David Miln Edgar
Born 23rd May 1916
Survived the sinking of the Lisbon Maru
5th December 2004
My dad, David Miln (Marmaduke) Edgar, was born on 23rd May 1916 in Arbroath. He was the second youngest son of Norman and Mary Jane, he had three sisters and six brothers. He was the last surviving sibling.
David went to Parkhouse school but was not an academic, and wouldn’t pretend to be. After leaving school he started an apprenticeship as a barber but all he really wanted to do was to join the army, and in particular the Royal Scots (the first afoot). He ran away (walked) to Edinburgh at 15 to join up but was too young and was sent away, He went to Rosyth to try and get work on a ship but was caught by the police and sent back to Arbroath. Eventually at the age of 16 (and after lying about his age) his wish came true and he was accepted to join the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots. His sister, our Auntie Gertie, told us how proud and happy he was when he came home for the first time in Uniform.
During his time in the army he travelled extensively throughout India and the Far East. In January 1938 the 2nd battalion Royal Scots was sent to Hong Kong.
Dad was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Hong Kong, in December 1941, he was wounded during this time, a bullet passing through his arm. He told us how he hid from the Japanese for three days in a cave, which had been formed by a fallen rock. He was captured on Christmas day 1941.
In 1942 the prisoners of war were to be transported from Hong Kong to Japan to various POW camps to provide labour at various places throughout the Far East, Dad was being transported in the hold of Japanese freighter called the Lisbon Maru along with more than 1800 other POWs when it was torpedoed by the Americans in September 1942, the Americans had no way of knowing the POWs were on board the ship which was also transporting 750 Japanese soldiers. Dad was one of only 970 survivors, almost half were killed by the Japanese as they tried to escape the sinking ship, some were shot in the water and others drowned when they were prevented from boarding the rescue ships, which arrived to rescue the Japanese soldiers. The Japanese only started to rescue the POWs when the realised that Chinese fishermen, who were in the area, had already picked up some survivors.
Dad somehow survived the sinking and was transported to a POW camp in Kobe Japan, where he spent three years working on the docks for the Japanese. He never said much about these years as a POW, but you can imagine from other stories of atrocities, which were carried out during this period, how frightening and difficult it must have been.
He had many military medals due to him after his service in the army, but never applied for any of them, saying that if he was good enough to get them then he was good enough for them to send the medals to him. I don’t think they meant much to him after all he had been through.
After the war he intended to stay on in the army however, he was told that he would be posted immediately to Germany, and after being away from home since 1934 he decided to call it a day and parted company with his beloved Royal Scots.
In 1946 he found work at HMS Condor (the drome) where he worked until he retired in 1979 at age 63. By then he had had several heart attacks and suffered from Angina.
Dad met our Mum, Margaret, in 1946 and in 1947 they were married. Marjory arrived in 1947, Joyce in 1949 David in 1952 and last Dorothy arrived in 1962.
Mum and Dad celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary last April and it was obvious the great love they have for each other. They have nine grand children and five great grand children all who loved, and were loved by him. He loved to play with his grand children, and then his great grand children, and it was not unusual to find him hiding in a cupboard, or crawling behind the settee playing hide and seek while they tried to find him, or taking out his false teeth to scare them, or to pretend to catch a finger in his glasses case, much to their delight.
Dad was not an ambitious person, and his pleasures were very simple, he liked nothing more than to go for a walk out around Victoria park, or around St. Vigeons, with a dog, and although he loved his family, and never had a dog of his own, if you opened his wallet the only pictures you would find inside would be of Rex (Marjory and Ivan’s dog) Kane (Joyce’s dog,) Lovat (David and Moira’s dog) and Penny (Dorothy’s dog.) which were all his….. really.
He was an avid follower of the Arbroath and District Musical Festival, and every year, for four days in March, he would spend his days and evenings at the Webster Hall listening to the young musical talent Arbroath has to offer, and then come home and rave about how good one person or another had been.
He loved to be at the pub with his friends having a drink and a cigar. (Although he stopped smoking just after the war – cigars were “okay”) and the annual “Crown Drive” was a highlight in his year.
He would do anything he could to help anyone and would never do any harm to anybody. His pet hate was swearing, we never heard him swear, ever….., well once, at Marjory’s wedding, he told me he was “Bloody” drunk, but then he had a bloody good excuse.
He loved sport; horse racing was his favourite, followed by football rugby and cricket, although we never actually saw him play any sport except putting or pitch and putt, which he had not been able to do for some time. For more years than I can remember dad, and three of his Brothers (Robert, George and Norman) went putting every Monday evening in the Summer and then to the “Lochlands” for a drink and dominos, in the winter it was just the later, then, when the pitch and putt opened, things became really serious. I just hope there is a pitch and putt course where he is now so that the Monday night tradition with his brothers can be continued.
His favorite music was from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, “one fine day”, which was playing as the family arrived today and although he was one of the Edgar’s who couldn’t sing, he was often heard humming “amazing grace” this will be played as dad is carried from the church.
He was never without his trademark “bunnet” “tae keep the cauld oot, and it is fitting that it should be with him now.
Rest easy Dad, you will be sadly missed