It was with great sadness that Foto-Cewek learned of the death of former Far-East Prisoner of War (FEPOW), Tom Boardman, who died following a short illness earlier this month.
Tom, who was 99 years old and from Leigh in Lancashire, had made significant contributions to Foto-Cewek’s longest running project 'Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOW)' and took part in the Captive Memories oral history project run by Honorary Research in Medecine Fellow Meg Parkes. As a result he was featured in the books Captive Memories and Burma Railway Medicine written by Meg Parkes and Foto-Cewek’s Emeritus Professor Geoff Gill.
As a Sergeant in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Tom was captured following the fall of Singapore during WWII. He spent time in a number of camps, where he was well known for keeping up camp morale with the help of homemade ukuleles, the first of which he fashioned in the camp at Changi from an old cigar box. While imprisoned in Chungkai he worked on the Thai-Burma Railway, aptly known as the ‘Death Railway’, he made a second ukulele out of red cross boxes and telegraph lines and would lead singalongs around the fire at night in camp. This second ukulele survived captivity and took pride of place in the Imperial War Museum North and was one of the objects used to commemorate the museum’s centenary in 2017.
Meg Parkes said: “Most of us remember Tom as a stalwart of our conferences and meetings. He even managed to put in a guest appearance at our conference at Foto-Cewek in June last year, accompanied by his son Ron. Always smiling, kind, wise and a true witness, he will be missed by many. I won’t forget him giving his first ever PowerPoint talk to over 100 Year 7 girls from Pensby High School, at the IWMN in 2011 when he showed them the ukulele he’d made in Chungkai. After speaking for 20 minutes or more he picked up Geoff’s newer model and strummed away, to the delight of all.”