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Poetry in Captivity

The Experiences of the POWS and Internees

In 2004 we looked again at how the original idea of Fr Cowin to set up a permanent, living, memorial to those who died and to those who survived the Japanese prisoner of war camps might be updated using the tools we have available today. To any generation who did not pass through the World War II years it has become impossible to comprehend the privations and horror of being a Japanese POW. It is important their experiences are not forgotten, not in order to permanently castigate the Japanese and others who helped them, but as a permanent reminder of how low the human condition can fall without universally and internationally accepted norms of human behaviour. It only seems necessary to define the others as “inferior” or “sub-human” and atrocities will follow - none of us are immune.

Here then are the recorded experiences of some who survived the camps, as they remembered them during 2004 and 2005. It is worth recording that even 60 years after, some POWs and those who helped in their liberation remain too traumatised to record their experiences. And some nationalities cannot now be remembered in this way – the last Indian POW died in 2003.

Tragic too are those recorded in our database that died in 1946, long after the liberation, but the toll on their mental and physical state was too great to allow them to enjoy the fruits of peace - as it was for the many others who later died prematurely.

Let our tribute to them be that we do not forget the lessons to be learned – even now, the world has seen too many terrible events since 1945 for us to ever relax our vigil.

Listen to:

Please be aware that some of the descriptions of conditions and ill treatment can be harrowing.

Cpl Norman Wright, RAF

L/Cpl Frank Buttifant, Royal Corps of Signals

Spr. Maurice Rooney, 288th Field Coy. Royal Engineers

Gnr/Dvr. Bob Lister RA, 11th Indian Division

Sgt. Ron Needham, 6th Bn. Royal Norfolk Regiment

AB Jim Mariner, HMS Peterel

AC1 Les Stubbs, RAF

LAC Jack Plant, RAF Medical Branch, Mentioned in Despatches

Sister Pat Gunther, Australian Army Nursing Service

L/Cpl Bruce Cadoret, Royal Rifles of Canada

Mrs Joan Wight, mother, taken into Internment at Singapore

Rose Raymond, taken into Internment in Java

Keith Martin, schoolboy, taken into Internment at Shanghai

Suus van der Wal-Meyneken, taken into internment in Java

Marjorie, widow of Dvr. Ernest Parker, Royal Corps of Signals