Captive Memories

The result of an 8 year study with 66 British former ex POW who could not or would not speak about their captivity after the war and when they returned home most were sick men, still affected mentally and physically by their ordeal.

Most made their way to the Liverpool School of Tropical medicine to seek the expertise of doctors there. So began a unique six-decade-long medical and scientific collaboration.

Conditions for Far East Prisoners of War were truly hellish. Appalling diseases were rife, the stench indescribable. Food and equipment were minimal or non existent. Men died daily, many in agony from which there was no relief. And yet, in the midst of such horrors, the human spirit steadfastly refused to be broken. Captives helped each other, intense bonds were formed, selfless sacrifices made. Tools and medical equipment were fashioned from whatever could be found, anything that could make life more bearable. Resilience, resourcefulness, pride and camaraderie; these were the keys to survival. Freedom, for those who made it, meant many things: home, family, comfort, of course; but also adjustment, loss of friendships, and a difficult road to recovery that for some would be lifelong. Most refused to talk about their experiences, coping alone with the post traumatic stress and chronic health problems. It was these ongoing physical after effects of captivity that brought a group of men into contact with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

Beginning in 1946 and lasting right up to the present day, LSTM's involvement with the health (and latterly the history) of these veterans represents the longest collaborative partnership ever undertaken by the School. Out of this unique and enduring relationship came knowledge which has improved the diagnosis and treatment of some tropical infections, together with a greater understanding of the long-term psychological effects of Far East captivity. Using eyewitness accounts and the personal perspectives of this group of now elderly POWs as the backdrop, Captive Memories charts this fascinating history.