Fred's own comments:
At the time of the VJ 50th anniversary commemorations in August 1995 I held an exhibition at the Bevere Vivis Gallery in Worcester entitled 'Lest we Forget'. The watercolour sketches, based on memory, represent either personal experiences or witnessed events during my time as a POW of the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. I have been urged by numerous people to assemble the collection of sketches into a published form so that the message contained in the paintings would not be forgotten.
I had for many years harboured a quiet anger at the way in which the Burma and the Thai railway war theatre were almost deliberately ignored by various governments. I wanted to show people what really happened during that dreadful period, particularly the younger generation. If I could alert them to the dangers of appeasement at all cost, then perhaps a repeat of such an horrendous crime could be averted. The public reception of my exhibition was beyond anything I expected. To witness the emotions, sadness and often outright anger was a very moving experience for me. It convinced me that perhaps a compilation of my sketches in the form of a book would be a worthwhile enterprise. Another contributory factor was the interest that local media expressed. My story and exhibition were widely reported in newspapers, on radio and television.
The atrocities depicted in my sketches are just some of the inhuman practices carried out by the Japanese as a matter of course, or just plain amusement. Many Allied POWs are still today suffering from mental and physical disorders. After 50 years of peace and civilised living the nightmares continue. In my opinion anyone having survived the Railway of Death is a special kind of person. Such a person has experienced and witnessed the most degrading behaviour by one human being to another. At the same time he has felt the power of the unconquerable spirit of civilised man. It is for this reason that, in a strange way, I feel privileged to have experienced and survived the building of the Thai-Burma railroad. I have seen humanity at its very best and at the same time at its very nadir. I have seen men of stature in civil life crumble like dry earth, devoid of self respect and concern for others. But I have also seen little men, men of ordinary backgrounds, suddenly emerge as fearless leaders and giants of mental strength.
I am often asked by well meaning people whether I can forgive or forget. The question of forgiving is perhaps one of religious belief and conscience, but to forget is a dangerous road to tread. It is impossible to make those who have not endured the railroad understand this. It is a very personal and private experience impossible to share with even your closest confidante. Nothing that life throws at a survivor of the Thai-Burma railroad can ever be as daunting as the building of the Railway of Death.
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