All posts by mundusparvus

Researching family history – Far East POWs

Something that has become a bit of an obsession of late is researching my Dad’s experiences as a Japanese POW during the Second World War. He served as an officer with the 2nd Battalion The Loyal Regiment and was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore in February 1942. He spent the following three years being moved around from Changi to Keijo in Korea then to Omori and Tokyo in Japan. He survived appalling treatment (although he was relatively lucky compared to those in forced labour camps on the Thailand/Burma railway) and was in the first wave of POWs to be liberated

He embarked on HMS Speaker to Manila. From there he was flown to San Francisco then shipped home. He remained in the Loyals at a holding depot in Preston into 1946 when he was honourably discharged from service as struck of strength.

The photo here, courtesy of the Queens Lancashire regimental Museum, Fulwood, is a photo of Loyals officers at Keijo in December 1942. The ‘old man’ is far left, second row from the back.


Keijo, Christmas 1942


I’ll publish – in parts – an article I recently wrote for Family Tree Magazine which highlights some of his story and how to undertake research of your own.


Bullitt to bedtime

Detective Bullitt spins his tires for the chase.
Image via Wikipedia

There is nothing like a good movie to get your pre-teen boy off to bed. A sleeplessness – brought on by pencil-case swapping anxiety – was causing a few problems with family evening quietude.

Reading was no good. He had already been through Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Roderick Rules and was in no mood to hear my dulcet tones. I was watching nothing in particular on the idiot box when he plonked himself down on the sofa and declaimed that he couldn’t sleep. There was only one thing for it.

I got down my DVD copy of Bullitt (1968). Despite its 15 certificate, there isn’t much here that will cause problems for a 10-year old. The film contains what is probably the best movie car chase of all time. Steve McQueen turns the tables on two mob assassins and pursues them and their Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco  in his Ford Mustang before forcing them off the road and into a petrol station forecourt where they crash and burn.

The grinding of metal and gears and smoke give the chase a visceral reality lacking in many other movie car chases. The editing is top-notch – continuity notwithstanding. The VW Beetle appears several times along the way but fails to detract from the quality of the scene.

By the denouement we were both ready for bed.

If we have the same sleep problems tomorrow it will be time for The Italian Job (1969).

A fete worse than death?

This weekend sees another Castor Summer festival, village fete and church patronal festival.

It will all start tonight with a £10 dinner and dance with the One Eyed Cats  providing the entertainment.

The fun will continue tomorrow with the Scouts Big Breakfast from 8:00 til 10:00, the U30s vs  O30s footy at Ailsworth rec and the fete in the afternoon.

The weekend is rounded off with spiritual reflection at the patronal service at St Kyneburgha’s.

See you there.

Go The f*@k to Sleep – please

For anyone – like me – who has had late nights and frustrations trying to get the nippers off to ‘Dreamland’

How many times have we all wanted to shout out ‘Go the Fuck to Sleep’ as one of the little ones pads down the stairs for the umpteenth time in a night? Adam Mansbach has put his frustrations to one side to pen this little children’s book for grown-ups to help us relieve ours.

Better still, get the Samuel L Jackson voiced audio book – I dare you. I double dare you.

Read on.

Budding snappers to create a picture of Castor life

Keen photographers are being invited to take part in a venture that could help build up a picture of village life in Castor.

Linden Homes – developer of Drover’s Mead – is challenging the people of Castor and those who have an association with the village to capture its best bits on film.

The images will be judged by a Linden Homes panel. Prizes will be awarded for the best before a selection of the top photographs are displayed in the sales and marketing suite.

Linden Homes sales and marketing director Steve Garton said: “We believe this will be an excellent way of not only engaging with the local community but will produce some fabulous images which we may even be able to us as part of our promotion of the village as a fantastic place to live.”

The competition is open to all ages, and the photos can depict all aspects of village life. Entrants can submit up to three emailed JPEG images by sending them to

Prizes will include £250 photographic voucher for the winner and £150 for two runners-up.

Deadline for entries is Friday 15 July 2011.

