Palembang-and-beyond-blog

Palembang and Beyond book launch

 

Palembang and Beyond
by Mike Roussel

 

Mike Roussel brings together in this book a fascinating record of the British Pacific Fleet during the Second World War, in particular the closing years of conflict with Japan and the cruel fate meted out on the Palembang Nine after surrender on VJ Day.

 

 

 

The BOOK LAUNCH – a reunion
Saturday 14th April 2018

A rare reunion of Second World War veterans from the Fleet Air Arm took place at the book launch of Palembang and Beyond, held at The Museum of Army Flying – rare because of the great age reached by these veterans, who are now all in their late nineties.

They were young during the war, aged eighteen to twenty, and their active service took place during the early years of the RAF, which was newly formed in April 1918. Their stories are told within Palembang and Beyond, a new book by shipping and aviation author, Mike Roussel.

The book launch was supported by a large group of guests who came from as far afield as Devon.

The Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP, who wrote the foreword for the book, also attended. He explained how his interest in military history and a chance conversation with Mike Roussel had triggered the writing of this book about the Pacific War.

Mike Roussel spoke at the launch about how he had ‘discovered as it were by accident, three gentlemen who were air crew with Fleet Air Arm 849 Squadron’. In writing the book, Mike travelled to interview Arthur Page, Norman ‘Dickie’ Richardson and John ‘Buster’ Brown, all of whom had all flown in the bombing raids on the Palembang oil refineries. He also heard from them about their fellow airmen who never came home from the war, among them the captured air crew known as the Palembang Nine who were cruelly executed by the Japanese after the surrender on VJ Day.

It took Mike just over a year to complete the research and writing of Palembang and Beyond. During that time he transcribed the veterans’ stories for inclusion in the book and gathered from them many of the 151 photographs that are published there for the first time. The photos give fascinating insights into the type of aircraft and the terrain over which the Fleet Air Arm fought, showing how challenging the air offensive was in the Pacific War.

Fleet-Air-Arm-Squadron-849-veterans

Attending the launch were veterans Dr Arthur Page, who was an Avenger pilot, and Norman ‘Dickie’ Richardson DSM, TAG (Telegraphist Air Gunner) who flew with Arthur. John ‘Buster’ Brown, who was also an Avenger pilot with 849 Squadron, lives in Yorkshire and was unable to come the distance. His brother, Michael Brown, represented him and brought his greetings and his wishes that he could have been there.

Julian Lewis in paying tribute to the veterans, said, It is absolutely typical of this generation that they do not brag or boast in any way. For instance, it was only from other people and not from Norman himself that I discovered he’d been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for the Palembang raid. Mike has done terrific work in making sure that their stories live for all time, without which they would be lost to history.”

The book’s publisher, Jenny Knowles of Little Knoll Press agreed. “I believe it’s important that these stories should be told, because history easily gets rewritten and it can’t be rewritten if it is truly from a memoir. These precious gentlemen, the clarity of their memories and the importance of the things that they remember really should be there for people to know about in the future and now.”

 

For St Patrick’s Day an Irish story

letters-from-manchuriaLetters from Manchuria:  The story of Marion Young, missionary in Japanese-occupied China.
                                 edited by Neil T. Sinclair

Coming all the way from Manchuria in 1935, Marion Young’s Irish spirit of adventure and fun shines through, bringing this unique story to life.

 

Marion’s writing is lyrical without ever being pretentious and her sense of humour emerges even when her surroundings are quite grim, as does her delight in using a little Irish blarney, sometimes to get out of extremely risky situations.

Her story is full of suspense as well. The period of Japanese occupation was precarious for everyone and then with the start of the Second World War, the dangers for Westerners living in China escalated tenfold.

This hardback book is a fascinating read and full of photographs – well worth taking a look at.

 

Commonwealth Day 2018

CommonwealthToday, 12th March 2018, is COMMONWEALTH DAY, a day to celebrate the ties of friendship and practical cooperation between the Commonwealth of Nations.

The theme of this year’s Commonwealth Day is Towards a Common Future and the day of celebration will be followed by meetings between the heads of the 53 nations in the Commonwealth when they gather ‘to respond to global challenges, and deliver a more prosperous, secure, sustainable and fair future for all of our citizens, particularly our young people’.

The vision and commitment of these nations to work together goes back long before the forming of the Commonwealth, and it got me to thinking about the Holdsworth Mission Hospital in Mysore, South India, a hospital brought about more than a century ago by cooperation between people of the United Kingdom and India.

The HOLDSWORTH MEMORIAL HOSPITAL story:

view-of-hospital-late-1950s

Through the work of missionaries from the Methodist Missionary Society, notably Mary Holdsworth and the Rev George Sawday, and a gift of land by the Maharaja of Mysore, the Mary Calvert Holdsworth Memorial Hospital came into being in 1906 to serve the needs of women and children in Mysore city.

 

 

 

Dr-Elsie-Watts-&-Dr-Edith-Watts-at-a-patient's-home

It was a time when cholera, typhoid and plague were endemic, and there was nowhere for women and children to go for help. Holdsworth Hospital, also named ‘Karuna Shala’ (Home of Compassion), offered medical care to people of all creeds and castes, whatever their means.

 

 

CSI-inauguration-1947

 

The hospital grew in its work and established a nurses’ training school. In the late-1940s when the Church of South India was formed, Holdsworth Hospital, among other Methodist institutions, was handed over to the CSI, with the Methodist Missionary Society continuing to fund a number of doctors, nurses, pathologists and pharmacy staff during a time of transition of management into the hands of the Church of South India.

 

Frank,Winnie,-R&J-1951One of the Methodist missionary doctors was my father, Frank Ivor Tovey OBE FRCS, who arrived as a young surgeon in 1951. His first role was to open a men’s department, this being a requirement for nurse training to continue. He worked at Holdsworth Hospital for 16 years, during which time the hospital developed its work and became an Indian run institution.

My mother, Winifred Tovey, also supported the work of the hospital, working voluntarily, as was the case with many missionaries’ wives. She raised funds for special equipment and projects, obtaining grants and setting up leprosy clinics and the rehabilitation of leprosy patients, which resulted in a very low incidence of leprosy in the surrounding area.

Cor-Blimey-Where-ave-you-come-from

 

Years later, when she was in her 90s, Winnie wrote her book, Cor Blimey! Where ‘ave you come from? in which she describes the story of Holdsworth Hospital and the interesting times she experienced in Mysore through the 1950s and ‘60s.

Holdsworth-Hospital

 

Today the Holdsworth Hospital continues as the Home of Compassion, its dedicated staff still delivering the highest standard of care, although facing the same challenges of old buildings and a chronic lack of funds.

 

 

 

Listen to Winnie and Frank Tovey talking to Libby Purves on BBC Radio 4’s  ‘Midweek’ programme, 28th December 2011.