Sunday, 8 December 2013

Gone, but not forgotten

One of my passions is genealogy - regular visitors here will know that for this year's A-Z blog challenge I concentrated on the joys (and frustrations!) of family history.

Most of it is just names, dates and places, but every now and then there comes a bit of information or a photograph that brings the individual almost 'back to life'.

One such occurrence happened quite recently when an off-the-cuff remark by a family member led to the discovery of a number of letters from WW2 - from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

Donald 'Donnie' Brown was my husband's Great Uncle. He was in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force and when the island was captured by Japanese forces he was interned in Stanley Camp for the duration.

A few of his letters managed to find their way back to his sister in India and we have been privileged to see them and preserve them for posterity.

They make harrowing reading, as they are filled with positive emotions of looking forward to the day when the war would be over and the family could be reunited. Sadly, although he survived and was able to get back to India, his sister was just returning from England. They later realised their ships would have passed each other in Bombay.

Donnie returned to Hong Kong and resumed his career with the RHKP, married and started a family and finally relocated to New Zealand. Though both he and his sister lived well into old age they never saw each other again, although they communicated by letter and phone.

Seeing the cards he wrote from prison, with their Japanese pictograms, brings home an aspect of WW2 in the Pacific that I'd never really considered; in the UK, most of our knowledge of the war is centred on the European conflict.

Reading the four-page letter he wrote on release, unfettered by lack of censorship, it seems a romantic engagement had been called off and he found himself footloose and fancy free......there's a novel in that, somewhere!

And the story of Donnie is still bringing new discoveries, for just today I received this picture at the top of this post - taken as preparations for defence were being carried out; sadly they were not to know how swiftly the enemy would arrive, nor in what numbers that would quickly overwhelm them.

Still, he looks rather dashing, at the wheel - a bit of playboy charm about him!  You may be gone, Donnie, but you are most definitely NOT forgotten!


  1. It would be wonderful if more people had left these kinds of things about their lives. It is really special when they come to those who love to look for their ancestors.

  2. What a legacy and a treasure! And, what a life fully lived.