There are many hazards in publishing. There are the financial risks, the stresses of cover design and even the everyday pressures of running a business. But a particular hazard, especially in the world of military and local history publishing is the sadness of loosing those that you have come into contact with. Especially those veterans who survived and experienced things that are unimaginable to most of us today.
Fergus Anckorn was one such man who sadly passed away on 22 March aged 99.
I was privileged to know Fergus who wrote the forward to the Sabrestorm local history title “Dunton Green – the past in pictures” as he was born there in 1918 and grew up in the village. His fame however was not from his early life in a sleepy village in Kent but from his survival as a prisoner of war (POW) under the Japanese during the Second World War.
A quick ‘google search’ of Fergus Anckorn will give more detailed information than I have space to write here but I can briefly reveal that he cheated death on many occasions surviving the infamous massacre at Alexandra Military Hospital – Singapore and working on the railway under appalling conditions for the Japanese. (If you are interested then the book “Captivity, Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai”, unfortunately not published by Sabrestorm, is available from the 1940s Society here).
When speaking to Fergus he held no grudge towards the Japanese and his practical nature and mental attitude gave an indication of how he survived so traumatic an experience. His magic helped. He entertained Japanese troops often using food as a prop which the Japanese soldiers would then not touch as they considered it unclean. He was in his time both the youngest and oldest member of the magic circle.
It’s sad that Fergus fell short of making the 100 year milestone but I’m sure he would have been the first to admit that he had extraordinary luck in making it through the war years. His life should be celebrated as someone who made a difference to so many and as an inspiration to all that knew and heard him.
Fergus Anckorn, born 10 December 1918, died 22 March 2018.
I apologise for the poor quality of the video above where Fergus gave a talk for me. He talks about the food he ate as a POW and I also include a slightly longer clip below where he discuses working as a POW on the railway.
By Ian Bayley
Tags: 1940s Society Captivity Dunton Green Dunton Green - the past in pictures Fergus Anckorn Kent River Kwai Sabrestorm Publishing Singapore Slavery and Survival as a Far East POW: The Conjuror on the Kwai