My fascination with local history, World War 2 and my football club Crewe Alexandra all came together one evening when reading through a statement relating to Japanese war crimes from a British prisoner of war interned at a Japanese camp during the second world war. I read the following account from Gunner Eric Vasey of the 21st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment and it certainly sparked my curiosity.
On one occasion in January, 1943, I remember William Rushton (formerly of Crewe Alexandra Football Club), reported unfit for work.
I immediately scanned through the limited pre-WW2 resources available that related to Crewe Alexandra…and nothing. As the name was William, I then proceeded to search for a Billy but again nothing. I followed Rushton’s fate within the same account and unfortunately like many others he suffered from cruel treatment at the hands of the Japanese at their POW camps. Rushton was stationed specifically at the Kumamoto #1 camp where despite prisoners declaring themselves unfit for work they were still forced to work.
To my knowledge he (William Rushton) was suffering from scurvy, diarrhoea and malnutrition, but after examination by Wallace and a Japanese medical orderly he was forced to go to work
Despite being forced to work on this day, Rushton’s fellow prisoner’s aided his attempted self recovery by allowing him to avoid work and recuperate. Despite this gesture unfortunately it wasn’t enough and this this would be his last day at the camp. He would join another 56 British prisoners who also met their fate in Japan at POW camps.
I was in the same working party and Rushton did not perform any work all day but lay on the ground by a fire. At the end of the day he was carried home by members of the working party and died the same night.
Despite Rushton’s death the lack of respect from the Japanese continued but the loyalty and comradeship displayed by his fellow prisoners still had a heart warming presence until the very end.
The Japanese Commandant refused to allow a lorry to be used for Rushton’s burial and the body was carried in a badly made wooden coffin provided by the Japanese, by eight prisoners who volunteered for the duty
William Rushton’s war grave is situated at the Yokahama war cemetery in Japan. There are few small traces of Rushton being linked to the Crewe area. He was born in 1918 in Nantwich and the The Yokohama Memorial records his mother as Edith Elsie Rushton and his Stepfather as John Bamber. Another source records his home address as 42 Furnivil St, Crewe. Whilst Rushton was referred to as “formerly of Crewe Alexanda” they played their last competitive match before world war 2 in April of 1939, if Rushton was part of the team that season or even before he would have been 21 years of age or younger and certainly not have had an established career as a footballer.
Another possibility was that he played for the Crewe Alex team in some of the non-competitive War League West Region before being drafted for the war. Whatever the reason for Rushton and the Crewe Alexandra reference this story has a place in local history and I would like to find out more about William Rushton’s short career as a Crewe Alexandra player. If anyone has any references of this name featuring on a team sheet or even better team pictures of William Rushton in his kit then please get in touch.
Source – http://www.Mansell.com – Resource for Allied POWs in Japan