The war years threw up a lot of heroes on the home front and, in his native north east, there are many untold stories of young lads who went away and never returned, lads that left their homes and returned men and this year, Alan Robson MBE, is proud to tell, Ted’s Story.
Ted, from Bedlington, Northumberland, has a story few people will have heard until Alan told it on air, a story which led to his receiving a prestigious New York Radio Award, and since, people may have forgotten even though it’s been less than two years since a young lad walked into the Metro Radio reception.
That call up from reception led Alan into the trenches, and the Tamajoa (PoW) camps of the latter stages of World War II and the Battle for Singapore, February 1942.
Ted was one of a number captured upon arrival to Singapore as the Japanese laid claim to the South-Western Pacific stronghold, it became the biggest surrender of British-led military personnel in history with an 80,000 capture adding to 50,000 already in the Tamajoa camps.
Ted, along with his closest friend Alec Smith from Edinburgh were among those captured and subjected to the Japanese tyranny of the time; Alan deciding to take on the story due to his own father having served in the military, in North Africa and Italy with the Borders Regiment.
Taking up the tale Alan said: “I received a call from reception about an agitated lad in reception wanting to see me and his first words were along the line of ‘My grandad was a hero in the war and I want you to tell his story.’”
Over the coming weeks contact was sporadic, the lad, Anthony, being the grandson of Ted informing Alan that his mum, Ted’s daughter, had lung cancer and didn’t have long to live, that she wanted to pay tribute to him before he passed away.
“This lad, Anth, just came to me with some notes as that was what Ted had done, wrote down notes and hid them under the huts and other unlikely places.
“I couldn’t promise them anything as there was very little to work on but, as time passed, Anth returned with a carrier bag full of scrunched up bits of paper; in the end I had over 300 pieces to try and work something with.
“All I needed then was the structure so, knowing they were captured on arrival in Singapore I researched that, the Tamajoa work camps and anything else that came up.
“I then began seeing names occurring so I went through the historical parts the best I could as I wanted to get things nailed and link his story with that which could be proven.
“Something which came from this is that, a few years beforehand, I’d had a Ernie Warwick on the show who was also a PoW and he confirmed a lot of what was needed with Ted.”
The writing of Ted’s Story, and more importantly the radio show a matter of days before Ted’s daughter, Anth’s mother, had passed away, is a story of true heroism, against the odds, with a strong bond of friendship running through its core.
“I think it’s a beautiful story, one of true friendship in absolute, deadly adversity”, added Alan.
“I hope and think that I have done Ted (and his comrades) justice for the response to the radio show was fantastic and I feel that this is probably the last story of World War II and one that is needing to be told – I have absolute respect for all those who have and continue to serve.”
Ted’s Story will be available from February 23 (the date the US Marines raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima), you can follow Alan’s successful career via Facebook Alan Robson’s Night Owls (https://www.facebook.com/NightOwlsNE/) Twitter @NightOwlsNE (https://twitter.com/NightOwlsNE) and the new website www.robsonsworld.com