An extraordinary Second World War Archive relating to Changi P.O.W. Camp, Singapore and the building of the Siam-Burma Railway along the River Kwai is coming up for auction in Tennants Auctioneers’ Militaria and Ethnographica Sale on 30th June (estimate: £2,000-4,000 plus buyer’s premium). The archive was collected by prisoner Captain Harry Edward Witheford (1912-2008) and includes hand-drawn greetings cards and a calendar by friend, fellow prisoner and renowned illustrator Ronald Searle.
Captain Harry Edward Witheford served in the 45th Brigade of the Indian Army became a prisoner of the Japanese in Malaya after the fall of Singapore in 1942. He was imprisoned in the notorious Changi prison, and forced to work on the Siam-Burma railway. Harry made many friends amongst his fellow prisoners, including Ronald Searle and Australian author Russell Braddon. Braddon later recounted his experiences in a bestselling memoir The Naked Island, a copy of which is included in the archive. The book was one of the first to describe in grim detail the appalling suffering of prisoners, and Harry is mentioned in the book. Braddon recounts the kindness offered by Harry when Braddon arrived at a camp, ‘Though I live to be a thousand, the warmth of that greeting and the gift of that food after the sterile months of want that had gone before will never leave me’. Harry survived the war, and after a spell working in Kenya during the 1950s, he and his family settled in North Yorkshire. Both Harry and his wife Edna had a long and happy live together and lived well into their nineties.