Mon, Nov 16, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Veterans, families remember POW camps in Taiwan

ON REFLECTION:Yesterday’s commemoration service for WWII prisoners of Imperial Japan offered one veteran the chance to talk about the kindness of Taiwanese civilians

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter

Ninety-five-year-old British war veteran Ken Pett, right, and family members of former prisoners of war yesterday attend a Remembrance Day Service in Taiwan by the POW Camps Memorial Society in the POW Memorial Park in Jinguashi.

Photo: Lin Hsin-han, Taipei Times

Military families, 95-year-old British veteran Ken Pett and a number of international dignitaries yesterday commemorated a day of remembrance at the site of the former Kinkaseki prisoner of war (POW) camp in New Taipei City’s Jinguashi (金瓜石).

Of 14 POW camps Imperial Japan established in Taiwan during World War II, Kinkaseki was the most notorious. More than 1,100 POWs were forced to work in a copper mine at Jinguashi enduring starvation, rampant disease and constant abuse from guards, according to the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society.

Pett, an enlisted man in the British Army’s 80th Anti-Tank Regiment, was captured during the Battle of Singapore and said he endured inhuman conditions while on a ship transporting him to Taiwan.

“I remember most of the brutality of the guards,” Pett said, adding that he believes in commemorating fallen comrades at the site of the former camp, because honoring his friends is “the right thing to do, and no one else can do it, if not me.”

“We can forgive, but not forget,” Richard Bartelot Jr said, adding that even though his father — former British Army captain Richard Bartelot, who also served in the 80th Anti-Tank — did not talk about his days at Kinkaseki, he believes his father forgave the wrongs of the past.

Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society director Michael Hurst said that more than 4,350 POWs were detained in camps in Japan-ruled Taiwan during the war, of whom more than 10 percent died in prison.

The POWs were fed meager rations of rice, despite the intense physical labor they performed, and were routinely brutalized not only by Japanese soldiers, but also by Taiwanese troops, who were “abused by the Japanese” and “treated just better than the prisoners,” Hurst said.

In spite of the guards’ brutality, Kinakseki POWs also remembered local Jinguashi residents, who often smuggled food to the prisoners, Hurst said, adding: “Taiwanese [civilians] usually treated the prisoners with kindness.”

Pett said his three remembrance visits to Taiwan had helped old wounds heal.

“For over 70 years I used to suffer flashbacks and nightmares about my treatment here, and I still do… but I can now also reflect on the good times here, which previously never existed. Now the word ‘Taiwan’ sends thoughts of: ‘When can I go again?’” Pett said.

“What a marvelous place. What amazing people,” he added.

Canadian Trade Office in Taipei executive director Mario Ste-Marie, World Veterans Federation vice president Kao Chung-yuan (高仲源) and representatives from Australia, Britain, New Zealand and Taiwan also attended yesterday’s commemoration ceremony.

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