Tragic tales of Blackpool Regiment's Second World War fate to be shared in new book - and you can be involved

I've been privileged to have first sight of a forthcoming book about a wartime tragedy that affected many Blackpool and Fylde families, writes Barry Band.

By Claire Lark
Saturday, 18th June 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 20th June 2022, 9:41 am
Members of the 137th (Blackpool) regiment
Members of the 137th (Blackpool) regiment

The book, The Loss of the Blackpool Regiment, is by David Taylor, whose previous book, Beloved Ghosts, was about the Emery family, who lived at the old Skippool house known as Illawalla.

But before publication of his new work, David wants to give families of those who died in that theatre of war the chance to tell him their story. Email David here

David is quite candid about his new subject, the grim years during the Second World War, after the fall of Singapore and Malaya.

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David Taylor's Beloved Ghosts book

"There have, of course, been several books about the plight of the prisoners of war in Japanese hands - the torture, cruelty and executions - and the exhausting work forced upon sick and emaciated prisoners," he says.

"There have also been many personal memoirs, exhibitions, documentaries and lectures. Memorials have been erected and pilgrimages made (to that theatre of war)."

David's reason for adding to the list is that his mother's brother, Ronnie Emery, was lost in the debacle that befell the Blackpool Regiment.

He was in the RAF and was attempting to escape by ship from Singapore but it was sunk.

Burt Briggs

"I had to wait until I retired before researching and writing the book," says David.

But what puts the work ahead of previous publications is that, in addition to his own family's input, David has had access to the archives of the late Burt Briggs, which provide an amazing amount of detail.

Burt survived the war and became a bank manager and a leader in the Blackpool amateur theatre world. He is remembered for leading the 1972 petition that prevented the demolition of the Grand Theatre.

David Taylor notes in his book that the Blackpool Regiment - the 137 (Army) Field Regiment RA TA - arrived in Malaya about a month before the Japanese invasion.

"Along with other regiments - British and Indian - they were rushed to the north to receive a baptism of fire at the battle of Jitra.

"There followed a heartbreaking retreat down the Malay peninsula. Many were killed or wounded. Some made it back to Singapore, to end up fighting in the grounds of the Raffles Hotel or on the beaches.

"On February 15, 1942, the surviving members were ordered to surrender by the GOC Malaya and became prisoners of war, many of them to work or die on the infamous Burma-Thai Railway, which became known as the Railway of Death."

In researching the losses of the Blackpool Regiment, David says: "As far as can be ascertained there were 759 members (in the campaign). Seventy died in battle and 154 died as prisoners of war. The regiment was never re-formed.

"Most of those returning in 1945 were shattered in mind and body."

If you have a story to tell, David would love to hear from you. This is his email address: [email protected]

*The A to Z of show stars resumes next week.

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