Archifdy Ceredigion Archives
ADX/1712: Ivor Tegwyn James Collection


Ref: ADX/1712

Reference: [GB 0212] ADX/1712
Title: Ivor T. James, Prisoner of War Papers
Creator: Ivor Tegwyn James, 1918-2000
Date(s): 1937-1999
Level: Fonds
Extent: 137 items
Scope and Content: Papers of Ivor Tegwyn James of Aberystwyth who was a prisoner of war with the Japanese during WW2.

Biographical History: Ivor Tegwyn James was born on 22 August 1918, and lived at 'Glanceri', 5 Greenfield Street, Aberystwyth, son of Hugh Owen James and Elizabeth James nee Jenkins. Hugh Owen James was an ironmonger and he and Elizabeth were regular attendees of Shiloh Chapel. Ivor had older sisters Gladys, Lydia Bronwen (Bonnie) b.1906 and Ida Louisa b.1910, and two brothers, Ronald and John Hubert b. about 1914.

In 1934, at the age of 15 Ivor James was employed as 'uniformed staff' by the Great Western Railway. Ivor had to register for military service in June 1939 as all 20-21 year old men were called for military training. Deciding to join the army in order to be 'out by Christmas', he was initially stationed at Kinmel Park Camp, Bodelwyddan as a Gunner in 1939. However, war was declared in September 1939, and he volunteered for overseas service, becoming a Lance Bombardier in the Royal Artillery.

He was sent to Singapore in January 1940 on H.M. Transport 'Nevasa' and was stationed alternatively at Changi and Pengerang Coastal Battery. He fought in the Battle of Singapore in February 1942, and initially refused to sign a form promising not to escape but was forced to when Japanese forces threatened to shoot the sick and injured. He then spent 1942-1945 as a Prisoner of War, which he described as 'a living hell'.

Ivor's parents were told he was 'Missing Presumed Dead' and were not informed he was a Prisoner of War for two and a half years, though they wrote to him every week. Ivor was moved between many camps including Changi POW camp, Adam Road camp and River Valley Road Hospital Camp, and was forced into work including unloading ships and building tunnels. He was then sent to Burma to build the famous 'Railroad of Death' between Burma and Thailand, during the monsoon, in which '2742 died' out of 'a total of 6000 men'. In one camp, he became too ill to work and after the protest of a Captain Diver, was allowed to march through the jungle to a base hospital where he met a man from Aberystwyth who worked in the cookhouse. After the completion of the railway he returned to Changi camp to dig tunnels. Ivor kept a diary during his time as a Prisoner of War from c. 1942-1943 which can be found in the collection.

After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, he was released on 5 September 1945 and 'taken by stretcher on a hospital ship to Madras' and transferred to Bangalore Hospital. He returned to the UK in November 1945 via Cornwall and then to London and Aberystwyth. A massive welcome party awaited him at Aberystwyth station with a band, and Greenfield Street was covered in decorations.

In the war, Ivor's brother Hubert was in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and died on 19 May 1943 in Sleaford, Lincolnshire aged 26, as a result of an 'accident'. He is listed on the memorial roll at St. Michael's Church, Aberystwyth. His other brother Ronald was stationed in India.

Ivor was partially disabled by his time as a POW, due to malnutrition and malaria, but returned to work as a Porter at Llanrhystud Road Station, and in 1947 applied for a promotion as a Passenger Guard at Aberystwyth Station, and worked for the railway until he retired in 1982.

He was married to Olwen J. Roberts near Newtown, Montgomeryshire in 1950 and his son, Roger, was born in 1952. Ivor's father, Hugh Owen James died in 1950 and his mother, Elizabeth James in 1951 age 66.

Ivor was a member of the Japanese Labour Camp Survivors' Association for many years. He died in May 2000 aged 81.

Reference: James, Ivor Tegwyn. 'Gunner 10290038'. 1995. p.32-36.

Arrangement: The collection is arranged into the following five series:

ADX 1712/1: Military Documents and Correspondence. 31 items

ADX 1712/2: Personal Correspondence. 51 items

ADX 1712/3: Photographs. 30 items

ADX 1712/4: Personal Documents and Writing. 11 items

ADX 1712/5: Post-War Administrative Documents. 14 items

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