Skip to main content

James D C Noble Collection

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/RCMS 370

Scope and Contents

After the outbreak of the Second World War, James D.C. Noble volunteered for military service in Sept. 1939. He joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders with the rank of second lieutenant on 14 Oct. 1940 and sailed to Malaya, where he fought with its second battalion against the Japanese. Noble was captured following the fall of Singapore on 15 Feb. 1942 and spent the remainder of the war in Japanese prisoner of war camps, which included work upon the Thailand Railway. Noble recorded his experiences in a diary, which he concealed from his captors by wearing it in a portfolio strapped to his chest, and sewing it into a canvas camp bed, before eventually burying it in bamboo containers at Kanchanaburi two months before the Japanese surrender. In 1946, it was posted to Noble in the United Kingdom from friends who remained in the camp and had been given its location.

The diary was badly damaged, described by Noble as ‘sheets and sheets of torn, dirty, damp paper. The ink had faded, and parts were eaten away by white ants.’ The archive consists of a transcript of surviving sections made by Noble’s nephew James R.M. Noble entitled ‘Those lost years: prisoner of war diaries of J.D.C. Noble.’ There is a transcript of a second text, ‘JDC Noble’s diary (dated 6 Sept. 1943)’ which may have been written during or upon Noble’s return from the Far East, and based upon the original diary. In addition there is the transcript of a memoir ‘You cannot serve two masters’ in which Noble describes his work during the campaign as ADC to Major General Archibald Paris, who commanded the 11th Indian Division. The collection also includes the text of a lecture ‘Leadership in the Japanese Prisoner of War Camps during World War II as it affected Junior Officers’ which Noble presented to the Staff College, Camberley, between 1989 and 1992. It reproduces photographs of Changi, Kanchanaburi and Nakon Nyok prisoner of war camps, and the Thailand Railway, several of which feature Noble. Appended to this are four letters which Noble submitted to the newspapers. Noble also wrote a sermon ‘Withstanding the winds of atheism’ reflecting upon his experience as a prisoner of war, which was preached at Greater St. Mary’s, Cambridge, on 15 Nov. 1992.


  • Creation: 2012

Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (


1 file(s) (1 file) : paper

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

good condition

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by James Noble's nephew James R.M. Noble in 2012.


This item level description was created by MJC.

Includes index.
2015-03-12 10:43:24+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom