Names written in a book by furtive hand:
rank, serial number, cause of death, age.
Watch out as the guards search for contraband
in this disgusting, godforsaken cage.
Flimsy pages need to be kept hidden;
somehow they must survive the death railway.
Keeping private records is forbidden
but this book has to see the light of day.
We staged a mock funeral, make no bones,
to conceal “Private Records” from the Japs.
We exhumed the worn coffin filled with stones
after the war, using roughly-drawn maps.
The book is now displayed for all to see,
lest we forget those who fought to be free.
My father served with the Royal Corps of Signals during the Second World War. After he retired we visited the regimental museum at Blandford Forum, Dorset, where we came across Private Records, an exercise book that listed the names of those that died in a Japanese POW camp. It was a miracle this flimsy book survived; the poignant exhibit inspired this poem.