The account of Lewis Burfitt’s time in an internment camp in China go under the hammer on September 12

The diaries of an Ilfracombe man imprisoned by the Japanese during World War Two are going up for auction in September.

The detailed handwritten observations of Lewis Mills Burfitt's internment in China from 1943-45 are being offered by auctioneers Chilcotts at its September 12 sale in Honiton.

The diaries give a fascinating glimpse into life at the camp for foreign nationals in the Shandong province, covering everything from infighting in the camp to births, deaths, illness and black market operations.

They tell how the local Chinese risked terrible punishment to smuggle in supplies and news to the prisoners.

Food was a major issue as rations were low, and Mr Burfitt recorded his weight decreasing from 208 pounds on arrival down to 178lbs on July 26, 1944.

Mr Burfitt, born in 1894, was a wharf manager in Tientsin with the firm Butterfield & Swire, a business that still continues today as Swire, owners of Cathay Pacific and the China Navigation Company, when he, along with many others, was interned by the Japanese.

"These diaries make a fascinating read and, bearing in mind the Japanese' strict regime, it's amazing to think that they were able to be written at all," said auctioneer Duncan Chilcott.

"What Mr Burfitt has written really evokes the reality of imprisonment in an internet camp during the war.

"It seems the prisoners attempted to continue life as normally as possible within the constraints of their situation, with a sense of humour showing through even in adversity."

After the war he stayed on in China, returning to Devon in 1951.

The sale at Chilcotts showroom starts at 10.30am. Visit www.chilcottsauctioneers.co.uk to find out more.

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