Forgotten Heroes The People Remember


Forgotten Heroes

History documentary series. Duncan Bannatyne views rare documents which shed light on his father's experiences as a prisoner of war in the Far East.


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Transcript


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Hello from the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in Cambridgeshire.

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Throughout this Remembrance Week, we are celebrating heroes,

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remembering forgotten veterans

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and paying tribute to the people who fought so hard to win our freedom.

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This is how the people remember.

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All this week, I'm exploring some of the treasures here

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with former Army officer Andy Torbet.

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And celebrities from the worlds of entertainment and broadcasting

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tell us the role their families played during the war.

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On today's programme, forgotten heroes.

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Uncelebrated for so long,

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now the heroes of the Bomber Command are finally recognised.

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It takes you back.

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It makes you realise the sacrificing,

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and the futility of war.

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Duncan Bannatyne, from the Dragons' Den, tells us

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how his father was forced to work on the notorious Death Railway.

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And when veterans come back from war, the new battles some have to face.

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The darkest time of my life, by a long, long stretch.

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Hello from the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

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Today, we're paying tribute to forgotten heroes of conflict.

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After war ended in Europe,

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the battles in the Far East raged on, claiming thousands more lives.

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It is often regarded as the forgotten war,

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overlooked by a home country celebrating Victory in Europe.

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It wasn't until three months after VE Day

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that the war in the Far East finally came to an end,

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halting one of the worst episodes in British military history.

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During that period, tens of thousands of servicemen

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experienced the brutalities of prisoner of war camps.

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Today, we are joined by Duncan Bannatyne,

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whose father was one of those prisoners.

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Duncan, thank you very much for joining us. Hello.

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Now, your dad was in one of the regiments

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that was captured by the Japanese.

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He was, yes. He was captured when the boat he was on going to war

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was actually sunk. He told me that many of his friends drowned.

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He was picked up by a Japanese boat,

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so taken straight to a prisoner of war camp.

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And he only survived because he was such a good swimmer.

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That's right, yeah. And that's the great thing.

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One of the things he did when he came out after the war is,

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he made his mind up he was going to teach all of his children to swim,

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so he taught us all.

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Before we could walk, practically, he taught us all to swim.

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It was great. So I love swimming. I've done the same thing

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with my children and grandchildren, they're all good swimmers.

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How much did he talk about it?

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I mean, he died 30 years ago, didn't he?

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Yeah. Almost 30 years ago.

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He talked about it very little,

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um, but I know that when the war ended,

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he was one of what was called "the living dead" -

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they were like skeletons walking around -

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and he was very lucky to survive.

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But occasionally, when we'd go out and have a drink together,

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he'd talk about something,

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and I remember one day he got a bit animated

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when he told us about the day they'd found a rat

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and managed to catch this rat in the camp,

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to cook it and eat it,

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and he told us extensively how much they'd enjoyed eating it,

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because they were starving.

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They'd had so little food.

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Yeah. But it was such a traumatic period.

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Did he ever talk to you in detail about that, or not?

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Did you ever see for yourself what he'd gone through

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when he spoke about it?

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No. He told me quite often about some of the illnesses

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that some of the people suffered -

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it made you swell up sometimes when you were starving -

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but he never actually went into detail about how he suffered,

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and I think it's normal of prisoners of war to do that.

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It really doesn't bear thinking about.

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We'll talk plenty more about your father later on.

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Now, while the war was being fought in the Far East,

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Bomber Command was fighting in the skies over Europe.

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They faced the deadliest odds.

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It's a staggering figure,

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but more than 55,000 airmen from Bomber Command

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were killed in service.

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During the war, the men of Bomber Command were regarded as heroes

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but, after that, many of them

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felt their contribution to war went largely unrecognised.

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This is one veteran's story.

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We were scared, really scared.

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I used to think, "Gosh, I hope we come back from this.

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"I don't want to die."

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We did a hell of a lot of damage, there's no getting away from it,

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and it haunts you.

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The story of Bomber Command is one of bravery,

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sacrifice and controversy.

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Initially set up as deterrent in 1936,

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the men of Bomber Command went on to fly

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more than 360,000 missions over Europe.

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Almost half of those who signed up were killed during the war.

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It was a job that youngsters in those days

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just had to get down to doing.

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We didn't want the Germans coming over here

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and doing what they did in other countries.

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It was war.

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Frank Tolley was 19 when he joined the RAF,

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spurred on by the sight of his home town of Coventry

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after a devastating air raid by the German air force in 1940.

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Seeing the damage and the smoking that was still...

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the fires that were still going on,

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I thought, "Hell's bells,

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"if this war is going to be won, it's going to be won from the air."

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By the age of 23, Frank had qualified as a bomb-aimer

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and was the oldest of the seven men in his Lancaster crew.

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Now 94, he's returned to Lincolnshire,

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where he was based, to see one of the few remaining Lancasters.

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It's had a few knocks, hasn't it?

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It just makes you first of all wonder,

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"Gosh, has 70 years gone by?"

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It makes you think of the fellas that you flew with

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and wondering just what happened to them.

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We were a good team.

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I was the old man at 23!

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The gunners were only 18.

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Oh, it was a lot of fun.

