Harold Gill’s memoir immediately caught our attention. He was a soldier in the Second World War who spent two years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. He survived forced-labour working on the construction of the Burma railway, which was known as the ‘railway of death’. Many survivors of the prison camps were too traumatised to discuss their wartime experience, even with close family members. But Harold Gill writes frankly about his imprisonment and therefore his memoir provides a rare and a moving eye-witness account of life in the camps.
Throughout the memoir, Gill contrasts his happy childhood with the harsh realities of his life as a prisoner of war and this makes it a gripping read. This is even more so because his childhood memories are laced with the everyday struggles that a poor family faces, such as sickness and how to earn money so that they can pay the doctors’ bills.
Harold Gill was raised in the Southport area, is the fourth of seven children. We are curious to know what it would be like growing up with so many siblings, although sadly some of his siblings did not make it through infancy. We wonder how this will have affected him and what made him make some of the decisions in his life.
Throughout the memoir Gill maintains a good sense of humour which truly makes his story quite humble. This is also one of the main reasons as to why we have chosen Harold Gill because he seems like the type of person that people would actually enjoy learning about because he is just an average man, who is not trying to impress or boast to anyone.
In conclusion we hope that people will have just as much fun reading about him as we hope to have researching him. Here’s to bringing a little bit of history back to life!
Written by Alexandra Meadwell and Joanne Gibson
Gill, Harold, Untitled, TS, pp.66 (c. 31,000 words). Brunel University Library, July 1987.