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Long trip home for PoW James

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By Fiona Reid
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Long trip home for PoW James

ANNAN soldier James Pool kept a diary of his war effort and his epic journey to get home to Dumfriesshire. And his family have shared extracts to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day today.

James was in the Lanarkshire Yeomanry and reported to squadron headquarters in Annan on September 1 1939, spending the first night in an old grain store with straw for a bed.

Two days later they moved to Lanark and found billets and he was transferred to 155(LY) Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

The next move was to Gifford in October 1940 and the following year, in March 1941, he sailed for India on the Strathmore, with stops at Africa.

They arrived at Bombay two months later but only stayed in the country until August 18, when they sailed for Malay States.

The Japanese war started in 1941 and on December 8 James, a sergeant, was moved to first gun position at Jitra. A few days later he wrote: “In action Japanese everywhere, forced to retire.”

The new year saw them at Slim River but while being led to their gun position, they were attacked by enemy tanks and their Sergeant Major was killed. James noted that he had to abandon his gun.

He lost another comrade a week later and on February 15, he said: “Allied Forces capitulated – Singapore fell.”

The sergeant was then missing for 17 months before it emerged he was a prisoner of war in Japanese hands in Malai Camp at Tokyo.

His next diary entry was not until September 7 when he boarded an American destroyer in ‘Tokio Bay’ bound for the nearest airfield.

There were other men from Annandale on board: a J Bell and Sgt T Anderson from Annan, as well as T Miller from Lockerbie and T Stitt and W Dick, both Thornhill.

James then flew to Okinawa and on September 10 was thrilled to enjoy ham and eggs for breakfast.

His long homeward journey continued with a flight to Louisiana in the USA, followed by Vancouver and a train through Canada, arriving in Debert on October 18, where he noted ‘a marvellous time’.

Finally on September 25 he started the final leg of his trip, leaving Halifax on the Isle de France.

It was: “One hell of a trip, only Yeomanry men aboard, after being with BSM Bell and Anderson from Sep 1939, had to leave them at Halifax.”

The ship arrived in Southampton on October 31 at a transit camp and he finally made it back to Annan on November 2, writing only: “Selected to live.”

James Pool died in 1984.

His grandson Jimmy lives in Annan with his wife Joan.

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