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Survival and Separation on the River Kwai (Hardback)

The Ordeal of a Japanese Prisoner of War and His Family

Military > Prisoners of War P&S History > By Century > 20th Century

By Ian Roberts
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 192
ISBN: 9781399049559
Published: 5th May 2023



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Eric Roberts was conscripted in 1939 into the 1/5 Sherwood Foresters. After service in France and evacuation from Brest in 1940, the Battalion were sent to the Far East arriving in Singapore three weeks before the surrender. Eric became a prisoner of the Japanese and was sent to the Burma-Thai Railway. His Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel Lilly who was later to become the inspiration for Colonel Nicholson in the film Bridge on the River Kwai.

Eric’s fiancée, Eunice Lowe, learnt of his capture by chance from a friend. Amidst speculation that Eric had escaped, Eunice began a campaign to learn the truth but it was not until 26 May 1943 that she received confirmation that he was a POW. From 1942 to 1945, while suffering extreme hardship and abuse from his captors, Eric was permitted to send just three postcards. Despite Eunice writing every week, only a handful were received by him in late 1944. After liberation, Eric returned home and married Eunice in 1946.

Fortunately, Eric wrote a graphic memoir of his captivity in the post-war years and Eunice’s correspondence has been preserved. The two combined make for an unusual and moving record of a young couple’s testing yet very different experiences.

Article: 80 years on, PoW's hell on Death Railway revealed

Daily Mirror, August 2023

About Ian Roberts

Eric Roberts was born in Burton on Trent in 1918. Rejected by his biological parents, his father having been gassed in 1918, he was brought up by his aunt, Lilian Degg. In 1938, Eric met Eunice Lowe, an affluent farmer’s daughter and, despite their different backgrounds, they became engaged in 1940. Eric’s war and captivity and Eunice’s battle for information are the subjects of this book. Fortunate to survive, Eric returned home and married Eunice in 1946. He returned to his pre-war employer, the Burton Timber Merchant J. B. Kinds, eventually becoming Managing Director. Eric and Eunice had two children and five grandchildren. Eunice died in 1980 and, following Eric’s death in 2001, his memoir was discovered along with Eunice’s letters, diaries and scrap books.
Their grandson, Ian Roberts, has put together this superb first-hand account of a determined and courageous couple’s wartime experiences.

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