07 January 2007

A program well worth listening to

I highly recommend ABC Radio National's Prisoners of War: Australians Under Nippon a radio documentary which is being broadcast each weekday morning until 20 January at 11 am. You can also listen to it online or download the audio.

It was first broadcast 20 years or so ago, when there were more survivors of Japanese captivity still alive, including several well known ones such as Russell Braddon (author of The Naked Island, IMO one of the classic accounts of Australian POWs. Each program draws heavily upon recorded interviews, linked by commentary by Tim Bowden.

A program such as this reminds us of what a public broadcaster can do to record important aspects of our history. The suffering of the POWs is not, as far as I'm aware, where there's a lot of 'history wars" style disputation, even though the fact that many of the deaths were caused by "friendly fire" (US submarines sinking ships transporting POWs to Japan) is, while not suppressed, not given as much attention as it might be.

The program also reminds us of the importance of recording the memories of the survivors of WW2 and other important (and less important) events. I'd assumed that there are very few ex Japanese POWs still living so I was pleasantly surprised last week to meet an ex-Royal Marine who lives in an aged care home near me, and who was a survivor of HMS Exeter, which was sunk off Java in 1942. I said that I was interested in hearing more about his experiences and hope to be able to talk further with him about them, provided he is not too disturbed by having his memories trawled.

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