Tuesday , August 16 2022

Formerly PoW, 103, will be the oldest to march on Cenotaph for Memorial Day


A 103-year-old prisoner of war will be the oldest veteran to march at Cenotaph on the Army's 100th Anniversary.

Former Army Sergeant Ron Freer, who became blind after his four-year trial in a Japanese prison during World War II, will lead more than 100 comrades who also lost sight of Memorial Day on Sunday.

He will represent the Blind Veterans UK charity, as he said was a "great honor."

Former Army Sergeant Ron Freer was blinded after being held in a Japanese prison during World War II (Picture: PA)

He said that memorabilia holds a "special meaning" for him, because he remembers the death of his own father in battle in September 1918.

The former postmaster, now living in Kent, paid his respect at his father's burial site earlier this year when he traveled to Dernancourt Municipal Cemetery in France with his family to wrap a wreath.

Born in Teignmouth, Devon, October 21, 1915, Freer went in 1931 at the age of 15, originally with the King of Horses, and at the outbreak of the war was published to defend Hong Kong.

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By the end of 1941, the Japanese attacked the former British colony and Fort Stanley, where Freer was based.

After 18 days of fighting, his garrison had to surrender and he was a prisoner of war until the end of the conflict.

The undernourishment that he enjoys at the camp during the four-year trial left him blind.

He was held in a Japanese prisoner of war (image: PA)

Mr Freer said: "The camp was located on the edge of the harbor with high fence around.

"The Japanese took a bag of rice for each device, but only enough for a meal per day. We cut an oil drum in half and used the bottom like a boiling pot for the rice.

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"Everyone got a bucket of rice but many could not eat it and looked at that part of the rice, you could see mice and insects.

"Disease broke out soon, resulting in many deaths."

In 1943, he was among 2,000 prisoners taken from a ship called The Lisbon to Japan when contagious disease diphtheria broke out.

The 103-year-old will be the oldest soldier at the service (Picture: PA)

His life was rescued by two doctors' actions.

Mr Freer said, "I lay in the cottage with all the others who suffer, and I heard a voice say," Turn over the sergeant ", then I was injected with something and the voice said," You are very happy. "

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"Then I knew it was our doctor. He later told me that a Japanese civilian had succeeded in smuggling into six stages of anti-diphtheria toxin so that the two had saved my life.

He lost his sight one month later, like most of his hearing, and spent the rest of the war in the camp shelter.

When the war was over, he could return to Britain via the Philippines and New Zealand.

He paid his respect at his father's graveyard earlier this year when he traveled to Dernancourt Municipal Cemetery in France (Picture: PA)

Blind Veterans UK was founded after more than 3,000 veterans were blinded during World War I and have encountered Mr Freer since 1946.

Initially lacking optimism for the future, his confidence returned as he was getting a job and learning braille thanks to charity.

After getting married, he and his wife Joan opened a post office and bought the property with the help of the organization.

Throughout the years they ran the post offices in Ilfracombe, Devon, Grays in Essex and Gravesend in Kent.

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He now lives with his daughter Patricia in Cliftonville.

Mr Freer said, "I have lost my vision as well as my hearing, my future seemed very gloomy and I did not want to think about what was ahead.

"It's an extraordinary charity that makes an incredible difference in the veteran life like me and our families as well."

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