Heartfelt letter from a WW2 soldier to his sister

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The following letter is from Kenneth Skinner who served on board HMS Assegai with the Pacific Fleet as a telephonist during the Second World War.

The letter was written to his sister, Gladys, telling her of how he sent the name of his neighbour, Johnny Chambers to a local hospital ship in the hope he would be there.

However, Johnny was actually a Japanese prisoner of war at the time.

The letter was found by his daughter Diane Johnson after he died in 2001 at the age of 75.

It came to the Advertiser when Johnny’s nephew Roy realised he was in the same boules club as Diane and they had been discussing their family history.

September 14, 1945:

Dear Gladys,

Sincerely hoping this letter will find you enjoying the very best of health and happiness.

At present, I am in what is commonly known to the Europeans as ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’. We are just lying off the port of ‘Yokohama’ which nationally is the port of ‘Tokyo’.

We are not allowed ashore as yet but they are making arrangements for organised parties of 25 in each to go ashore on sight-seeing tours.

The rules are that we cannot fraternize with the Geisha girls, cannot carry knives or arms, we have to use Japanese currency which is called Yen. We cannot loot or pilfer. It all boils down to what we are when we are ashore, we have to fall in three deep and march around Yokohama with the Japanese laughing at us.

We had about eight Prisoners of War on board the other day, they were off the Repulse and Prince of Wales which were sunk off Singapore over three years ago. They hated the Japanese for the way they had been treated. All they had for three years was rice and a cup of coffee a day. They never saw any tea during the whole of that time. We lashed them up to cigarettes and tobacco during the short time they were on board the ship.

There was some prisoners of war on board a hospital ship who were taken at Singapore. We got the opportunity to send names of relatives or friends who were captured there and see if any of them knew anything about them. I sent Johnny Chambers’ name across, because I think he was captured at Singapore but none of us have heard anything. It was a chance so all of us took it, I mean, if we did contact anyone who we knew, they would be more than pleased to see us, don’t you reckon so?

Cheerio for now Gladys, all my love and best wishes.

Your loving brother, Ken.