John H. Wagstaff lived a remarkable life, one that would no longer be possible to live in a changed world. This is his account of his earlier life, including his daring escape with six others in a rowing boat at the fall of Singapore. A man of his times, he displayed the self-effacing attitude so typical of men of his class and education in those days. The family learned of his amazing escape from a telegram which he sent to his cousin Sidney Hogben in Jerusalem (where he was working in the Education Department) as follows:
“…….john captured sheila evacuated january self escaped rowboat going strong wagstaff.”
This was not quite accurate as in fact John’s escape had resulted in his losing over 3 stone in weight!
A student at University College London, in Spring 1933 John H. Wagstaff won a scholarship which consisted of a free return trip to Australia where he worked as an engineer, and stayed and worked on ranches there.
In 1934 he arrived in Papua New Guinea where he spent a year working at a mission as an engineer looking after their boat engines, electric lighting plant, hospital telephone system, sawmill engines etc. He returned to England in 1936 and applied for a job in Malaya, where he worked until the Japanese invasion in 1942. He escaped to Colombo with six others and then on to Durban in South Africa to rejoin his wife and son David, who had been born in Durban, and who he had never met. He and his wife Sheila went on to have a daughter, Diana, who was born in Mombasa. They returned to Malaya after the war, via England.
They lived for two years in Kuala Lumpur and eventually returned to England in 1953. He divorced and remarried and had many happy years with his new family. He died in 1998 aged 87.
|Author:||John H. Wagstaff|
|Publication Date:||20th November 2020|
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