Author(s): Brian MacArthur
Many of the prisoners held by the Japanese during the Second World War were so scarred by their experiences that afterwards they could not discuss them even with their families. They believed that their brutal treatment was, literally, incomprehensible. But some prisoners were determined that posterity should know how they were starved and beaten, marched almost to death or transported on 'hellships', used as slave labour - most notoriously on the Burma-Thailand railway - and how thousands died from tropical diseases. They risked torture or execution to keep secret diaries and make drawings that they hid wherever they could, sometimes burying them in the graves of lost comrades. The diaries tell of inhumanity and degradation, but there are also inspirational stories of courage, comradeship and compassion. When men have unwillingly plumbed the depths of human misery, said one prisoner, the artist Ronald Searle, they form a silent understanding of what solidarity, friendship and kindness to others can mean. The diaries and interviews with surviving prisoners drawn on in Surviving The Sword will tell a new generation about that solidarity, friendship and kindness.