Faith in War.

My late husband John was a prisoner of war of the Japanese.   He was in a prisoner of war camp on the infamous ‘Railway of Death’ for four years.

He never lost his faith, even when jumping over the side of a burning ship into the harbour at the Fall of Singapore.   In fact it was his faith that sustained him through those awful years.

The prisoners were lucky in that they had a Catholic priest who was able to say Mass, hear Confessions and support his flock of men.

After some months the supply of altar bread ran out.   The Anglican prisoners who had shared the hosts didn’t have any either.   Things looked bleak – no altar bread- no Mass.

One day a fierce looking Japanese Army Officer appeared in the camp. He asked for the Catholic priest and escorted him to the Chapel.  Everyone sweated.   No one moved.  The Japanese Army were known for their cruelty and the chapel had been made from bit and pieces filched from them.

They were inside some time.   All suspected the worst and were amazed when the Priest and the Officer came out and stood together on the steps of the little chapel smiling.

It turned out that the Japanese Officer was a Catholic and had heard of the shortage of hosts and had brought some, discreetly.  These were shared with the Anglicans and Mass was celebrated again much to everyone’s joy.

John often said that it was a ‘miracle’ and that the Japanese Officer had risked being caught ‘helping’ the prisoners in this way. He also said ‘that there are good and bad people in all races and that this particular Japanese officer was one of the good ones.

After four dreadful years he came home- weighing 8 stones.  He was a tall 6ft man, and a man full of his catholic faith which had sustained him during those dreadful years.

He never hated the Japanese for the awful things he had seen and endured, but was able to forgive, although he didn’t forget and often told his ‘war stories’. Japanese students who came to the university also came to our home to hear about his experiences as part of their theses.  He was also a ‘peace maker’ in the true sense of the word.

May he rest in peace.

Eileen Maher.

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