July Top Story

Harry Stogden of the RAOC

 

Staff Sergeant Harry Stogden of the RAOC

and the

Changi Cross

By Bernard A. Stogden

The Mosque at Changi, which had been India Lines, was converted into a Church of England Chapel by POW’s in the 18th Division area. This was thought to be the only mosque in the world ever used by the Church of England. The conversion was carried out by Edward Wincott R.E.s, who started the pulpit and altar rails. The plaque of St. George and the Dragon was made by Robert Payne and Harry Ralph, also R.Es. A Pair of candlesticks were lovingly looked after by Cpl. Sid Roper, R.A.O.C., who brought them home and they are now in the Imperial War Museum.

This was also the first home of a beautifully made brass cross.

This brass cross made with loving care was a symbol of hope for the prisoners in Changi. When “F” Force were sent up country to work on the Railway of Death in Thailand, the church was closed and Padre Cordingly took with him the altar cross. The Bishop, as he was affectionately known, re-established St. George's Church (Mark 111) in 'Kamburi'.

This is the story of  the creation of that brass cross, a symbol of hope, as told by Bernard Stogden.

The above is an interview with Bernard for VJ Day - By Roy Noble BBC Radio Wales

 Below is a more detailed text account.

Me as a young boy211-tn

Me as a boy

It is believed that dad carried this photo as a POW

My father left home to go to the war when I was only four years old, I never saw him again, our mother dying when I was just five years old so we only knew the bare facts about our parents.

The photo on the left is of me taken before dad went away, it is believed he carried this while a prisoner of war.

My sister, whilst moving house, came across the Red Cross bag that our fathers personal effects were sent home in, inside there were some negatives that I had seen many times before but to me they didn't have any meaning at that time, now they have a lot of meaning they are of the inside of a church and I have had them developed.

"YES" they are photographs that my father had taken of the very first "St Georges Chapel" the converted Mosque that the men had taken over during the first weeks of the Japanese occupation in Singapore, now gone for ever under the Airport, a little piece of history.

 

Pictures taken of St Georges

by Harry Stogden

My father Staff Sergeant Harry Stogden of the RAOC ( later WO11) left England with the 18th Div designation Singapore, arrived Singapore Feb 1942, he was there for three weeks before being captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore.

While he was there he was given a drawing of the St Georges Cross to make by the Padre the Rev Cordingly, he made the cross from a 4.5 Howitzer shell, he got very involved in the cross and the church according to what he has written in his army note book that I have.

He stayed in Singapore until May 1943 he was in and out of Roberts Hospital with dysentery he was not in the best of health. All the time he was there he was writing to my mother in the little note book, my mother by this time had died at the age of twenty four. He never knew and we three children were left alone,. We were shunted from the children's home and my mothers family and finally I the eldest and my next sister were brought up with my mothers mother and my youngest sister sent to be brought up by my fathers sister at Enfield we two were in Wales we were never a family again.

Pictures taken of St Georges

by Harry Stogden

My father was taken from Singapore by the Japanese to Japan by sea and ended up in Fukuoka camp six, working in a coal mine. He was quite a clever man in civilian life he was a mechanical engineer and worked for the Advanced Laundry Noel Street London W1 where he was very highly thought of. They had a plaque made for all those that had died in the war his name was on it, the plaque was hung on the wall of the main entrance, the firm has now ceased and the building gone, I have been trying to trace what has happened to the plaque but up until now have had no success.

My father survived until the war ended, he was taken by the Americans to their hospital ship the USS HAVEN at Nagasaki.

The camp at Fukuoka after liberation by the Americans

Harry on left

This is the very last picture we have of him.

He died on board the USS HAVEN from Beri Beri his body then was transferred to the British Aircraft Carrier HMS SPEAKER, he was buried with full military honours at sea, Nagasaki.

Harry was buried at sea with full military honours

I found out about my dad and the Cross by pure accident, I became a member of the JLCSA and it was whilst reading a news report that had been sent to me one Saturday, reading the front page story about the St Georges Cross Changi of how it was made by a Staff Sergeant in the RAOC the only name that they had was his Christian name "HARRY". The words were jumping out of the page I knew that this man must have to be my father. On telephoning Mr Bill Holtham who wrote the story I told him that I thought that this man might be my father, he asked me what my surname was I said "Stogden" and he said yes it was my father. We had quite an emotional chat he told me of how he couldn't remember the surname as he always called him Staff but he said he was also my friend. He told me of how he use to watch the progress of the making of the Cross of how my father use to come back to the hut of an evening and show how far he had progressed in the making of it. He told me of how my father used to make sewing needles for the machines that they had managed to scrounge and how my father had made artificial limbs for the men, believe me I couldn't have felt more proud to listen to all the marvellous things that my dad had done. This what people don't realise I was only four years old when he went to war I have gone through life without a father I missed him then and I still miss him now, the different governments that have come into power have never thought what about the children of these brave men we don't get a look in neither do we ever get a mention we have just had to get on with it.

My sister has found another eighty negatives that were in my fathers Personal effects, the same lot as when she found the photos of the Changi Chapel, some had gone past redemption. The others have been added in a Picture Gallery .

The Singapore Tourist Board invited me to Singapore last year to the opening of the new museum and Chapel at Changi I was a guest of honour to place my fathers cross on the alter, they allowed me to take my family with me seven of us went they paid for us to be put up at a hotel for three days, we were treated like royalty I will never forget, it was just great to show my kids and their kids what a wonderful man my father must have been, I had tears in my eyes the whole time that we were there.

In Memory

Sergeant HARRY STOGDEN

7589720, L.A.D., Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
attd. 18th Div. Sigs., Royal Corps of Signals
who died age 38
on Monday 15th September 1945.


Remembered with honour
SINGAPORE MEMORIAL

 

By Bernard A. Stogden

bernard@stogden200.fsnet.co.uk

 

A look at how Bernard researched his fathers story can be found at, Bernards Research Diary

[Religion] [Jewry's Book of Honour] [Religion at Changi] [Wisdom of Adversity] [Camps]

 

 

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