Letters from a WW2 soldier

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Two friends have discovered World War Two connections in their family history after a chance conversation at their boules club.

Roy Chambers, 75, and Diane Johnson nee Skinner, 62, were playing boules at ‘Yooth Academy’ in Coronation Park, Eastwood when they began to discuss people they knew around Kimberley and discovered their past was connected.

The pair relaised that Diane’s father, Kenneth Skinner and Roy’s Uncle, Johnny Chambers, had not only lived on the same road of Maws Street, Kimberley, but also fought in Japan at the same time in WW2 and Ken mentioned Johnny in his letters.

Roy, a retired lecturer of Giltbrook Crescent, knows very little about his uncle’s experience of the war aside from the fact he was a Japanese prisoner of war for five years so was excited to see a letter which spoke of him.

He told the Advertiser: “He was such a mild and pleasant man and never spoke about the war.

“Diane said I could show the letter to my family so she just brought me the letter screwed up at the bottom of a plastic bag!”

The letter dated September 14, 1945, explained that a hospital ship treating prisoners of war from Singapore allowed sailors onboard nearby ships to send names of family and friends who might be on the hospital ship.

Diane Johnson, a retired newsagent of Chewton Street explained that her father, who was a telephonist on H.M.S. Assegai with the Pacific Fleet, had sent Johnny Chambers’ name across but he did not recieve a response as he was still in prison,

She said: “They thought it would be a boost to moral for the wounded to know someone was nearby - but he wasn’t there.

Although Diane’s father had told her stories of the war, it was only after he died in 2001 at the age of 75 that they discovered all the letters.

She said: “He once told me this story about a kamikaze pilot who went down into the sea.

“But when the Navy pulled him out of the sea he was packed with explosives, so they threw him back into the water as he would have just detonated himself on the ship.”