Research & Articles by Lt. Col. Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired), JP
Research, Interviews and Articles about the Prisoners Of War of the Japanese who built the Burma to Thailand railway during world war two. Focusing on the doctors and medical staff among the prisoners. Also organised trips to Thailand twice a year.
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Goodnight Melody

Prisoner of War Milton (Snow) Fairclough (2/3 Machine Gun Battalion) was at Tanjong Priok, Java on Armistice Day eve 1943. Snow and others had been taught shorthand by WO1 David Topping. On this day there was a Camp Concert and during the concert Snow and one of the 2/4 Machine Gunners who got to Java wrote, in shorthand, the words of an address. They later converted their short hand to long hand and the address follows.- .

Picture several hundred British, Dutch and Australian POWs who had been eight months in captivity at the time. The concert followed a fairly stereotyped pattern, songs, recitations, skits, with the lads dressed as lasses causing the predictable cat-calls, wolf-whistles and bawdy, ribald remarks. The British compere came to the front of the improvised stage and began to speak in a beautifully modulated voice.

His first words were almost drowned out by the continuous shouts, etc from the audience.

This is the orchestra of the Tanjong Priok Prisoners of War Camp playing “Goodnight Melody” and this is your naughty little compere saying “Goodnight to our friends all over the place”.

Tomorrow is November 11th and we are hoping that our friends will be thinking of us on this day as we are thinking of them. Here in captivity there is little that we can do but think, except occasionally to remember that we are British. So on this memorial day for the sake of those who have laid down their lives for the Empire in past generations, we will make this resolve. "We will bow, but, not bow lower than is necessary.

By now the noise from the audience had diminished somewhat so he continued.

So goodnight from Priok Prison Camp to our friends who sail the seas. We will not mind waiting for a long time yet if we can know that our sailors are getting the food home to the old country. So goodnight and good luck sailors - keep sailing.

Goodnight to the flying men of the air force. We have had plenty of time to think back to September 1940, and we want you to know that we have not forgotten, and we assure you that .we will keep looking to the south sky, hopefully. Goodnight, good luck and keep flying.

The noise from the audience was now barely a whisper.

Goodnight to our Empire soldiers everywhere. We are sorry we can do nothing here, but, we still believe in you. Goodnight and goodluck.

Goodnight to doctors, nurses and Red Cross workers everywhere. Goodnight. God bless you and God guide your steady hands that are doing so much to alleviate the suffering which is the inevitable consequence of a nation pitting the strength of its machines of destruction against those of another nation.

Goodnight to lighthouse keepers, coast guards, observer corps and all those who work and watch silently in the night. The limelight does not fall on you, but we will not forget. Goodnight - keep watch.

Goodnight to all air wardens, firemen and fire watchers, ambulance drivers, blood donors and munition workers. We know that you in your own way are producing the answer.

There was now silence and not a stirring among those present.

Goodnight to mothers everywhere. Mothers whose mental anguish is causing the deeper suffering that only a mother can know. Mothers who pray for their sons, mothers who mourn for their fallen sons and mothers who neither pray nor mourn, but wonder. Wonder with soul-destroying anxiety if their son lives or rots in a corner of a foreign field. Goodnight mothers - keep praying.

Goodnight to wives everywhere. Wives who will listen hopefully for the postman's footsteps. Wives who are separated by thousands of miles from the men they have chosen to love. Wives whose faith is not shaken after a year's silence, saying to themselves. "He will come back, he must come back."

Goodnight to children everywhere. Goodnight kiddies. Little boys and girls who wonder why there is no big man to play bears and elephants. No gruff-voiced man who used to like having his hair pulled, even if mummy did say, "It's you who spoils the child", and pretends to look stern. No dear, don't play with your little wooden soldiers tonight, not tonight of all nights. It sort of reminds mummy of your daddy's uniform and then you won't understand why she stands with her back to you by the sideboard while two silent tears fall down her cheeks. So goodnight little fellow. Be a good boy and go to bed early tonight and say a little prayer by your bed for the return of the man you used to play bears with. Goodnight children. God bless you.

Goodnight listeners everywhere. Java Prisoners of War say “Goodnight to you all’.

There was a deathly still over the camp for some time. Hardened men were wiping their eyes, some were sobbing unashamedly. Then there was deafening applause.


The above was provided to Lt Col Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired) JP by Snow Fairclough. Also mentioned in “Samurais and Circumcisions” by Dr (Capt) Les Poidevin and an address by Mr Neville Jetson (Timor Veteran) at the Stolen Years Exhibition in Launceston September 2003. Neville Jetson has given his permission to insert the annotations of the audience reaction.
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Milton “Snow” Fairclough
2/3 Machine Gun Battalion
Tel Aviv 1941

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