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Australia remembers the POW story

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MEDIA RELEASETHE H on C on S ciacca MP M in is t e r for V e t e r a n s ' A ffairs February 15, 1995 C5/95 '


The sacrifices, hardships and courage of more than 31.000 Australian service personnel taken prisoner during World War Π were honoured today at a commemorative service and reunion addressed by the Prime Minister, Paul Keating, as part of the Australia Remembers: 1945-1995 program.

The Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Con Sciacca, said more than 1,200 former prisoners of war and their families and friends from all over Australia gathered at the Australian War Memorial for one of the largest and most significant PQW services since the end of the war.

"For many Australians, the POW story remains a mystery," Mr Sciacca said.

"It is difficult for many of u$ to understand the horrific conditions that many of Australia's 31,000 POWs endured during World War Π. As Australia approaches the 50th anniversary of the end of World War Π on August 15, this year, it is time for all of us to reflect on the spirit, mateship and courage that

those ex-service personnel portrayed between 1939 and 1945," he added.

"More than 22,000 Australian service personnel were taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War Π - many at the fall of Singapore on February 15, 1942, More than 8,000 died in captivity, generally from cruel treatment,

starvation and disease.

"The Germans and Italians captured more than 8,000 Australians; 264 of them did not survive the war.

"Diseases such as cholera, dysentery and malaria were rife among the Australian prisoners of the Japanese. Many became emaciated through lack of food and beatings and bashings were commonplace.

"Today marks the 53rd anniversary' of the fall of Singapore. A total of 15,384 Australian troops from the 8th Division of the AIF were taken prisoner when Singapore fell and were sent to Changi Prison. Many of these POWs were

forced to work in horrific conditions on the Thai-Bunna railway, to build airfields in Borneo and slave in industries in Japan." 2/

. . .2 /

Mr Sciacca said it was appropriate that Father Brendan Rogers, who was a former POW in Changi, read the prayer at the commemorative service at the War Memorial. The ex-POW Association had recommended that Father Rogers read the prayer because he was a man of enormous character who understood

many of their experiences.

"The commemorative service for the former POWs today is the first national event on the Australia Remembers calendar this year. Over the next seven months, many other aspects of World War Π will be highlighted by the program to ensure all Australians are given the opportunity to learn about and understand the war's extraordinary' impact on all sections of Australian life," Mr

Sciacca said.

Media Advlser:Amanda Lampe (06) 277 7820 (W) (018)499 538 (06) 273 3966

Paul Lewer - Australia Remembers Task Force (06) 289 6611