“Take care of Christopher”: Hope and sorrow in war

Willett, A D_31

Arthur Daniel Willett was a keen cricketer at Emanuel. He attended the School between 1925 and 1933. Details about his service career are currently sketchy but it is known that he was captured by the Japanese when Singapore fell in February 1942. On 7 January 1944 an article appeared in the local Battersea newspaper, the South Western Star, which announced that Arthur’s father, Mr. Thomas Charles Willett, (who was the Mayor of Wandsworth’s secretary) and Arthur’s wife, Betty Moira Bell Willett had received information that he was alive and that he was in No. 4 POW Camp Thailand. In his letter to his wife he wrote, “Take care of Christopher“. Christopher was born after the fall of Singapore and never had the opportunity of seeing his father. The following year having had no more news of Arthur a second article appeared in the South Western Star on 19 January 1945. This time hope was turned into sorrow, the headline read, “Mayor’s Secretary Informed of Son’s Death“. For a whole year his family thought he was alive, not knowing that shortly after he had sent news home in 1943 he had died.

Arthur was a private in the 5th Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment. We know that he was listed as prisoner 5955656. He was a POW for 22 months before dying of ulcers on 8 December 1943. One can only imagine the inhumane conditions Arthur would have experienced in those 22 months and perhaps the thought of home, his wife and the son he never met gave him the strength to survive for so long. A mere decade before he had been running across the Emanuel School cricket pitch on a summer’s day. He was 28 when he died. Originally buried in the camp in which he was a POW, Tasao No. 2, his remains are now buried in Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. It is likely that Arthur was involved in the construction of the infamous Burma-Thai Railway.

If anyone has any further information about Arthur’s war service then please do leave a message.

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