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A Gold Medal Book Collection. Every Volume has won at least one Gold Medal from 2002 - 2011 .
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:: Volume 1 - Singapore & Malaysia
Gold Medals APS & ABPS 2002
:: Volume 2 - Dutch East Indies
Gold Medals Singapore & ABPS 2004
:: Volume 3 - Burma, Thailand & Indonesia
Gold Medal Canada 2005 and Gold Medal New Zealand 2007
:: Volume 4 - Hong Kong & China
Large Gold Medal ABPS 2008 & HKSC Webb Cup 2008
:: Volume 5 - The Philippines & Taiwan
Gold Medal Chicagopex 2010
:: Volume 6 - Japan, Korea & Manchuria
Gold Medal Chicagopex 2011 FPHS HCMAL 2013


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BORNEO 1942-1945

by David Tett




"This book, as the previous volumes, is superb! Philatelists and postal historians should have this volume as well as the first five in their libraries. The wealth of research and information is incomparable. Volume 6, as well as the others, is wonderful reading as well as being the definitive information on the subject."

Tom Slemons - London Philatelist May 2011 Vol 120 p166

"This book is the 6th volume in David Tett's eight year journey in documenting the history and scope of prisoner of war mail written by Allied POWs and Internees held by Japan during the Second World War. His books truly demonstrate that there is more to postal history than just documenting varieties.


Volume 6 Winner of the 2013 Harry Cope Memorial Award for Literature by the Forces Postal History Society

Volume 6 Winner of

Gold Medal

at Chicagopex 2011

Reviews (cont.)

While he does devote a significant portion of the book to postal marks, censor marks, stationary, and an accounting / inventory of the examples he has encountered, he also tells us the story of the soldiers, sailors and civilians who left us these peices of history to study. Without understanding the personal history of senders of this mail, the significance of this postal history is often lost. "

Kurt Stauffer - La Posta Autumn 2011 Vol 42 No 3 p 5

"The whole series is to be praised as it tells the story of the POWs in the Far East, both in broad terms but also with individual histories... I am sure these volumes will survive the test of time as definitive works of reference."

Graham Mark - CCSG Bulletin April 2011 Vol 38 p57

Published December 2010

The sixth and final volume in the series encompasses the history of the mails to and from prisoners in Japan, Korea, Manchuria and Borneo. It is subtitled “Hellships to Slavery” as few prisoners were captured in these countries but POWs were transported there from Hong Kong, Singapore, the DEI, the Philippines, as well as other points of capture. More than a hundred camps existed in Japan divided into groups and the book includes examples of the mail to and from the various groups of camps – Fukuoka, Hakodate, Osaka, Tokyo and Zentsuji. In Korea the principal camps were in Keijo and Jinsen and mail of these camps is profusely illustrated. Senior officers and other POWs were also held in a number of camps in Manchuria, the largest being at Hoten, Mukden. Mail to and from these POWs is covered in this volume. The POWs in Borneo, British, Australian and Indian were held in a number of camps but mail is only known from and to Kuching and Sandakan. Examples are illustrated.

The hardback book, published by BFA Publishing, contains more than 500 illustrations, mostly in colour, on 427 pages.



Foreword by Martin Bell

This is the last of six volumes of a labour of love and a work of historical scholarship. It is as much a privilege to introduce the sixth volume as it was to introduce the first. I am thus a sort of book end – or, more literally, a book beginning. It is a good time to reflect on the whole series, and the pity of war that it expresses in its quiet, well-documented way. We clearly need reminding from time to time that war is not a policy option.

This postal history speaks to us obliquely but eloquently of its costs and casualties.

My personal interest in the matter is military. The Suffolk Regiment, in which I was among the last to serve, lost two battalions at Singapore, and the Royal Norfolk Regiment lost three – part of the ill-fated 18th East Anglian Division, which arrived in this imperial fortress just a few days before it fell. It had no landward defences – and at that stage no air defences either – so that all that the Japanese had to do was to kick in the back door. It was the most ignominious defeat in British military history.

David Tett, the author and editor of this great project, has organised it geographically, according to the countries in which the POWs were held. Volume Six covers Japan, Korea, Manchuria and Borneo. The foreword to Volume Five, about the Philippines and Taiwan, was written by Edgar Whitcomb, who after many adventures became Governor of Indiana between 1969 and 1973. He was a man of extraordinary courage and endurance, who once swam for eight hours in a vain attempt to escape Japanese captivity. Under an assumed name he took advantage of a prisoner exchange in 1943 and by the end of the war was flying combat missions against his former captors. He wrote: “No one reading this book will finish it without an appreciation of what these men and women went through in the service of their nation”.