Personally, I’m not keen on promoting the unsympathetic over-developement of villages, as this can lead to the destruction of that which makes it an attractive place to live in the first place. However, I do applaud the sentiment that it can build up a valuable photographic record of modern village life for future residents to enjoy so fill your boots.

Broad bean blunders

Vicia faba
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been fretting about my broad beans for a while now. Until recently – the dry spell notwithstanding – only a handful of the broad bean seeds sown at the end of March had come up. While I looked with envy at my neighbours burgeoning bean plots, mine has been looking rather barren. A recent showery spell of weather seems to have stimulated them though and more and more are now starting to come up – although they are lagging behind.

I thought it was something I had been doing wrong. Perhaps I had sown them too late, or used a dodgy packet of seeds. That is until a friend told me over a pint in the pub the other day that small rodents – field mice, voles, shrews and the like – enjoy nothing better than rooting up and scoffing bean and pea seeds.

So, rodent problems may account for some of the missing plants, but at least they’re coming up now. I might get some beans after all – I just need to exercise a little patience.

A reading journal

Spring Heeled Jack as depicted by an anonymous...
Image via Wikipedia

Following on from Michael Gove’s recommendations on the ’50 book a year’ thing for school kids I thought that I would keep a tally of what I’m reading/have read this year. Look out for regular updates.

So far this year I have read (in no particular order)

I am just finishing Burton & Swinburne – The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder and then it’s on to Nemesis, Max Hastings’ history of WWII in the Pacific.

Never mind reading all these. Perhaps it’s time to start writing one. If only I could find the time.

Gove – “50 books a year?” Give us a break

31. Of Mice and Men [208]

Fifty books a year – that’s the recommended annual amount of literature in the government’s latest ‘nanny state’ proclamation. Education Secretary Michael Gove is intending to shake up the national curriculum and make teachers less reliant on staple – and therefore short – texts like John Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men and increase variety and quality of recommended reading for students. Laudable.

But it has been suggested that this should also apply to adult’s reading. Who’s got the time?

I like reading – I’m addicted to it – but 50 books a year – that’s a book a week. Try fitting reading that volume in around the pressures of a busy family life and a full-time job.

Not to mention the cash to buy them or the lack of libraries from which to borrow them if government and local authority cuts force their closure.

Get Carter is 40

Michael Caine in "Get Carter"
Image by mrrobertwade (wadey) via Flickr

George Melly once described one of my favourite movies of all time as a “bottle of neat gin swallowed before breakfast.”

And this March marks its 40th anniversary.

The original Get Carter was lauded as the ‘Best British Film of All Time’ by Total Film. One of the most popular cult classics certainly, the best British film of all time – not sure, but Mike Hodges’s directorial debut delivered a classic 70’s thriller and captured Michael Caine in one of his finest performances.

Adapted from Ted Lewis’ 1968 novel Jack’s Return Home, Get Carter follows hard as nails London gangster Jack Carter‘s (Michael Caine) return to Newcastle for his brother’s funeral. Suspecting foul play, Carter’s quest for the truth about his brother’s death leads to a complex trail of lies, deceit, cover-ups and backhanders played out against the haunting backdrop of the gritty North East.

“Newcastle will be one of the stars of the film,” proclaimed producer Michael Klinger in 1970, prophesying that Get Carter would do for Newcastle what Bullitt had done for San Francisco!

Unfortunately it took over 20 years for Klinger’s prophesy to come true. On its original release in 1971 Get Carter was not a critical success. Many journalists weren’t comfortable with Hodges’s vision of a violent criminal underbelly. Consequently the film spent two decades in the critical wilderness. It was not until Get Carter was re-released in 1999 that it took its rightful place among the pantheon of British cinema classics.

Michael Caine told Loaded magazine in February 1999: ” Quite often, you only realise how good a film is in retrospect. Then years later, a whole new generation picks it up and hails it as a classic!”

There will be a series of anniversary events in the North East to mark the anniversary. It’s a shame that key locations like the Trinity Square multi storey car park in Gateshead have gone. It was here that Carter uttered the immortal line: “You’re a big man but you’re in bad shape. With me it’s a full time job. Now behave yourself,” before throwing Cliff Brumby, played by Bryan Mosley, off the top of the car park.