Honington , whose personnel were first on scene after Mr Ruck suffered a heart attack at the wheel of his car in June. Picture: Cpl Dave Blackburn/RAF Honington/MOD

Darren Ruck (centre) with his family at RAF Honington , whose personnel were first on scene after Mr Ruck suffered a heart attack at the wheel of his car in June. Picture: Cpl Dave Blackburn/RAF Honington/MOD

© UK MOD Crown Copyright 2020. This image may be used for current news purposes only. It may not be used, reproduced or trans

Military personnel rushed to the aid of a dad who crashed after suffering a heart attack with his wife and young children in the car.

Darren Ruck (centre) with his family at RAF Honington , whose personnel were first on scene after Mr Ruck suffered a heart attack at the wheel of his car in June. Picture: Cpl Dave Blackburn/RAF Honington/MODDarren Ruck (centre) with his family at RAF Honington , whose personnel were first on scene after Mr Ruck suffered a heart attack at the wheel of his car in June. Picture: Cpl Dave Blackburn/RAF Honington/MOD

Darren Ruck, from Barningham, near Thetford, was driving near RAF Honington on Father’s Day, June 21, when he suddenly slumped at the wheel.

Assuming he was playing a practical joke, Mr Ruck’s wife, Marie, asked what he was doing, but the 40-year-old lorry driver did not respond.

When she noticed he was no longer holding the steering wheel, Mrs Ruck knew something was seriously wrong.

Desperate to regain control of the swerving vehicle, the horror-stricken mother grabbed hold of the wheel and steered the family’s truck for more than half a mile before eventually crashing into trees off Green Lane.

“Before the heart attack Darren was absolutely fine,” Mrs Ruck said. “He was chatting away and having a good bit of banter with his brother-in-law.

“After he lost consciousness I managed to keep the truck on the left side of the road, but then the panic hit me and there was a point when I just let go of the wheel.”

Mr Ruck was fortunate that trainee gunners from Honington, aircraftsmen Thomas Allan and Troy Taylor-Morgan, were passing on their way back to base, and they were quick to pull him out of the damaged truck.

The pair were closely followed by Corporal Ed Stanley, whose wife – a nurse – immediately began CPR. She was assisted by Corporals Alexander Bates and Sam Waugh.

This week Mr Ruck and family were reunited with the personnel at RAF Honington, where he thanked them for their life-saving efforts.

Having been taken to Papworth Hospital, Mr Ruck suffered a second heart attack the following morning. He was then moved between Papworth and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, which are both in Cambridge, to have stents and a defibrillator fitted, before finally heading home three weeks after the collision.

“I remember nothing about that day,” said Mr Ruck. “There are a couple of bits from the days before, but that’s it. The first thing I remember is waking up in hospital and wondering what was happening.”

Mrs Ruck added: “I couldn’t visit him in hospital because of Covid, so I was just waiting by the phone.

“Now he’s home we keep saying how lucky we are that this didn’t happen when he was on his own.”


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Road closed following 'serious' single vehicle collision in Happisburgh

There has been a collision on the East Ruston Road in Happisburgh. Picture: Google Streetview

There has been a collision on the East Ruston Road in Happisburgh. Picture: Google Streetview

Google Streetview

A road has been closed and buses are currently not serving a coastal village following a crash.

Police are on the scene of a “serious” single vehicle collision on East Ruston Road, in Happisburgh, after being called at 8am this morning.

Police say other emergency vehicles are on the scene, including the air ambulance.

A recovery truck is currently on the scene attempting to clear the vehicle involved.

Happisburgh Common is currently closed to traffic near Victoria Cottage.

Sanders Coaches say they are currently unable to serve Happisburgh Common and do not know when services will be able to resume.

Local residents say they have been hearing helicopters landing throughout the morning.

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Crash at Knights HIll rundabout A149 King's Lynn

The A149 near King's Lynn was left partially blocked after a straw lorry overturned on the roundabout at Knights Hill Picture: Chris Bishop

The A149 near King’s Lynn was left partially blocked after a straw lorry overturned on the roundabout at Knights Hill Picture: Chris Bishop

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Part of the main Norfolk coast road has been closed after a lorry overturned.

