Forgotten Camp: exhibition on Shenyang World War II Allied Prisoners Camp

The Catacombs, St George's Hall, Liverpool
7th - 15th November 2015

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

There was always something different about my best mate's dad when I was in primary school. He never looked well, was underweight and his pained eyes stared out from glasses on a jaundiced face. In the War he said he had suffered the debilitating effects of beriberi.

70 years on, as part of the 2015 UK / Chinese Cultural Exchange Year, this exhibition sheds new light on what happened to 2,000 similar troops when the Allies capitulated to the Japanese military onslaught in the Pacific Rim - from the Philippines in the south up to the mainland of China itself. Their final destination was Mukden Camp, now the Shenyang Museum, who are sponsoring this show.

Archive photographs, artifacts and cartoons, notably from prisoners 1475 William Wultke, and 1650 Malcolm Fortier, display the disease-ridden conditions, severe and arbitrary punishments, malnourishment, cramped sleeping conditions, and slave labour work regimes, endured at Mukden between 1942-1945.

This was after forced marches, when thousands more perished on the way to this or similar POW Camps.

Also portrayed is how local Chinese villagers tried to help the inmates, and how the men themselves kept going through the extremes of summer heat and winter cold, before being freed by advancing Russian troops.

Then, in one caricature, there was a soldier extremely agitated with beriberi (severe vitamin B1 [thiamine deficiency), which causes debilitating nervous system malfunction, brought on by only eating a diet of white rice (or worse).

That helped explain a lot about the privations suffered, not only by my mate's dad, but by all those in the pictures on display and the many more who died unable to tell their tale.

As part of Remembrance and Armistice Week see this if you can.

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