Ruby Forrest MILLS (née WHYTE, aka Peter) [1914-2001]

Submitted by David on Wed, 10/21/2015 - 14:06
Ruby Forrest
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Richard Walter Mills to Ruby Forrest Whyte 1939 in Westminster London

Passenger List 3 February 1956 Southampton to Bombay India

Robert Walter Mills born 27  August 1910 banker of The Haie Newnham

Ruby Forrest Mills born 31 July 1914 in Rangoon Burma

[ + 3 sons]

Passenger List Hong Kong to Southampton July 1958

Ruby Forrest Mills born 31 July 1914 address in the UK The Haie (sic) Newnham on Sea Gloucestershire 6 months leave

[ + 2 sons]

UK Death Index

Ruby Forrest Mills born 31 July 1914 death registered Quarter 3 2001 Cheltenham Gloucestershire

Wife of Robert Walter  Mills born 27 August 1910

Thanks to you both for the extra information. I've updated her details.

jmills, please do you have any information or photos about their time in Stanley Camp or Hong Kong that you can share with us?

Ann, please could you also update your comment on the R W Mills page to remove those details.

Thanks & regards, David

This is an extract from an address my late mother-in-law, Peter (Ruby) Mills, gave at Holy Cross Church, her church in Ashton Keynes on Remembrance Sunday, 11 November 1985.

Background: Richard Mills was an employee of The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, based in Canton. He and his wife had travelled to Hong Kong for the weekend, to seek advice because most of the British wives were leaving for Australia. They thought they had better consult senior management, who advised them: “Just stay”. So they stayed, and Hong Kong fell that weekend. 

They had to do as they were told, which was to parade on a military parade ground with what they could carry. They didn’t know where they were going and ended up in the most expensive brothel (by then empty) where they stayed for two to three weeks before being taken to Stanley.

When I began to think what Remembrance Sunday means to me, I found myself travelling down long-forgotten lanes, back to school days. We were probably too young to appreciate much of what our elders were thinking and feeling, but the sense of occasion was very strong and we knew that all over the country, everyone and everything stopped for those two minutes and the silence was tangible. I have a very vivid mental picture of one November 11th; I’d have been about 13. The 12 or so girls in our classroom, seated at our rather battered, ink-stained desks and wearing the hideous navy gym slips, white shirts, school ties and thick black stockings – all with our bright poppies and all oddly subdued, none of the usual undercurrent of whispering that occurs in even the best-regulated classes, and all, I think, feeling part of an enormous remembering world. There were Armistice Days before that and many since, but perhaps that was the one when I first became conscious that the day meant much more than a break in school routine and the wearing of a red poppy.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the ending of World War II and has been made a special year nationally and among our allies with big celebrations to mark VE Day in May and VJ Day in August. Because of this, my wartime memories have been stirred more vigorously than is usual – they include much that one would rather forget but also so many kindnesses and so much warmth and humour in the most unlikely situations.

Being a POW as I was is not all gloom; the will to survive is astonishingly strong and within the limitations of our surroundings and despite a dearth of food and things regarded as normal until then, we could and did make opportunities for laughter and entertainment. There were concerts, plays, ballets and even a pantomime in which a man achieved his lifelong ambition to play an Ugly Sister.

It was not until starting the task of trying to bring some order to my thoughts that a rather odd thing struck me. For many of you, the cessation of noise and of danger from the air must have been instant and stunning – the ringing out of church bells all over the country in joyous celebration of a wonderful thing. For us, the end was strange and quiet. We knew that something momentous had happened in Japan. Yes, the war was over, really over, it wasn’t just another lovely rumour, of which there had been so many, and that was marvellous. But we had to live through a ten-day interregnum with our people trying to get things going again, taking control quietly, making contact with other prison camps, but with no public outbursts of joy, no celebrations, no flags – we had to contain our excitement because of the danger of inciting our ex-gaolers, still armed and all around us.

So there we were, for ten days, just waiting. Then on that August evening – my husband’s birthday as it happened – we walked back to our quarters from a quiet little gathering with friends in another part of the camp – and just the walking in the evening after months of curfews was joyful in itself. We looked out over the sea and there, against the darkening sky, we saw the shadowy shapes of a line of warships, the Royal Navy arriving after steaming at breakneck speed from Australia. We knew, beyond any doubt, that our war was over. So next day we could fly our flags, one for every nationality in the camp, produced from somewhere, and sing our national anthems, simple pleasures long denied, and celebrate with a short open-air service and ceremony more moving than anything grand could have been – so moving that it sent shivers up one’s spine despite the tropic heat.

We began to learn that our lot had been comparatively easy as we heard about other camps in the East and Europe and that gave us cause for deep gratitude.

Through those difficult years, we had needed all the friendship and support we could find and the friends made then were very dear and have remained so ever since.

We cannot come together on this day without thinking of the events that precipitated the end of the war 40 years ago – the dropping of two atom bombs on Japan. I am sure I am not alone in finding myself in a dilemma over this. The pain and suffering caused, the continuing horrors of the after-effects are well known. What cannot be quantified is how much more devastation would have been endured and how many hundreds of thousands of people would have died, some most horribly, before an end was made.

As one who is alive because those bombs were dropped,  I find it impossible to have any but a biased view.  It is extremely difficult to imagine a world that does not include oneself, one’s children and grandchildren.