Those at home also suffered from lack of news

Name: Emily "Queenie" Bennett
Date: 1943
Unit: Civilian
Location: Vic, Australia

Much of the focus during any war is on the family members who have gone away to serve their country. Service men and women tell of their longing to receive mail from home and how excited they are when it arrives.

But the families left behind often suffer just as much when they fail to receive letters from their loved ones, not knowing where they are or if they are safe and well. Censorship often meant that any details of whereabouts were deleted.

Wives and mothers were among the biggest sufferers as they watched anxiously each day for the post to arrive.

One such mother wrote to a friend, Mrs Emily "Queenie" Bennett, after news came through that her son was missing following the fall of Singapore.

She had no idea what might have happened to him and lived in hope that he might be safe. She latched on to the rumour there were thousands of letters from prisoners of war to be delivered.

"We have been waiting for these 14,000 letters to come hoping there would be something for us but so far we have had nothing. Perhaps something tomorrow," she wrote.

"The strain of it all seems to crush the life out of me at times. Sometimes I think I shall never see my boy again and then at other times I think it can't be.

She hoped that he had managed to escape the Japanese advance.

"Somehow I don't think he is a POW at all, " she told her friend. "If he got through alive I think he is probably among the guerilla fighters, maybe in Java. He had a friend with him whose father got a cable dated Feb 21st, six days after the fall (of Singapore) saying that he is well and safe but it bore no mark as to where it came from.

"I think Lin will be with him, most likely still at large in the jungle, probably in Java. However, we have still got to hope and trust that some day he will come home again when the Japs have been severely dealt with.

"Lin's wife has been wonderful all through but now she is beginning to feel the strain of things, when everybody else is getting news and we are not, then that is the time when we feel it most. He was so good and so thoughtful. He kept us so well posted with letters that I know if it was humanly possible he would send us word.

"We had a cable saying he was safe and well, but it was sent from Singapore eleven days before the fall. The two boys were still together then, for we had a letter in March last year written the day after he sent the cable and he mentions his boy friend then.

"And so, it is all very sad. We just watch and wait and hope and pray. I listen to Tokyo each night hoping I will hear something but somehow I don't think he is there at all. Elsie told me today that Arthur's card, which she got this morning, was dated June 20th 1942. Just fancy, all this time to get a letter and it to be so old. She told me of two others she had heard of getting them this morning and they had no date at all.

Poor Arthur has got some bad news to face too. His wife, just when the news of him came through, wrote to Elsie and told her the news had left her unmoved and that she had realized some time ago that her marriage was a mistake and that she had decided to go away now and not wait till he came home. Isn't it all very sad? There will be a lot of broken hearts after this war is over and the divorce court will be busy for a long time.

Well now I must away and feed my fowls. Yes I still have my garden, thank God."

It is not known how long this mother had to wait for news of her son. It is known, however, that he was captured at the fall of Singapore and sent to work on the Burma-Thailand railway. He survived this ordeal and returned to Australia where he started up his own office equipment store and died in 1967.

The material for this article was supplied by Mrs Olwyn Barnes of New South Wales


Last updated: 31 May 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Those at home also suffered from lack of news, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 14 August 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/those-home-also-suffered-lack-news
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