Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Sumatra Railway memorial
One area of the National Memorial Arboretum commemorates those who served and died in the Far East during World War II. The small building on the right is a museum and monument to the 55,000 who were held as prisoners of war. It contains shocking photographs, diary extracts and information about the experiences of those who suffered and died in horrific conditions, and the few who survived. There are poignant memorials too, to those who laboured to build the Sumatra Railway and the Burma-Thailand 'railway of death'.
When I was at school, part of the immediate post-war generation, they didn't teach us anything about World War II in our history lessons (though we did cover the First World War - and the war poets). I have always felt there was a gap in my knowledge and visiting places like this small museum, and the Imperial War Museum in Manchester are helpful to fill in those gaps. In a sense I would rather not know the horrors of war but in another way it is essential that we all understand our global history.
A member of our congregation at church, now sadly deceased, was a POW in the Far East. For a long time he didn't like to talk about his experiences but eventually, as part of a long journey of healing and forgiveness, he revisited the places he was held, and he also wrote and self-published a book about his experiences.