Tue, Nov 16, 2010 - Page 2 News List

POWs remembered at Kinkaseki event

WARTIME SERVICE:Several family members of the men who were allied prisoners of war at the camp near Jiufen attended a remembrance ceremony on Sunday

Staff Writer, with CNA

The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society held a Remembrance Day service at a memorial park on the site of the former Kinkaseki copper mine on the northeast coast of Taiwan on Sunday for prisoners of war who suffered at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

While there was a shared sense of sadness at the marked absence of any former POWs at the POW Memorial Park in Jinguashih (金瓜石) — inaugurated in 1997 near Jiufen (九份), Taipei County — there was also a feeling that one of the founding objectives of the society was being honored by the presence of relatives of some of the POWs, many of whom traveled to Taiwan for the first time to pay their respects to their loved ones at the site of the Kinkaseki camp.

More than 1,000 allied soldiers, sailors and airmen were forced to work as laborers at the camp, which was the most infamous of the 16 Japanese POW camps in Taiwan during World War II.

Society director Michael Hurst said Kinkaseki was one of the worst prison camps in the entire Far East in terms of the conditions and treatment the prisoners received.

Wilf Robinson arrived for his first visit to Taiwan from Australia a week earlier to find out more about his uncle, British soldier William Carson.

After just three months in Kinkaseki, Carson was so ill he had to be moved to another camp in the south of Taiwan, where he died aged 32 when an allied bombardment mistakenly hit the camp.

After seeing the mine, prison and museum, Robinson said he felt an affinity not just with his uncle, but with all the POWs.

“These people are left and lost ... and not remembered, now I feel that I have arrived here to take William Carson back home. It is important to me and my family,” Robinson said.

Eileen Astley, who arrived from England on a first-time visit with her daughter, Lin Mount, and son, Mike Farmer, was married to Jack Farmer, a former British inmate at Kinkaseki.

Astley said Farmer didn’t tell her he had been a POW until right before they were married. Despite a disfigured leg due to copper poisoning in the mine, the family said he never spoke of his experiences in Kinkaseki.

After seeing the mine, Mount said she was struck by the sheer distance the men had to travel just get up and down the hillside before even going down into the mine.

“It’s very powerful to finally see it,” Mount said.

Art Scholl, a member of the US Veterans of Foreign Wars, attended the memorial for the seventh time and was asked to lay a wreath on behalf of the POWs, as he was the only veteran attending who had witnessed military action in the Pacific.

A visibly emotional Scholl recalled how the ship he served on in the US Navy was attacked by a kamikaze pilot in May 1945.

This year’s service was cosponsored by the Australian Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei, which alternates with the three other Commonwealth representative offices to hold the memorial service.

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