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Memorial to Allied soldiers in Taiwan POW camp

by Fiona Harper

Drenched to the skin on a wretchedly bleak day while a pall of grey hangs over the mountains,  we trudge through puddles to visit the striking memorial sculpture for interred soldiers at Jinguashih in northern Taiwan. Miserable as I am as cold permeating my sodden clothing, it’s rather appropriate weather for a sombre visit to what was formerly known as Kinkaseki POW Camp.

Perched on the side of a mountain, with a sheer cutaway cliff acting as a barrier to keep inmates incarcerated, despite being shrouded in cloud, the landscape is rather spectacular. Not that its beauty would have been any consolation to interred soldiers. Rather, the dramatic mountains merely made their daily labouring that much harder as they slaved to extract copper from the largest copper mine in the Japanese Empire while WW2 raged further afield.

For three years, over 500 allied troops were interred here after being captured and transported from Singapore by Japan. Given the moniker FEPOW, it’s an odd looking acronym that belies the immense tragedy behind five mere letters. Short for Far East Prisoner of War, up to 42% of FEPOW’s died in these camps whilst captive. Many of them were Australian. Many suffered enormously. Many never made it home.

Sixteen years ago the Taiwanese people set about the task of honouring Commonwealth and Allied prisoners who suffered and made the ultimate sacrifice. A moving memorial depicting two men, arms around each other offering support, now stands at the site of the former camp, offering a focal for relatives and loved ones to pay their respects.

As rain drips off the noses of these comrades arm in arm, the irony is not lost on me as my inadequate umbrella offers me little protection. Drawn to their commitment to one anothers survival, its a poignant reminder of the pointless act of war.

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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and waters on which we live, work and travel. As people who seek meaning and knowledge through storytelling, we recognise that the First Peoples of this land have been doing so for over 60,000 years. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.