The Changi Book
Edited by Lachlan Grant
Published by NewSouth
RRP $59.99 in hardback
Editor Lachlan Grant makes the point, in introducing this interesting collection of essays, cartoons, paintings, and photographs, that many myths persist about the wartime experiences of prisoners of the Japanese, derived, he says, from the ‘knowledge of the horrific conditions on the Burma-Thailand Railway’. Of the 87,000 Allied prisoners who passed through the Changi camp, 850 died there. Those who remained were the lucky ones compared with those who endured the brutal enslavement in other camps throughout Asia.
What is interesting is that Lachlan Grant, in the course of other research, stumbled across a collection of material in the Australian War Memorial archives labeled ‘8th Div. Papers’ which turned out to be 51 mostly handwritten essays about various aspects of life in the camp. This is the source of the material for the book, publication of which had been planned but never happened.
It is an ‘insiders’ account’ of life in Changi but I would resist the temptation to buy it for a very elderly relative who spent time in Changi. I have an uncle who fills that description. He is 92 now but will not speak about the war or his time as a POW. Generally they do not want to revive painful memories at this point in their lives. Far better to buy the book for younger members of a family to help them understand the experience.