Darlington man’s account of WWII survival donated to local library

A Darlington man’s account of his World War II survival has been donated to a local library.

In his book, Eric Markham recalls his experience as a Far Eastern Prisoner of War shortly after his release from captivity. A simple printed copy of his accounts was kept as a personal record, treasured by his family.

Following Eric’s passing in 2009, aged 90, his eldest daughter Rosalind researched maps and illustrations to add to the original manuscript.

Titled “Eric’s War”, the memoir was published to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan (VJ) Day on August 15th.

The family want the accounts to serve as a tribute to the “quietly brave and modest man” they loved and the many thousands of others who suffered, and died, as Far Eastern Prisoners of War.

They donated several copies to military and historical organisations, including the Royal British Legion and Imperial War Museum, and has presented a copy to Crown Street Library in Eric’s hometown of Darlington.

Rosalind explained: “My father was from a well-known Darlington family who ran the Markham & Co Grocery and Wine Shop in the Market Place and was the only son of Walter and Annie Markham.

“He and his friends joined the Territorial Army in 1939 and, when asked by the army if he wanted to be sent somewhere hot or cold, he replied ‘hot’. I don’t think he could ever have imagined what that decision would lead to.”

She continued: “He was in Singapore before and after the Japanese invasion, survived the gruelling conditions as a Prisoner of War working on the Burma railway and then finally, endured a horrific trek through Thailand, which we’ve estimated was around 500 miles.

“It brought him very close to death; he was only saved by the surrender of the Japanese and his evacuation to hospital. But although he survived, he never really got over what had happened and he rarely spoke of it.

“He wrote the journal on the advice of his doctors when he was first liberated, as a kind of therapy. As a family we’ve always kept it and with this year being the 70th anniversary of VJ Day we thought it would be nice to have it properly published.”

“Because of his and the family’s close links to the town we wanted to ensure a copy of his book was also available for local people who may be interested.”

Katherine Williamson, Local Studies Librarian with Darlington Libraries, said: “We’re delighted to accept this book. Eric was clearly a remarkable man and he has a well-known family in the town.

“We do have several other items relating to the Markham family already and it’s wonderful that his family has donated his book to add to the collection.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about ‘Eric’s War” can pop into the Centre for Local Studies at Crown Street Library.

Alternatively, you can call 01325 349630 or email local.studies@darlington.gov.uk.

Source: Darlington Borough Council

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