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Monday, July 14, 2014


I was contacted by a reporter the other day. Via email at first, he asked for my phone number and I refused. Well we all know better than to give out stuff by email right. Well he said he was from the London Telegraph and I could check his credentials. SO I did........I then gave him my number and he phoned me. Then began a very unusual conversation. His newspaper had been contacted by a lady in Japan. She had found an old autograph book that had been signed by some POW in the camp near her home. Yes, one of those men was my father. Harry Hines. So here is the article.

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Caught up in the devastation the Second World War 16-year-old Yoko Koshida found solace from air raids and food shortages in her music.
But the piano pieces she played at her window also brought comfort to a very unlikely audience – a group of Allied prisoners who gathered to listen through the barbed wire of their Japanese prison camp, just yards away.
So grateful were the men that following the Japanese surrender, they visited Yoko’s home, bringing her family gifts of desperately needed essentials. Before leaving, several of the PoWs signed their names in her autograph book, along with messages of goodwill, with one expressing the hope that “England and Japan can be friends”.
That encounter between supposed enemies stayed with Mrs Koshida – now aged 85 – and when she recently stumbled across the notebook she resolved to find the men she had played for decades earlier.
Her first step was to contact POW Research Network Japan, which catalogues the POW camps in Japan and the men they held.
Mrs Koshida also enlisted the help of The Telegraph, which – following its own investigations – can now reveal what became of the prisoners to whom her music brought such comfort.
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(Harry Hines)
The incredible story began in March 1945, after Yoko and her family left their home in Tokyo, where the firestorms unleashed by American bombing raids on the city killed between 80,000 and 130,000 civilians.
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The family found refuge in the city of Yokohama, in a house overlooking prisoner of war camp 14B. This held around 120 POW’s from Britain, the United States, Australia and the Netherlands captured by the Japanese.
Now a widow, Mrs Koshida, said: “I was very frightened when the prisoners were first brought here because they were all very tall and I had never seen a foreigner before. They were not aggressive at all; they were very quiet”
She recalls that the men, who were forced to work in factories, spent their spare time growing vegetables, though they were not above stealing from her father’s crop of cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines.
“My father said they were starving, just like us, so he didn’t make a fuss,” she said.
Mrs Koshida, who hoped to go to music college, would practice every day, the pieces she played drifting through her open windows and down over the prison blocks. “One day, I noticed from the window that there were three men sitting on the roof of the barracks,” she said “The next day, there were a few more people with them – and the day after that there were dozens of them.”
Forbidden to communicate with the prisoners, Mrs Koshida did not wave or make eye contact with the men, but after a while she began to recognise a few of her regular listeners.
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Former British prisoner of war Harry Hines before his capture (JULIAN SIMMONDS)
Within days of Emperor Hirohito announcing Japan’s surrender on August 15, Allied aircraft began dropping food and medicine onto the camps, and one evening the men brought round tins of food as gifts for her family. Mrs Koshida said: “The bell rang and my father went down to the door. He came back with some cans of food. The prisoners wanted to give them to me because of my piano playing and they told my father that we were all friends now.”
When Allied forces arrived on August 30 to take away their men, the men made a point of returning to her home with more gifts, handing over sugar, soap and more tins of food. “They were excited,” Seized by a sudden impulse she grabbed her autograph book and asked the men to write their names and addresses.
The yellowing pages of her notebook still clearly show the names of Harry Hines, of Luton; a T. Taylor, of Ponders End in Middlesex, and Leonard Patrick Sheaf, of Enfield, Middlesex; along with that of an American from Georgia and an Australian POW from Tasmania. Mr Sheaf and Mr Taylor penned brief messages for the teenager.
“Thank you for a very nice evening. I hope to see you again. Hope England and Japan [can] be friends,” wrote Mr Sheaf. Beneath Mr Taylor’s name was written August 30, the date of their departure, and the message: “This war was a very bad thing for everyone. I would very much like them to come back and to see them again.”
Mrs Koshida said. “The war was over, they had survived and they were going home now.” Sitting at the same Mason & Hamlin grand piano she played all those years ago – still positioned by a window overlooking the site of the camp – Mrs Koshida added. “I hope they have survived all these years and, after the terrible time they had, that they are all well now. I still think I could play them some Chopin if they were able to return.”
Inspired by her wish, the Sunday Telegraph set out to discover what became of the three British PoWs who signed that autograph book and their story of capture, imprisonment and liberation is as inspiring as her own.
Records show that Mr Hines, who was born in 1917, served in the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, having joined as a reservist before enlisting as a Sargeant in 1939, on the outbreak of war. The regiment has been expecting to be posted to the Middle East, but when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941, Mr Hines and his comrades were redirected to the defence of Singapore.
It was here, in February 1942, in what was one of the worst defeats inflicted on the British Army, that Mr Hines was captured by the invading Japanese.
Mr Hines’s daughter Janice recalls: “He had become separated from his regiment and at first my mother believed he was killed when Singapore fell.”
