Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Supplement: Ronald Searle P.O.W Illustrations

I'll kick this off then.

Ronald Searle along with Ralph Steadman is one of Britains most beloved illustrators. It wasnt all plain sailing for Ronald. During the Second World War he was stationed in Asia. After the fall of Singapore he fell into the hands of the Japanese, and spent the rest of war years barely surviving in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. You didnt want to find yourself in one of these. The conditions were absolutely brutal and many of the people who survived those places are still haunted by their experiences to this day. He for example ended up building the Siam-Burma Death Railway otherwise known as the Bridge over the River Kwai.

Over the years spent in captivity he illustrated his experiences on whatever materials he could find. Of course at great risk to himself. More than likely if he was caught he would of either been flogged to near death or executed...

Enjoy a slice of history.


  1. many thanks for getting the ball rolling, Tom - and that final image is horrifying in its simplicity.

  2. Please find more details about our SIAM BURMA DEATH RAILWAY – Documentary Film.

    Trailer : (English Version, 03 mins 29 Sec)

    IMDB :

    This is a documentary film about the Asian Labourers (Indian Tamils, Burmese & Javanese) who worked like slaves at Siam (Thailand) – Burma death railway line during WWII.

    Generally the title “Siam-Burma Death Railway” emphasizes the tearful faces of POW's and their sufferings to the outside world. The Records of WWII are projecting the cruelty of this 415 KM lengthy railway construction by Japanese army and role of POW's in archives and Libraries. The Books published on this issue after the war by POW's and their families had announced the wounded experiences of allied forces. The existing war records of WWII are illuminating the stories of POW's alone.

    But the truth is, this railway project was filled with the life and blood drops of thousands of innocent Asian labourer too. Approximately 2,50,000 innocent Asian labourers (from Malaya,Burma and Java) worked in the same railway construction and devoted their life. There is no doubt that the stories of Asian Labourers are unimaginable and peak irony in the war pages. But it was not recognized and registered in the History so far. The names of the Asian Labourers who were killed and affected during the construction are unknown to our current world.

    This painful truth had triggered us to make this documentary film. Nearly 10 years have spent to trace & collect the information’s about Asian labourers from commonwealth and other countries. The war chronicles of POW's, Records of WWII & Historians helped highly to get the outline of Asian labourers.

    The main source of this documentary’s strength is survivors. Yes. The survivors from Asian labour side played a major role in this film. Nearly 10 survivors shared their unforgettable experiences in this film without any exaggeration. Their memories didn't mislay the tormenting experiences after 72 years. Much unpopular information’s about the Labourers are revealed in this documentary through these survivors. Till now there is no compensation given to the survivors.

    Surprisingly the sorrows of the railway construction were documented in the form of folklore songs by Asian labourers (Malaysia) during the war time. Those songs also navigated us to get more news about this pathetic incident.

    The highlighting part of this film is the participation of great Historical Researchers Dr.David Boggett, Emeritus Professor, Kyoto University, Japan, Mr. Rod Beattie, Director, Thai-Burma Railway Museum, Thailand & Prof.M.Annamalai, India. The above mentioned scholars had shared and revealed concrete information in this project and some of that are very new to South East Asian Indian community.

    Our purpose of this documentary screening is to create awareness to outside world.