Story of courageous Sunderland woman Margaret Dryburgh who was a Japanese prisoner of war told in new book

A Sunderland woman who composed a world renowned hymn while she was a prisoner of war has been remembered in a new book.

Wednesday, 20th July 2022, 4:55 am

Margaret Dryburgh was interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Second World War.

She died of dysentery in 1945 just weeks before the conflict was over but her legacy is still being felt round the world.

She and fellow prisoner Shelagh Brown spent their time in the camps throughout the island of Sumatra creating an orchestra.

A new book pays tribute to Sunderland woman Margaret Dryburgh and her fellow Japanese prisoner of war Shelagh Brown.

And the song Margaret composed 80 years ago this month, called ‘The Captives Hymn’, gained international fame.

It has since been sung at services throughout internment and continues to be sung all over the world.

Now the story of the two friends has been told in a new book called Women Interned in World War Two Sumatra Faith, Hope and Survival.”

Its author is Barbara Coombes who first discovered Margaret’s achievements in 2010 when she was doing a Masters degree in 20th Century women’s history.

The front cover of the new book which features Margaret Dryburgh, left, and Shelagh Brown.

Barbara traced the history of the women to their younger days and how those days shaped them into the remarkable characters who made a difference in camp.

Barbara told the Sunderland Echo: “I believe that the way they coped with internment stems from their early life.”

Margaret, from Sunderland, was a missionary and teacher, and Shelagh was a secretary at the Singapore Naval Base.

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Barbara Coombes, author of the new book.

The book is a true account which uses personal diaries and family documents to trace their journey from childhood

Their paths crossed briefly before 1942 but they met again in internment.

Thousands of women and children were among those who struggled to leave Singapore just before it fell to the Japanese in February 1942.

Many drowned as ships were bombed and sunk but those who the onslaught ended up as prisoners.

St George's Church where there is a memorial to Margaret Dryburgh.

That is when Margaret composed the Captives Hymn and it was first sung in July 1942 by her, Shelagh Brown and friend Dorothy MacLeod.

The new book is available from the publishers Pen & Sword website where there is an introductory offer of 20% off RRP (£25). You can also buy via amazon and all other good book retailers.