Former POW from Bellshill dies aged 93

John Marshall
John Marshall

John Marshall, a wartime gunner in the Lanarkshire Yeomanry who became a prisoner of war of the Japanese, died on December 13 aged 93.

Called up from his job at Motherwell’s Dalziel Steelworks to the local territorial unit, the young Bellshill man became a gunner in the redesignated 155th (Lanarkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

In 1941 this unit fought a brave and resolute rearguard against the Japanese forces invading Malaya before being forced to surrender with the garrison of Singapore.

Mr Marshall was with the contingent sent to the Kinkaseki Copper Mine in Taiwan, where they were forced to toil hundreds of feet below ground in hellish conditions.

In March 1945 he was moved to another camp at Kukutsu where, starved and brutalised, the prisoners were close to death by the time the war ended in August, 1945.

Asked how he managed to survive, he said later: “I just kept my head down and got on with it. If you felt sorry for yourself, you were finished.”

He never forgot or forgave the inhuman and barbaric cruelty meted out to him and his fellow prisoners, but held no grudge against modern generation Japanese. After the war he married and settled in Bellshill, and was a keen member of Orbiston Bowling Club.

He worked for more than 30 years as a tool maker with sports equipment firm Millards, of Carfin, and after “retiring” also worked at Tunnock’s in Uddingston - until, as he said, “compulsory retirement”, at 74.

His wife Anne passed away last year.

Campbell Thomson of the Lanarkshire Yeomanry Group said that the “quiet and unassuming” Mr Marshall, a talented musician and linguist, rarely spoke of the horrors suffered at the hands of the Japanese. It was only after the funeral of a comrade, John McEwan, that his story became generally known.