That holds true of the entire project. It is a censored history of course and in some ways a history of censorship. The occasional letters and cards exchanged between the POWs and their families in Britain, Holland, Canada, Australia and

America were closely scrutinised by the camp authorities. The captives invariably report that they are in good health and being well treated. Indeed some of the same unlikely phrases are often repeated:
“Nothing is lacking in this camp and we are satisfied with our life here” and “My camp is a natural flower garden and how happy I would be if only you were here”. These blatant falsehoods were included in the hope that they would help the prisoners’ messages to get through. The point was to show that they were still alive and – if possible – where they were being held. This would improve their chances of survival.

The reality of course was quite different. The idyllic sketches of camp buildings that some of them also sent home draw their strength, as history, from their touching authenticity and from our underlying knowledge of the barbarity of the POWs’ treatment and of how many died in the camps and on the notorious death marches as the Allied forces closed in. From conversations with the old soldiers of the Japanese Labour Camps Survivors’ Association, of which I was President, I can say without hesitation that their least favourite movie of all time was The Bridge on the River Kwai, a work of romanticised fiction from start to finish. Alec Guinness had a special gift for playing battalion commanders: that made the film attractive but far from truthful. It was shot in Sri Lanka and the prisoners looked far too well fed.

The 52,500 British and Australians who surrendered at Singapore were men of all sorts and conditions. They included Arthur Titherington, a former despatch rider who devoted his later years to campaigning for restitution and a real apology by the Japanese government; Bill Edrich the England cricketer; Donald Wise a legendary foreign correspondent and – perhaps most extraordinary of all – Captain John Jesson of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

David Tett devotes an entire chapter of this volume to Jesson – a bold decision, since his story is so untypical as to be almost misleading. Alone among the POWs he seems to have enjoyed the experience. He later described his period of captivity as the best time of his life. As an officer he was spared the ordeal of forced labour. He spent most of the war at a “show camp” in Korea regularly inspected by the International Red Cross. And he was anyway a


complex and unusual character who underwent a sort of spiritual renewal behind the wire. He wrote home of “A change in outlook that may have far-reaching results... I am as far from the picture of a dejected and languishing war prisoner, which uninformed imagination might well conjure”.

The reality of the POWs’ treatment is better reflected in a terse paragraph about the island of Labuan off the north coast of Borneo, which was home for a while to 150 British and 200 Australian prisoners: “Little is known of this camp because there were no survivors”. And of the 3,250 prisoners at Sandakan on the mainland of Borneo, only six, who were all Australians, survived the everyday brutality and two death marches.

It is touching to read that some of the survivors were concerned, on their homecoming, that they would be blamed for not having put up more of a fight against the Japanese in 1942, especially in Singapore where a larger force surrendered to a smaller one. Instead those who returned through Canada were greeted as heroes. The more common fate was to be demobilised and forgotten. They had no place in the golden narrative of the eventual Allied victory. It was not until 2000 that the British government, to its credit, offered a gratuity of £10,000 to the few thousand remaining survivors and their widows. It was not the money that mattered but the recognition.

Now that the project is complete, the message of all six of these volumes is the same as it was for the first: lest we forget. They offer a unique perspective on the human costs of war. And they remind us that there is heroism not only in victory but also in defeat.


August 2010

Dedication v
Foreword vii
Acknowledgements ix
Notes xi
Introduction xiv
1 Prelude to Captivity 1

Mail from the Prisoners in Japan

3 Mail to the Prisoners in Japan 77
4 Mail of the Prisoners of War in Korea 123
5 The Story of Captain Jesson in Korea 145
6 Mail of the Prisoners of War in Manchuria 175
7 Mail from the Prisoners in Borneo 193
8 Mail to the Prisoners in Borneo 229
9 The Story of Captain H D A Yates, POW in Borneo 251
10 Japanese Marks and Censor Seals used in Korea, Manchuria and Borneo 275
11 Japanese Marks and Censor Seals used in Japan 287
12 Some Went Home 319
13 Update to Volumes 1, 2 ,3, 4 and 5 353
1 Cards, Covers and Letters Sent by Prisoners in Japan 361
2 Cards, Covers and Letters Addressed or Forwarded to Prisoners in Japan 373
3 Cards, Covers and Letters Sent by Prisoners in Korea 393
4 Cards, Covers and Letters Addressed or Forwarded to POWs in Korea 396
5 Cards, Covers and Letters Addressed or Forwarded to POWs in Manchuria 400
6 Cards Sent by Prisoners in Borneo 404
7 Cards, Covers and Letters Addressed or Forwarded to Prisoners in Borneo 408
Bibliography 412
Index 423


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