‘Our dad’s sacrifice has been forgotten’ - Family of Blackpool war hero back campaign for bigger VJ Day commemorations

Right: The funeral of Harry Motteram at Carleton Crematorium in 2015. Left: Harry in his military uniform
Right: The funeral of Harry Motteram at Carleton Crematorium in 2015. Left: Harry in his military uniform
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The family of a man who survived the horror of the infamous Death Railway in Burma is leading a call for better recognition of VJ Day.

The day marks the end of the Second World War in the Far East following the surrender of Japan in 1945.

But many people feel that, while D-Day and Victory in Europe (VE) Day are rightly celebrated, those who fought in the jungles and those taken prisoner by the Japanese are a “forgotten army”.

Now a petition is being raised to get the Government to do more for VJ Day on August 15 and the family of Blackpool artilleryman Harry Motteram are backing the campaign.

Harry was in the Blackpool Regiment – the 137th Field Regiment – and served in Singapore in December 1941. When the Japanese captured the city state in February 1942, Harry was among 80,000 troops captured.

He was in the notorious Changi Prison camp until June 1942 before being sent to work on the Thailand to Burma Railway the Japanese were building to support their campaign to conquer Burma.

The cruelty of the Japanese guards to the prisoners and native workers resulted in thousands of deaths, and the names Hellfire Pass and the Bridge over the River Kwai are now legends.

Harry, survived by his daughter Diane Seville, said the suffering was terrible.

She said: “He was just seven stone when he came home. He was 21 when he was taken prisoner and he always said that if they could have held out at Singapore for just another 12 hours the Japanese would have given up.

“After that the conditions were terrible, with disease and starvation. He worked on the railway and experienced the hell that was Hellfire Pass, with the harsh conditions and heavy loss of life suffered by its labourers.”

Harry, who worked as a plumber until the age of 86, died in May 2015 after a battle with cancer. He was 94.

Dianne said: “There are so few of the Far East survivors left now, some 97 and 98. One of the doctors is still alive – he is 100 years old now. The men who fought i the Far East are the Forgotten Army.

“Everyone knows about the Blitz and the war in Europe but VJ Day does not get the same recognition.

“I think after VE day, when people celebrated in the street, the country was war-weary. People had lived through the Blitz and the bombing and so VJ Day a few months later was not given the same treatment.

“Since dad died, I have been working with the other families to increase recognition. A petition has been started and I just hope that people will sign it and something can be done before the 75th anniversary of the end of the war next year.”

Keith Andrew from the The Children and Families of the Far East Prisoners of War Association said that the sacrifice of people like Harry in the jungles and prison camps deserved a proper commemoration. He said: “We are strongly supporting the petition because for too long the veterans and POWs from that part of the war have not had the recognition they deserved.”

He said when they returned from the war, many people mistakenly thought they had been sunning themselves abroad, when the truth was the exact opposite.

“The country had suffered, there was rationing and people were just fed up of the war after VE Day in May.”

The petition is at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/236760