The true identity behind this remarkable story
Over the past few months I have received numerous questions regarding the true identity of Joe Japan. Those readers who have followed Joe story over the past year will fully understand his reluctance to give his true name. Joe has, however, decided that it is time for him to reveal his true identity and has asked that I pass it on to his many admirers through the Village Pump.
Joe is actually Frank Clanton from Wretton where has lived with his wife Selena for the past 17 years. Joe originated in Essex and, as his story told us, joined the RAF in March 1940. Short periods of training followed at Blackpool and No 10 School of Technical Training at RAF :Locking before he volunteered for overseas duty in 1941. Initially posted to Alor Star in Malaysia, his early overseas duties appear to have been involved in dodging the Japanese invasion with the result that he ended up in Java where he was finally captured. The snapshot below shows Frank on his return to the UK in 1945, having had ample time to eat himself back to reasonable strength.
Joe's story was written on the advice of the medical team at the RAF Hospital in Ely as a form of therapy. Like many PoW's, Joe suffered tremendous nightmares after his release which undermined his health and destroyed his self-confidence. It is of tremendous credit to him and his wife 'Lena that he has fought his way back to good health and achieved the grand status of octogenarian. A measure of this is shown in the next snapshot taken on the SS Victoria last year with the ship's captain.
Frank and Lena have been married for 55 years this year, and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Until the production of Joe Japan none of the family had the slightest idea of the hardships and deprivation Frank had endured. Perhaps the best outcome of his decision to write down his experiences is the fact that the act of writing has purged the nightmares from his system.
Frank has agreed to write some more material for the Village Pump describing events after he left Japan. Won't steal his thunder but, having talked to him, I think we are all in for more surprises.
One question often asked by VP readers is what was the Japanese prison camp really like. I'm sure none of us would have wanted to see it first hand, but Frank has kindly loaned me this final snapshot, taken in 1945, which gives at the least the flavour of the site.