Profile - John Davis
TO say that John Davis has had 'an eventful life' is something of an understatement.
Born in Kobe, Japan in 1920 to an English father and a Japanese mother, he was to spend three years during the Second World War as a prisoner of the Japanese.
John, who has lived in Wimborne for 26 years, is very English and he confesses that he has never been able to speak Japanese.
A committed Christian, up until December when he suffered a heart attack during a service, he was a lay pastoral assistant at Wimborne Minster and the editor of their magazine Print.
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Sadly, he has had to resign from those activities as he needs to regain his health.
John was educated at a Church of England Grammar School, where he was a boarder and a member of the Cadet Corps.
Having studied business he went on to become an auditor's clerk in a firm of chartered accountants in London, but when war was declared in 1939, he left to join the army and in view of his Cadet Corps experience was enrolled in the East Surrey Regiment which was already in Malaya.
"I was given passage on a ship to Singapore, where I was to report to Command Headquarters," he said.
Enrolled as a trainee Officer Cadet he was told that he and around 20 other men were to be sent to the Shan States of Northern Burma on a reconnaissance exercise.
"As none of us had been to the Shan States, we were given a Burmese guide, who spoke English, and told that when we would arrived at our destination their supplies would arrive by air.
"Eventually our supplies arrived and whilst we were gathering them, the head man of a nearby village told us - through a guide - that we had been very lucky as unknown to us, we had been surrounded by a large band of hill bandits and their intention had been to attack us and steal our supplies," said John, who described the incident as 'God's divine intervention' which had affected him several times in his life.
On returning to Singapore, he joined his regiment on the Malaya/Siamese border.
However, some seven months later, he learned his father, who together with his mother ran an import and export company in Shanghai, was suffering from terminal cancer and he was offered a compassionate discharge - which he accepted - and given passage on a ship to the Chinese city.
His father died and before John could arrange for he and his mother to return to England, Japanese forces occupied Shanghai.
He managed to convince the military police that he was no longer an active member of the British army, and so as a civilian he was interned in a camp housing single men. He had no idea where his mother was.
Seven months later he was one of 15 men selected to transfer to a camp at Lunghua.
"The Commandant who had been a Naval Attache at the Japanese Embassy in London, spoke English and appeared to be quite humane," he said. "He wasn't as cruel as some others and said that as long as we obeyed the rules, no harm would come to us. However, if we disobeyed we would be punished."
To his delight, his mother was in this camp, and he was allocated to look after her, as well as one other family with two daughters and a son.
Divine intervention played a role again as he fell in love with Connie, one of their daughters who would go on to become his wife.
"I was in this camp for just over three years, and we had no knowledge of the progress of the war, until one morning we awoke to find the Japanese guards had all disappeared and the Americans had arrived," he recalled.
They were all transported to Shanghai and John was told at the British Consulate that he and his mother would be send back to London on the first available ship. Connie could only accompany them if John would marry her and so the ceremony took place at the Consulate.
On arrival back in London John joined the Samaritans.
"I had been aware of the problems some of the camp inmates had to ensure and felt that this would enable me to help others with similar problems," he said.
He said he didn't suffer any prejudice after the war despite his Japanese heritage.
"I found there was very little talk about the war with Japan. It was all about Germany," he said.
In 1946, John went to work for the Westminster Bank -which went on to become the NatWest Bank - at its head office in London.
Connie and John had two children, Jeffrey, who lives in Merley, and Phillip, who sadly died in a cliff climbing accident. He has one grand-daughter.
The couple moved to Wimborne in 1985 and during their retirement enjoyed six cruises.
"I've been to nearly every country in the world," said John.
This included Hong Kong, but he added that he hadn't returned to Shanghai or to Japan.
Sadly Connie, who was also a lay pastoral assistant, died six years ago.
John concluded that his faith - or divine intervention - had helped him enormously during his 92 years.
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