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Act of remembrance at prison camp

PUBLISHED: 11:27 27 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:25 06 July 2010

A FORMER prisoner-of-war (POW) returned to the site of his incarceration earlier this month as he remembered the friends he had lost after being captured fighting for his country.

A FORMER prisoner-of-war (POW) returned to the site of his incarceration earlier this month as he remembered the friends he had lost after being captured fighting for his country.

Jack Fowler, of Mutford Close, Oulton Broad, travelled to Hong Kong and Taiwan to mark Remembrance Day alongside a number of his fellows POWs, thanks to a grant from The Big Lottery Fund's Heroes Return 2 programme.

The weekend saw Mr Fowler, his wife Pearl and his daughter Bridget Slater, visit a graveyard in Hong Kong and return to the site of the notorious Kinkasaki prison, in Taiwan, where he was held.

Nearly 1,100 POWs were forced to work in the copper mine between 1942 and 1945, struggling to survive in extremely severe conditions.

Jack, a private with the 4th Battalion of the Royal Suffolk Regiment, spent a total of three years at the camp after being captured in Singapore on February 15, 1942. He was initially moved between a number of camps, before arriving at the notorious copper mine.

Here he would have to cut through rocks 10 hours a day, before sleeping on a two-foot wide piece of planking in an open hut.

“There was every excuse for dying, few for hanging on,” said Mr Fowler, 88.

“Many 'fell asleep'. We put our comrades in a box and dug a shallow grave. The rain would wash away the soil for us to cover again the next day.”

Jack was eventually liberated in August 1945, when the men who had survived devised a makeshift Union Jack and flew in on a pole.

Today the site of the camp in Jinguashih has become a POW Memorial Park and on November 15 Jack stood alongside fellow POWs Stan Vickerstaff, George Reynolds, Bill Roy, Ken Pett, Jack Fowler and Stan Wood at the site for a special service.

The event, which was organised by the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, was covered by the Taipei Times and the China Post, as their suffering was remembered.

It was Jack's third trip back to the infamous “Hell Camp”, but the first funded by The Big Lottery Fund's Heroes Return 2 programme.

The programme commemorates the events leading up to the end of the war, by funding veterans, their spouses and carers, to help them revisit the places where they served and remember the sacrifice made by their fallen friends and colleagues.

The first Heroes Return scheme launched in 2004 and helped to award £16.6 million to over 39,000 veterans, spouses, widows and carers for commemorative visits to battlefields and cemeteries.

Applications for Heroes Return 2 runs until January 2011 and Jack is urging other veterans and their families to take up the opportunity.

“A lot in Lowestoft could have gone and could apply. It was a lovely experience,” said Mr Fowler.

For details about applying visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn or call 0845 0000 121


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