My Dad: Private William Ross 10533623

December 1, 2007

 Bill Ross Picture

My dad William “Bill” Ross was born on November 20th 1921 and died on November 4th 1992. He lead an unremarkable life, married for 40 years, 4 children, job with British Airways for 32 years and an all round decent man. I was lucky to have him as a father.

There is however a pasage of his life from 1942 to 1946 that was anything but unremarkable. It was his time in World War 2. A time he never spoke of, he was a prisoner of war in Singapore under the Japanese. It was a time I know very little about. My Dad chose, for his own reasons, to keep his own council about what went on. I remember him talking of “Pebbles” an Australian colleague so named because of his build, my Dad’s ability with engines that it appears got him through some of the more difficult times, a severe illness that nearly killed him and his de-mob suit and 200 cigarrettes he was given when he got home weighing 6 stone ( 84lbs). I don’t want to overglamourise something I know so little about there’s a danger that you can undermine the facts by guessing at fiction. I would love to put some of the pieces together and find out what really happened. Anyway my Mum showed me some documents I didn’t know existed and feel the need to share them, maybe someone will see them that can help me discover the facts.

I have often drawn strength from my Dad’s time as a POW. “If Dad could deal with that surely I can cope with……….” Recently I have succomed to self pity, apathy and a feeling that life doesn’t give out what I deserve. Well, these were surely thoughts that never crossed my Dad’s mind and are thoughts I need to put back where they belong. I hope this helps.

These documents require no narrative, I will fill in bits that require “local knowledge” and take you through a chronological history of 5 years that must have been constantly in my Dad’s thoughts but never, ever impacted on those he loved and who loved him.

 A copy of a will made when Bill signed up in 1942.

 will.jpg

Everything was to be left to his mum.

The First Cable Home 3rd February 1942 from the boat on the way to Singapore

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My grandparents lived in Bury, Lancashire and it was where my Dad was born and spent the first 21 years of his life.

The second cable home 27th March 1942 from Singapore

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It would appear that this was sent prior to the British surrender and capture of thousands of British troops.

First postcard home 12th July 1943. News that Bill was a prisoner of war

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Bill’s parents had moved to Ashford, Middlesex by now, obviously Bill wasn’t aware and this card was sent via Lancashire and Ashford, Kent before finally ending up with his parents.

Army recognition of Bills Predicament. Thanks!

gittings.jpg

I don’t know who M L Gittings was, it appears he was an officer safely based in Bombay.

A local newspaper cutting tells the story

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A local Ashford, Middlesex paper carries the story.

Undated Postcard Home

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Postcard Home Christmas 1943

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Don’t know why this was typed and not handwritten. I do recognise the signature as my dad’s.

Postcard Home 7th August 1944. 1 Year a POW

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I can only guess at what my Dad was refering to.  Unfortunately none of the letters my dad recieved survived.

Postcard Home 21st March 1945.

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I cannot read this postcard without a huge swell of emotion. I just can’t imagine my Dad’s situation and feelings as he wrote “I’ll make it”

Postcard Sent From Home 1st July 1945. Returned Undelivered

postcard-from-home.jpg

The normality of what is written is staggering. This kind of information, obviously so personal, must have kept Bill in touch with reality despite the unreality of his situation.

Cable home from Colombo after Bills release. 18th September 1945

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Cable home September 24th 1945

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Letter From The King September 1945

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Army Release Payment

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55 months as a Private serving his country earnt my Dad 65 pounds, 11 shillings and sixpence!

 In an age when we expect so much from life without putting much back, this collection of documents show how much  my Dad and millions like him gave without question or hesitation. He expected nothing in return and in fact only collected his medals a few years before his death. There was no claim for compensation given or expected.

This post is hugely personal but shows how things have changed through the whole of society. I hope anyone viewing this post takes a minute to re think their prioritys and how we all take our comfortable lifestyles for granted. Their are many political and social issues from this period in our history that bring the way we live our lives today into question but they can be saved for another day.

I am hugely proud of my Dad and will continue to draw strength from this period of his life and the way he continued to live his life despite the horrors he witnissed and suffered. I miss you Dad.

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18 Responses to “My Dad: Private William Ross 10533623”

  1. micky2 Says:

    Hey brother.
    My dad died in my arms Christmas eve,
    He never went through anything as treacherous and as your father did. He never even joined the service.
    But looking back now, which is all I can do without his precense. I realize how he loved and made huge huge sacrifices for his family.
    Which is all the more reason for us as human beings to maintain the household that consists of a mother and father for the benefit of our kids so they can reap the benefits of seeing what a father truly is. And we as men can carry the legacy forward.
    Peace and love to your father and yourself as well

  2. daveross Says:

    Thanks Mick, after my Dad died 15 years ago it took a long time to move on and stop comparing my every action with what I thought my Dad would have done. You just don’t do enough while they’re alive.
    Respect and regards as always
    Dave

  3. micky2 Says:

    Merry Chrismas to you and your loved ones

  4. micky2 Says:

    Just dropped by to wish you a happy and warm new year buddy.
    May the bollocks be with you !

