Jo Blackwell

Writer & Photographer - Inspiration Station

Searching for Jack

Jo Blackwell, Fiction

My grandfather, Jack, spent 3 years as a POW of the Japanese in Singapore. When he signed up, he was a 10 ½ stone, Welterweight, amateur boxing champion. On repatriation he weighed 5 ½ stone. That he survived at all was a testament to his toughness, bothJo Blackwell, Fiction physical and mental.

He died, in his fifties, when I was just 13, but he made a lasting impression on me. After the war, he flew all over the world escorting racehorses. In the 1950s and 60s it was unusual for someone of his class to be so well travelled. He would bring me back gifts – books about Canada and Japan, mechanical toys from the Far East, a PanAm airline bag and, on one memorable occasion, a certificate from a Japanese airline confirming he had flown over the North Pole.

It sparked my imagination and helped to form my restless spirit. Unfortunately for Jack, he and my beloved grandmother had a turbulent relationship. She lived into her nineties, long enough to leave me the gift of her memoirs. She had a lot to say about Jack! The more I heard about him, the more I read about the Fall of Singapore, the more intrigued I became.

Earlier this year, I visited the Changi Prison memorial in Singapore. Jack’s name was there, in the records. I showed a visiting historian some papers I have and he frowned. There was something odd about the circumstances around his capture, something that needed further investigation, he said.

Until recently, I drew a blank. Then, last week, I visited my uncle and a chance remark led me down a new path. And all the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle began falling into place… the search for Jack finally bore fruit. The instinct I have always had that there was a story he never told was found to be correct and, at last I found my grandfather. Watch this space…

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