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We went out when off duty.

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We would go down to a local pub and chat up the girls.

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We were young, you see.

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We lived as well as diced.

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Radio operator's position...

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For the first time since the end of the war,

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Frank is heading back to his bomb-aimer position

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at the front of a Lancaster.

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It was a doddle getting in before, no trouble at all.

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Ohh!

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Frank, you're getting old, boy!

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For takeoff and landing, this would be my position.

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I'd be standing here, waving to the WAAFs down there

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that were seeing us off.

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Every detail of this Lancaster has been restored

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to how it would have been when Frank was last here in the 1940s.

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Oh, it is. It is the same.

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I'd put these down... lights would come on.

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I would be over the bombsight here, and I'd be calling to the pilot,

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"Left, left. Keep it steady now.

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"Target's going downline to the bombsight.

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"Steady. Steady. It's on the cross. Pair switch pressed, bombs all go!"

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And there it is.

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On our first raid, I remember, when I released the bombs,

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I just watched them go down and I was saying to myself,

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"I'm breaking the Sixth Commandment, I'm breaking the Sixth Commandment."

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And suddenly, I heard a voice say,

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"When can we close these damn doors? It's bloody cold up here!"

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That was my first operation.

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Frank flew 22 missions in the Lancaster.

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They were hard raids, some of them. Quite long.

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The raids proved devastating for both sides.

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More men died flying with Bomber Command

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than serve in the entire Royal Air Force today.

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55,000 lives were lost.

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For decades, historians have debated the rights and wrongs

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of dropping thousands of bombs on German cities night after night.

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Many feel the achievements of Bomber Command

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were deliberately overlooked.

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Bomber Command had a dirty name, there's no getting away from it.

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We ought to have had the Air Crew Europe medal, but what's a medal?

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You know? The thing is, I'm here.

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The last time Frank heard these engines starting,

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he was setting off on a mission in 1945.

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It's hoped this plane will soon be able to fly again,

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but for now just taxiing around this wartime airfield

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reignites old memories.

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When the engine started and we started taxiing -

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bumpety-bumpety-bump - after 70 years, it's almost like a dream.

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It was quite a pleasant experience to be getting into a Lanc,

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knowing you were definitely getting out. You weren't being blown out!

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Yes, it's good to see it. It makes you feel young again.

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Well, later in the programme,

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Frank will be given a very special tour of a brand-new memorial

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for all those who served and were killed in Bomber Command.

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Now, Duncan, your dad worked on the Thai-Burma Railway,

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which was notoriously known as the Death Railway. Yeah.

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That must have been a horrendous experience.

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Yeah, it must have been terrible. So many people died there,

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you know, it was just difficult.

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I think surviving was what they did.

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It was the only thing they could do - it was either survive or die.

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Um, the most extensive conversation I had with him

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was after my sister's funeral.

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And he started to tell me about how one of the jobs he had

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in the prisoner of war camp,

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before he became really thin,

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was to put the bodies on the fire.

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They built a fire once a month and they'd burn the bodies.

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It was really upsetting for him to talk about that.

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So I think the reason a lot of prisoners of war don't talk about it

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is because it's so upsetting for them to do so.

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He got moved around a lot, didn't he? He did, yes.

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For some reason he was taken to...

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I think it's called Formosa, taken to Japan,

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taken to a prisoner of war camp there

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and just spent the rest of his war years there.

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I've got a couple of documents I don't think you've seen yet,

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so let's have a look at one of these.

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This is his liberation questionnaire,

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so this is what he filled in on liberation,

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and you can see there...

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I'm sure you can recognise his handwriting.

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It's his own writing, I think.

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Is that your dad's handwriting?

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I would think it is. It's very similar to mine.

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And you can see here... So it lists the camps...

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Kuala Lumpur. ..there, Kuala Lumpur, then Thailand,

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and the dates he was taken there. Yeah.

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The date he was first captured, actually.

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26th February '42. Where he was.

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'42, yeah.

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And then his regiment, as I think you know,

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the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

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There's Formosa, and then Japan.

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Manila, Thailand...

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Wow. Three different camp leaders.

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And then we also have this, there you are.

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This is his prisoner of war index card, filled in by the Japanese.

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DUNCAN LAUGHS

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There's his name, William Bannatyne. Yeah.

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Date of birth, which they got wrong to begin with,

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his battalion, um, and then his address and everything.

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And this is really interesting - we had this translated here -

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so his occupation... and he lists as a farmer.

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Did he? That's what it says!

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Was he ever a farmer before the war? Not to my knowledge!

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THEY ALL LAUGH

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Maybe he did that for a reason. Maybe he did.

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Maybe if you said you were a farmer,

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you get out in the fields, or something. Yeah.

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And the address there, is that an address you recognise?

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Yes, Kilbowie Road, Clydebank.

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Absolutely, yeah.

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I think that was the pub.

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THEY LAUGH

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It's amazing, isn't it, to see this documents from the past?

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Yeah. Yeah, it is.

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Yeah, unbelievable.

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Well, thank you for now. We'll talk more about it later on.

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The war in the Far East ended

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when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,

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and this is the 70th anniversary of VJ Day.

