Dr John Cordingly, Louise Cordingly and Reved Henry Khoo with the Changi Cross
Bernard Stogden with The Changi Cross
St George’s Mark 111 June 1944 - March 1945 in Changi Gaol
St George’s Mark 1 the converted mosque in Changi February 1942 - April 1943
About the Changi Cross
by Louise Cordingly
My father, Eric Cordingly, was an army chaplain, and he asked his fellow POWs to make the cross to put on the altar of their makeshift chapels while they were prisoners and he finally brought the cross home with him at the end of the war.
My mother suggested that the cross should be taken out to the new Changi Museum in Singapore after my father’s death. So my brother and I took it out there in 1992 on permanent loan. The cross is now displayed in pride of place on the altar of the reconstructed chapel.
I became intrigued by the cross and its history and I met up with several ex-POWs who remembered what it meant to them during their imprisonment.
Prayer for the Day BBC Radio 4 VJ Day, 15th August 2015:
In 1997 Bernard Stogden, who lives in Wales, discovered that it was his father, Harry Stogden, who had actually constructed the cross out of a brass howitzer shell case in the prison workshops. Tragically Harry died on the boat on the way home so his son, Bernard, who had been aged 4 when he left, had no memories of him. Once Bernard heard about the cross his father had made, he travelled out to Singapore to Changi Museum to see the cross for himself and to hold it in his hands. He found the experience profoundly moving because he felt, for the first time, that he was in touch with the father he never knew.
Now I knew there was a story to tell about the cross and Bernard and I worked on it together to produce The Changi Cross which was published in 2015 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Far East POWs release from three and a half years’ captivity. The book is dedicated to Sergeant Harry Stogden and “all the other poor souls who perished”.
Tim Hemmings is the POW who engraved the Cross from my father, Eric Cordingly’s designs. Tim was a stonemason in civilian life. He engraved the Cross with the badges of their regiments using an old umbrella stem he had found in the prison camp.
I visited him in Bexhill on Sea in February 2016 and took with me a railway spike from the Burma-Thailand Railway which had been given to me. He’s very proudly holding it in his right hand and as he did so his memories came tumbling out. He remembered hammering the spikes in and he also remembered the ill treatment by the guards. But he bears no grudges. “It was all a long time ago”, he says.
Photos of the original pencil designs for the Changi Cross trefoils are shown below. Tim’s daughter-in-law, Sally Hemmings, kindly sorted through these with us.