In the letters that the Irish doctor Major Francis J. Murray penned about his experience as a prisoner of war (POW) during World War II, he was circumspect in case they were discovered by the Japanese guards, and to avoid alarming his fiancee Eileen O’Kane, whom he married after the war.

Besides the small number that the couple managed to exchange, the daily diary letters were sent as a bundle at liberation. The letters document POW life in rare detail.

FEB 17, 1942, two days after the fall of Singapore “The troops were all marched off to the prison camp yesterday, but that was nothing compared with the sad sight I saw today when all the civilian men, women and children (Europeans) were marched through the streets to their camp.

“All day long a sad procession of Chinese has paraded along the streets carrying all their belongings on their backs, the tiny children walking for miles under the hot sun. It just made me think – I could not bear to watch them at all.

“We have not been made prisoners yet and are still functioning each day as an ambulance unit. I love you.”

Major Francis J. Murray wrote to his fiancee Eileen O’Kane every day he was in prison. They married in February 1946 (above). PHOTO: THE MURRAY FAMILY

FEB 21, 1942, after the march to Changi Prison “The long weary march is over and I still love you as I sit under this tree in Changi awaiting a piping hot meal which the boys are cooking in the open.

“My darling I shall never forget that march as long as I live. I was very fit and in good marching condition: heaven only knows what some of the others felt like at the end of the march! We were a weary lot when we reached here; we kept in perfect line the whole way, there was no straggling (and we were the exception).”

SEPT 6, 1945, upon being presented a scroll, the wording of which was composed by Mr David Marshall, who later became Singapore’s first elected chief minister. “Darling, the proudest moment of my life came at 5pm this evening when 350 men paraded and gave me an address. It is a beautiful document signed by all the men and I shall always treasure it.”


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