Former military hospital, now Guys Marsh prison, plans to create stone commemorating FEPOW rehabilitation
Jon Simpson is a serving Prison Officer at HMP Guys Marsh in North Dorset. Part of his duties includes looking after armed forces veterans in custody.
During last November’s memorial service, his veterans group asked why there was no dedicated remembrance memorial within the prison.
Jon takes up the story...
“Built in 1938, Guys Marsh was a 600-bed military hospital, used during the 1939-1945 war by both British and American Forces. When peace arrived, amongst other services, it acted as a rehabilitation hospital for POW soldiers returning from the Far-East.
“In 1945, many psychologically distressed casualties, ex-prisoners of the Japanese who were suffering considerable mental anguish and were on life’s edge, returned to be nursed towards recovery in this hospital. The new wonder drug, Streptomycin, was also used here to save many who were ill with tuberculosis, and it’s believed that the first hip replacement operation was carried out in this hospital.
“The military hospital was closed in 1952, taken over by the Prison Department in 1962, and opened thereafter as an open Borstal for young offenders. Today, Guys Marsh is a modern prison for men with a varied training programme.
“Following the enquiry by my veterans group, I decided to investigate, and found reports of a FEPOW re-dedication ceremony held at the prison in or around 1992. The service was attended by various dignitaries, including the defence attaches for the British, American and Soviet armies. Since the war, this is the only event of recognition that’s taken place here of the work done for the rehabilitation of soldiers returning from Japanese captivity.
“I am in the process, therefore, of sourcing a stone to be installed and engraved as a memorial to those soldiers who returned here from the Far-East. I am also currently seeking sources to assist with financing this project. I believe that a memorial of remembrance would be both fitting for the prison’s former role as a hospital rehabilitating former POWs, and in our work in this modern institution, where we also aim to rehabilitate offenders.
“The total cost quoted for such a stone totals just around £1000. Some donations have generously been given by the Burma Star Association and the RBL. So we’re slowly raising the funds, although the cost of engraving has seriously increased the quote and a significant sum remains to be found. Amongst any formal inscription, it is thought that an appropriate additional legend would be “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today”.
“In this beautiful part of rural Dorset, and as the suffering of FEPOWs begins to move out of living memory, it is right to remember and honour these men. Any contribution you can make, however small, will be hugely appreciated. Thank you in anticipation of your support.”
COFEPOW will make a donation to help create this memorial stone. If you would like to help Jon reach the overall target with your own donation, please contact him by email at: email@example.com