Far East Prisoners of War honoured with online memorial

·3-min read

Relatives of Prisoners of War held captive in the Far East have launched a project to create an online memorial for them.

Following Japan’s entry into the Second World War in December 1941 and the subsequent fall of Singapore in February 1942, around 140,000 Allied military personnel, together with many thousands of civilians, were taken prisoner.

They were held captive in appalling conditions in camps across South East Asia and more than 20% of them died.

Social media group the VJ Day Far East Prisoner of War’s Gallery aims to create a digital portrait gallery of 1,000 of these men, women and children to represent the many thousands held captive overall.

Changi Pow camp in Singapore
Prisoners were held at camps such as Changi Pow in Singapore (James Whyteside/PA)

Pam Gillespie, from Harlow, Essex, is one of the group’s organisers.

Her London-born father George Money volunteered for the RAF and served in the Middle East before he was taken prisoner in Java.

He was among the 60,000 men forced to help build the infamous Thai-Burma Railway.

She said: “We believe that too little recognition is given to the sacrifice and suffering of those held as PoWs in the Far East.

“The inspiration for setting up the group in 2020 was a desire to highlight the significance of VJ Day, which brought about the end of the war.

“This was three months after VE Day, which marked victory in Europe. During this time, FEPOWs continued to suffer horrendous treatment and conditions in captivity.

“For many survivors the ordeal did not end in 1945 as they were unable to forget their experiences.

“We think the 1,000-photo gallery will be a symbolic, yet moving, thought-provoking and fitting tribute to both those who survived and those who never returned home.”

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Among the PoWs featured in the gallery is James Whyteside, from Glasgow, who enlisted in the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, served in France in 1940 and was one of only 100 men from the battalion to be evacuated from Dunkirk.

He transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps in 1941 and was posted to Singapore, where he became a PoW in February 1942 and was not freed until August 1945. He died in 1978 aged 57.

The group, which has around 600 members, is making the appeal ahead of the 76th anniversary of VJ Day – the day when Japan’s surrender was announced – on August 15.

Many survivors were never able to fully put their years of captivity behind them, with many lives cut short as a result of captivity-related ailments from which they never recovered, while the majority suffered from what would nowadays be considered post-traumatic stress disorder.

The group has so far received photographs and personal stories of more than 400 Far East PoWs, provided by their families and descendants across the UK, Holland, Canada, Australia and the USA.

More submissions can be made by either joining the VJ Day FEPOW’s Gallery group on Facebook or emailing fepowgallery@outlook.com.

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