Blackpool war hero's ashes to be flown home

A Blackpool war veteran who faced a Japanese firing squad and lived to tell the tale will be laid to rest in the country he loved.

Monday, 3rd September 2018, 9:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 12:48 pm
War hero Charles Rodaway from Layton

Charles Rodaway, from Layton, died on August 31 last year in Ontario, Canada, at the grand old age of 101.

Now, on the first anniversary of his funeral service, his ashes will travel to their final resting place at Carleton Crematorium.

Charles –whose family had once believed him dead until his unlikely return from a prisoner of war camp – had requested to be brought back home, where he will be reunited with his family.

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The war hero and great-grandad of three emigrated to Canada following the end of the Second World War but made regular trips back to the Fylde coast with his wife Sheila.

She paid tribute to her husband, who had defied the odds to make it home after being captured by Japanese troops in 1942 and held captive for three years.

Sheila said: “It was Charlie’s hope to retire in the Blackpool area but over the last few years the effects of his Japanese years caught up with him, making life and travelling much more difficult.

“It was Charlie’s last wish to be buried or scattered in Carleton Cemetery with the rest of his family.

“He was fun-loving, enjoyed wine, women and song – anything to drown out the memories – and was very interested in veterans affairs, enjoying meeting other prisoners of war even though he rarely spoke of his wartime experiences, which still upset him. He loved and protected his family.

“He avidly followed the Blackpool and Fleetwood news and football teams.”

As a boy, Charles walked seven miles from Blackpool to Fleetwood to sign up for the territorial army at the age of just 12.

Six years later, in 1934, he joined the Second Battalion Loyal Regiment of North Lancashire and served in Shanghai the following year, before being transferred to Singapore in 1938.

He was captured by Japanese soldiers at the Fall of Singapore in 1942 and put to hard labour in a shipyard in Kawasaki, near Tokyo.

With fellow soldier William ‘Nifty’ Smith he sabotaged an enemy ship with a drill and made his escape, eluding troops for six days before being recaptured and sentenced to death.

But his firing squad was called back moments before pulling the trigger.

Sheila, whom he married in 1966 following the death of his first wife, Winnifred, said: “The troops were dying like flies by that time so Charlie and his mate Nifty decided to escape, go across the island to the coast steal a fishing boat and sail to Vladivostock, Russia.

“They got to the coast before being discovered. After sentencing and standing blindfolded before the firing squad their sentence was commuted.”

Charles was sentenced to life imprisonment, including 15 years in solitary confinement for political prisoners at Sakai Prison in Osaka.

But his battalion believed he was dead, and news that he had been shot in a prisoner of war camp was published in The Gazette in 1944.

However, reports of his death were greatly exaggerated and Charles was rescued when his prison was liberated in August 1945, a week after the surrender of Japan.

He returned to Blackpool, much to the surprise of his mourning family. Charles emigrated to Canada in 1948, but never took Canadian citizenship.

His friend Tony Rodaway, who is no relation, of Fenton Road, Blackpool, said: “Without a doubt he would have wanted to come back to England. As much as he loved Canada, he was English through and through. He was very strong on that.

“He was an absolutely outstanding man. He could have you laughing in two seconds. He was very special.

“He had a good old age. I was speaking to him just a few weeks before he died and he still had that unbelievable sense of humour.”

Charles is survived by his wife Sheila, son Ken and daughters Sharon and Dianne.

He also leaves behind six grandsons, six granddaughters, and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will take place at Carleton Crematorium at 10.30am on September 12.