Yorkshire war veteran, 100, who fled Japanese soldiers after he was taken prisoner in Singapore, left upset and angry as burglars target home and steal safe containing £4,000 cash

A 100-year-old Yorkshire war veteran who fled Japanese soldiers after being taken prisoner in Singapore during the Second World War, has spoken of his shock and upset after his home was burgled and his safe containing nearly £4,000 was stolen while he was in hospital for a skin cancer operation.

War veteran Len Parry.
War veteran Len Parry.

Former RAF pilot Len Parry, of Skipton, was admitted to Bradford Royal Infirmary on February 4, to have a melanoma removed from his head, but had to stay overnight following a fall, and this is when police believe the opportunist thieves struck.

It wasn't until Mr Parry returned home and a few days later, on February 12, went to get some money from his safe, he discovered it had been stolen. There was no damage to any doors or windows and no sign of a break in to arouse suspicion.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Mr Parry said: "It was a bit of a shock when I discovered the safe and money had been taken. It upsets me to think someone could do something like this. I was in hospital at the time having a small operation on my head and had a lump taken off. Unfortunately I fell while I was in hospital so had to stay in for a bit longer to be checked over, and the burglary must have happened then."

Len Parry joined the RAF in 1940 where he trained as ground crew, repairing aircraft flight instruments, initially to specialise on the Short Singapore Mk 1 A flying boat.

As well as the money, which Mr Parry was going to use to pay for a new roof at the home he has lived in for 50 years, the safe also contained his cheque book, driving licence and passport.

Mr Parry's family told The Yorkshire Post the burglary had hit him hard and made him question whether he should relocate to a nursing home, despite being very independent and still driving and doing his own food shopping.

After the initial shock, Mr Parry said he now has to show "fighting spirit" and get on with his life.

He said: "I have got to get over this. It has been a bit of a shock at my age, but you have to get on with things, don't you?"

Len Parry.

Mr Parry was originally born in Burnley, Lancashire and left school at the age of 14 to work as an apprentice gas fitter.

Mr Parry joined the RAF in 1940 where he trained as ground crew, repairing aircraft flight instruments, initially to specialise on the Short Singapore Mk 1 - a flying boat. After completing six months technical training, Mr Parry was posted to the 58S Squadron and later sent to Seletar in Singapore where he joined the 205 Maritime Squadron RAF at Seletar Airfield.

On February 13, 1942, Mr Parry and the crew were hard at work when they heard a commotion outside the hanger, before a group of Japanese marines charged in . All the crew were captured. They were searched and left under the guard of two soldiers. Two days later, Singapore had surrendered and the Japanese forces got very drunk. The prisoners in the hanger at Seletar knew this would be their only chance to escape.

After the air raids had started, it had been decided in the RAF Seletar Yacht Club, to prepare their two Chinese sailing junks, as a means of escape if the island was captured. These vessels had been hidden in the mangrove swamps, on the west of the island. Having been left with their tool-kits, Mr Parry's crew fashioned a couple of ‘garrotes’ and simultaneously killed their two intoxicated guards. They set sail on one of the junks into the open sea under the cover of darkness. Having no compass, they decided to head west for Sumatra, using 'dead-reckoning' and thankfully, after two days were picked up by a Dutch East Indies patrol boat and taken to Ousthaven in Sumatra. The men rejoined their squadron travelling by sea to Colombo, now Sri Lanka several weeks later. It was during this journey that Mr Parry saw a good friend of his die from malaria, adding to two other close friends killed in battle.

Mr Parry was demobbed in June 1946 and returned to his job as a gas meter repairer. He met his wife Muriel in 1948 and they moved to Skipton where Mr Parry's parents lived and worked.

The couple had three children.

Mr Parry, who is now sadly widowed, also has three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, who he has missed greatly during lockdown.

He said: "They ring me up all the time, but I am looking forward to seeing them in person. One day we will be together again soon."

North Yorkshire Police are continuing their investigation into the burglary at Mr Parry's home and are appealing for anyone who knows the wherabouts of the small brown digital safe to get in touch on 101, quoting reference 12210058787.

The Yorkshire Post has set up a fundraising campaign to help Mr Parry following his ordeal.

Anyone wishing to donate can click here.