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The occasion was marked by a service attended by the Queen,

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and a march past at the Cenotaph in London.

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Many Far East veterans attended the event

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and, as part of the BBC coverage, two of them told their stories.

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The Japanese were just approaching Singapore island.

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I knew then that the situation was hopeless.

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We could never, ever defend Singapore.

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It was inevitable that Singapore

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would fall into the hands of the Japanese,

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and as far as I was concerned,

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this meant that I would become a prisoner of war.

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Well, they advanced towards Singapore City,

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they entered the hospital and killed every patient,

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doctor, nurse, in that hospital.

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If they could do that, they could do anything.

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All the Japanese thought we were cowards in every way

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and if we'd been honourable, we would have fought until we died.

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They didn't know what to do with us,

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but very soon, they realised that we could be useful

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and be formed into what was called working parties,

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to begin with on Singapore island itself,

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and later on, of course, the Death Railway.

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We stopped in dense jungle,

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then we realised we had to go through 30 feet of solid rock...

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by hand.

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My job was always a doctor.

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But the Japanese didn't treat me differently,

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except that I didn't go out on the work parties.

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I went up to an island just south of Singapore

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called, in those days, Blakang Mati.

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We call it Hell Island.

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And we all had starvation beriberi,

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which was nasty and painful and all sorts of things,

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but acute dysentery was the great killer.

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We were just sheer slaves

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and...you'd be beaten up for nothing at all.

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You didn't know what you were being beaten for.

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One of my bashings, it was a nice one,

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because I never felt a thing. They knocked me out.

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When I'd recovered, going back, seeing my fellow officers,

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they said, "We thought we'd lost you, Doctor.

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"When you finally got up from the ground,

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"you were staggering towards your officer

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"with both your hands clenched,

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"as though you were going to hit him with your fist,

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"and the little Japanese private standing by him

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"was just going to bayonet you,

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"and for some reason, the officer stopped him doing it."

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And I said, "That was, as far as I was concerned,

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"the best bashing I've ever had."

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I was determined to beat the Japanese.

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I took great pleasure in getting through one day to the next,

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undoing bolts on the bridge,

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and cutting into the bolt to weaken it, that sort of thing.

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The first bridge over the River Kwai collapsed

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and we, as a camp, got punished for days for that.

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It was sheer hell.

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People often ask me whether I hate the Japanese

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or dislike all these people who treated us so abominably,

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and I say, "No. If I hated them,

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"it doesn't do them any harm at all."

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I will never forgive.

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If I forgive, I'll be...not true to myself.

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Some really harrowing stories there.

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It's amazing, listening to those men.

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I don't know how old they are, but my father would be 100

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if he was still alive,

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and he told us, as well, about just living day by day,

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that gentleman just said it - his way of winning was,

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every day that he woke up and lived another day,

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he'd beaten the Japanese.

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And that's what my father felt.

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He felt that all the time.

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He was in Puda Prison, in Malaya, for some time,

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and we've come across this extraordinary...

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This is a piece of paper but it's actually a piece of toilet roll.

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Uh-huh. And it was typed up by an officer in Puda Prison,

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and you can see -

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I'm not going to get it out because it's the original,

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it's so delicate - and on it are the names...

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because, obviously, so many of these men were missing,

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nobody knew what had happened to them... That's right.

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..so during the retreat down the peninsula,

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what they did here in the prison,

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they gathered the names of all the officers they could,

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the people who had been killed, the people who were injured,

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the people who were being held,

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and this was smuggled out of the prison,

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and if you look here, right there, there is you father. Wow.

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Isn't that incredible?

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But it was typed up by a British officer,

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smuggled out of the prison,

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and they were given instructions on the toilet roll

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that it was to be...

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They took it down to Changi, by somebody who was passing through

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with the Japanese army, smuggled it out,

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and they were told to unroll the toilet roll very carefully

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and at the bottom of it, they found that.

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Amazing, amazing. Isn't that beautiful?

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Isn't it just? Yeah. It's extraordinary.

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The experiences your dad had in the POW camps were terrible.

0:18:190:18:24

Yeah. How did that affect his life back home?

0:18:240:18:27

What I think is absolutely amazing is, what my father told me,

0:18:270:18:31

his way of winning, like, living every day,

0:18:310:18:35

was when he was released,

0:18:350:18:37

he was determined he was going to get fit again,

0:18:370:18:40

put weight back on,

0:18:400:18:42

meet a woman, get married, get a job, have a family,

0:18:420:18:46

and four years after liberation, I was born, the second child,

0:18:460:18:50

so he'd done all that in four years -

0:18:500:18:53

met my mother, married her, my sister was born and then me.

0:18:530:18:56

They had a house and a job.

0:18:560:18:58

He worked at the Singer sewing machine factory,

0:18:580:19:00

big factory in Clydebank, and he worked there until his retirement.

0:19:000:19:04

Do you wish that you had been able to talk to your father more about it?

0:19:040:19:07

Yeah, I'd love to talk to him now about it.

0:19:070:19:10

It'd be fantastic. I wish I had done, yeah.

0:19:100:19:12

Well, thank you so much for sharing

0:19:120:19:14

your memories of your father with us today. Thank you.

