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The Fallen of Kirkby

Thomas Henry Hudson (Known as ‘Harry’)

Thomas Henry Hudson
  • Of Chapels Row, and previously of Witherslack. Husband of Grace (née Barnes).
  • Gunner, 1809178, 79 Battery 21st Light Anti-aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.
  • Died as a prisoner of war, 17th January 1943 at Fukuoka No. 1 Camp, (also known as Kumamoto), Japan, aged 36.
  • Buried in Yokohama War Cemetery, Japan, Plot P, Row C, Grave 16.
  • Also commemorated on the war memorial in St Paul’s Church, Witherslack, and on the Burlington Stone Quarry war memorial.

Gunner Thomas H. Hudson, known as Harry, was born in 1907. He had two sisters, and the family lived at Witherslack, then in Lancashire, but now in Cumbria. Harry worked in a gentleman’s house, and then on a farm, and at some point he met and married Grace Barnes, daughter of quarry worker Robert Barnes of Coal Ash and Marshside, Kirkby. After about ten years they came back to Kirkby to live at Chapels Row, and Harry got a job in the quarry in 1939. (This was a fateful move that ultimately resulted in Thomas ‘Harry’ Hudson’s death, because at the time farming was a reserved occupation, and he would not have been called-up, but quarry work was not.)

Mrs Leece remembered Harry being a practical joker. He once went to the farm for a stone of potatoes, and while Mrs Leece was weighing the potatoes, he undid her pinny from behind, so that it fell off when she stood up.

The 21st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, of which there were three batteries, embarked from Gourock, Glasgow, aboard HMS Warwick Castle on 7th December 1941, with Gunner 1809178 T. H. Hudson on board. They were headed for the Middle East, but by the time they reached Durban in South Africa, the situation in the Far East demanded that they were diverted to Singapore.

HMS Warwick Castle (Picture courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)
HMS Warwick Castle (Picture courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

HMS Warwick Castle was built for the Union-Castle Mail SS Co Ltd in 1930 by Harland and Wolff in Belfast. She was intended for the Britain – Cape Town run, but in 1939 was requisitioned by the Navy as a troopship. (In November 1942, long after Harry Hudson knew her, she was sunk by U boat 413 off Portugal, with the loss of the Master, 61 crew and 34 servicemen.)

In 1941 /1942 things were moving fast in that theatre of the Second World War, and before they reached what was then Malaya, they were diverted again, this time to Batavia, now called Jakarta, in Java. Harry Hudson landed on February 13 1942, just two days before the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese, and was sent to help defend Bandung in Java. But on 5 March the Dutch surrendered to the Japanese, and Harry became a Prisoner of War.

Gunner Hudson was transported with 600 – 1,000 other prisoners in one ship, from the port of Surabaya in the south of Java to work in the coal mines and shipyards in Japan – something that was against the Geneva Conventions of 1906 and 1929, on the treatment of POWs. There were 25 prison camps in the Fukuoka Administrative Area of Japan’s South Island, and Thomas H. Hudson went to No 1. Ten months later he died, officially of ‘acute colitis’ (in effect dysentery), but in reality probably from over-work, malnutrition and the cold, mining coal for the Japanese war effort. Harry Hudson had formed a friendship with a Manchester man, and they agreed that if only one survived they would inform the family of the other. Eventually this unknown man travelled from Manchester to Kirkby to tell Grace that he had buried Harry himself, and to present her with Harry’s army belt. After the war, the scattered graves were gathered in by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Gunner Thomas H. Hudson was re-buried in Yokohama War Cemetery, where he lies today.

Yokohama War Cemetry, Japan
Yokohama War Cemetry, Japan

Harry’s wife, Grace, married again and lived the rest of her life in Soutergate, Ulverston.

‘Post Script’: On 5th December 1941, on hearing that Harry was about to leave for the East, Grace’s brother, Fred Barnes and his wife May, then living at Coal Ash on Grizebeck Hill, decided to send Harry a 5 shilling Postal Order for some cigarettes. We now know that Harry was already a prisoner by the time the letter and PO were returned in May 1942 by the Army Post Office, marked ‘It is regretted that this item could not be delivered’. The Army had thoughtfully renewed the Postal Order so that the senders could cash it and recover their gift. When I went to see Harry Hudson’s sister-in-law, Mrs May Barnes, at her house at Dove Bank in the 1990’s, the returned letter was still one of a collection of letters she kept behind the clock, some fifty years later! And she kindly allowed me to reproduce it here:

Letter reads:

send us a line when you can

Coal Ash
Kirkby-in-Furness
5th December 1941

Dear Harry,
We were pleased to receive your letter, sorry to hear you are going abroad. We wish you all the best of luck, and hope it won’t be too long before we see you again.

