(Service Number prior to commission 1422895)
Edward (Ted) Porter
Royal Artillery - 2nd January 1923 to 31st March 1933
RAOC - 1st April 1933 to 30th September 1942
REME - 1st October 1942 to 28th August 1946
REME (Officer) - 29th August 1946 to 1st November 1953
Tribute to Ted
By Brian Porter
Edward (Ted) Porter joined the Royal Artillery (RA) in 1923 aged 15, as an Apprentice at the RA School in Woolwich. Although academically very clever, he turned down the opportunity for Higher Education at Devonport High School, because of the financial burden this would have been on his parents, his father being blind and solely dependent on his RN pension.
By 1938, when he was posted to No. 14 Section, RAOC in Singapore, he had risen to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 and was responsible for maintaining the infamous seaward pointing guns on Blakang Mati island. Just before Singapore surrendered to the Japanese in February 1942, he was ordered to leave, by ship, with other individuals considered to have valuable expertise. The ship was eventually sighted by Japanese war ships and so badly damaged that it was abandoned. Eight lifeboats were launched and they decided to split into two groups, neither of which were picked up by the Japanese. One group eventually made it back to England, but the group, which included Edward, made it to a nearby small island. The next day they discovered the ship still afloat and reboarded and managed to get sufficient power to limp to Padang, an island off Sumatra colonised by the Dutch. After scuttling the ship, the survivors trecked overland to the main Dutch settlement which was still free, but they were denied any means of escape and were instead interned and handed over to the Japanese when they arrived a few days later, on 15 March 1942.
Edward was then sent to POW camps in Northern Sumatra, first to Belawan and then inland to Gloegoer, near Medan, where, as a WO2, he was often in charge of working parties. If any members of the group offended the guards, for whatever reason, not only did they receive a beating, but Edward was also beaten. To balance this behaviour and attempt to explain the Japanese culture, Edward recounted an incident where the working party were returning to camp, packed into an open top truck with a single armed guard and a young Japanese officer sitting up front with the driver. A staff car passed them, with a high ranking officer inside. When they reached camp and dismounted, the officer, using his sword scabbard, beat the guard senseless for failing to call the POWs to attention when the staff car passed them.
In June 1944, along with 729 other prisoners, Edward was being transported by the Japanese ship "Harugiku Maru", from Belewan to Pakanbaroe, Sumatra, to work on building a railway, through swamps and jungle, across Sumatra. En route on the 26th June, the unmarked ship was torpedoed by a British submarine, "HMS Truculent", completely unaware of the human cargo. Edward was trapped by a beam that fell across his legs, but a second torpedo blew the ship further apart and he found himself outside in the sea, where he was rescued by a North Korean guard who was on a piece of wreckage. They were picked up by another Japanese ship and due to his leg injuries, Edward eventually ended up in Singapore's Changi Jail, rather than the terrible life threatening conditions of the Pakanbaroe railway.
It was in Changi that he became friends with Russell Braddon, who wrote the book "The Naked Island" and Ronald Searle, who did the illustrations for the book. Edward is mentioned in the book (not by name) as the individual who skillfully re-engraved pens and watches so that the Japanese believed them to be Parker pens and Rolex watches. Rather than just confiscate them, these world renowned products had to be purchased and the money raised was used to buy medical supplies stolen and smuggled into the Jail by local Malays. (As an aside, after the war, Edward was contacted by Rolex, via the War Office, who then ran a worldwide advertising campaign on his story and how the Japanese valued the Rolex trademark). In April 1945 he was moved to Adam Road POW Camp and it was from here he was liberated on 19 September 1945.
During his time as a POW he composed many songs and these were all committed to music after the war, but despite interest from a major company in Tin Pan Alley, London, they were never published as music tastes had moved on from waltzes, etc by the early 1950's.
Song Composed as a POW
Always you'll be mine
Verse: Parting brings much sadness
Hearts seem meant for pain
But who shall tell the gladness
When we meet again?
Chorus: Thoughts of you dear keep returning
Thro' the lonely days
And my aching heart is yearning
For your fond embrace
Though we may be worlds apart
You're for ever in my heart
More beloved through being parted
Always you'll be mine
Edward survived his time as a POW, unaware that his daughter, Pamela, had died in Australia, where his family had been evacuated just before the fall of Singapore. He was reunited with his wife and son in Ararat, Victoria, Australia, before retuning to England in February 1946 to resume his Army career. He was soon commissioned into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and officially retired from the Army in the rank of Captain on 1 November 1953.
1939 -1945 Star
LS & GC Medal
Ted died in Plymouth on 26 March 1992.