The FEPOW Memorial
On the 15th August 2005, the 60th Anniversary of VJ Day, the Far East Prisoners of War Memorial Building was dedicated and officially opened. This was the culmination of three and a half years of fund raising by COFEPOW and the National Memorial Arboretum.
The new building and interior design cost just under £500,000.
In addition to the tremendous amount raised by COFEPOW members, we were
fortunate enough to receive exceptionally large grants (among so many
COFEPOW would like to thank everybody, far and wide, for all their donations whether for £5 or £5,000. Every penny donated has helped to achieve this wonderful memorial which has now ensured that the Far East Prisoners of War have their place on the map and their story preserved for generations to come.
The opening was carried out by representatives of the three Armed Forces, Air Marshal Sir John Baird KBE DL MBChB, Surgeon Vice Admiral I Jenkins CVO QHS FRCS and Lt Col C G Stallard.
It was a wonderful and emotional day with the numbers attending far exceeding expections.
The opening ceremony was preceded by a Service of Commemoration and Dedication conducted by the Rev Ray Rossiter MBE, the National President of NFFCA, assisted by Mrs Pauline Simpson, Lay Chaplain and COFEPOW member.
After a procession of Standard Bearers to the new FEPOW Building the opening ceremony commenced with speeches by Col John Barkshire, Chairman - National Memorial Arboretum, Mike O'Connor CBE, Director - Millennium Commission and Carol Cooper, Chairman - COFEPOW. The official opening then took place with a speech by Air Marshal Sir John Baird.
By courtesy of the RAF there was a Fly-past by a Jaguar fighter and, to great applause, a Battle of Britain Spitfire.
The Birmingham FEPOW Association then made an official presentation to COFEPOW of copies of the full list of FEPOW names obtained from the Public Records Office. These copies were paid for by the Birmingham FEPOWs and were used to produce the computerised projection of FEPOW names within the building.
There was then a short dedication ceremony for the copies of the Java Windows which are incorporated in the building. COFEPOW Member, Meg Parkes, was responsible for raising the funds to copy and install these windows.
During the lunch break entertainment was provided in the large marquee. Members of the National Federation of Far East POW Clubs and Associations held their own special lunch to mark the closure of the National Federation.
A celebration cake was kindly made and donated by Meg Rivers Cakes of Shipston on Stour, Warwickshire. www.megrivers.com
After lunch there was a procession to the large marquee where another emotional ceremony took place to mark the winding-up of NFFCA and the handing over of much of its role to COFEPOW.
There were large queues to view the new building after its opening and many appreciative and congratulatory comments were to be heard.
The exhibition includes descriptive panels, photographs, drawings and other artefacts covering all aspects of FEPOW experience. There is also a large map of South East Asia on which many relevant sites can be highlighted. There are video screens showing archive news-reels and interviews with FEPOWs. COFEPOW member John Baxter kindly arranged with Singapore Airlines for 75 sprays of white Singapore orchids to be flown in before the opening and these were displayed in and around the building and marquee.
Close by the Java Windows is a projection of approximately 55,000 names of FEPOWs. These are projected continually showing columns of names in alphabetical order and a facility exists to select a particular name which is then displayed and highlighted.
COFEPOW is justifiably proud of both the Building and the Exhibition within it and these will serve to commemorate all British FEPOWs and educate future generations of their sacrifices, suffering and bravery.
For information about the National Memorial Arboretum and how to get there click link below.
A Message from
I feel privileged to have found myself at the helm of a wonderful group of people who, like myself, have been determined that the true knowledge of the circumstances that surrounded our fathers, or other family members, during their enforced imprisonment, should be known by all.
We, who live on, recognise that the treatment of the Far East Prisoners of War shook the foundations of modern civilisation. Its horror is beyond belief.
COFEPOW firmly believes that the FEPOW tragedy must have a permanent place in our people's memory and in the national archives.
It is our aim to ensure that future generations understand the horrors that so many endured and pray they will reflect upon its causes and consequences.
I have been overwhelmed by the generosity from far and wide and words cannot express how very indebted I feel to the members of COFEPOW and to so many people across the country who have given unstintingly in the knowledge that this FEPOW building should perpetuate the names of all those who suffered so terribly during their captivity.
Even those with no connection to FEPOWs have generously given, believing it to be right that their story should be told.
But from hundreds of names, two people are worthy of being mentioned. If not for them, this building may never have happened. Without the help of TV Producer Dick Meadows I would never have seen my father's diary or made my first trip to Thailand, thus fully opening my eyes to the suffering of the FEPOWs and to Sir Henry Every, of the National Memorial Arboretum, whose gentle persuasion has achieved so much to bring this building to fruition. They both deserve our deepest thanks.
"Together we have brought before others this poignant tragedy of war and will strive to ensure that future generations use this knowledge to work towards global peace."