A FEPOW is the acronym of Far Eastern Prisoner of War; FEPOWs were Allied Forces personnel who, in some cases after just days of fighting, were held for three and a half years as prisoner by the Japanese during World War Two.
Little is known or taught of the sacrifices of these brave men; some will know about ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ and the 415 kilometres (258 miles) of railway built between Thailand and Burma, at much human cost, some say ‘one for every sleeper’.
But FEPOWs were held throughout Asia and forced to work under inhumane conditions and suffer barbaric treatment … for example building another railway on Sumatra, building runways out of coral in the Moluccas, working in copper mines, coal mines, at dockyards, airfields etc on Java, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Borneo, The Philippines, Taiwan (then Formosa), Korea, China and the Japanese mainland and islands.
The men were widely transported wherever they were deemed needed, by walking (on the infamous ‘Death Marches’), road, rail and by ship (known as the Hell Ships); those on the Hell Ships not knowing their destination, nor if they would arrive due to sickness, beatings or sinking by Allied torpedoes, as they were not marked as carrying Prisoners of War.
There were also hundreds of thousands of Civilian Internees and local Asians who suffered.
Many FEPOWs still suffer today, aged between 90 and 104, but they were the ‘lucky’ ones; thousands were left behind.
This poem by FEPOW wife, Queenie Spink, sums it up ….
What is a FEPOW? A FEPOW is one Who fought a great battle, without sword or gun, Who suffered starvation, torture, disease, When captured by the Japanese.
Stripped of his dignity, degraded and hit, The FEPOW fought back with courage and grit. No longer a fight for King and Country But a fight for survival in captivity.
Herded like cattle, worked the day long, His body grew weak but his spirit was strong, Determined to win the fight to survive, To outwit the Japs to stay alive.
Some couldn’t make it; laid to rest there, No flowers, no parades, just a tear and a prayer. Never forgotten, remembered still By their comrades who buried them there on the hill.
So – what is a FEPOW? A FEPOW is one Unique among men, a hero unsung.