By Christina Jeffery - 11th June 2018 8:00am
Haddenham and District Age Concern's Friday Lunch on 1st June was made into a special occasion for Wilf Edgar and his partner Irene Studd in anticipation of their attendance the following Thursday at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party. Their table in Haddenham Village Hall was given a festive air with red, white and blue decorations and Chris Headlong made a little speech to welcome the VIP diners.
Last Thursday proved to be a memorable day for Wilf and Irene. Wilf's family arranged for the couple to be picked up in Haddenham by a Bentley, driven by a former Buckingham Palace employee. They were first taken to lunch at Claridge's (with its long-standing connections with royalty) — this was also arranged by Wilf's family — and then on to the palace where they were driven straight through the gates into the palace grounds.
The afternoon party was held by The Princess Royal, Patron of the Not Forgotten Association, to which Wilf belongs, and he was one of the people chosen to be presented to Her Royal Highness. Wilf said the Princess was very tactful in talking to him, and she had obviously read up on the war-time experiences of prisoners of war on the island of Sumatra.
He and fellow prisoners were put to work constructing the 150 miles of railway which ran along the equator, through terrain which the Dutch had rejected for a railway due to its swampy condition. The prisoners had nothing to wear and very little to eat so, inevitably, many of them died. Wilf and the remaining POWs narrowly escaped death themselves as they were no longer needed once the railway was completed. Fortunately for them, the Japanese surrendered following the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Wilf has paid tribute to his parents who looked after him so well on his return to Britain. They gave him time and space to recover from his ordeal. And despite everything, Wilf bears no grudge against the Japanese guards, who would have lost their own lives if they hadn't obeyed the orders given to them.
At the royal party, Wilf was introduced for the first time to fascinators — worn by many of the women instead of a hat, including Irene herself. He marvelled at the variety on show — from small and insignificant to magnificent.
Palace guests were entertained by the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Commando Training Centre who played selections of music during the afternoon and the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard was on duty.