Kindred’s Special: Chess and War–A Tragic End, Part III

With the world tossed into a very real World War, England stood alone on her Island in the sea that provided a natural protection from a Nazi invasion as occurred in most European countries. The United States had little desire to enter the conflict despite the pleading of Sir Winnie. Churchill was right and Chamberlain was dead wrong with his appeasement policy. The call to arms by the English government was no light matter as all Brits were aware of the dangers to its homeland and outnumbered military. Only its navy and air defense provided any real hope of salvation during Churchill’s efforts to prod the USA into joining the battle. With the unprovoked attack on the Hawaii Islands by the Japanese, enter the USA into turning its mighty industrial base into high gear and national effort by its people to fight. It is little doubt that the USA saved the British Empire from disaster and conquest.

That was the nature of the times. And with it all British men and women rallied to the call of Churchill to arms or help in any manner requested of the public. Thus, Arthur Reynolds found himself in 1940 volunteering as technician with the Royal Air Force and in 1941 was sent to the Pacific Far East landing in Singapore and later moved to Java after the Japanese successful invasion of that territory. However, the Japanese were after the oil fields of both Sumatra and Java and their paratroopers eventually defeated what was left of the of the 605 squadron. Reynolds was among the POWs and transferred eventually to Ambon in 1943 where they were to build an airfield. During this period, Reynolds during part of this period taught his fellow POWs how to play chess which no doubt helped keep their sanity as the conditions in those Japanese camps were horrific. Reynolds himself was ill and was among some 548 Dutch and English POWs loaded on the cargo ship Suez Maru destined for Japan. The tragic event and end came when an allied submarine torpedoed the Suez Maru and the survivors of whom Reyolds was one to jump overboard was killed by a Japanese minesweeper that came up and machine-gunned them most likely because there was no way for the ship to rescue survivors.

There is a full account of the story in NEW IN CHESS written by Olimpiu G. Urcan which I highly recommend.

Such events affecting many chess players who braved the times in uniform probably could fill a book shelf of personal memories of those dark days when victory was far from certain and the enemy seemed to win the major battles early in the war. We were taught the battle of good against evil and prayed that good would in the end triumph. That happened and by 1945-6 the world had a chance to mend itself for a brief period until the Korean Police Action once more drew the world into warfare.

Arthur Reynolds life was one cut short of reaching his full potential, of coming home and resuming his calm place in British society, cherishing his family and friends. In this he shared the fate of many who never returned but thankfully those of his family and military records would leave his legacy for his fellow chess players to in some spirit share his life story. THANK YOU, NEW IN CHESS!


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