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James Henry Banton was born in Burton on Trent in 1920. He worked as a driver of a steam locomotive used to used to transport beer and supplies to breweries around the town. When war broke out Jim joined the RAF, eventually becoming a Leading Aircraftsman as part of the RAF’s ground crew. During this time Jim had met the love of his life Dorothy Mason. Jim didn't know that when he left Gladstone Dock in Liverpool he would not see home or his family including Dorothy for another four and a half years.
Eventually posted to the Far East he was captured by the Japanese in the hills on the island of Java. Used as slave labour, starved, beaten and witnessing death on a daily basis he was later put to work on the building of the Sumatra Railway. The Far East Prisoners of war became known as the Forgotten Army, however there has been little reference paid to the Sumatra Railway compared with other theatres of WW2. With this in mind the prisoners who worked on the Sumatra Railway could be considered to be the ‘Forgotten of the Forgotten Army’.
In August 1945 the world celebrated victory in Europe, however for the FEPOW’s the war dragged on. As parts of the world were trying to return to normality Jim and his colleagues were being made to dig their own graves in the Sumatra jungle. The FEPOW’s lives hung in the balance as orders had been issued to murder all POW’s should mainland Japan be invaded by the Allies.
This book is Jim’s story and it is hoped it will also be a reminder not only of the sacrifice of the Forgotten Army but also highlight the suffering of the ‘Forgotten of the Forgotten Army’ – The Sumatra Railway POW’s.