Sat, Nov 12, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Former POW pays his respects

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM:Ken Pett, a former soldier in the British Army’s 80th Anti-tank Regiment, spoke on behalf of all those who were imprisoned in Taiwan

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter

Ken Pett, a former prisoner of war in Taiwan, pays his respects during a ceremony at a memorial near the site of a former prisoner-of-war camp in Dazhi, Taipei, yesterday.

Photo: CNA

More than a dozen people, including a former prisoner of war (POW) who was detained in Taiwan during World War II, POW families, foreign representatives and Taiwan POW Camp Memorial Society members gathered yesterday to inaugurate a newly completed memorial near the site of a former POW camp in Taipei in a ceremony filled with emotion.

During World War II, Japan built 16 POW camps across Taiwan, including camps in Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市), Yunlin County and Pingtung County, to imprison Allied soldiers they captured in Southeast Asia.

More than 4,000 Allied POWs were detained in Taiwan and about 10 percent of them died in the camps, according to the society’s findings.

For more than a decade, the society has been trying to locate all the former POW camp sites and erect a monument at each site to remember those who suffered and died.

The latest memorial was the one inaugurated on the site of a new Ministry of National Defense complex in Dazhi (大直), Taipei, which was Taihoku POW Camp No. 6 from 1942 to 1945.

Taiwan POW Camp Memorial Society director Micheal Hurst said the society discovered the site in 2000 after checking several different historic documents and had former POWs who were imprisoned there confirm it.

“Once I took a former POW who was detained here to this site, he looked around and said: ‘Yes, this is the place, the mountains in the back have not changed in 70 years,’” Hurst said, standing in front of the memorial.

The memorial is inscribed in both English and Chinese: “1942-1945, this memorial is dedicated to the memory of all the men who were interned by the Japanese during WWII in the Taihoku Prisoner of War Camp #6, formerly located near this site. We will remember them.”

Although 18 of the more than 700 former POWs who were imprisoned at Taihoku POW Camp No. 6 survive to this day, none were able to attend the ceremony.

Instead, the 91-year-old Ken Pett, a former soldier in the British Army’s 80th Anti-tank Regiment, who was imprisoned at camps in Jinguashih (金瓜石) in New Taipei City’s Rueifang District (瑞芳), as well as in Sindian District (新店), spoke on behalf of all the allied soldiers who were imprisoned in Taiwan.

“I came to this memorial as a representative of all my comrades, who suffered the hardships and some paid the ultimate price — never will we forget and never can we forget — but we can forgive in the future, that’s right, the future generation, they are not responsible for their elders’ crimes,” Pett said.

Jim Ferguson, son of former British officer George Ferguson, who was detained at the camp, read a poem titled Who Will Remember Them in memory of his father.

A tearful Jim Ferguson had to pause several times as he choked on his tears as he read the poem.

Hurst said the wet and windy weather during the ceremony, was appropriate for the dedication of the memorial.

“Exactly 69 years ago today, the first POWs marched into this camp, it was a rainy and cold day, just like today,” he said. “The POWs departed from Singapore, embarked in Keelung and marched here.”

The society is set to unveil a memorial park on the site of a former POW camp in Jinguashih at 10am tomorrow.

The memorial park includes a monument and a wall with names of the 4,350 allied troops who were imprisoned at the camp.

Members of the public interested in attending the ceremony can catch the Keelung Bus No. 1062 at Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station’s exit 1 in Taipei and get off at the stop in Jinguashih.

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