0:19:140:19:16

Later on today's programme,

0:19:160:19:18

we hear how one veteran is battling against the odds

0:19:180:19:22

to honour fallen comrades.

0:19:220:19:24

To lay that wreath on that special day

0:19:260:19:29

will be up there with the greatest achievements

0:19:290:19:32

that I've done in my life.

0:19:320:19:34

I go behind closed doors

0:19:340:19:36

to have a peek at some of the exhibits in the museum's storeroom.

0:19:360:19:40

And on their 200th anniversary,

0:19:430:19:46

we hear the pipes and drums of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles.

0:19:460:19:51

Since we've been here, I've been struck by the range of people

0:19:560:19:59

who visit this museum. Many are here to see the planes,

0:19:590:20:02

but others come for very personal reasons.

0:20:020:20:05

Here are just a few of the people we bumped into today.

0:20:050:20:08

I think it's important to support museums like this,

0:20:130:20:15

they're an important part of our history and our heritage.

0:20:150:20:18

I always feel very emotional thinking about...

0:20:180:20:20

there were servicemen up there in these tiny planes,

0:20:200:20:23

defending our country.

0:20:230:20:24

It makes me feel quite emotional, cos it must have been scary.

0:20:240:20:26

Every time I've gone down the motorway, I look at Duxford

0:20:300:20:33

and think, "I must go there,"

0:20:330:20:35

and it's took me all these years.

0:20:350:20:38

My brother's been before but I haven't.

0:20:380:20:40

It brings back lots of memories of aircraft that I saw

0:20:440:20:47

and was interested in during my youth, really.

0:20:470:20:52

It's my birthday and it's a treat from the wife.

0:21:000:21:03

And I didn't know I was coming!

0:21:030:21:06

Probably the one that stuck in my mind was the Memphis Belle,

0:21:060:21:09

purely because I liked the film,

0:21:090:21:12

and the last time I saw that was at an airshow near us.

0:21:120:21:16

It's just a fantastic place to be. Some of the planes,

0:21:200:21:23

you wouldn't even believe how big they are

0:21:230:21:26

until you actually stand at the side of them.

0:21:260:21:28

You've seen them for years on films, or whatever,

0:21:280:21:31

but as soon as you stand at the side of it,

0:21:310:21:34

it's just unbelievable how big they are.

0:21:340:21:36

I've been allowed access to an area that's normally off limits

0:21:420:21:45

to the public. This is the storeroom,

0:21:450:21:47

which is quite a mundane name for an area that houses

0:21:470:21:50

thousands of very interesting artefacts,

0:21:500:21:53

and they're not normally on display,

0:21:530:21:55

but I'm here with curator Martin Boswell,

0:21:550:21:58

and he's going to allow us a sneaky peek behind the scenes.

0:21:580:22:01

Martin, thank you very much.

0:22:010:22:02

Now, some of the artefacts and objects in here are fascinating,

0:22:020:22:06

so why aren't they on display in the museum?

0:22:060:22:08

A national museum is duty-bound to look after its treasures.

0:22:080:22:13

For example, I look after over 15,000 uniforms,

0:22:130:22:17

and when you envisage that exhibitions are,

0:22:170:22:21

generally speaking, thematic,

0:22:210:22:23

we can't show everything all in one time,

0:22:230:22:26

so for the future benefit of generations to come,

0:22:260:22:29

we need to preserve what we have,

0:22:290:22:31

so we have to have a professional environment

0:22:310:22:34

with lighting levels and humidity control,

0:22:340:22:36

such as what we've got here.

0:22:360:22:38

And you've some prize examples here? Oh, absolutely.

0:22:380:22:42

When you consider, certainly in the uniform collection,

0:22:420:22:45

we can put it in two categories, either generic -

0:22:450:22:49

in other words, objects that are worn by unknown people -

0:22:490:22:53

or, significantly, items that have a known history.

0:22:530:22:57

I see you've got some examples for us here.

0:22:570:23:00

This is an example of a generic item in the collection.

0:23:000:23:03

It's a very nice example of an ornate cavalry helmet

0:23:030:23:06

worn by Kaiser Wilhelm's bodyguard unit

0:23:060:23:09

before the First World War and, in fact, during.

0:23:090:23:11

Now, marvellous as it is,

0:23:110:23:13

not terribly practical for front-line service,

0:23:130:23:16

and when they went over to Poland and into Russia on active service,

0:23:160:23:20

they got rid of the eagle, put a spike on it instead,

0:23:200:23:24

and the only concession to being on horseback on the battlefield

0:23:240:23:27

was to wear a cloth cover over the top.

0:23:270:23:30

Now, this is one of those objects in the category of uniqueness

0:23:300:23:33

because we have a known history.

0:23:330:23:35

This belonged to none other than Reich Marshal Hermann Goering,

0:23:350:23:38

the number two of the Third Reich.

0:23:380:23:41

One of the most colourful characters

0:23:410:23:43

but also one of the most vainest.

0:23:430:23:45

He had well over half a dozen different uniforms

0:23:450:23:48

designed to his taste, and this is just one example.

0:23:480:23:52

And something completely different down here. Absolutely.

