Amazing story of the caravan drawn in captivity

For some people, caravans and the holidays they inspire have a way of getting under the skin – almost to the point of obsession.

That is certainly true of an especially touching episode featuring the daughter of a former prisoner of war held by the Japanese in the Second World War. The prisoner, Reg Newman, had every reason to dream – it may have been his only escape from the atrocious hardships of captivity in a POW camp in steamy Borneo.

The dream caravan

Channel Four’s Amazing Spaces series broadcast a special episode on the 13th of December 2016, which featured not only Reg Newman’s recurring dream, but the careful illustrations and drawings he made to accompany the dreams, and the efforts – more than 70 years on – of his daughter Jan to finally turn them into reality.

And the object of Reg Newman’s dreams? Nothing other than a tear-drop styled touring caravan that could have come straight out of a 1930s catalogue. Except that it didn’t. The caravan was entirely Reg’s own design, creatively and faithfully drawn down to the very last detail during his three gruelling years as a prisoner of war.

Building the dream

Reg’s diaries contained such detailed specifications for his dream caravan that the Amazing Spaces team knew just what to build – and recreate the dream exactly as he had intended it to be.

In keeping with the times, the caravan was relatively small by today’s standards, but clever design still made room for two pull-out beds, which stowed away as the benches for a dining table, a gas stove built into the simple galley, and cupboard door handles made from oak. The drawings even specified the design of the catches for the doors and fittings for the wardrobe, a chemical toilet and a medicine cabinet.

All the fabrics and soft furnishings used in the interior were carefully chosen in keeping with the 1930s design.

Sadly, Reg Newman died (at the young age of 53) many years before his drawings and designs were discovered – let alone brought to life by the Amazing Spaces builders. Nevertheless, his daughter commented that her father would have been over the moon to see how the dreams hatched in the terrible conditions of the prisoner of war camp have been realised in real life.

The story certainly appealed to popular imagination with reports – illustrating Beg Newman’s meticulous draughtsmanship and including clips from the television programme – appearing in both the Daily Mail and Mirror newspapers.