University of Oxford
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My ship left without me in Singapore as Japanese approached

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 19:46 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Walter Leslie Hughes served as a Corporal in the RAF. He was in Singapore with 36 Squadron, one day when he was with six other men, they tried to return to the ship, when they discovered the Navy ship had sailed without them and had left them stranded.

They tried to make their way to Johor, failed to do so and just carried on walking. They then met some of the Japanese invading troops and surrendered to them.

They were all taken to a Prisoner of War camp being run by the Japanese in Singapore. During their time in the camp, they were put to work and a copy of a pay book was shown, the sons were not sure, what the pay consisted of, whether food rations or money.

Water kept himself busy in camp, by compiling lists on scraps of paper he could get hold of. His prized possession was a bamboo fan that he obtained, and, on which, he wrote the names of many men who were confined in the camp with him. This fan he managed to bring home with him after the war.

The fan was taken after the war to the Imperial War Museum, who put him in touch with an expert who interviewed him and compiled a folder, including the names on the fan, which has been instrumental in tracing relatives of deceased prisoners of war. This document has been filed away and is not on public show.

After being freed from the camp, Walter was on HMS Implacable, which took him and the other freed prisoners to Vancouver. After the war, Walter worked as a Refrigeration Engineer until he retired.


Item list and details

1-6. Japanese Fan with names of prisoners 7- 10. Japanese PoW pay book 11. picture of Walter Hughes 12-13. RAF document Service book 14. Newspaper cutting Beckenham Journal concerning the viewing of the A Bomb 15. Letter home from Singapore 16. RAF service history 17. Japanese PoW record 18. Walter after the war 19. Postcard sent to Walter's sister

Person the story/items relate to

Walter Leslie Hughes

Person who shared the story/items


Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Contributor is the son of Walter

Type of submission

Shared at West Meads Community Hall, West Sussex on 11 November 2023. The event was organised by Bognor Regis u3a.

Record ID

105974 | BOG028