Edward Ryan fled his home in Ireland during the troubles of the 1920s across the Irish Sea to England where he joined the British Army as a boy recruit at the age of 14.

He served the Empire in the Middle East and India throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, He was a boxer and was champion of the Middle East in his welterweight class. After leaving the Army briefly, he rejoined his regiment in the late 1930s as the winds of war were brewing in Europe.

He deployed with the 3rd Hussars to Egypt in 1940 and fought initially the Italians and the Rommel’s Africa Korps in North Africa as part of the 1st Armoured Division (Desert Rats).

In December 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and started their invasion of the Far East. ‘B’ Squadron, in which Edward served, was pulled from North Africa and sent through the Suez Canal to aid the beleaguered British Forces who were under threat by the Japanese in Singapore.

Before they arrived, Singapore was surrendered and in turn, they were diverted to support Dutch Troops battling the Japanese in the Dutch East Indies and landed on the island of Java. Without any means of supply and having as their implements of Destruction, lightly armoured tanks that were useless in the dense Jungle of Java, ‘B’ Squadron eventually surrendered and he was held captive by the Japanese in March of 1942.

Held initially in Jungle Camps, he escaped, and after being turned in by the natives for a few weeks, he was considered a “Bad Prisoner.” The Bad Prisoners were sent to Japan to work as slave labourers and he mined coal in Motayama Prison Camp in Japan for Mitsubishi Corporation.

The deprivation he endured is mind-boggling, but he was one tough Irishman.

After being liberated by the Americans, he came home and was demobilised. He suffered from the effects of malnutrition, tropical diseases and PTSD, but his duty and honour to his country and his will to live inspired all.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 3rd Hussars
  2. Timeline: Middle East (Egypt and Libya)
  3. Timeline: Dutch East Indies – January 1942
  4. Article: Prisoners of War of the Japanese, 1942-45