All Suffolk Archives branches are closed. Please see here for further information

Able Seaman Harold Lock

Harold Lock was born in Sudbury in 1923. He spent three years as a Prisoner-of-War. In 1995 he wrote a memoir of his experiences called The Forgotten Men. 

Harold joined the Navy as a teenager and earned a Distinguished Service Medal at the battle of Crete.

He was an Able Seaman on the battleship HMS Jupiter in February 1942, which was sunk by a mine while sailing near Jakarta.

In his book Harold describes swimming eight miles with some of his shipmates to an island. They were greeted on the beach by Japanese soldiers who indicated that they should dig their own graves. They were saved by a Japanese officer.

From 1942 until 1945 Harold was kept prisoner in various camps in Java and one of the Moluccan Islands in Indonesia (previously known as the Spice Islands).

Back in the UK, Harold had been reported missing when HMS Jupiter sank; his mother spent two years not knowing if he was dead or alive. She finally received a letter in early 1944 telling her he was a Prisoner-of-War.

Bury Free Press, 22nd January 1944

After the Japanese surrender, Harold left Singapore and docked at Liverpool in October 1945.

When he returned to Sudbury, Harold recalled:

We got drunk every day, we just wanted to forget. We only came home on Fridays to change our clothes. We slept in churchyards… in police cells, but they left the doors open, gave us tea in the morning and sent us on our way.

Harold returned to the Navy but was discharged due to depression. After a while he became the landlord of The Plough in Sudbury.

In 1995, forty years after the end of the war, Harold wrote his memoir The Forgotten Men. The book led to the formation of the South Suffolk Far East Prisoner of War Association.

Cover of The Forgotten Men by Harold Lock

Copies of The Forgotten Men can be found at Bury Archives, Sudbury Library, and Hadleigh Library.

In March 2000, Martin Bell MP quoted from the book during a speech in the House of Commons, where he was seeking belated compensation for the prisoners:

Those who could not work, died. Those who could, worked on in vermin ridden rage. All of them, I believe, were marked for life.

Harold died in Sudbury aged 93, in 2017. The Harold Lock Memorial Awards were established in 2018, honouring citizens of Sudbury for community service.

Next – VJ Day in Suffolk >>