In fact Mr Hines had been taken to Omari POW camp, near Tokyo, before being transferred to Yokohama’s camp 14B. The ordeal left its scars. He was frequently beaten by guards and the poor prison diet, consisting mainly of rice, left him with lifelong stomach problems.
But Mr Hines managed to rebuild his life after the war, marrying his childhood sweetheart Irene Seabrook on his return and returning to his job as a lathe operator for an engineering firm in Dunstable, eventually rising to the position of company buyer.
In 1946 Harry and Irene had Janice, but for several years Mr Hines was haunted by his wartime experiences.
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Former British prisoner of war 'Joe' Taylor aboard a ship after the war (JULIAN SIMMONDS)
Janice Schaub, now married and living in Michigan, said: “My mother said that when he first came back he was an entirely different man. When the first jet planes started to fly overhead he would dive under the table. To him they sounded like the bombers.”
But for all his suffering Mr Hines bore no ill will towards Japan and its people.
“My father lived a life without hatred,” said Mrs Schaub, 68. “He always judged people by their character rather than their nationality. He remembered Japan as a beautiful country and in later years had even planned to go back, because he wanted to see Mount Fuji.”
Unfortunately Mr Hines died at the age of 67, in April 1985, before being able to fulfil his ambition.
His comrade 'T. Taylor’ was, we discovered, Thomas 'Joe’ Taylor, who was captured with his regiment, the Royal Engineers, when the Japanese invaded the British colony of Hong Kong, in December 1941.
Mr Taylor later told his family how he suffered terribly from the cold at camp 14B, having been issued with just one blanket. After the war he stayed in the Army until 1957, when he went on to work for the Foreign Office, coordinating security at embassies. This saw him posted around the world, including Cuba, China and Nigeria, with his wife Hazel, who he married in 1953.
But his favourite posting was, surprisingly perhaps, to Japan, where he served at the British embassy from 1976 to 1979. Mrs Taylor, now 92 and living in Hampshire in a house filled with Japanese prints and decorative dolls, said: “He was very fond of Japan in the end. He got on very well with the people. In fact we made more friends there than anywhere else.”
Mr Taylor never told the Japanese he met that he had once been their POW. His widow, who remains in contact with several of the Japanese friends she taught English during their stay in Tokyo, said: “He didn’t hold any resentment against the ordinary Japanese.”
The story of Mr Sheaf, the third Briton in the group, remains more of a mystery. In the autograph book Leonard Patrick Sheaf gives his address as one in Enfield which records show a man with the same name shared with his father Leonard, mother Alice and brother Patrick before the war.
But Mr Sheaf’s son John, 41, said he knew nothing about his father being a Japanese POW. “I’m sure its something he would have said. We always thought he’d been evacuated to Northern Ireland as a teenager and joined the merchant navy after the war. We don’t know anything about him being in Japan” he said, adding however: “Funnily enough he was a great fan of Japanese culture. He liked how respectful and honourable they were.”
The question remains whether any of the men told their loved ones, on their return to Britain, of the girl who played the piano? It seems not. But their families can easily imagine the comfort her playing brought. “It must have been something for them to really look forward to each day,” said Mrs Schaub. “Something as nice as that.”
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Well that was the article. We talked about a lot more and there is much more to tell.
In brief my father was caught when Singapore fell, he was kept at Changi prison before being shipped (on the death ships) to Japan where he was for a time in Omari. He apparently spent the Spring and summer of 45 in the camp near Yokohama.
If you read the comments to the article some people take issue that those particular prisoners did not hate the Japanese. They assume they were not misstreated, but they were. My dad was beaten on more than one occasion. He told me that he was kept at bayonet point while holding a chair straight out in front of him for a very long time. They were starved and ate rats. He was ducked in a barrel of water, being held under. Some of the Japanese were cruel that is true. The last camp was a little bit better it seems and he worked in a factory for a short time. That is where he heard this lovely lady playing her piano. The other camps were not so easy, if that one was indeed easy. He told me stories but not many. Mainly stories of human interest. Some were not so nice but he said it was War, and it is war that is the problem. He said the Japanese people were no differnt to us. Some soldiers were just men doing what they had to do, others were indeed brutes. So were the Germans. So were we and so today we have that same type of man in our military. Cruelty has no nationality. He taught me to judge people by charactor not nationality or religion. My dad was a good man. Many of the things he saw and did haunted him. He felt some things were unforgivable and it was when he learned about our Saviour Jesus Christ, and how He died that we should be forgiven for those unforgiveable things, that Dad finally found peace with the war years. He wanted to go back and see that beautiful country in peace time but died before he made the trip.
The next picture is of my Dad and two brothers who also served in that war. Their other brother Cecil was still getting out of the army on this occasion, pictured in this picture.....Harold Hines, Harry Hine and Alan Hines I am still trying to identify the other man. My grandmother must have been a saint, she had army men billeted in her home, they had a German POW living with them. She always had a stew pot on the stove. Food was short for them too but she managed all the while her sons, all but one son was away at war. What a time that had to have been.
I am sharing this with Create with Joy, Inspire me Monday
Sharing with Our World Tuesday


