So after getting a call from the BBC Songs of Praise researchers, mum and myself were invited to drive down to Chichester for a Songs of Praise VJ Special.
The Songs of Praise team wanted to interview my mother “Jane Elgey” in relation to the “The Captives Hymn” which was written and composed by Margeret Dryburgh while she was in a Japanese Civilian Internee camp, first immortalised in the TV Series “Tenko” written by Lavinia Warner and later in the film “Paradise Road” starring amongst other Glen Close, Pauline Collins and Cate Blanchett.
Songs of Praise wished to interview both my mother and Margie Caldicot, who was the daughter of Dorothy Shelagh Brown another civilian internee in the same camp as my mother and of Margeret Dryburgh.
The BBC Team who interview mum were fantastic, putting my mother at ease and allowing her time to answer the questions put to her, they also sat both my mum and Margie togeather for part of the interview and allowed them to discuss both views of life in the camp, one from my mothers perspective as a child and the other from Shelagh perspective from the diary’s she wrote while in the camp.
After about 2hrs of the setting up for the interviews and the interviews themselves, we were treated to a buffet lunch and then the Team set off for St. Paul’s Church where they would then begin the setting up and filming of St.Pauls Choir, this was the same Choir that in 2013 performed the Vocal Orchestra music that was again performed in the camps, my mum and her family were interned in.
While this was being set up, my mum and Margie spent a few hours discussing the camps and life therein, that both mum and Margies mother endured for 3.5 years, it was very emotional watching my mother remembering the things that had gone on in the camps some 70+ years ago.
I think it was good for her to speak about it with others, as when I was growing up, she never really discussed it much, we only began to learn about it when Lavinia came to interview her and when “Tenko” was on the telly for the first time.
Margie and her husband Stephen were fantastic hosts and did everything to ensure my mum’s comfort over the days we were there.
So after a few good hours of talking it was time to head to the church where the BBC Team had got everything set up and the Choir had been rehearsing, after filming mum and Margie entering St.Paul’s with the host of “Songs of Praise” Pamela Rhodes, they were seated and the Choir sung “The Captives Hymn”, it was beautiful hearing them sing it again and afterwards my mum had a chat to a few of the people involved and I managed to take a picture of mum with the whole Choir and their Conductor.
While there we were also joined by Lavinia Warner, who later joined us back at Margie’s for a late supper, which gave mum, Margie and Lavinia time to catch up on what’s happened in the intervening years since they last spoke when Lavinia was writing “Woman Beyond the Wire” and “Tenko”.
We also watched a recording of the original “This is Your Life” episode about “Dame Margotte Turner” that set Lavinia on the road to writing about the hardships and courage of the Civilian Internees of Japanese during WW2.
If not for Lavinia being a researcher at the time on This is Your Life and choosing Dame Margotte as a possible person for the show, mum, Shelagh Brown and many others experiences might not have been collected and written down in their life-times.
So much is either forgotten or not yet known about the men, woman and children who suffered in these camps under the Japanese during this period and its only through people like my mother, Shelagh Brown’s diary’s and the continuing search for knowledge and information by Lavinia and by people like myself, Margie Caldicot and other children of internees that people will learn of their time spent as civilian internees.
One thing that sticks in my mind that my mother said over the few days we were in Chichester is how when soldiers and civilians returned to England after VE day from European theatres of war, they were acknowledged and celebrations were held, yet for the Soldiers and Civilian’s returning after VJ day from the Far East theatres of war there was not acknowledgement, no celebration, they were just left to themselves and no one was there to welcome them home . .
It was suggested rightly that perhaps the Govt of the time were so embarrassed by what had occurred with the Fall of Singapore and thus the mass internment and capture of Soldiers and Civilians was such a stain that the Govt of the day just wanted to forget about it and brush it all under the carpet . . . I’ll let you think about that and I think that you’ll agree that this was the case . .
Even 70 years after the Fall of Singapore the British Govt find it hard to acknowledge, Margie and some others attended the Anniversary in Singapore of that sad day and they mentioned that out of all the various countries Govt’s in attendance at the ceremony, Britain was the least on show, only one MP attended and apparently he wasn’t even in Singapore for the ceremony to start with, he was there to attend Singapore’s Air Show to buy planes and was probably asked to attend as an after thought . . .