0:23:520:23:55

At the other side of the pendulum,

0:23:550:23:57

we've got the number two of the Third Reich,

0:23:570:24:00

we've got one of the victims.

0:24:000:24:02

And as you can see, plainly, it's a concentration camp inmate's jacket.

0:24:020:24:06

The red triangle says he's a political prisoner,

0:24:060:24:08

the "F" - he was a Frenchman.

0:24:080:24:10

We know that this was worn by a chap by the name of Rene Dubois.

0:24:100:24:14

Did he survive the camp?

0:24:140:24:16

Yes, indeed he did,

0:24:160:24:17

and on liberation, he walked out of the camp that he was at,

0:24:170:24:21

got all the way back to France

0:24:210:24:23

until he could change into civilian clothes once more.

0:24:230:24:26

But he maintained this at home all those years as a dark souvenir.

0:24:260:24:29

There's a certain natural justice

0:24:290:24:31

in the fact that the man that wore this jacket survived the war...

0:24:310:24:34

Very much so.

0:24:340:24:35

..whereas the man that wore this jacket, and rightly so, did not.

0:24:350:24:39

Indeed. Absolutely.

0:24:390:24:40

And looking round, even I recognise some of the objects you've got here.

0:24:400:24:44

For example, the kit on the manikin looks familiar. Indeed, yeah.

0:24:440:24:48

This came to the museum 2011.

0:24:480:24:50

It was worn by a man who was out in Afghanistan in 2010,

0:24:500:24:54

and it exemplifies that fact that, despite us being formed in 1917,

0:24:540:24:58

and we've collected all the way through the great conflicts

0:24:580:25:01

of the last century,

0:25:010:25:02

we're still collecting up to present day.

0:25:020:25:04

Well, Martin, thank you very much for allowing us access

0:25:040:25:07

and showing us round what you've got back here.

0:25:070:25:09

Enormous pleasure. Thank you very much.

0:25:090:25:11

During the 13-year conflict in Afghanistan,

0:25:230:25:26

the insurgents' weapon of choice was the IED,

0:25:260:25:29

the Improvised Explosive Device.

0:25:290:25:32

This Husky vehicle was hit by one and, as you can see,

0:25:320:25:35

was badly damaged,

0:25:350:25:36

but, thankfully, no-one in it was injured.

0:25:360:25:39

But, of course, many, many were

0:25:390:25:41

and for wounded servicemen and women,

0:25:410:25:44

their injuries can be life changing.

0:25:440:25:46

Here's Rick Clement's story.

0:25:460:25:48

Six years ago, Rick Clement was a newly promoted infantry sergeant

0:25:480:25:53

in the Duke of Lancaster Regiment.

0:25:530:25:56

I really felt that I'd achieved something, to reach the senior rank,

0:25:560:26:00

and to have the responsibility of people's lives

0:26:000:26:03

when you're deploying on operations -

0:26:030:26:05

it's as big a kind of privilege that you can be given.

0:26:050:26:09

Rick's first test of this responsibility was in Afghanistan,

0:26:100:26:14

and during his training, the dangers ahead weighed on his mind.

0:26:140:26:19

There was a lot concentrated on amputations and severe wounds,

0:26:190:26:23

and how to treat them, so straightaway, through that,

0:26:230:26:27

you got a very good idea that the chances are

0:26:270:26:30

you might be doing that for real.

0:26:300:26:32

I suppose you can't think that it will happen to you

0:26:320:26:35

or you wouldn't want to go anywhere.

0:26:350:26:37

In April 2010,

0:26:380:26:40

Rick's platoon was sent to southern Afghanistan.

0:26:400:26:42

Seven weeks in, he was leading his team on a routine patrol.

0:26:420:26:47

Always conscious of hidden Taliban bombs,

0:26:470:26:50

he had to decide their best route.

0:26:500:26:52

We only needed to go 10 to 15 metres along this path.

0:26:530:26:56

It was still pretty close to our base,

0:26:560:26:59

so I felt it would be all right

0:26:590:27:01

to go that way, really, and that was my decision on the day.

0:27:010:27:05

The two men ahead had checked the path for bombs,

0:27:050:27:08

but Rick put one foot wrong

0:27:080:27:10

and triggered a hidden explosive device.

0:27:100:27:13

EXPLOSION

0:27:130:27:15

The only way I can describe it, how it was to me at the time,

0:27:150:27:19

was it was like a "puff",

0:27:190:27:21

and obviously it wasn't, it was a massive explosion,

0:27:210:27:24

but that's how it sounded to me, and then everything went just dark.

0:27:240:27:30

Rick's injuries were life threatening

0:27:310:27:34

and he was flown to the UK for treatment.

0:27:340:27:36

He'd lost both his legs and was in a coma.

0:27:360:27:39

After three weeks, he woke up

0:27:390:27:41

to face the full extent of his injuries.

0:27:410:27:44

He was told he might be wheelchair bound for life.

0:27:440:27:47

I just felt, like, how was I going to deal with it all?

0:27:470:27:52

Was the rest of me life going to be rubbish,

0:27:520:27:57

where I've got to be looked after by somebody 24 hours a day?

0:27:570:28:02

And, to me, that isn't much of a life, you know.

0:28:020:28:06

It was just...

