The horrors of a POW camp
A Blenheim woman has been recalling a day 67 years ago when her father was freed from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp as World War II ended.
Wednesday marked the day in 1945 when 50,000 prisoners at the Changi POW camp in Singapore found out they were free.
Among the prisoners was Blenheim resident Pat Swindell's father, Albert Wallwork. Mr Wallwork spent three-and-a-half years as a prisoner in the camp until an American bomber flew over the camp on August 8, 1945, dropping leaflets announcing the Japanese had surrendered unconditionally and the war was over. Mrs Swindells was hoping others would also mark and remember the day.
Her father had been serving with the Australian 8th Army division in Singapore when the Japanese captured the island in February 1942, Mrs Swindell said.
It was three months before the family found out he was still alive and a prisoner. Over the next few years they were allowed to write letters up to 10 lines long. Occasionally they got even shorter letters back, with little information of the horrors of the camp where the prisoners were starved, denied medical help and forced to work on a nearby site that became Changi Airport. "They were only fed boiled rice and water and whatever they could find. My father used to say some of the men resorted to eating insects."
Not all the guards were harsh she said.
"One of the guards was apparently very good to them and 6000 men signed a petition for the army authorities that he would be treated leniently, but I never heard what happened to him."
Mr Wallwork was malnourished and he lost more than 30kg during his time as a POW.
Mr Wallwork kept two of the leaflets the bomber dropped that day along with a collection of his few possessions including letters, a piece of shrapnel and the beginnings of a book about his ordeal.
He later finished the book, which he asked to be handed down the family line with his other mementoes, she said.
- The Marlborough Express