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Glowing memorial to Java's prisoners; Survivors of the Java Far Eastern Prisoners of War 1942 Club met in Stratford-upon-Avon over the weekend to launch a fundraising campaign for a memorial based on the windows of a chapel on the Indonesian island where they were held. Helen Gabriel reports.

Byline: Helen Gabriel

Meg Parkes vividly remembers her father telling her about a tiny chapel dedicated to St George, at Tandjong Priok PoW camp, near Jakarta, on the coast of Java.

Captain AA Duncan was one of thousands of British and Australian prisoners of war who were held at the camp in Java after Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942.

The chapel he spoke of was designed and built between April and July that year, within weeks of the camp receiving the first of the PoWs who were in transit to other parts of southeast Asia and Japan.

'My father was later shipped from Java to Japan, where he was moved from one camp to another,' said Mrs Parkes.

'In July 1943, just after his arrival at the second camp he was to be held at, Zentsuji on Shikoku Island, he found a newspaper cutting in the Japanese propaganda newspaper,The Nippon Times, which was circulating in the camp. 'It was dated Sunday 27 June 1943, and the picture showed the service of consecration of St George's Chapel at Tandjong Priok. He recognised it instantly because he had been in the congregation on the day the picture was taken, so he tore out the article and kept it.'

In his diary, which he wrote in captivity, Capt Duncan described St George's Chapel.

He wrote: 'There was a serene charm about the whole of the chapel area which was not to be found anywhere else in the camp.

'The walls of the chapel were made of reinforced concrete with the north side left open in the shape of a Gothic arch whilst the south wall had two windows let into it, stained glass designs incorporating the flags of all the nationalities of the prisoners in Priok.'

Those windows were later moved to the Anglican Church of All Saints in Jakarta.

Capt Duncan returned home at the end of the war and he and his wife, Elizabeth, died in 1997.

Mrs Parkes is now spearheading the Java Memorial appeal in memory of her father and his comrades.

She said: 'We hope to raise pounds 6,000 to create a lasting memorial to those of all nationalities who were held prisoner.

'The memorial will be two hand-painted church windows, replicas of those from St George's chapel, and will set into a south-facing wall of a memorial building dedicated to prisoners of war at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.

'David Hillhouse, an artist specialising in painting on glass, has been commissioned to produce the replica windows.'

Work on the building, which has been funded by COFEPOW, a charity representing the children and families of Far Eastern prisoners of war, will start this autumn and it will open on the 60th anniversary of VJ Day, 15 August 2005.

It will serve as an educational and cultural centre. Some of the few remaining survivors of the Java camps were joined by relatives of those who died, at a reunion of the Java Far Eastern Prisoners of War 1942 Club at the Falcon Hotel in Stratfordupon-Avon to launch the appeal on Saturday.

Among the survivors was Les Stubbs, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. He and about 1,000 other RAF ground crew were captured in March 1942. Only 240 of them survived.

He and his wife Pam spent ten years writing and researching Unsung Heroes of the RAF: TheFEPOWs, detailing the fates of the 5,102 RAF men who became prisoners of the Japanese.

Fact File

FEPoWs had the highest mortality rate of any prisoner group during the Second World War

Of 50,016 FEPoWS captured by the Japanese during the war, a quarter were killed or died in captivity

Those who survived suffered from malnutrition, violence and diseases such as dysentery, dengue fever, cholera, ringworms, beriberi, pellagra, meningitis, and malaria

The FEPoW motto is: 'To keep going the spirit that kept us going'

FEPoWS were given just pounds 76 compensation from the Japanese in 1952

In 2000 they were granted a 'special gratuity' of pounds 10,000 from the British Government

By then only 14,000 former FEPoWS or their spouses were still alive to receive the money

For more information see the Far East Prisoner of War Association's website at www.fepow.org.uk

CAPTION(S):

A press cutting of the service of consecration of St George's Chapel at Tandjong Priok in 1943; Members of the Java Far East Prisoners of War 1942 Club. Pam and Les Stubbs with club chairman Bill Marshall (right).; The windows in the Anglican Church of All Saints in Jakarta which the Prisoner Of War Club wants to copy for a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 26, 2004
Words:778
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