The Vicar of Elstow, from 1953 to 1976, was one Canon Peter Hartley. As sergeant Hartley of the Beds and Herts Regiment (most of the troops captured in the Far East were from East Anglia), he was caught by the Japanese in a sampan in 1941 escaping from Singapore towards Sumatra and was interned for three and a half years.
Peter took holy orders after the war and, following a curacy, came to Elstow, to replace his father as Vicar. He turned the south chapel into a FEPOW Chapel (Far East Prisoners of War Association). Under the great Bunyan window (and he was a prisoner in Bedford gaol for 12 years), there is the altar dedicated to the Far East Prisoners of War.
The dedication reads: “In memory of those who died in prison camps in the Far East 1941-1945 and in thanksgiving for those who returned…”. To the left, we read: “My marks and scars I carry with me to be a witness for me that I have fought his battle who now will be my rewarder”. To the right, we read: “So he passed over and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.”
“We will always remember, every day, every month – not just in November.”
August 15th 2020 marked the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day. We had hoped to mark this day, which is also the church feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a day packed of activities. Unfortunately all this fell as another victim of the current pandemic. Instead the Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire has created a special virtual service for the occasion from Elstow Abbey. Here it is:
August 15th 2020