Anonymous said...

what an amazing and wonderful story of survival and compassion, we could surely learn something from these men, thank you so much for sharing this with is,

Maureen Wyatt said...

This is a truly uplifting story! In war it is the regular people who suffer on all sides and it is wonderful to hear of some who rise above it all to forge some sort of understanding. It gives us all hope that the world will be a better place someday and it will be because of the good people who don't give in to hatred or bitterness.

A Quiet Corner said...

An inspirational story and human being!!!!...:)JP

Merlesworld said...

Their are so many war stories but my father was in the 2nd world war but would rarely talk about it, as many they didn't like to remember but they are now lost and the only stories we see are in the American movies, these old stories are more human and I think tell a truer story.

Kay G. said...

Oh Janice, this made me cry!
How wonderful for you to discover about this gift of music given to your father and his friends! How perfectly you have captured the character of your father in this post, I feel as if I know him.
My heart is too full after reading this, I am so moved that I am afraid I can't put it into words properly. Thank you very much for sharing this.

Magic Love Crow said...

A very powerful, emotional, story! Thanks so much for sharing all of this Janice! I think it's very special the Japanese lady kept the book!
Big Hugs ;o)

Noelle the dreamer said...

A fascinating post Janice! Thank you so much for sharing with us! I'll have to hunt the original article!
God bless,

Emma Springfield said...

I enjoyed reading this post even though I hated the reason it was written. The little girl who gave such joy and comfort to those men was special. They were all special for the way they chose to thank her. Little things like that are what binds people together. As for the soldiers not talking much about their experiences I have found that many returning soldiers so not want to relive and share the horrors. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Mac n' Janet said...

This was such an interesting posting. What amazing men they were who fought the war and survived.
Our daughter is living in Japan right now having accepted a job over there in April. We'll probably be going over there next year.

soubriquet said...

very interesting, I've heard a lot of WWII prisoner stories, but never this one.
My father was taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore, and was 'lucky' enough to be held in Singapore throughout the war. Many of his friends were shipped to Japan in the 'hell-ships', others died on the Burma railway. Throughout, my dad kept records of his unit and debrief interviews with any men coming into Changi or Selarang from elsewhere. Like your father, he did not talk a lot about his experiences, until he was in his seventies, when he started to put together a book.
Campaigning for a memorial museum in Thailand led to him meeting more old friends, and eventually travelling to Thailand, Singapore, and Japan, where he met some of his former captors.
He always said 'You can't judge them by our rules, according to their code of Bushido, they were doing their duty to their emperor, and to them life was cheap.
One friend of his was in Nagasaki when the bomb dropped. He survived, being in a sub-basement shelter. Those who were higher, and outside, watching what they thought was an american photo reconnaissance plane did not.
The thing that characterised my dad and others who survived was their humanity, their belief that helping others was the way we should live. He said he could never forget, but he could, limitedly, forgive.