The A149 near King's Lynn was left partially blocked after a straw lorry overturned on the roundabout at Knights Hill Picture: Chris BishopThe A149 near King’s Lynn was left partially blocked after a straw lorry overturned on the roundabout at Knights Hill Picture: Chris Bishop

The articulated straw lorry overturned on the roundabout at Knights Hill, on the outskirts of King’s Lynn, at around 8am.

King’s Lynn police tweeted: “The A149 is currently partially closed from Castle Rising to the Knights Hill Round about due to a RTC, please avoid the area where possible.”

An East of England ambulance spokesman said: “We attended the A149 at around 8.10am today after an HGV rolled over. An ambulance crew treated a patient at the scene before transporting them to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for further assessment and care.”

The A149 near King's Lynn was left partially blocked after a straw lorry overturned on the roundabout at Knights Hill Picture: Chris BishopThe A149 near King’s Lynn was left partially blocked after a straw lorry overturned on the roundabout at Knights Hill Picture: Chris Bishop

Straw bales from the overturned lorry are being transferred to another HGV before it can be recovered from the scene.

Norfolk fire service said an appliance from North Lynn was sent out to make vehicles safe at 8.15am and the incident was dealt with by 8.23am.

The road between Lynn and Hunstanton is at its busiest with summer holiday traffic.

Th A149 near King's Lynn was left partially blocked after a straw lorry overturned on the roundabout at Knights Hill Picture: Chris BishopTh A149 near King’s Lynn was left partially blocked after a straw lorry overturned on the roundabout at Knights Hill Picture: Chris Bishop

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VJ Day 75: remembering the Far East Prisoners of War

Captain John Barratt of the Norfolk Regiment (C) The Barratt Family

Captain John Barratt of the Norfolk Regiment (C) The Barratt Family

(C) The Barratt Family

This is one Norfolk man’s story of surviving the horrors of Japan’s prisoner of war camps 75 years after the end of World War Two.

Captain John Barratt of the Norfolk Regiment (C) The Barratt FamilyCaptain John Barratt of the Norfolk Regiment (C) The Barratt Family

In the three-and-a-half years that her husband was a prisoner of war on the notorious ‘Railway of Death’, Baba Barratt received just three Red Cross postcards.

On the back of each was a series of questions to which a tick had been applied: I am being treated well. I am well. I am working for money.

After the questions, there was a signature: and it was that one line on a scrap of card that offered the real answers to a young wife waiting desperately for news of the man she loved.

“That signature was all important as Mum could recognise Dad’s hand – knowing Dad was still alive and that there was hope,” explained Charlie Barratt, Captain John Allan Legh Barratt’s son.

End of an ordeal: former prisoners greet their liberators through the barbed wire fence of their camp on Singapore Island in September 1945.End of an ordeal: former prisoners greet their liberators through the barbed wire fence of their camp on Singapore Island in September 1945.

Baba had waited, sustained by no real news for day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year for the news she longed for: that her husband was coming home. By the time she next saw her beloved John, four years had passed.

August 15 is the 75th anniversary of VJ Day which marks both the surrender of Japan and the end of World War Two.

There had been extensive plans to remember and recognise all those who served and sacrificed in the Far East until COVID-19 put paid to large-scale services and commemorations. This anniversary will, in the main, be observed privately or in virtual, online commemorations.

While VE (Victory in Europe) Day marked the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, many thousands of Armed Forces personnel were still engaged in bitter fighting in the Far East. And then there were the prisoners of war held by the Japanese.

Liberated Allied prisoners of war walk lying in the corridor and looking out of cell doorways at Changi POW camp in Singapore, c. 1945. Picture: State Library Victoria Collections/FlickrLiberated Allied prisoners of war walk lying in the corridor and looking out of cell doorways at Changi POW camp in Singapore, c. 1945. Picture: State Library Victoria Collections/Flickr

During World War Two, the Japanese Armed Forces captured nearly 140,000 Allied military personnel in the South East Asia and Pacific areas.

They were forced to engage in hard labour: constructing railways, roads and airfields which would be used by the Japanese in occupied areas or sent to Japan to supplement the shortage of the workforce in mines, shipyards and munitions factories.

By the end of the war, more than 30,000 prisoners of war had died from starvation, diseases and mistreatment both within and outside of the Japanese mainland.

John Barratt passed his Officer Training Certificate while at Gresham’s School in Holt and before obtaining a commission into the 4th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment 10 years later in 1938, had been a partner in the family stockbroking firm of Barratt and Cooke.

