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Wartime Memories - Fuel Depot, Japanese POW, Stalag Luft

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posted on 2024-06-05, 19:42 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Told to me by my father, Lawrence William Turner, who worked in London (Export Packaging), but it was bombed so he joined the Fire Service. He was about 31 years old his job was Pump Escape. The massive oil depot at Coryton was bombed for 7 days. Three appliances from the Southend Fire Service Branch were sent to deal with the fire. Lawrence was one of the firemen sent. He and other firemen were hosing a fire when there was a huge water surge that threw him and another fireman off the hose. Lawrence hurt his back, but the other fireman fell into the fire. Several firemen died fighting the fire. They covered the dead firemen's bodies with corrugated iron sheets. After 7 days the firemen left and everyone cheered them as they left. The Bell Hotel was used as accommodation and a station whilst the firemen were fighting the fire. The Chief Fire Officer at Southend was Percy Garon.

Another memory was told to me by my Uncle, Battery QMS Arthur J. Waldock (Uncle Lofty) of the Royal Artillery who was captured in Singapore and a POW at Changi. He was sent to work building roads where he nicked his thumb. As he was just fed rice water and on a very poor diet it got gangrenous. Five Japanese soldiers held him down and cut off his arm. When he was liberated and on his way home he wrote to his grandmother, Ellen Jame Ewing, when going through the Suez Canal. He wrote in green indelible pencil. He asked her to tell his wife and son, Marie and Jimmy, that he was coming home. They had caught the last boat out of Singapore and had spent the war in Australia. He got back to England before his wife and son.

My Stepfather, William Butcher, was a Pilot Officer flying Blenheim airplanes. His plane got shot down. The controls jammed and he flew in circles. Rear guns also jammed and he couldn't bail out. The Germans were following and captured him when he landed. He was a POW at the Wooden Horse Stalag (Stalag Luft III). He said that two men shared each bunk so they could double up on blankets to keep warm. Slats from the beds were also taken to strengthen the escape tunnels being built so you had to be careful at night! When they were liberated they had a long march across Germany. He was malnourished and dropped out of the market sheltering in a barn. The British troops found him.


Person the story/items relate to

Lawrence William Turner, Arthur J. Waldock, and William Butcher

Person who shared the story/items


Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Father, Uncle and Step-Father

Type of submission

Shared at Wetherden Village Hall, Suffolk on 11 November 2023. The event was organised by Wetherden History Group.

Record ID

100597 | WET005