Seems a bit hard luck – you seem to have got sharp market. It may not be long before they get old Hitler smashed up. Bill Leece is home on leave this week and Eddie Harrison is expecting (to be) here for Christmas.

Well we haven’t much news for you, Harry, but here’s all the best. Find enclosed five shillings. Buy yourself some fags.

With best wishes from Fred & May.

Extracts from a report on conditions at Fukuoka No 1 Camp from 7 March 1944, to 16 April 1944. Report by Major Walter A Kostecki, USA Army Medical Corps.

Warning, contains upsetting information.
“During my incarceration at Fukuoka Camp No. 1, which includes these three camps above described, I had approximately l00 English, Australian, Dutch and American deaths. At no time was I permitted to keep clinical records. Upon the death of an individual, the Japanese made up their own clinical records without any knowledge of the patient’s illness and insisted that I sign these records to which was attached a death certificate. I signed these death certificates under duress. Since these records were in Japanese script and since I was not able to read them, I informed the Japanese, through Masato HATA whose position was that of Japanese medical corpsman and compiler of Japanese medical records at Fukuoka Camp No. 1 that I was signing under duress. The Japanese had posted in the camp rules and regulations for the camp which included absolute obedience to Japanese orders regardless of what the orders were. If any order was not carried out, it constituted “failure to co-operate” with the Japanese which was regarded by the Japanese as actions verging on sabotage and therefore punishable by death. Thus, when I was ordered to sign the death certificates, I could do nothing else but sign them–practically on threat of death.

“Officer prisoners who reported atrocities committed by Japanese personnel to SAKAMOTO were immediately confronted in SAKAMOTO’s presence with the Japanese individual regarding whom the complaint was made. In substance, the questioning and conversation were as follows: SAKAMOTO would ask the Japanese individual, who had been reported, about the incident. The Japanese concerned would deny the atrocity charged. SAKAMOTO would then turn to the reporting officer prisoner and say, “Japanese soldier says that he did not do this. Why are you lying? Why are you trying to get Japanese soldier in trouble?” The officer prisoner would answer that his charge was true and SAKAMOTO would answer, “Japanese soldier never lies.” SAKAMOTO would then turn the officer prisoner into the custody of the Japanese soldier for disciplining. The Japanese soldier would then take the officer prisoner outside and administer a thorough beating.

“To Fukuoka Camp No. 1, non-perishable foodstuffs were sent approximately once a month. These supplies consisted of rice, dried fish and dried seaweed. Perishables, such as meat, fresh fish and vegetables, were sent in periodically; for example, once in two weeks, once a month and sometimes not until two or even three months had elapsed. These always came in small quantities. As soon as non-perishables arrived in camp as specified above, the Japanese organization of the camp began systematically to cut rations of the prisoners, and, before the month had finished, a number of bags of rice, dried fish and seaweed would be left over. These leftovers, which amounted many times to approximately 50% of the prisoners’ food rations, were then placed upon a truck by Japanese personnel in full view of Yuhichi SAKAMOTO and taken away from the camp to an unknown destination. Whenever the Japanese commanding officer of all the prison camps at Kyushu arrived for an inspection, all surplus stores were hidden from view. These were taken from the camp by the Japanese and later returned after the high Japanese inspecting officer had gone. SAKAMOTO witnessed these activities. About two or three days after surplus goods were taken by truck away from the camp as described above, a load of food of inferior quality, such as bean flakes, rice sweepings and mildewed wheat would arrive at the camp. These inferior articles were then mixed with rice and we were given then a diet consisting of a mixture of rice and the above-mentioned inferior foods.

