Celebrating two sons of Lincolnshire on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day

Today, August 15, World War II came to an end when Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced on Japanese radio the surrender of Imperial forces.

Author Vic Ient with former POW Bill Butler

This famous radio broadcast was relayed to towns and workplaces across Japan, and within hours, news leaked out to the Allied Prisoners of War (POWs) – the war was over!

Now, a new book tells the stories of eight of those POWs for whom the Japanese surrender could not have come soon enough, including two ‘sons of Lincolnshire’.

In ‘These Valiant Men’, author Vic Ient tells the stories of these eight men, from just before the outbreak of war through to capture in late 1941 and early 1942.

Harold Bates

He describes what life was like as a POW in Habu camp Hiroshima, how they survived and how things turned out for them after the war.

Vic said: “My father, Sgt Albert Victor Ient of the Royal Corps of Signals, died before I had chance to talk to him about many of the details of his wartime and POW experience, so I tried to find out if there were any of his fellow servicemen still alive to tell their story.

“I was very lucky and was able to meet a number of them, who are sadly all dead now, and record their stories. “Two of these were the sons of Lincolnshire, - Harold Bates and Bill Butler.”

Vic turned detective and tracked down Bill Butler and in 2013 visited him in his small bungalow at Mablethorpe. Vic said: “Bill was 96, but remembered his wartime experiences vividly as if they were yesterday.

These Valiant Men

“He had joined the Army in 1933 and after various postings ended up in Hong Kong as part of the same Royal Signals group as my father.

“Not only was he taken into captivity when the British surrendered in December 1941, but he also suffered a horrific journey to Japan on the Lisbon Maru.

“Halfway through the journey, the ship was torpedoed by the American submarine, USS Trooper, who thought the ship was carrying arms as it didn’t have a red cross on it.

“Bill survived that disaster by swimming miles towards a nearby Chinese island, where he was rescued by fishermen, but sadly was soon taken back into captivity.”

Bill Butler in 1937

Having survived the vicissitudes of the POW camp, Bill returned to Lincolnshire and spent many happy years in Mablethorpe, with his wife, Vera.

Vic added: “I am very grateful to the Mablethorpe British Legion for documenting Bill’s story.

“It greatly helped contribute to this tribute to these valiant men.”

Vic never met the other Lincolnshire soldier, Harold Bates, though he was in the same Royal Signals group as Vic’s father.

Helped by Harold’s daughter, who gave him a copy of a 1970 BBC recording made in Hong Kong, Vic was able to write down his wartime experiences during the battle for Hong Kong.

One dramatic event was when he had been carrying messages between army outposts on the island of Hong Kong by motorbike whilst the Japanese invasion was on.

Telephone cables had been bombed so sending messages by motorbike was the only way to communicate between army units.

Vic said: “Harold’s life in captivity began when a Japanese army unit machine-gunned the road.

“A bullet went through his petrol tank, luckily, not through him!

“After helping a wounded Canadian soldier to a nearby first aid station, he, like all the other British Empire troops on the island, was taken into captivity.”

All the servicemen had brutal but fascinating stories.

Their stories are recorded in this book and give a detailed record of life in the POW camps.

The book explores armed conflict, ghastly prison transport and three years of suffering, through personal testimony, maps, photographs and telegrams, all in the context of the Far East theatre.

With great strength, and even humour, these eight men’s accounts reveal what POW life was really like.

Vic said: “it has been an honour to write the biography of these eight men.

“I set myself the task of ensuring their stories and sacrifice, along with the many thousands of servicemen who didn’t survive the war, was recorded for others to read.

“I hope their valiant efforts to survive the war with dignity, along with the ultimate sacrifice of so many others, will help future generations remember that peace won 75 years ago was at such a heavy cost.”

‘These Valiant Men’ is available direct from the publisher at www.troubador.co.uk or on Amazon.