Homeward bound: newly-liberated British prisoners of war prepare to board a Dakota transport on the first leg of their journey back to the UK in September 1945.Homeward bound: newly-liberated British prisoners of war prepare to board a Dakota transport on the first leg of their journey back to the UK in September 1945.

He married Baba Hore-Ruthven in March 1940 and set up temporary home in Gorleston before the army took the couple to Cambridge, then Scotland, then Blackburn, then Ross-on-Wye.

After saying goodbye to his new wife, in October 1941 John and his battalion left Liverpool and set sail to Halifax, Nova Scotia before sailing on to Trinidad and to the South Atlantic.

Still at sea in mid-December, some men travelled to Singapore while Capt Barratt’s 54th Brigade disembarked at Bombay for training before joining them several weeks later.

As the ship was unloaded at Singapore, it was under immediate gunfire.

Bird’s-eye view: an Allied aircraft flies low over one of the Japanese camps still crowded with prisoners more than three weeks after the Japanese surrender.Bird’s-eye view: an Allied aircraft flies low over one of the Japanese camps still crowded with prisoners more than three weeks after the Japanese surrender.

“The docks were continuously being bombed during daylight but the anti-malarial drains gave us very good protection against anything but a direct hit,” he wrote in a booklet called His Majesty’s Service 1939 to 1945, written in 1983.

The battalion was given a sector to defend in the north east of the island until the Japanese made a landing on the north west coast.

After moving to Bukit Timah, five miles west of Singapore Town, the men met a strong Japanese attack and heavy fighting ensued with no air support for the Allies and plenty for their enemies.

By February 15 1941, supplies were running low as food, water and ammunition had been dumped in order to avoid being captured – the order to surrender was received.

“I managed to grab my kit and get back unnoticed to our troops…I don’t know what my position would have been if I had not taken this action as for the next three-and-a-half years we were to have nothing but what we then possessed,” wrote Capt Barratt.

“I would have had no water bottled or kit other than what I was then wearing.”

Ordered to march to Changi, the men were taken to a prison camp where dystentry and fever were commonplace and food and water in short supply.

“It was not long before we all realised that to stay alive, every individual had to augment the rice starvation diet with something – bananas, groundnuts, gula sugar, ducks’ eggs and that that these could only be obtained from the local people by having local currency which we had little or nothing of when we landed at Singapore,” wrote Capt Barratt.

Relatively quickly, he was told he was part of an advance party headed for Thailand where a railway was to be built through the jungle to link Thailand with Burma. Transported in cattle trucks so packed with soldiers that it was impossible to lie down, the men were forced to march to a transit camp at Ban Pong.

“It was in this Ban Pong camp that I first saw for myself the way the Japanese maintained discipline by torture,” wrote Capt Barratt.

“In front of the guardhouse at the entrance to the camp they had a local Thai lying on the ground with his legs and arms trussed up as a chicken is before being put in the oven to cook.

“Everyone that visited the guardroom seemed to have a free invitation to boot the poor devil as they passed by him, lying in the dust and under a hot sun.

“I can’t remember how many days he stayed there, but it was cruel to see such torture and be able to do nothing.”

Capt Barratt also talks of beatings, rock-holding endurance tests and cruel physical conditions.

Moved to Chungkai and told to build bamboo huts with leaf roofs which would later be used by troops building the railway, days quickly began to blur into one.

“There was no variation of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter to break the monotony and I cannot remember a Christmas or a birthday,” he wrote.

“We were fortunate to be in a warm climate, but I can remember saying that I would not mind if I never saw the sun again.

“Our clothes were getting tattier but it was essential to keep a pride in our cleanliness. Wood ash was helpful for keeping our teeth clean. I shaved without soap every day and used to keep a Gillette razor blade sharp on the inside of a broken bottle.”

Capt Barratt catalogues life as a prisoner of war. Ensuring water bottles were never drained until they could be refilled with boiled water. Selling his watch in order to raise funds to buy extra food. Checking eggs didn’t float before buying them. The cruel marches carrying kit. The beatings. The torture of animals. The black market trading.

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“The hospital huts in Chungkai were cruel to see,” wrote Capt Barratt.

“They resembled pictures of Belsen that we saw after our return to England. It was wonderful what the doctors did in spite of little or no medicine.

