Fr Ketterer arrived in Wymondham in
1934 to take over an ex carpenterís shop as the Roman Catholic Chapel in Town
Green. In 1937, a house with a stable attached was bought for £1,000 which was
transformed into a church. During the war years the congregation was swelled by
Irish labourers building airfields in the area and until their own chaplains
arrived, men of USAF bomber squadrons based locally.
In 1946, when Fr. Ketterer moved
on, he left, thanks to the generosity of USAF personnel, the site, fully paid
for, and £2,500 towards the building of a new church and the priestís house. At
that time, the new priest, Fr Cowin, arrived.
Father Malcolm Cowin - former Roman
Catholic Chaplain to the 2nd Cambridgeshire Regiment passed 3Ĺ years in Japanese
POW camps. In that time he helped construct 3 chapels in different camps making
a vow that, on his return, he would build a church in memory of all those who
died in Japanese POW and Internment camps.
Fr Cowin in Chungkai with the
Christian Japanese doctor who supplied the Communion wine.
He saw a Parish Church as a way of
reaching beyond a traditional monument by creating a living and constantly
revitalised memorial to those who died.
The church, designed by local
architect Donovan Purcell, former surveyor to the Fabric of Ely Cathedral, was
completed in 1952. Although Norfolk might not appear an obvious choice for such
a memorial, it should be remembered that the 18th Division, destined to defend
Singapore, but arriving just in time to be part of the surrender, was composed
mainly of the Territorial Battalions of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire,
together with other East Anglian Regiments.
The FEPOW shrine is an integral
part of the Church and Fr. Cowin said Mass each day for the War dead until he
left the parish in 1965.
Today they are remembered by the
memorial books whose pages are regularly turned and by the annual FEPOW memorial
service which is held on the nearest Sunday to May 14th, the anniversary of the
Relief of Rangoon.