Footprints of an Irish Soldier
ISBN: 978-1-902019-14-7 310 pages, Paperback, 168mm x 240mm.
84 black and white/colour illustrations Published August 2011.
Price: £ 10.00
About the Book
In 1934, Tom Finn was an intelligent, handsome young Irishman working as a poorly paid labourer in his home town of Mitchelstown, County Cork. He was looking for decent employment and better prospects to support his family, so he decided to leave Ireland and travel to Cardiff to voluntarily enlist with the Manchester Regiment of the British Army.
Based at Ladysmith Barracks in Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester Tom completed his army training and then joined the 1st battalion in campaigns in Egypt, Palestine and Singapore. He played an important role in communications as a signaller and was known to be a good hockey player and welterweight boxer.
By 1942, the 1st battalion was stationed in Singapore, and after almost eight years away from home, Tom was one of many soldiers looking forward to taking some well-deserved leave. All thoughts of going back to “Blighty” disappeared when the Japanese Imperial Army launched a surprise, vicious and brutal attack on Singapore, taking several thousand soldiers as prisoner on February 15th 1942.
The Fall of Singapore is well documented in several military history books, films and websites including the reasons why General Percival chose to surrender. Read on to find out how Tom faced the terrifying prospect of being a Japanese prisoner of war, not knowing from day one how long he would remain in captivity, or even if he would survive to tell the tale.
The book, my first, was a four year labour of love, partly inspired by Dad’s dementia in his final years, when he stopped in front of me one day, looking wild-eyed and troubled, and said “Are you related to me?”
The incident was painful and highlighted how precious and fragile our memories are – if you can’t remember who you are, who your family members are and what you did with your life, then what was it all about? Dad spoke a little about his days in captivity, but mostly about the camaraderie with his friends. I wanted to understand more about what he went through, and how he could go on to live any sort of “normal life” afterwards.
The book includes some of Dad’s own writing, my search for his war diary, an account of how soldiers in the 1st battalion of the Manchester Regiment suffered at the hands of the Japanese, and a special visit to the Imperial War Museum in London.
I was born in 1953, to Tom and Ethel Finn; the first daughter following three boys, until we were joined by my lovely sister ten years later. We lived on a small council estate in Timperley, Cheshire and enjoyed a carefree, outdoor childhood playing out in the garden, fields and local roads for hours on end during the long summer holidays. Dad, a primary school teacher, was the main bread-winner, and Ethel was our caring stay-at-home Mum who kept us all loved, fed and watered.
I was educated at Heyes Lane Primary School in Timperley and after passing my 11-plus, attended Altrincham County Grammar School. My first job, at 16, was as a summer shop assistant at the local Spar shop, followed by 3 years as the first Junior Wages Clerk at North West Gas, Altrincham. In 1973, I joined Barclays Bank and stayed for 28 years, working at Radbroke Hall in Knutsford, Barclaycard in Manchester and Northampton, Barclays Direct Loans in Wavertree, and finally as a Quality Manager at Gadbrook Park, Northwich, prior to redundancy in 2001. After that, I had part-time jobs at AstraZeneca, Housemates and the Forum of Private Business.
Today, I live in Cheshire with my husband Nick, and spend my life supporting some family members, but making time to enjoy travel, singing, gardening, researching and writing, organising school reunions and socialising with friends, but not necessarily all at once!
The book can be ordered directly from Kit Clay by sending her a cheque drawn on a UK bank to 40, Blackhill Lane, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 9DW. Her telephone number is +44 (0) 1565 653364. You can also contact her by e-mail at kit.clay(@ sign)ntlworld.com (Don't include the brackets or the word "sign", which are just there to discourage the robots trying to collect e-mail addresses). Please use the title of the book as the title of the e-mail.