VJ Day

VJ Day: The Atom Bomb Saved My Life But I Can't Forget The Civilian Toll

Jack Ransom was among tens of thousands of prisoners of war who were released following VJ Day 75 years ago.

Jack Ransom is in no doubt that the bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved his life.

For the three years leading up to those two fateful days, Mr Ransom, now 100, had been a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp in Singapore.

He had worked on the Burma Railway with other servicemen, with no machinery and sustained only by meagre rations.

As others starved around him, Mr Ransom's weight fell to around six stone by the time the US bombs forced Japan to surrender, ending the Second World War.

He told Forces News: "I lost a lot of comrades through just working, poor rations, diseases, but then at the end of it all, remember we dropped two terrible weapons of war on the Japanese public.

"I was down to six stone. I doubt very much I would have lasted more than two or three months at the most, so it saved my life - the atom bomb saved my life. 

"But I can’t help thinking these two atom bombs were dropped on civilians, on women and children, so how can one forget that? I can’t forget that so it’s give and take... I can’t talk about the Japanese in a bad way whatsoever now."

Mr Ransom was a Sergeant Surveyor during the Second World War.

He was part of the Royal Artillery, tasked with halting the Japanese advance before his capture during the Battle of Singapore in 1942.

A picture of Jack during his service in the Second World War (Picture: Jack Ransom).

The Allies suffered a huge defeat in Singapore and were forced to surrender, putting Mr Ransom at the mercy of the Japanese.

"I personally had not seen a Japanese soldier and it came as a surprise to most of us that we had received the order to surrender, but it was an order so it had to be obeyed," he said.

"When the Japanese arrived, personally I was quite surprised that we had surrendered to what I considered a rather nondescript group of individuals. 

"However, we had surrendered and on the 15th of April 1942 I was made a prisoner of war of the Japanese."

Speaking about his work on the Burma Railway, he said: "The work was very arduous from dawn until dusk building embankments.

"We had no machinery, the embankments were built by shovel, earth onto stretchers made of bamboo and sacking, and carted up to the top of the embankment and the embankment was firmed down by spades.

"The embankments of course were about five or six feet and this was quite arduous work, especially to your legs and on the rather poor rations we were getting at the time, more or less a bowl of rice a day."

Jack Ransom said he has no ill-feeling towards the Japanese despite being held prisoner for three years (Picture: Poppy Scotland).

News of the Japanese surrender took a while to reach Mr Ransom and his fellow prisoners.

"We paraded every morning to go to work on the tunnels always accompanied by Japanese guards," he said. 

"And one morning when we paraded outside Changi prison they didn’t turn up, never understood it on the day - the guards didn’t turn up.

"At first we found it hard to believe - we didn’t know why they had surrendered, we only knew about the atom bomb later.

"It came as a complete surprise. We knew nothing about the atom bomb at all - in fact we knew nothing about VE day, we didn’t know we’d won in Europe."

Changi prison was liberated by troops from 5th Indian Division in September 1945. 

Cover image: Jack Ransom (Picture: Poppy Scotland).