IT IS a harrowing catalogue of death, unearthed to tell the secret history of suffering that befell British prisoners held in the Far East during the Second World War.

Now this unique record, detailing how over 500 PoWs perished in Japanese captivity, has found its final resting place at their regimental museum - revealing one of the more intriguing stories of the war years.

The secret dossier was presented to the Royal Signals Museum by Mary Beaver, from Chand-ler's Ford, over 50 years after her father-in-law hid it away from the guards it could incriminate - by giving it a ceremonial burial.

And in an ironic twist, a full Japanese guard of honour attended the mock funeral of Private Records, buried by Major Eric Beaver and fellow prisoners incarcerated at Changi in Singapore towards the end of the war.

The record, kept by Major Beaver and a colleague, lists more than 500 Signallers including their regimental number, rank, unit, and place, date and cause of death.

It was a damning catalogue of cholera, dysentery, malaria and diphtheria with burial places as far and wide as Thailand, Burma and Singapore. When the Japanese found out about it they knew it had to be destroyed.

Fearing it would be used as evidence for war crimes, the guards' searches around the camp became increasingly tense as Japanese defeat became imminent and the two men had virtually run out of hiding places - until they hit on the novel idea of burial. The diary was exhumed after the prison camp had been relieved and the information later helped the War Office trace the next of kin of all the dead soldiers and inform family and friends of their burial site.

Until now the dossier itself has been hidden away at the Beaver's Thorn-bury Wood home only uncovered when Major Beaver's son, who also served as a Signaller, died last year. Mother-of-three Mrs Beaver, 69, said: "When my husband died I was sorting out the effects that had been passed down from his father.

"I discovered that my husband had wanted it to go to the regimental museum, which would have meant a lot to him.

"My father-in-law was one of the older soldiers to serve during the war and he passed away more than 20 years ago.

"Even when he was alive, he didn't really speak to my husband about his time in the prisoner of war camps. Most people don't."

But the full story of the bizarre burial came to light with the help of director of the Dorset museum Colonel Cliff Walters.

He said: "It shows the resourcefulness of those in the PoW camps. It's another innovative thing the British soldier does when his back is up against the wall.

"Private Records has found his final resting place in a place of honour."

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