POW Magician visits Pensby School
26th February 2010
Magician and former Far Eastern Prisoner of War (FEPOW) Fergus Anckorn
MIMC yesterday visited Pensby High School for Girls to take part in a cross
curricular workshop. Fergus, the longest serving member of the Magic Circle, has
shared his unique experiences with the Pensby schoolchildren as part of a FEPOW
education project developed by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM).
When Fergus left home at age 18 to join allied forces in World War II, he was
the youngest member and today aged 91 he is the oldest member of the Magic
Before setting sail, Fergus was camped in Liverpool, where he put on shows to
entertain the troops. Three and a half months after leaving Liverpool they
arrived at Singapore and immediately came under heavy bombardment. Five days
later the battle for Singapore was over and Fergus was a prisoner of war.
He was held prisoner in Singapore, one of 150,000 other soldiers being held
there and forced to work in labour camps. The work parties forced to build the
notorious ‘bridge over the River Kwai’ contributed to two thirds of those men
dying and many suffered from terrible illness and disease. LSTM doctors treated
many of those who returned and is continuing that relationship through this
Fergus recalls “I was blown up, I was shot, I survived the massacre, I was
buried alive twice and I was up in front of the firing squad twice. Apart from
that it was alright!” Encouraged by his mother to keep smiling, Fergus performed
magic tricks for the guards, he soon found that if he used food as part of the
trick, they let him eat it afterwards. The food he earned from his magic proved
to be essential to his survival. "For the first six weeks we had no food. We ate
anything that moved - snails, slugs, crickets, snakes, cats, mice, dogs, grass,
leaves - anything at all and that's how we kept going."
Initiated by LSTM and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) the workshop
at Pensby High School is part of an education project focusing on the
recollections and experiences of the surviving FEPOW. Year 9 students, aged
13-14, filmed an interview with Fergus, conducted by other students. Project
Director, Professor Geoff Gill from LSTM was also interviewed about his work
The film along with materials developed by the School will contribute to a
dedicated website, providing the public, students and educators with information
to incorporate FEPOW history into their studies and research.
To this day Fergus feels no bitterness, he has visited Japan on reconciliation
visits and even learned the language. In his words “I hate war not the
Japanese”, a sentiment that he is keen to pass on to future generations.