PRISONERS OF WAR
Australians under Nippon
From 1942 to 1945 some 22,000 Australian service personnel including seventy-one women of the Australian Army Nursing Service, became prisoners-of-war of the Japanese. They were held in camps in Timor, Java, Sumatra, New Guinea, Ambon, Hainan, Borneo, Singapore, Malaya, Thailand, Burma, Manchuria, Formosa and Japan. Only 14,000 survived those three and a half years after varying experiences at the hands of their Asian captors.
One of Hank Nelson's earliest schoolboy memories is of waiting at a small country railway station to meet a returning prisoner-of-war. The ex-prisoner, a frail figure in a voluminous army uniform, hesitated in front of the line of children who gave three cheers and waved flags. Uncertain of what was expected of him, the ex-prisoner looked around, perhaps thought about making a speech, then walked away. Forty years and hundreds of interviews later, Hank Nelson understands a little of the returning prisoner's hesitant response. The man was one of those 14,000 survivors who had experiences he could never share fully with anyone who was not there.
The story of those years is told in POW's: Australians under Nippon which is based on Tim Bowden's award-winning ABC Radio series of the same name.
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