Letter to Mr Mitchell

Dear Mr Mitchell

On the 6th January 1942, the British, Indian and Australian forces in Malaya were holding a defensive position at a small village named Slim River. To the rear of the defenses the river Slim itself was in full flood.

On the 7th January at dawn, the Japanese made a full frontal attack using aircraft and tanks. The defenders had neither of these. By the afternoon the Japanese had started to break through and orders were given to retreat, unfortunately the bridge, which would lead them to comparative safety, had already been blown, as had been the case all the way down the peninsula.

More than 7,000 men and their equipment were on the wrong side of the river, so the order was given to break and retreat. More than 3,000 Indians were killed, made prisoner or deserted, the remaining British and Australians scattered. Some tried to swim the swollen river, many of them did not make the far side. The others went into the jungle, of these, three thousand, were able to get across and rejoin their units, however some were lost for days.

A party of Artillerymen under the command of Lt Colonel Outran headed west and by the evening of the 8th January managed to climb on board a maverick train heading south.

On the morning of the 10th January the train having managed to elude Japanese aircraft, stopped to take on water. At ten o'clock that morning four Japanese light bombers strafed the train killing at least fourteen men.

Colonel Outran arranged for the men to be buried where they lay, afterwards making his way down to Singapore, where he made his report.

On the 15th February, Colonel Outran was taken prisoner at the capitulation of Singapore.

On his release from prison camp and his return home, his first priority was to send letters to the parents of the men he had known, offering his condolences. The colonel died several years ago, not knowing that the men he had buried that day were still listed as having no known grave (I have attached a transcript of his letter to the next of kin)

In 1993, I received a letter from the sister of one of the men who had been reported as missing no known grave, asking me if I would attempt to find out what had happened to her brother and if possible find his grave.

After some enquiries and searching I found an eighty year old Malay lady, who lived in the area where the graves are, who watched as the men were being buried? She pointed out to us the rough area where the men had been buried. I then contacted a lady living in Scotland a Mrs. A McCormick who is skilled in the art of Dowsing and asked her to visit Malaysia and to go to the area and use her skills, the result being that she located at least nine graves, some single others multiple.

I have tried for some months to have the Ministry of Defence to provide the necessary money to have the remains of these men exhumed and re-interred in a military cemetery

For nine months the Ministry have refused to even recognize the fact that I have located the graves and have insisted that it is government policy to leave any grave undisturbed.

Finally last week, they relented slightly and have now offered to provide a space in a military cemetery plus the removal of the remains and the supply of a headstone, but still no offer to pay for the exhumation.

Last week on Granada television a feature was shown in which I have asked people to purchase any of my books so that the total profit could go toward the cost of the work involved, I require some good hearted persons to make a donation to allow me to complete the job. Or any newspaper to back me. I estimate the total cost to be in the region of 5000.

August 15th will be the fiftieth anniversary of the ending of the war; I would consider this to be a fitting tribute to the 26,000 others the men and women who have no known grave

At the beginning of May, the government spent a considerable amount to commemorate VE day, yet they cannot spare the sum I have asked for to complete this project. I pledge that any surplus to moneys will be handed over to one of the service charities.

Yours Sincerely

PS to complete this story we did find where the men were buried, which is beneath the main railway line at Tabong. a set of double tracks were lay down by the Japanese during their occupation, they did not have knowledge that the men were buried. to my knowledge they still remain beneath the southbound line.

Arthur

 

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Fepow Memorial at Camden