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.

6 comments:

  1. Pictures are sometimes hard to see, but for us , there are only pictures, for those men it was real life. That's why me absolutely must remember them, to give a value to their sacrifice, and as a tribute to their courage.

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  2. I have to agree with you about the lack of coverage about the Second World War in history lessons at school. I suppose my generation was much nearer to it - it was more current affairs than history - but from what little I know about current history teaching, the emphasis still seems to be on World War I.

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  3. Great series on the war memorials. Coverage of 20th Century history in the U.S. was not much better when I was in school; we hardly ever made it up to the First World War and it was always such a disappointment to me.

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  4. I think having parents and other relatives who participated in WWII helps have some understanding. That and the Cold War were covered when I studied history at university in the 70s. I can recommend Max Hastings' "All Hell Let Loose" as an amazing read on the 2nd World War from the perspective of the people who were in it - and it brings home the breadth and scale of the conflict. Dare I say there's a tiny bit about both world wars on the history section of my site..?

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  5. The UK fought on some different fronts in WWII. The US doesn't have much if any connection with wartime Sumatra. My father served in India and Burma. He was a veterinarian and his job was to take care of the mules and horses that carried supplies over the high mountains into China.

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  6. I think our generation learnt more about the second world war from our fathers or other relatives that fought in it Jenny, it's hard to understand why it's not given the same relevance as other battles considering the length and and involvement in it.

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