“Perishable foods were received at the camp at periods of time ranging from three weeks to two to three months. Upon receipt of meat into the camp, which never amounted to more than 50 kilograms for approximately 600 men, the Japanese garrison would help themselves to more than half of the meat and then turn the balance over to the camp for the feeding of prisoners, which never amounted to more than 30 kilograms for the whole camp. The same may be said for vegetables and fish. Vegetables in particular were a sore point because in the case of such items as tuber vegetables, turnips, carrots, onions, etc., the root itself would be taken by the Japanese and the tops would be fed to the prisoners. We were issued the rotten bottoms and the tops of all vegetables and the Japanese helped themselves to the carrots, turnips, onions, etc.

“I wish to point out that the preparation of food which the prisoners were permitted to make under Japanese supervision was a definite contributing factor to the death of many of the prisoners. The Japs would issue us a daily ration of fuel for the purpose of preparing the food. This fuel never amounted to more than enough to keep the fires in the prison galley going for more than an hour at the most. As the result of this, food was undercooked and could not be prepared in a form which the prisoners could digest, particularly in their weakened, starved and, in many cases, diseased condition. Thus, the diet which was given to the prisoners and which was so low in calorific value that it would barely sustain resting metabolism in anyone was rendered by improper preparation to even lower value as food. I and other doctor prisoners reported to Yuhichi SAKAMOTO, the commanding officer, through the interpreter, KATSURA, that the majority of the camp, probably 70 to 80%, had developed a severe acute dysentery or diarrhoea and were passing undigested uncooked rice and bean kernels and vegetables. The answer to the protest was usually the same, briefly as follows: “Japan is a very poor country, has very little wood and coal.” Meanwhile, I and other prisoners, from personal observation of the stoves in the Japanese galleys and wood piles, knew that the Japanese had adequate fuel available for the preparation of their own food.

Red Cross food, which was sent to us in the form of prisoner of war food parcels, was kept in the Japanese storeroom in the camp and issued to us at the pleasure of SAKAMOTO. During the entire time I was in Fukuoka Camp No. 1, the prisoners received only two issues of Red Cross foodstuffs. One issue of Red Cross foodstuffs was made about Christmas of 1944 and the other issue of Red Cross foodstuffs was made in February of 1945.

“The prisoners were not issued any soap except on very rare occasions. During one period of eleven months no soap at all was issued and then the Japanese gave out one small cake of soap for the use of four men. During all this period there was plenty of soap available in the camp. The Japanese had sufficient soap of their own and, in addition, they had large quantities of soap which they took from Red Cross packages and set aside.

“I should like to add that practically every day those prisoners who were weakest were singled out to remain after the group taking calisthenics was dismissed. These weaker prisoners were then required by Masato HATA to run around the compound until they fell from sheer exhaustion; most of them fell unconscious. I would also like to point out that the commanding officer of Fukuoka Camp No. 1, Yuhichi SAKAMOTO often witnessed the calisthenics by the prisoners as conducted and directed by Masato HATA. SAKAMOTO during these exercises witnessed and condoned the brutal and inhuman treatment, including the beatings administered to the prisoners, by Masato HATA as above described.

“Corporal William Ivarson, a prisoner of war whom I knew well at Fukuoka Prison Camp No. 1, was a man who was on a working party continually. He reported to sick call occasionally, but not too frequently. His physical condition was fair. By that I mean that he showed evidence of starvation and malnutrition, but was otherwise in fair condition. At about two o’clock in the morning one day in February 1945 I was called in to give medical treatment to Ivarson. When I found him he was unconscious; and although I knew the man I did not at first recognize him from his appearance. As soon as I was told who he was, I recognised him immediately. I then took his pulse which I found to be very rapid; and he looked as though he were going to die. I might say at this point that I always had to plead with the Japanese for their permission to have men hospitalized. In this instance, by the time I had made arrangements with the Japanese for hospitalization of Ivarson he was dead. At this time I heard from fellow prisoners whom I knew well and whom I know to be reliable that Ivarson received a serious beating from a guard named HONDA, nicknamed “The Slob.” HONDA, I know from personal experience and observation, particularly well because of beatings which he gave me personally, frequently and regularly came into the hospital and gave severe beatings to patient under my care.”

(signed)

Walter A. Kostecki
Major, Medical Corps

WITNESS:

(signed)
T. Howard
Special Agent, SIC

A more detailed report is available at https://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/fukuoka/fuk_01_fukuoka/fuk_01_main.html

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