Many hundreds of OS served in Burma and Malaysia, and news of their experiences and of the numerous deaths took several years to trickle in to the College. Some, such as John Gartside Munro (OS 1936) were taken prisoner of war in January 1942; he was put to work on the infamous Bangkok to Mulmein railway, where men died in their thousands of malnutrition and exhaustion. He survived until 3 August 1943. Gordon Miller (OS 1934) was on the Slim River in 1942 when his company was overrun by Japanese forces. He and a few fellow soldiers escaped capture and lived rough in the Malaysian jungle for three months. He died there in May 1942. PJ Maxwell-Stuart (OS 1920) was captured by the Japanese and taken to Japan. He was held within twenty-five miles of Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped on 9 August 1945, and witnessed the appalling effects of radiation. He was hospitalised shortly afterwards, but with malnutrition rather than radiation sickness.
Many servicemen’s deaths were not reported until well after the war had ended. The conditions in the Far East campaign, and the long recovery required by many of the soldiers who had endured the fighting and appalling conditions of their imprisonment, meant that in some cases it was three or four years afterwards that anxious families were informed of their death. In keeping with the culture common at the time, very few OS talked of their experiences in the war, but they were assiduous in keeping the College informed of their safe return, and made strenuous efforts to write to the families of fellow OS who they knew had died, or who were still being held in camps overseas.
VJ Day, or more correctly VJ Days, were celebrated on 15th and 16th August 1945. At Stonyhurst, the pupils were still on holiday, and celebrations were held in Hurst Green for the College staff. The boys petitioned for an extra two days to be added on to their summer break, but this was scuppered by the uncertainty of the post-war train timetable and crestfallen pupils had to go without an extension to their holidays to ensure their arrival at College in time for the new term.
The image shows the VJ day postmark sent to the College to commemorate the ending of the War. It was reproduced in the October 1945 Magazine.