Sudbury’s final survivor from Second World War Japanese ‘death camps’ has died aged 93

Young sailor Harold Lock
Young sailor Harold Lock

Harold Lock, the final Sudbury survivor from the Second World War Japanese Prisoner of War (POW) camps has died aged 93.

Mr Lock of Ashmere Drive, Sudbury, died on January 29.

Second World War prisoner of war Harold Lock has died at the age of 93.

Second World War prisoner of war Harold Lock has died at the age of 93.

He was the final survivor of scores of Sudbury men who were captured by Japanese at fall of Singapore and spent four years in the so-called death camps.

Most were from the 5th Suffolks but Harold was captured on Java in 1942 as a teenage sailor.

He swam ashore after his destroyer HMS Jupitor hit a mine and sank.

For many years Mr Lock organised reunions for ex-POWs in South Suffolk. In 2005 he travelled to Java in Indonesia and Singapore with former Beirut hostage Terry Waite.

Part of his story features in a display at Sudbury’s Heritage Centre in Gaol Lane.

Eleven men named on the town’s war memorial died as prisoners of the Japanese, most working in horrific conditions as forced labour on the ‘Death Railway’ which stretched 260 miles from Thailand into Burma.

Nearly all were serving in the 5th Suffolk Regiment, when the Japanese over-ran Singapore in 1942.

After his capture he spent the rest of the war as forced labour, most of it building an airstrip on a tropical island which the Japanese intended to use it as a staging post for invading Australia. He weighed only six stone when liberation came.

In The Forgotten Men, which he published decades later, he said of life on the island: “Death had become commonplace and we were getting like robots, all feelings disappearing except the desire to cling to life. It is strange how precious everything seems when you are on the verge of death as most of us were.

“For three and a half years most of those who survived faced the prospect of death at all times. Those who could not work died. Those who could, worked on in a vermin-ridden rage. All of them, I believe, were marked for life.”

He was asked for his opinion on the experiences of those captured for the film The Railway Man released in 2014.

In 2012 he told the Free Press: “You never forget and even after all these years it is hard to talk about. But it is important people know how we got treated.

“When we returned home, we were told not to talk about it, it was all hushed up, and that was very hard considering what we went through.”

In the Free Press edition of January 20, 1944, a report stated: “Able Seaman H.E.Lock aged 20,the youngest son of Mrs and the late Mr Walter Lock of Cross Street, Sudbury, Mrs Lock has received a card saying he is a P.O.W. in Japanese hands, he joined the Navy at 16, he has been reported missing for two years, Mrs Lock is a widow with ten children, three are serving, Harold being a Petty Officer in the Navy and Percy a Sergeant in the army.”

Mr Lock founded the South Suffolk branch of the Far East Prisoners of War Association.

He was also a member of Sudbury’s last surviving outpost of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes

The full story of his military service and other local POWs is told in No Glorious Dead - the Impact of War on Sudbury published by Sudbury Museum Trust.

Mr Lock’s funeral will take place on March 1 at West Suffolk Crematorium.