Sir Sam Falle

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Sir Sam Falle


Jerseyman Sir Sam Falle, who later became a diplomat, was shipwrecked in the Pacific during World War 2 and rescued by a Japanese destroyer captain. He then spent three and a half years as a Japanese prisoner-of-war

Sam Falle's row around Jersey at the age of 17 is commemorated by this plaque at St Helier Harbour pierheads

Sir Sam Falle (1919-2014) was a British diplomat who was Ambassador to Kuwait and Sweden and High Commissioner to Singapore and Nigeria.


Samuel Falle was educated at Victoria College. He served in the Royal Navy 1937–48 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross "for gallantry in the face of overwhelming odds whilst serving in HMS Encounter during her last action in the Java Sea on 1 March 1942".

Encounter had taken part in the Second Battle of the Java Sea, suffered major damage and was scuttled by her crew. They were subsequently rescued by the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Ikazuchi commanded by Shunsaku Kudō. Falle spent the next three and a half years as a prisoner of war.

He joined the Foreign Service in 1948 and served at Shiraz, Tehran, Beirut and Baghdad. He was Consul-General at Gothenburg 1961–63, head of the UN department at the Foreign Office 1963–67 and accompanied Lord Shackleton on a mission to Aden in 1967. He was deputy High Commissioner at Kuala Lumpur 1967–69, Ambassador to Kuwait 1969–70, High Commissioner to Singapore 1970–74, Ambassador to Sweden 1974–77, and High Commissioner to Nigeria 1977–78. He then retired from the Diplomatic Service and joined the European Commission, becoming EC delegate to Algeria 1979–82, then working as a consultant on development aid in Africa including evaluation of EEC aid to Zambia 1983–84, and Swedish aid to Swaziland in 1986.

He was appointed CMG in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1964, knighted KCVO in 1972 and given the additional knighthood of KCMG in the New Year Honours of 1979. The King of Sweden made him a Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Polar Star in 1975.

Japanese rescue

In 2008 Sir Sam, who retired to Frome in Somerset, spent a week in Japan as guest of honour of the Japanese government, in recognition of having his life saved by a Japanese military commander in the second world war. The Japanese commander rescued Sir Sam and his fellow comrades as they were stranded at sea after their ship was blown up by the Japanese.

The Japanese invited Sir Sam, 89, and his son-in-law to Tokyo to thank him for praising commander Captain Kudo Shunsaku.

"I just thought Captain Kudo had done something great. It was wonderful! More than I ever experienced, more than I will experience again and more than I expected," said Sir Sam.

HMS Encounter
Japanese destroyer Ikazuchi

February 1941

The incident happened in February 1941 when Sir Sam and his fellow comrades were involved in a battle between their HMS Encounter and the Japanese in the Java sea. Sir Sam and his fellow comrades were trying to stop the Japanese taking Australia.

During the four-hour battle, every boat in his squadron apart from his boat, HMS Encounter, HMS Exeter and an American ship were sunk.

"We thought we were going to get away with it as there was a terrific storm, but it didn't last very long and the clouds blew away and there we saw them, 20 - 25,000 yards away.

"All these ten ships, all firing at us. They hit the Exeter, they didn't hit us. My captain went to rescue the Exeter survivors."

As Sir Sam's ship turned around, the Japanese struck, blowing it out of the water. The incredible thing was that no one died, the only thing which was damaged was the ship's engine. All 163 crew had no choice but to abandon ship.

"I remember going to the lifeboat. Somehow or other we got into the water and so there we were in the water watching them shell our ship."

The men were left in the water for 24 hours before Captain Kudo and his Ikazuchi ship took the extraordinary step of rescuing them.

Friendly welcome

Sir Sam said they were given a friendly welcome and were looked after. They were given cotton waste so that that they could clean themselves, as they were covered in oil. He was then given a green shirt, khakis and gym shoes. As he was tucking into some beef, biscuits and hot milk, the captain came down and said these words which Sir Sam has never forgotten:

"You are the welcome guests of the Imperial Japanese navy. You fight very bravely, I admire English Navy, English government very foolish make war with Japanese."

They were held on the ship for 24 hours before being transferred to a captured Dutch hospital ship. They were then held as prisoners of war for three and a half years.

"A long time after the war I wrote a letter to the Japanese and he wrote back thanking me. And then it lay in waiting until we had this extraordinary event," said Sir Sam.

Japanese thanks

His son-in-law Des Harris said the trip to Japan was to thank and honour Sir Sam for bringing the attention of what Captain Kudo had done. He had kept it under his hat and when he died in the '70s, nobody knew about the rescue.

"I hadn't realised until we got to Japan the hugeness of it and what it meant to the Japanese population," said Mr Harris.

"Sir Sam in his courage was the only one who was a prisoner of war to have spoken out and said, 'ok I was treated badly in the prisoner of war camps, but at least I was rescued and I was rescued honourably and I survived so thank you for that'.

"So he put a positive slant and I totally admire him for that, and I think it's absolutely marvellous he did that, because there're different ways you can look at things and he did it in the positive way, whereas others might not have."

During the trip they were treated like royalty. They had a limousine to take them from Frome to Heathrow, and were given the red carpet treatment everywhere they went.

Once in Tokyo they visited Captain Kudo's shrine and attended an event at which speeches were given.


  • My Lucky Life : In War, Revolution, Peace and Diplomacy (autobiography), Book Guild, Lewes, 1996. ISBN 1857761219

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