Former RAF airman and Japanese prisoner-of-war feels lucky after celebrating 100th birthday
- Credit: Sent in by Christine Webster
A Second World War RAF veteran who survived a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and deadly ship attack is celebrating his 100th birthday today.
Rouse Voisey, who grew up in Norwich and has been a resident at The Warren Care Home on Wroxham Road, Sprowston, for nearly two years, will mark the special occasion with a visit from relatives.
The centenarian joined the RAF aged 17 in 1937 where he trained as an air fitter with the 151 Maintenance Unit.
After being posted to Singapore at the start of the Second World War he was captured by the Japanese on the Indonesian island of Java, along with many other servicemen, and forced to work at the infamous prisoner-of-war (POW) camps, which included building a railway line.
Mr Voisey said: “It was a matter of keeping yourself sane and doing what you were told. It was horrific. It was jolly hot work. You didn’t get any protective equipment and if you were naughty they [the Japanese] would break your knees on the railway line. It was character-building.”
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He said he still had nightmares about his wartime experiences.
“Time passes but you never forget these things. You learn to live with them.”
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He joined the RAF six foot tall and around 13 stone but returned to Liverpool after Victory of Japan Day in August 1945, weighing just six-and-a-half-stone but “relieved” to be home safe.
He was also one of the 700 survivors from the Japanese cargo ship Junyo Maru which was torpedoed on September 18, 1944, by British submarine HMS Tradewind, killing around 5,600 people.
After the attack Mr Voisey was left in the sea for 40 hours before being picked up by another Japanese boat and taken to Sumatra, another Indonesian island, where he and others were forced to build a railway for the next 18 months.
After returning to Norwich he married his wife of 62 years, Doreen Webster, in Norwich, on August 2, 1947. She died in 2010.
He said: “I have had good luck, lovely people to look after me and a successful marriage.”
Mr Voisey was the youngest of five brothers and is the only surviving sibling.
He has no children but is uncle to many and worked as a filing clerk for the Inland Revenue and in waste disposal for Norfolk County Council after leaving the RAF.
Mr Voisey’s family said in a statement: “Rouse to us all is a kind and caring head of our five generation family.
“A true gentleman who has been through so much. And certainly deserves our respect and thanks in this 75th anniversary year of VJ Day.
“Sophie Countess of Wessex and patron of Java Association at FEPOW has also taken the time to personally send her best wishes.
“100 years of age is quite an achievement after all he went through. We obviously are unable to all celebrate this momentous birthday with him at present, but like the queen, hopefully we can celebrate on a chosen birthday date in the future.
“We all as a family right down to his great great great Neice and nephew, are pleased to be able to send our love and say “Happy Big Birthday” and we all hope to get to see you again soon.”