Major Frank J MURRAY, MBE, Royal Army Medical Corps: FEPOW

Discussion in 'RAMC' started by dbf, Aug 15, 2020.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    How a Belfast doctor used Irish to keep WW2 secrets

    Dr Frank Murray was an Allied prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp during World War Two

    He became known as the Belfast Doctor and his medical expertise, leadership and guile helped protect the lives of hundreds of Allied prisoners of war in Japanese prison camps.

    Frank Murray was born above the family spirit-grocers shop on north Belfast's Oldpark Road, growing up in a nationalist area of the city in a family with a strong Catholic faith.

    Like many of his contemporaries, as a schoolboy he spent the summer in the Gaeltacht in Donegal learning the Irish language, something he would later use to his advantage thousands of miles away in the Far East during a world war.

    His son Carl recounts how his father and mother first met among the peaceful and picturesque rolling hills of County Donegal before the outbreak of World War Two.

    "My father met my mother Eileen O'Kane in the Gaeltacht area in Ranafast when they were both school children in 1929," he said.

    "She was from the Springfield Road and he was from the Oldpark Road in Belfast.

    "He asked her to dance at a céilí and fell in love with her.

    "They kept up contact thereafter and both went to Queen's University but in 1937 she broke things off and they had no further contact until he found himself in Rawalpindi in what was India at the time, where he was serving as an Army medical officer.

    "He sent her a Christmas card with a picture of the officers' mess on it."

    'Secret diaries'
    The two began corresponding again and this continued when he was sent to the British garrison at Singapore.

    All of her letters were lost when Dr Murray burnt them just before the Japanese invaded and took him prisoner.

    However, the family have all the correspondence he subsequently wrote to his sweetheart while he was in captivity and it is these "secret diaries" that make such a fascinating story.

    Carl explains that his father kept writing to her in the form of a diary but in order that he didn't incur the wrath of the Japanese guards he did so in Irish, safe in knowledge that the chances of any of them being able to translate were slim in the extreme.

    Letters Dr Frank Murray sent were sometimes in Irish, and sometimes used Irish characters

    "Sometimes he would write in English but disguising it using old Gaelic script.

    "I remember when I did Irish at school there were text books that had the old script in it which meant there was that extra level that you had to translate from the script and then translate the Irish.

    "And he would write about how the war was going but by doing so in Irish he knew that even if the Japanese found it, there was very little chance of them being able to translate that he was recounting events that were happening during the war."

    'He never forgave'
    Keeping diaries of this kind was strictly forbidden particularly as the enemy soldiers were wary of prisoners recording incidents of brutality or war crimes against them.

    Prisoners caught in breach of the regulations were liable to severe punishment in many instances.

    Carl says after the war his father would not have anything Japanese in the house.

    "I know it's fashionable to talk about reconciliation and forgiveness but I don't really think he ever forgave the Japanese, not for what happened to him but for the way the prisoners were treated.

    "However, he distinguished between the Japanese military and the Japanese people.

    "You have to respect that having been through what he went through. My father couldn't forgive and I think that's important."

    The Murray family has collated as much information as they can about their father's time as a PoW.

    'He wanted to do his bit'
    He was the medical officer in a number of camps eventually becoming the most senior officer commanding in one prison.

    His ability to argue or negotiate with his captors about who was fit and who wasn't fit to join the work details meant the difference between life and death for many Allied captives.

    His bravery and service during this time was later recognised with an award from the US military and an MBE.

    Documents kept by Dr Frank Murray's son Carl tell a remarkable story

    So how did a Catholic nationalist from north Belfast end up a major in the British Army?

    "As children we always wanted to know why he joined up," recalls Carl Murray.

    "My father felt that the Nazis could easily have invaded Ireland at that time and later we discovered there was a plan to do that.

    "He felt that as a northern Irish Catholic he wanted to do his bit in the war effort. I think he wanted to go to France but he ended up in India, the Malay peninsula and eventually Japan.

    "It wasn't what he expected but he did his duty."

    Astonishingly, the batch of almost translucent papers with tiny spidery writing that make up the doctor's daily diaries - which he kept right under the noses of his Japanese guards - was eventually delivered to Eileen at the end of the war.

    When he was repatriated, the couple were married.
    Tony56, 4jonboy and JimHerriot like this.
  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Love letters from Irish doctor and POW
    Major Francis J. Murray (above, at Kamikoge Aerodrome Chitose in 1945) wrote to his fiancee Eileen O'Kane every day he was in prison. They married in February 1946.

    "SEPT 6, 1945, upon being presented a scroll, the wording of which was composed by Mr David Marshall, who later became Singapore's first elected chief minister. "Darling, the proudest moment of my life came at 5pm this evening when 350 men paraded and gave me an address. It is a beautiful document signed by all the men and I shall always treasure it.""

    From BBC video: The doctor, the diaries and the Japanese PoW camp
    "Dear Major Murray,
    In this moment of our release from the purgatory of Japanese incarceration, we feel your absence and wish you were here to share our happiness as you shared our want and humiliation till seven weeks ago, when you were removed from this camp. .."

    Screenshot 2020-08-15 at 17.32.16.png
    Screenshot 2020-08-15 at 17.32.26.png

    Same name & rank found via internet search, no details which could confirm, but I wonder if it's the same man:
    Prisoners of War of the Japanese 1942-1945
    re Sgt Gordon James Jones 6086676). I can't add much I'm afraid. The only place I can see him mentioned is in the list of 1500 men who boarded the hellship, Kyokku Maru, on 25.04.1943 for sailing to Japan. This was known as ‘Force G’ and arrived at Moji on 21.05.1943. Surprisingly, there were only 2 deaths onboard this 4 week voyage, and survivors put this down to the hygiene disciplines demanded by Major Frank Murray.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
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  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hope this is the correct man:

    Personal Number: 111775
    Rank: Major
    Name: Francis Joseph MURRAY, MB, MBE
    Unit: Royal Army Medical Corps

    London Gazette : 16 January 1940
    The undermentioned to be Lts. : —
    2nd Dec. 1939:—

    Francis Joseph MURRAY, M.B. (111775).

    London Gazette : 6 June 1946
    The KING has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following promotion in, and appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in recognition of gallant and distinguished services while prisoners of war:—
    To be Additional Members of the Military Division of the said Most Excellent Order:—
    Major (temporary) Francis Joseph MURRAY, M.B. (111775), Royal Army Medical Corps.

    Ms-Mu Database
    Date of Capture: 15/2/1942
    Hakodate PoW Camp, Japan
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020

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