Captive Memories: Far East POWS & Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

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Captive Memories documents the long-term perspective of sixty-six former Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOW). Meg Parkes interviewed them all for the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s Far East prisoner of war oral history study, which began in 2007. Most Far East POW would not, or could not, speak about their captivity after the war, and when they returned home in the autumn of 1945 most were sick men, still affected physically and mentally by their ordeal. In the early postwar months a few of those living in the north of England began to make their way to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), to seek the expertise of doctors there. So began a unique six-decade-long medical and scientific collaboration.

By the mid-1970s when Dr Geoff Gill was introduced to these veterans, hundreds had already been treated in Liverpool; many more were to come under his care. He has remained closely involved with these veterans ever since.

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Captive Memories charts the experiences in captivity of a handful of elderly survivors, as remembered over six decades after release. Significantly, it also examines the perspective of wives and widows, and explores the ‘conspiracy of silence’ in this country about the Far East Prisoners of War experience. Extracts from every interview appear throughout the book therefore ensuring that each man and woman has a voice. They have much to share and we do well to listen.

Conditions for Far East Prisoners of War were rather hellish. Appalling diseases were rife, the stench indescribable. Food and equipment were minimal or non existent. Men died daily, while in agony from which there was no relief. And yet, in the midst of such horrors, the human spirit steadfastly refused to be broken. Captives helped each other, intense bonds were formed, selfless sacrifices made. Consequently tools and medical equipment were fashioned from whatever could be found, anything that could make life more bearable. Resilience, resourcefulness, pride and camaraderie; these were the keys to survival.

Freedom, for those who made it, meant many things: home, family, comfort, of course; but also adjustment, loss of friendships, and a difficult road to recovery that for some would be lifelong.

It was these ongoing physical after effects of captivity that brought a group of men into contact with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Beginning in 1946 and lasting right up to the present day, LSTM’s involvement with the health (and latterly the history) of these veterans represents the longest collaborative partnership ever undertaken by the School. Out of this unique and enduring relationship came knowledge. This achieved an improved  diagnosis and treatment of some tropical infections, and above all, a greater understanding of the long-term psychological effects of Far East captivity. Using eyewitness accounts and the personal perspectives of this group of now elderly Far East Prisoners of War as the backdrop, Captive Memories charts this fascinating history.

About the Authors

Geoff Gill and Meg Parkes are highly respected academics from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. For both, their work with this inspirational group of veterans has been a life-changing experience. This excellent book thus presents good research in a deeply human and readable way, ensuring that it will have huge appeal for the scholar and the general reader alike.

  • Author: Meg Parkes & Geoff Gill
  • ISBN: 9781910837009
  • Binding: Paperback

1 review for Captive Memories: Far East POWS & Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

  1. Dr Rob Havers, CEO, George C. Marshall Foundation. Author of Reassessing the Japanese Prisoner of War Experience

    A unique perspective drawn together in a way that few studies have achieved before.

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