0:28:060:28:08

..trying to...trying to give yourself a reason, I guess,

0:28:100:28:16

to carry on, I suppose, and want to carry on.

0:28:160:28:20

The darkest time of my life, by a long, long stretch.

0:28:200:28:24

While Rick was at his lowest ebb,

0:28:260:28:28

one of his best friends was killed in Afghanistan.

0:28:280:28:31

This made him rethink his own situation.

0:28:310:28:34

I was just devastated. It broke my heart,

0:28:340:28:37

and it made me realise that I need to appreciate the fact

0:28:370:28:40

that I am still there with my family.

0:28:400:28:43

The painful months of rehabilitation

0:28:430:28:45

started to take their toll on Rick's marriage.

0:28:450:28:48

Over the next year, we grew further and further apart,

0:28:480:28:51

and it just became clear, really, that we weren't right for each other

0:28:510:28:55

and we had to make the decision

0:28:550:28:58

where we were going to go our separate ways.

0:28:580:29:01

Rick had to adjust to life on his own,

0:29:050:29:08

and in a wheelchair, even simple tasks like laundry were a struggle.

0:29:080:29:12

Back in the early days, I was dropping things quite a lot,

0:29:120:29:15

just cos of my grip, really,

0:29:150:29:17

and I wasn't able to reach the floor,

0:29:170:29:19

and it's very frustrating, obviously,

0:29:190:29:22

when you need to get someone to pick them up.

0:29:220:29:24

One of the things that I did start to use,

0:29:240:29:26

litter-pickers use on the streets,

0:29:260:29:28

and it's just got the grabber at the end.

0:29:280:29:30

Now, I don't really need it for picking things up off the floor.

0:29:300:29:34

You can see, even with the washing bag,

0:29:340:29:36

I'm pretty much reaching down to the floor now,

0:29:360:29:38

and the strength in this arm allows me to do that.

0:29:380:29:41

It's not really much more of a difficult task

0:29:410:29:44

than for anybody else now.

0:29:440:29:47

Domestic god!

0:29:470:29:49

Despite adapting incredibly well, Rick would love to walk again.

0:29:540:29:59

Today, he's at a rehabilitation centre in Preston

0:30:000:30:04

to practise on a robotic leg which could change his life.

0:30:040:30:08

To walk again is an immense thing, if it can happen.

0:30:100:30:13

Doing things like looking someone in the eye, stood at a bar,

0:30:130:30:16

or whatever it might be

0:30:160:30:18

would be something really life changing.

0:30:180:30:20

OK? OK. Yeah. Do you want to have a walk?

0:30:220:30:24

It's taken Rick over six months of gruelling training

0:30:350:30:38

to get to this level of walking.

0:30:380:30:40

As you can see, I'm starting to sweat quite a bit.

0:30:400:30:43

It is hard work, but feels pretty good, to be honest.

0:30:430:30:49

Rick also has a strong personal motivation

0:30:490:30:52

to get out of that wheelchair.

0:30:520:30:54

He wants to walk unaided to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph

0:30:540:30:57

in remembrance of his fallen comrades.

0:30:570:31:00

This is number-one goal.

0:31:000:31:02

I think that kind of says how big it is to me. I want to walk,

0:31:020:31:07

but I want to do it for those guys,

0:31:070:31:09

and to lay that wreath on that special day

0:31:090:31:13

will be up there with the greatest achievements

0:31:130:31:16

that I've done in my life.

0:31:160:31:18

And we wish Rick all the best of luck with his goal

0:31:200:31:23

of walking to the Cenotaph to pay his respects.

0:31:230:31:26

We're joined now by Jan Bras, who was also a prisoner of war

0:31:260:31:30

and he worked on the Death Railway, just like Duncan's father.

0:31:300:31:34

Jan, what was it like being a prisoner of war in the Far East?

0:31:340:31:37

In the beginning, we stayed a long time in Thailand, in Bang Pong,

0:31:370:31:43

which is near the River Kwai,

0:31:430:31:45

but we were treated quite reasonably.

0:31:450:31:49

We had good food and the work was not heavy.

0:31:490:31:53

It was after that that the trouble started,

0:31:530:31:56

when they started building the railway.

0:31:560:31:59

And when the railway was complete, you were moved on

0:31:590:32:02

to other work, weren't you?

0:32:020:32:04

We moved to Japan

0:32:040:32:06

because they had other work for us in the coal mines in Japan.

0:32:060:32:10

I tell you a story.

0:32:100:32:12

I was beaten in Japan because I didn't salute the guard,

0:32:120:32:15

which was my fault.

0:32:150:32:17

You had to leave the barracks,

0:32:170:32:19

and if you left the barrack, you had to shout "kere"

0:32:190:32:22

and bow to the guard,

0:32:220:32:23

so that they knew there was somebody in the camp loose.

0:32:230:32:27

And I did not shout "kere",

0:32:270:32:31

because I was carrying two buckets of hot water.

0:32:310:32:35

I was beaten up there as I was never beaten up in my life before.

0:32:350:32:39

It was much worse, in my estimation, than the railway

0:32:390:32:43

because the railway meant that you were still in the open air,

0:32:430:32:47

you could see the sky, you could feel the wind.

