Peace memorial to Far East PoWs set to be unveiled, thanks to New Journal readers

Thursday, 13th September 2012

Published: 13 September, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON

A MEMORIAL to the former prisoners of war held in appalling conditions in the Far East during Second World War will be unveiled in Mornington Crescent next Friday (September 21).

Generous New Journal readers donated £6,000 to pay for the memorial, which will also celebrate peace between the United Kingdom and Japan in the 60 years since the end of the war.

The memorial – designed by architect Chris Roche – will be unveiled by Viscount Lord Slim, president of the Burma Star Association, and is supported by former independent MP and journalist Martin Bell, who campaigned for compensation for former prisoners, and Bruce Kent, vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

It was also given the blessing of illustrator Ronald Searle – who himself was a Far East prisoner – before his death last December.

The memorial was originally the brainchild of Somers Town councillor Roger Robinson, who realised there was no memorial in London to victims of the Far East conflict. The project was delayed while a suitable site and permissions were granted.
“I’m so pleased that we’ve finally got this far,” said Cllr Robinson.

“Those people who suffered will always be in my heart. It wasn’t just military, but children and civilians, and it’s them who have my sympathy and concern.
If it wasn’t for the Camden New Journal’s readers, and its editor, Eric Gordon, this could not have happened.”

Thousands of British and other allied subjects, including civilians and children, were taken prisoner in 1942 when the Japanese swooped through Singapore, then a British colony.

More than 50,000 were taken prisoner and put into labour camps, notoriously being forced to build the Burma to Siam railway. Many thousands died before liberation in 1945.

Countess Mount­batten, the daughter of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl of Burma, who oversaw the recapture of Burma and received the Japanese surrender of Singapore, also welcomed the memorial.
“I’m very pleased to hear this will be going ahead,” she said.

“It’s quite right to remember all the people who suffered in the Far East.”

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