The Alec M Young Collection

A collection of material belonging to Glasgow art teacher Alex M. Young who was captured by the Japanese army after the fall of Singapore in 1942 and spent three and half years as a Japanese Prisoner of War.

About Alec M Young

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Photograph of Alec M Young, taken immediately after his return home to Oban, November 1945

Alec Young was born in Greenock, went to school in Greenock and Oban and was a student at Glasgow School of Art when he was called up on 12 December 1939. He was serving with the Royal Artillery when Singapore surrendered to the Japanese army in 1942 and taken prisoner on 15 February that same year.

Alec Young kept a diary throughout his time as a P.O.W. of which The Mitchell Library has copies – the original being deposited in the Imperial War Museum in June 1982. This diary was carried throughout his imprisonment in a pocket specially made in the leg of his shorts.

Young was imprisoned for three and a half years and officially discharged in June 1946. By 1975 only three people had read the diary: Alec’s brother Willie, his wife Christina and his good friend David Watt.

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'Welcome home' letter from King George VI after Alec Young's release, September 1945

Alec Young took up his place again at Glasgow School of Art in 1946 and trained as an art teacher. He taught in Glasgow schools until his retirement in 1981. In his introduction, he says: “I can never thank God enough for His great deliverance in sparing me, and …whenever I am despondent, or feel moved to exasperation or self-pity, I recall that great deliverance and give thanks…’

About the collection

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Letter from the Royal Artillery Record office to Alec M Young's father informing him of his son’s fate after the fall of Singapore, 19 March 1942

The collection includes a copy of his prison diary (the original was given to the Imperial War Museum in 1982) and hand-written plans of prison camps. Supporting material includes letters to Young's father informing him of his son’s fate after the fall of Singapore; signatures of 80th Anti-tank Regiment in February 1942; a signed letter from King George VI after his release in 1945; signed copy, inscribed to Alec Young, of The Thailand to Burma Railway ... an illustrated history by Geoffrey Pharaoh Adams and photographs of Alex Young, one taken in 1939 and one in 1981. Included too is a copy of Alec Young's Service and Pay Book which contains details of medical treatment received whilst a prisoner.

Finding aid

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Alec M Young's enlistment notice, 7 December 1939

Alec M Young Collection listing (PDF, 110KB)

Further reading

Imperial War Museum, the Private Papers of A M Young

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