0:32:470:32:51

In the mine, it was dark and it was very gloomy

0:32:510:32:57

and the work was very dangerous.

0:32:570:33:00

I lost my best friend there.

0:33:000:33:02

The roof fell down on him.

0:33:020:33:04

And how did you get to Japan?

0:33:040:33:06

By ship.

0:33:060:33:08

We were put in the deeps... deeps of the hull

0:33:080:33:13

and we were terrified

0:33:130:33:15

because the Americans were very often torpedoing ships that they saw

0:33:150:33:22

and they didn't bother...

0:33:220:33:24

whether they really did not know that we were on board, or not.

0:33:240:33:28

And this is what happened to your father, isn't it?

0:33:280:33:30

Because his ship was hit.

0:33:300:33:32

That's right. He was on upper deck when his ship was hit

0:33:320:33:36

and he survived.

0:33:360:33:37

Do you feel that you can forgive

0:33:370:33:39

the Japanese for the way you were treated?

0:33:390:33:41

Well, I still hate the Japanese... really, really bad.

0:33:410:33:46

Really? Yeah. A lot of people have gone back to Japan

0:33:460:33:50

to sort of be friendly,

0:33:500:33:52

to befriend them,

0:33:520:33:54

and I have never felt that urgency.

0:33:540:33:57

Those experiences in the mines and on the railways,

0:33:570:34:01

under these brutal regimes,

0:34:010:34:03

it must change how you look at life.

0:34:030:34:06

Yes. It was a strange thing. When I was still at the railway,

0:34:060:34:12

I was very religious,

0:34:120:34:15

I had a book, a religious book,

0:34:150:34:18

and I looked at it and I really felt religious.

0:34:180:34:22

But I have long since departed from that.

0:34:220:34:26

Incredible, hearing your stories.

0:34:260:34:28

Does it shed light, Duncan, for you,

0:34:280:34:30

any more on the sort of thing your father must have...

0:34:300:34:33

Yes, it does a bit.

0:34:330:34:35

I remember my father telling me about the salute,

0:34:350:34:37

and friends he had who were beaten quite extensively

0:34:370:34:40

because they didn't salute, or refused to salute.

0:34:400:34:42

We could not. Yeah. That's right.

0:34:420:34:44

Jan, thank you so much for coming to talk to us.

0:34:440:34:47

I mean, such harrowing stories,

0:34:470:34:49

but incredible to hear them from you,

0:34:490:34:52

and thank you for coming as well to meet Duncan and talk to him.

0:34:520:34:55

Thank you. Now, earlier, we heard from a veteran

0:34:550:34:59

who wants to make sure the achievements of Bomber Command

0:34:590:35:02

aren't forgotten, so we took him to see

0:35:020:35:05

the new memorial to Bomber Command in Lincolnshire,

0:35:050:35:07

which is taking shape.

0:35:070:35:08

94-year-old Frank Tolley had one of the most dangerous wartime roles.

0:35:110:35:15

As part of Bomber Command, the risks were huge,

0:35:150:35:19

and fatalities were common.

0:35:190:35:21

But many Bomber Boys like Frank have always felt

0:35:220:35:25

that their sacrifices weren't fully recognised.

0:35:250:35:28

Today, Frank's been invited to see how work is progressing

0:35:290:35:32

on an ambitious project to honour all those in Bomber Command.

0:35:320:35:37

102 feet, eh?

0:35:380:35:40

This huge spire is the centrepiece of an ?8 million memorial.

0:35:400:35:44

It's the same height as the Lancaster's wingspan

0:35:440:35:48

and, eventually, these panels surrounding the spire

0:35:480:35:51

will display the names of every person

0:35:510:35:54

who died serving in Bomber Command.

0:35:540:35:57

It makes you think of...

0:35:570:35:59

HE EXHALES DEEPLY

0:36:000:36:02

..all of the names that would have gone on there...

0:36:040:36:07

It had to be, but why?

0:36:120:36:14

I'm...I'm sorry.

0:36:220:36:24

"Ainsworth, Ainsworth, Ainsworth, Ainsworth."

0:36:340:36:38

There's a number of Allens too.

0:36:380:36:40

It takes you back.

0:36:400:36:42

It makes you realise the sacrificing,

0:36:420:36:44

and the futility of war.

0:36:440:36:47

There should be other ways of settling disputes

0:36:470:36:50

and to be for each other, not against each other.

0:36:500:36:56

The spire has been built to frame

0:36:560:36:58

Lincolnshire's biggest landmark - Lincoln Cathedral.

0:36:580:37:01

For the bomber crews leaving on missions,

0:37:010:37:04

it was often their last glimpse of home.

0:37:040:37:07

You'd hope, as you passed over, or nearby there,

0:37:070:37:11

that you would see it a few hours later on when you returned.

0:37:110:37:16

This is the plan of the site,

0:37:170:37:18

and we're standing about here on this plan. Yes.

0:37:180:37:23

The memorial has been designed by Stephen Palmer.

0:37:230:37:27

Every part of the site reflects aspects of Bomber Command

0:37:270:37:30

and the people who served in it.

0:37:300:37:33

Will they be on both sides of the panel? They will.

