Captured Hong Kong 25/12/1941
News Article - News.Scotsman.com
JOHN NEWMAN, a former prisoner of war and community stalwart, has died at the age of 89.
He suffered, endured and experienced more in his first 25 years than most do in a lifetime.
And even though John Newman's life came full circle in many ways, it was his time away from East Lothian which friends say shaped the man he was to become.
He left school as soon as he could and followed his father into farming.
But with the Second World War looming, it wasn't long before his life was to take a drastic turn.
He had barely emerged from his teens when he was called up to serve for the Royal Scots, and he soon found himself on a vessel that docked in Marseilles, Port Said, India and Singapore, before reaching Hong Kong in 1941.
When he arrived, the British colony was a thriving hub.
But the tide turned and the Japanese cut off the reservoirs, leading to the white flag being raised on Christmas Day.
John – and friends he would lose along the way – were taken to Japan, but because he was believed to be suffering from diphtheria, he wasn't allowed to travel on the first sailing.
This turned out to be a lucky escape, as that ship sank, killing most men on board.
The three-day sail left Mr Newman so cramped he was unable to get up and had to be helped ashore.
In the camps the men were tortured and abused and made to work punishing hours.
One of his most painful memories was having a boil above one eye that was so prominent he could not see.
When he reported to the doctor, he was told to look away and it was removed with a razor without warning. There were no stitches and no anaesthetic, only an inadequate plaster. He was back to work within an hour. He also suffered dysentery, malaria and a lice infestation while a POW.
From a healthy 14 stone he fell to barely half that, but was still fit enough to travel home when the rescue eventually came.
He arrived home via Canada and Southampton and arrived at his parents' home in Thurston Mains with 127 days off and a double ration book.
Like many, he found it difficult coming to terms with being out of the army, so he re-launched his farming career and met late wife Belle who he married in 1947.
They eventually settled in Dunbar and had children Janie, Frances and Kit.
He was an active member of the local Probus Club, a keen supporter of Dunbar Utd and active elder of Dunbar Parish Church, where he served for 41 years. His wife Belle passed away in March.
(Tony Banham who has written, ‘Not the Slightest Chance - The Defence of Hong Kong’ and ‘The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru’, believes that John was on the sailing before the Lisbon Maru which was sunk by USS Grouper on the 1st October 1942 in which 820 prisoners lost their lives )