How a book about Southwold helped Cyril Doy through his time as a Prisoner of War
PUBLISHED: 15:00 15 February 2015
Allied prisoners of war (POWs) sent to work on the infamous Death Railway, made famous by the film Bridge Over the River Kwai, faced a daily struggle for survival.
About 90,000 Asian labourers and 12,399 Allied prisoners died in the sweltering jungles of northern Thailand as a direct result of the project undertaken by the Japanese military.
They endured searing heat, near starvation, hard physical labour and routine beatings before being freed at the end of the war in 1945.
To get through the experience, the POWs found ways to keep their spirits up.
For 94-year-old Cyril Doy, discovering a few pages of a book about his home town of Southwold provided some comfort during the three-and-a-half years he was held in the prison camps.
Mr Doy, who lives in Station Road, Southwold with his wife Joan, said he had not thought about the book for many years until reading an article about it by Jeff Taylor, an ex-archaeologist and museum curator who lives near Woodbridge.
He discovered it was called The Testament of Stephen Fane, written by Stephen Critten, who had grown up in Southwold and written a fictional story based on his own experiences in the town as a boy.
Mr Doy said: “It brought back a memory of 70 years ago.
“I had been a prisoner of the Japanese by that time for about two years I would have thought, and we were all in a bad way of course.
“There were scraps of paper around the camp and the remnants of a book, just a few pages I saw about this Stephen Fane.”
After hearing about his interest in the book, Mr Taylor paid a visit to Mr Doy and has loaned him a copy to read.
Mr Doy said: “I thought it was called the Last Will and Testament of Joseph Fane but on reading the book that Jeff brought along, I realised it was the same one.
“Of course, not having heard anything from home and not knowing if any of my family were alive or how they were going on, it was quite a pleasure, after all of these thousands of miles, to read something about Southwold.
“Anything like that helped because so many by that time had not survived, including my sister’s husband, and obviously anything pertaining to my own home town was wonderful news.”
He added: “I do remember this Fane was rather a promiscuous type of person to say the least. I remember he wrote that his mother used to take in visitors to supplement their income in the fishing trade. He used to await this young lady and they would go up to Easton Bavents. I also recall he saw his father drown in the North Sea off Southwold in this book.”