0:37:330:37:36

Exactly. Yes, that's right, they will.

0:37:360:37:38

All the guys I've met have been fascinating.

0:37:380:37:41

They always have clear memories,

0:37:410:37:43

they have a very relaxed attitude to it,

0:37:430:37:47

and they downplay how important it was and how hard it was.

0:37:470:37:50

They're always very matter of fact and down to earth.

0:37:500:37:53

And it's just a long overdue, er,

0:37:530:37:55

commemoration of their effort, really.

0:37:550:37:58

The first phase will include the names of 26,500 men

0:37:580:38:03

who lost their lives serving from the Lincolnshire bomber stations.

0:38:030:38:08

By the end of the project,

0:38:080:38:10

they hope to have engraved all 55,000 names into these walls.

0:38:100:38:14

Just down the road from the memorial,

0:38:160:38:18

this machine is running around the clock,

0:38:180:38:21

laser-cutting thousands of names, and behind every one,

0:38:210:38:25

there's a story of bravery.

0:38:250:38:27

It takes six hours per plate, which, understandably,

0:38:270:38:30

is quite a long period of time to be engineering anything.

0:38:300:38:33

It's really, really good to see somebody

0:38:330:38:36

who was actually involved in the whole thing.

0:38:360:38:39

I could see his face when the names were being cut.

0:38:390:38:41

He looked really in awe.

0:38:410:38:44

Yeah, we're all so proud to be involved.

0:38:440:38:46

Back at the site, the work continues.

0:38:480:38:51

As well as the spire and memorial gardens,

0:38:520:38:55

the International Bomber Command Centre will house a classroom,

0:38:550:38:58

library and museum,

0:38:580:39:00

telling the remarkable story of airmanship, courage and sacrifice.

0:39:000:39:05

The two towers across there,

0:39:050:39:08

and this up here,

0:39:080:39:10

it'll be here for other generations

0:39:100:39:14

to be reminded of the futility of war.

0:39:140:39:18

And that memorial will be open to the public in 2017.

0:39:210:39:25

Well, that's nearly it for us today,

0:39:250:39:28

but before we go, we've been joined by some of the pipes and drums

0:39:280:39:31

from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles.

0:39:310:39:34

Now, 2015 has been a very special year for you, hasn't it?

0:39:340:39:37

Yes, Andy, of course. It's a very special year for us,

0:39:370:39:41

because we have done 200 years of service to the Crown,

0:39:410:39:45

and it's so proud, because we have that healthy and wealthy history

0:39:450:39:50

that our forefathers made,

0:39:500:39:52

and it is so proud to celebrate that 200 years during 2015.

0:39:520:39:56

And you are Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas.

0:39:560:39:59

The Gurkhas are very much in your blood, aren't they?

0:39:590:40:02

They are. I was born in Nepal,

0:40:020:40:03

my father and brother both served in the Gurkhas

0:40:030:40:06

and I think that reflects, very much as the Captain was saying,

0:40:060:40:10

that this very much a family organisation

0:40:100:40:12

and it's not uncommon for sons and uncles and grandfathers

0:40:120:40:17

and whole families to be part of the brigade.

0:40:170:40:20

Now, tell us what you're going to be playing today.

0:40:200:40:22

We're going to be playing Mist Covered Mountains.

0:40:220:40:25

It was written in 1856 by Highlander John Cameron,

0:40:250:40:28

and it very much reflects the relationship that we've developed

0:40:280:40:32

with Scottish regiments over many years of campaigning.

0:40:320:40:35

Well, we'll let them take it away.

0:40:350:40:36

MUSIC: Mist Covered Mountains by John Cameron

0:40:390:40:42

The pipes and drums of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles.

0:42:190:42:23

Well, that's it for today's programme.

0:42:230:42:25

Duncan, thank you so much for coming in

0:42:250:42:26

and telling us about your father. You're very welcome.

0:42:260:42:29

Coming up on tomorrow's programme...

0:42:290:42:31

broadcaster Angela Rippon tells us

0:42:310:42:34

about her father's service in the Royal Marines.

0:42:340:42:37

I'll be finding out about one of the most expensive items

0:42:370:42:40

here at the museum.

0:42:400:42:42

And we hear from the family of Lance Corporal Jamie Webb

0:42:440:42:48

as they attend the unveiling of a memorial to the fallen.

0:42:480:42:53

It means a lot, and it means a lot for the soldiers as well... Yeah.

0:42:530:42:57

..because of their friends, comrades.

0:42:570:42:59

They were together through thick and thin over there.

0:42:590:43:03

From all of us here at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, goodbye.

0:43:040:43:08

Goodbye. Goodbye.

0:43:080:43:10

Former Dragons' Den businessman Duncan Bannatyne views rare documents which shed light on his father's experiences as a prisoner of war in the Far East. Presenters Sophie Raworth and Andy Torbet are also joined by a veteran who endured years of forced labour in the same prison camps as Duncan's dad.

An Afghanistan veteran explains why he is determined to walk again after losing his legs in a Taliban attack and a Bomber Command veteran climbs back into a Lancaster for the first time since the Second World War. There is also a stirring performance from the pipes and drums of the Gurkhas as they celebrate 200 years of service to the crown.


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