Leicester Mercury

Memorial to Far East PoWs installed at park


- By STAFF REPORTER www.visitleice­ster.info

A MEMORIAL stone commemorat­ing those taken prisoner in the Far East during the Second World War has been installed in a city park.

The stone, on Peace Walk, next to the Arch of Remembranc­e at Leicester’s Victoria Park, has been put in place to remember the men, women and children from Leicester and Leicesters­hire who were caught up in the war in the Far East, either as serving personnel in the armed forces or civilians.

It follows campaignin­g and fundraisin­g by the local group of the charity Children of Far East Prisoners of War (Cofepow).

In 2018, the group launched a campaign to erect a memorial for those who fought, died or were made prisoners of war in the Far East, as well as those who returned home and continued to suffer as a result of their treatment in captivity.

Huge numbers of men, women and children died in the fighting or as civilian prisoners between 1941 and 1945. Many of those who survived their wartime ordeal were left in poor health for the rest of their lives, suffered nightmares, and often died young due to the malnutriti­on, disease and ill treatment endured while prisoners of war.

The Cofepow memorial stone was put in place in Peace Walk earlier this month, and a formal dedication service is planned at the site in spring 2021.

It was paid for by fund-raising carried out by the local group of the charity, including a donation from the Freemason’s Lodge in London Road.

Councillor Piara Singh Clair, deputy city mayor for culture, leisure and sport, said: “The Second World War in the Far East touched many thousands of lives, both among the armed forces and among civilians caught up in the fighting, who were killed or forced to endure the terrible hardship of being taken prisoner of war

“We were approached by the charity about their campaign for a permanent memorial back in 2018, and I am pleased they’ve succeeded in making it a reality.”

Cofepow area coordinato­r for Leicesters­hire, Shirley Barnes, said: “The terrible suffering of the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children caught up in the war in Far East has been ignored since the end of the Second World War.

“Many people in this country have absolutely no idea there was a war in the Far East. Many of those who managed to somehow survive their terrible captivity were damaged, either mentally or physically, for the rest of their lives. There was little or no support and almost all of them felt they had been forgotten by the country they had suffered so much for. Many returning prisoners were told not to talk about what they had been through and many never did.

“This memorial is too late for almost all those that were POWs as very, very, few are still alive to see it.

It will, however, bring some comfort to their families that their suffering and sacrifice has at last been acknowledg­ed.’’

Coun Vi Dempster, the city council’s Armed Forces Champion, said: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all our armed forces, and particular­ly in the Far East to the role of our Commonweal­th soldiers, including those from India, whose role is so often forgotten.”

An exhibition telling the story of the local Prisoners of the Far East is currently taking place at Newarke Houses Museum.


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