  5. Roxie Says:

    Thanks for sharing this with all us,, I seen your post on the WWI site, Had whent there to see it ,, My grandfather, fathers side served in France in WWI and his brother died there, also my mothers uncle also died in WWI,, I had heard it was rought being a foot solder,, My Father and lots of Uncles where in WWII, and husband Nam. Some times you have to fight to keep loved ones safe,,,
    Thanks

  6. Paul/Bermuda Says:

    We are truly the kids of the greatest generation,My dad who passed away 2 years ago was born a month after your dad and served in the RAF,transfering to the fleet air arm to fight the Japanese after the Germans were all but beaten.He looked great in both uniforms.Grandad was in the Royal engineers,wounded while transporting munitions on canal barges in France
    They were great role models ,real men who raised families with love and morals,future generations need to take note on how it should be done,

  7. James Says:

    Hi Mick,

    I am a Singaporean, and have visited the museums here in my country where the plights of the prisoners of war were featured. I have also learnt about WWII conditions in Singapore in my history books. I am often very affected by the tough lives they went through, though I guess I will never understand. Reading the letters from your father just gave me a further insight into the lives the PoWs lead then. Cheers for sharing what I consider to be valuable artifacts on history. You mentioned at the start of this blog entry that your dad led an unremarkable life. I think the fact that he survived his time as a PoW is remarkable enough.

    Take care!
    James

    PS: Come visit Singapore some day, ya?

  8. Melissa Says:

    hi there!I just wanted to say how amazing this is! Keep up the wonderful work! I’m sure you’ll find a lot. I’m an avid family historian, as is my mum. We have many family members that have been to war. I’ve heard so much about the british POWs from my 2 grandfathers and our family. One story is that one of my grandfather’s mates used to sneak in food and medicine to POWs in Singapore. He was caught, then luckily escaped, however, he never forgot his English and Aussie mates back inside and would do anything to help them out, betting his last money for a ciggarette to give to one of the blokes, even sneaking a few people out for a day to go see a nurse or a doctor and returning them that evening. I have never been able to find out when and where exactly in Singapore he was, nor who he helped out. Keep up the good work, don’t lose faith. Peace

  9. Melissa Says:

    PS: just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing something so amazing, beautiful and personal with the world. You are so lucky that you have some things that have survived! Good luck in your searching!

  10. James Says:

    Hi Dave,

    I’m terribly sorry about calling you Mick instead, what an embarassing faux pas…. but thanks for posting my previous comment.

    Cheers,
    James

  11. Ammu Kannampilly Says:

    Hi Dave,
    I saw your comment on the Harry Lamin WW1 blog. I am a journalist and work at the London bureau of ABC News (US). I am currently working on a story for http://www.abcnews.com on the Harry Lamin blog. I was wondering if one of you could spare a few minutes of your time to let me know what drew you to the blog and what you thought about it? Also, what do you think made the Lamin blog such a success with so many logging on to read the next installment from his letters?
    I would love to hear from you, either via email on ammu.kannampilly@gmail.com or ammu.x.kannampilly.-ND@abc.com or I can call you tomorrow morning, if you give me your number. I very much hope that you might find the time to speak with me or email me. I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks so much for your time!
    Best regards, Ammu

  12. daveross Says:

    Thanks to you all for your comments and interest. I hope my Dad would approve of me making this available for public consumption. I truly belive that this period of time in our history can teach us all valuable lessons. Not the politicians but the ordinary man or woman who doesn’t truly appreciate what we have now and that we owe it to the thousands of men like my dad who were prepared to sacrifice everything to do the right thing. Some of us wouldn’t sacrifice a seat on a bus, never mind their lives!


  13. […] was a story about it on Yahoo news. As I have recently posted some cards and telegrams from my Dad’s time as POW in Singapore on my blog I thought I would take a look. I found a beautifully presented blog which is […]

  14. Jody Says:

    Dave,
    I found your Dad’s letters to be inspiring. His letters home were beautiful in their simplicity and showed a courage that most men could only imagine. I must take issue with your opening comment….your Dad did have a remarkable life: for any man to endure such a horrible captivity and return to a normal life, marry for 40 years and produce an obviously thankful, proud and loving son is truly remarkable. Thanks for sharing these amazing letters. Best wishes,
    Jody

  15. daveross Says:

    Jody, thanks for your response. The point I was making was the dicotomy between the unremarkable nature of my fathers life either side of his remarkable time during WW2. It is a never ending source of inspiration that he was able to seperate his hugely remarkable experience from his day to day life. I can only imagine the mental strength required to do so.
    Thanks again.
    Dave

  16. Marcus Says:

    HI Dave, my old man, bless him, died 11 years ago today and was born 1922, and was called up into the Engineers in 1942, going through North Africa, Italy and Austria. I was lucky, in fact we all were in my family that dad always talked about his time, and even wrote the war years down and recorded them so i can hear him whenever I want. You can never replace the loss, but we are lucky mate, many don’t know their dads let alone have them still influence their daily lives like we do. Chin up mate, they may be fading away but those old soldiers will always be our hero’s.

  17. William P. Ross Says:

    Hi, My Dad’s name was William Louis Ross, He was born 05-05-1921 and died in April of 1992, weird huh?, I wonder what other similarities we have? Im 50 and have three children,I live in Phoenix, Az (HOT). Oh my dad got a purple heart fighting in WW2. I miss him everyday still….Bill…..

  18. Dave Ross Says:

    Dave,

    I read the story about your dad and can’t believe some of the similarities. My dad also fought in WWII with the RAAF based out of Northern Australia for approximately 5 years. He was a pilot flying heavy bomber missions against the Japanese across the pacific.

    The strange things here are that his name was also William Louis Ross, my name is Dave Ross and believe it or not my family and I are currently based in Singapore. My brother-in-law has documented an overview of my dad and his time during the war. I would be happy to send you a copy if you like.

    My dad was also an inspiration to us all and his memory certainly gives us all strength in knowing that we have it realitively easy compared to what he endured. They were all from a generation that we could do with a good dose of today.

    Dad passed away in 1984 at age 69, too young for sure yet happily remembered and sadly missed.

    All the best to you and your family…

    Cheers…

    The other Dave Ross


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