“Fellows lay on the floor with little flesh left on their bones and often as many as 14 POWs were buried in one day.”

Capt Barratt became ill at the camp and was taken to the Tha Makham Bridge Camp where there was an Australian surgeon, Major Hobbs.

Begging to be anaethetised, Capt Barratt was operated on, but “felt everything”, eventually waking up with incisions on his stomach and side, just before everyone abandoned him for the slit trenches when aircraft began to pass over.

“I could see the sky from under the roof of the hut and watched the enormous bombs coming down from a great height praying that one would land on me and put me out of my great pain and misery,” he wrote.

Weeks later, Capt Barratt was recuperating close to the bridge on camp and watched four British planes circle the prisoner-built structure before bombing it.

“We in the camp were so proud and delighted that we moved up the slit trenches towards the bridge and watched everything. I didn’t realise until years after that this was ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ referred to in the film,” he wrote.

On August 6 1945, the American bomber the Enola Gay dropped the uranium bomb known as Little Boy on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Despite its devastating effects, Japan didn’t offer unconditional surrender immediately, but then two days later, Soviet forces invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria, violating an earlier non-aggression pact signed with Japan.

On August 9, the Americans dropped Fat Man, a plutonium bomb, on Nagasaki – together, the two bombs dropped in Japan killed more than 300,000 immediately and in the aftermath: Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender on August 15.

“The bomb will always remain as my Guardian Angel. Others may see it as the wrath of God. It is estimated that up to 18,000 POWs died in the construction of the railway…the bomb only saved those that were lucky enough still to be alive,” wrote Capt Barratt.

Driven to Bangkok airport, the newly-liberated prisoners waited for their place in a British Dakota plane destined for Rangoon and hospital beds.

“I had the greatest difficulty when told I could discard the few remaining rags I had in my kit which had been guarded by me so jealously over so many years in order to stay alive,” wrote Capt Barratt.

“I did keep my officer’s hat with the Britannia badge that I wore right through our captivity.”

Almost four years to the day that he had bade farewell to his new wife, Capt Barratt stepped off a ship and on to home soil at Liverpool, before boarding a train for Peterborough where Baba was waiting for him.

“I hope they did not get too much of a shock on seeing us,” he wrote, “A new life was starting but what all of us had been through can never be forgotten.

“I thank God for my deliverance. But ‘God helps those who helps themselves’.”

Son Charlie explained that his father would have wanted to pay tribute to all the soldiers who found themselves as prisoners of war.

“Dad was just one of many territorial soldiers in a similar situation, many of whom suffered a great deal more than he did, or lost their lives,” he said.

“He was one of the lucky ones – there are many Norfolk families whose loved ones were taken prisoner at Singapore and they were all heroes, every single one of them.”

John Barratt, who had two sons, Charlie and David and a daughter, Anita, returned to Thailand in 1985 and visited the cemeteries to see the comrades that didn’t come home and spent time in the place where he had been kept as a prisoner for so many years.

“If it were not for the beautifully-kept cemeteries and the bridge, all would now be forgotten,” he wrote, “except by those remaining ex-Railway prisoners-of-war who can never forget.”

Capt Barratt attended a 4th Royal Norfolk Regiment Reunion Garden Party on July 7 2002 with several of the lifelong friends he had worked alongside on the infamous railway.

Two days later, and two day before his 90th birthday, he passed away peacefully, his beloved Baba at his side.

His officer’s cap, which had witnessed so much pain and suffering and travelled with him throughout the war took pride of place at his service.

We will remember him.

Facts

* Japan joined World War Two on December 7/8 when its armed forces attacked America’s Pearl Harbour and the British colony of Malaya

* On February 15 1942, General Percival, the British commander, surrendered Malaya and Singapore to his opponent General Yamashita

* Prisoners were initially held in very large camps in cities such as Changi, which was the largest camp throughout the war

* Bam Pong was the southern base camp for the Siam-Burma Railway

* Diseases of malnutrition and crowding such as beri-beri or dysentery took a constant toll. Mosquitoes were unavoidable, and malaria was rife. Some locations suffered huge fatalities from cholera.

* The average prisoner received less than a cup of filthy rice a day, an amount so meagre that gross malnutrition could lead to loss of vision or unrelenting nerve pain

* About four per cent of Allied prisoners died in captivity in Germany or Italy – for prisoners of the Japanese, this figure was one in four who died


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