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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
End of the war - but no cheering
By Martin Hamer
BBC News, Liverpool

John Fitzsimmons
John Fitzsimmons has poignant reminders of his war experiences

John Fitzsimmons had been a prisoner of war for nearly four years on the day Japan surrendered.

It signalled the end of World War II, coming just days after atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But Mr Fitzsimmons, from Liverpool, recalled: "There was no cheering. Everybody sat around in little groups just talking.

"You think we would have gone wild but we didn't."

He has never forgotten his experiences in the Far East - and never wants to forget either.

"I have had nightmares about it all - though not as many now - so I don't get the chance to forget," said Mr Fitzsimmons, who was a light machine gunner with the Lancashire-based 2nd Battalion Loyal Regiment.

Now 83, he was shot through the neck and then left for dead in a makeshift mortuary.

The wall had totally disappeared and our corned beef with it!
John Fitzsimmons

He also took refuge on a dance floor in the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore to escape mortar bombs.

Among his poignant possessions from his time as a PoW are two photographs.

The pictures, taken 12 months apart in 1942 and 1943, are of him and his colleagues.

They show graphically how much weight every soldier had lost in one year. Less than half of the 48 survived, said Mr Fitzsimmons, of Belle Vale.

He is accompanied by his wife May, 74, as he reminisces about his PoW experiences.

Training exercises

A widower and widow, they have been married to each other for 13 years. Mrs Fitzsimmons was a child evacuee during the war.

Mr Fitzsimmons remembers to the day when he was sent to Singapore, 1 August 1940. He was involved in training exercises until Japan entered the war on 7 December 1941.

He was in the Malayan jungle when he was shot through the neck by a sniper.

He remembers being taken into a small marquee where it looked like there were many wounded people on stretchers.

John Fitzsimmons and his wife May
John Fitzsimmons and his wife May have been married for 13 years

"I didn't know at the time that they were all supposed to be dead and when they came in the morning to remove us and I waved my hand, the orderly had a fit!" he said.

He was sent back to Singapore where he teamed up with an Australian soldier.

"We hadn't had anything to eat for about three days when we found a big tin of corned beef and sat on the wall of Raffles Hotel," he said.

"As we opened it, we heard mortars starting to hit, so we dived into the Raffles Hotel, and lay on the dance floor not knowing where the bombs were going to land.

"After the raid, we went out - the wall had totally disappeared and our corned beef with it!"

The capture of Singapore in February 1942 for the Japanese signalled the end of British power in the Far East.

'Badly treated'

Mr Fitzsimmons said: "The day after the surrender, the Japanese did a victory parade and we were marched to Changi where we were made to live out in the open for six months.

"Then, hundreds of British and Australian soldiers were taken to a prisoner of war camp in Korea by boat. We were there for 18 months.

"We were very badly treated and lots of colleagues died there."

He said they were then moved to Kobe near Nagasaki in Japan where the beatings continued.

"For the last 12 months, we were moved to Motoyama, to work down the coal mines. Quite a few died there," he said.

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