Evacuation from Singapore on the Empress of Japan
By Phyllis Russell A baby of two weeks when on board.
I was born in Singapore 23/01/1942 and my mother, Annie Marion Russell, my brother Barrington, aged 8 and I, Phyllis, escaped on the Empress of Japan. Also aboard were my mother's great friend, Mrs Ethel Burchell and her daughter Ruth, aged 13.
I am still in touch with Ruth each Christmas. She told me that we were transferred to the "Letitia" in either Durban or Capetown and she thinks we crossed to Nova Scotia before reaching Glasgow. My mother then had a very exhausting journey by train and bus to Aldingbourne in Sussex. Her family did not know she was coming, or even whether we were alive and were amazed to see her walking up the garden path!
My father Philip Charles Russell and Ruth's father, Harry Burchell, both Prison Officers, were taken prisoner and interned. They both survived but were extremely thin and starving when released. Neither of them would talk much about their experiences but I can remember my father saying that if it hadn't been for a pot of a famous yeast extract(!) which he somehow obtained towards the end of the war, he might not have lived.