Gareth Evans learns about Rocks by Rail-based Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST Singapore – a registered war memorial that saw active duty in the Far East in the Second World War – which the Rutland museum is hoping to return to steam if an appeal for £35,000 is successful.
SEVENTY-five years ago – October 17, 1943 – the Japanese Imperial Army completed construction of a 250-mile long metre gauge railway to link Thailand with Burma in support of its advancing troops. The railway ran through thick, inhospitable jungle and was built in a little over a year by 60,000 Allied prisoners of war captured in the fall of Singapore and over 200,000 Asian workers.
More than 150 million cubic feet of earth was moved by hand to construct embankments and cuttings and over nine miles of bridges were built – including the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai, which was the subject of the 1957 epic feature film of the same name.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the completion of the railway and in memory of those who suffered greatly but survived and those who lost their lives, Rocks by Rail (RBR) museum near Cottesmore in Rutland is to place its FEPOW (Far East Prisoners of War) memorial steam locomotive Singapore on external display during the last open day for this year at the museum on Sunday, October 14.
RBR, the living ironstone museum, is appealing for £35,000 to return to action its saddle tank steam locomotive, which has been a registered war memorial for the Far Eastern Prisoners of War since 1998.
Currently displayed in the museum’s exhibition shed, the aim is to steam Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST Singapore by the end of 2020.
In the early 1930s, to counter growing tensions in the Far East with Japan, the UK government embarked on a major expansion of the naval dockyard in Singapore to become what was termed ‘a Gibraltar of the East’. As part of the expansion, a dockside railway was built and in 1935, the Navy ordered a small steam shunting locomotive of the ‘Munition’ class from Newcastle-upon-Tyne-based Hawthorn Leslie.
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