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‘A memorable day’: Far East Prisoner of War celebrates 100th birthday

PUBLISHED: 11:49 31 January 2020

Centenarian Cyril Doy shows a book of his poetry to Mayor of Southwold Ian Bradbury. Picture: Mick Howes

Centenarian Cyril Doy shows a book of his poetry to Mayor of Southwold Ian Bradbury. Picture: Mick Howes

Archant

A Far East Prisoner of War, who faced a daily struggle for survival, has celebrated his centenary in style.

Centenarian Cyril Doy with his special certificate from Sole Bay Bowls Club. Picture: Mick HowesCentenarian Cyril Doy with his special certificate from Sole Bay Bowls Club. Picture: Mick Howes

Marking a "memorable day for Southwold," Cyril Doy celebrated his 100th birthday on Tuesday (January 28) with a family gathering ahead of a big party on Saturday.

One of nine children, Mr Doy has played an important part in Southwold life but he also lived through the horrors of working on the infamous Railway of Death, made famous by the film Bridge Over the River Kwai, as a Japanese Prisoner of War.

Centenarian Cyril Doy is congratulated on his 100th birthday by Mayor of Southwold, Ian Bradbury. Picture: Mick HowesCentenarian Cyril Doy is congratulated on his 100th birthday by Mayor of Southwold, Ian Bradbury. Picture: Mick Howes

Having always lived in Southwold, apart from serving in the Far East during the Second World War, the Mayor of Southwold Ian Bradbury and his wife visited Mr Doy to celebrate his birthday.

Mr Bradbury, who like Cyril is a member of Sole Bay Bowls club, said: "It is a memorable day for Southwold as the town now has two 100-year-olds with the other being Jack Storer, who is 102."

Centenarian Cyril Doy in uniform during the Second World War. Picture: The Doy familyCentenarian Cyril Doy in uniform during the Second World War. Picture: The Doy family

Mr Doy and his late wife Joan were married for 71 years until she died a year ago.

Growing up in Southwold, Mr Doy began his working life as an apprentice compositor at the Southwold Press for seven years until he was called up to go to war.

Cyril Doy with his wife Joan on their wedding day in 1947. Picture: The Doy familyCyril Doy with his wife Joan on their wedding day in 1947. Picture: The Doy family

After the war, Mr Doy recommenced his career as a printer, moving to Beccles Caxton where he spent four years.

He then took over his father's corn and seed merchant business in Southwold High Street and ran that for 38 years, also running Marshall's bakery for a few years in the 1960s.

Cyril Doy on stage with Claude Dawson, Sid Jewell and Tom Davis. Picture: The Doy familyCyril Doy on stage with Claude Dawson, Sid Jewell and Tom Davis. Picture: The Doy family

Mr Doy recalled: "I played for Southwold Town FC post war but my main passion was being an entertainer.

"I was a singer and have sung at the old Norwich Hippodrome.

"I also formed an entertainment group called the 'Southwold Jacks' and we entertained elderly people in the various care homes around the area including Lowestoft and at Beccles Hospital.

"I have also put on one or two shows at St Edmund's Hall and was able to fit out the kitchen from the proceeds of the shows."

Asked about the secret to his long life, he replied, "I enjoy living in Southwold and that really helps.

"I am a founder member of the Southwold Residents Association and the only one alive today.

"I am Southwold through and through and I really enjoy it because in my opinion it is unspoilt in comparison with other seaside places and still retains its character."

In the prison camps

Mr Doy served in Malaya but like many others he became a Japanese Prisoner of War (PoW) when Singapore fell.

About 90,000 Asian labourers and 12,399 Allied prisoners died in the sweltering jungles of northern Thailand as a result of the project undertaken by the Japanese military.

They endured searing heat, near starvation, hard physical labour and routine beatings before being freed in 1945.

To get through the experience, the PoWs found ways to keep their spirits up - with Mr Doy admitting that a few pages of a book about his home town of Southwold provided some comfort during the time he was held in the prison camps.

He endured a terrible experience for three-and-a-half years until 'Victory over Japan' (VJ) Day on August 15, 1945.

The PoW's did not get back to the UK until November 1945 when they sailed into Liverpool.

Mr Doy was so thin that when he arrived back in Lowestoft by train his own dad did not recognise him.

Celebrations

The centenary celebrations included a special gathering and a surprise presentation ahead of a big party for family and friends.

Mr Doy said: "I had a lovely surprise presentation at Sole Bay Bowls club where I have been a bowler for many years.

"The champagne flowed, there was a big birthday cake and I was presented with a special 100-plus membership certificate."

Celebrations are set to continue this weekend with a party at the Millennium Hall in Southwold on Saturday, February 1.

Mr Doy's two children, Peter and Jean, together with their spouses Brenda and Dennis, four grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and other family and friends are set to enjoy music from a 12-piece big band from Kent.

The band has been organised by Michael Pack - the son of Neville, a long time friend of Mr Doy's - as Glenn Miller-style music is set to be performed to mark the 100th birthday of a remarkable man.

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