emotional | 

Taoiseach visits Singapore prison where his uncle was held by the Japanese during World War II

Micheál Martin speaks during a press conference after the Japan-Ireland Summit at the prime minister's office in Tokyo. Photo: Philip Fong

Micheál Martin speaks during a press conference after the Japan-Ireland Summit at the prime minister's office in Tokyo. Photo: Philip Fong© REUTERS

Philip RyanIndependent.ie

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has visited the Singapore prison where his uncle was held captive by the Japanese Army for three years during World War II.

Mr Martin spoke emotionally about his father’s brother, Philip ‘Philly’ Martin, after he was given a tour of a museum on the grounds of the former internment camp in Changi during his State visit to the city state.

The Taoiseach told how his uncle was forced to eat raw chicken and insects to stay alive as prisoner of war (POW) after being captured by the Japanese while defending Singapore as a member of the Royal Engineers.

he Changi Prison tour details how some prisoners even resorted to eating part of their own blankets such was the level of hunger among captives.

Despite being 6ft, Philip Martin weighed just eight stone when he was released from captivity.

“They had to go to extreme lengths to get food. They’d smuggle back raw chickens and ate a lot of insects to keep themselves alive. It was a constant struggle to survive,” the Taoiseach said.

Philip was later reunited with his family but ultimately moved England and would go on to serve with the British Army in the Middle East.

Mr Martin said seeing his uncle’s name in the exhibit, which detailed the life of POWs in the Changi Prison Camp, was “quite an emotional experience”.

My father has fond memories of him coming home,” he said.

“There were four brothers and they all went different ways. My father joined the Irish Army, so there must be a stubborn streak there, because the other three brothers were in the British Army,” he added.

The Taoiseach said the three brothers has a “good session” when Philip came home and the occasion was marked by photograph of the four siblings in their native St Patrick’s Street home in Cork.

“They were going to do great things together, start transport companies together, but they all went their separate ways. Philip later served in the Middle East and was a football scout and sent good footballers the way of Nottingham Forest. He was a good soccer player himself and played with the British Combined Services,” he said.

Mr Martin said his family’s links with the British Army has broadened his “reflections on history”.

“I’m less hung up on having members of family in the British Army. It gives you a greater understanding of the complexity of history. Because different people have different experiences, a lot of it born from economics,” he added.

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