Sir Harold Atcherley is one of several former World War Two Prisoners Of War who have given interviews about their experiences of the construction of the infamous Burma Railway, for a new film entitled Moving Half the Mountain. If the project is to be completed and the film widely viewed – and I believe strongly that it should be – it needs funding. Will you help?
“Up on the railway, we just ate, worked, slept under the rain.” Sir Harold Atcherley remembers working on the ‘Death Railway’. Picture by kind permission of Helen Langridge Wells / HLA.
In his book Prisoner of Japan, published at the end of 2012, Sir Harold Atcherley wrote: “we were part of the ‘forgotten war’. The post-war years have demonstrated that most people are ignorant about the war in the Far East and seem to be generally uninterested; an attitude which is hardly surprising, since it all took place so far away from the war in Europe so long ago.”
What a sad state of affairs this is! The war in the Far East, and the experiences of those who lived (and the many thousands who died) as prisoners of the Japanese forces during that period, deserve to be known about and remembered just as much as events in Europe and in the other theatres of the Second World War. To quote Sir Harold again: “Apart from the 40,000 British and Australians captured in Malaysia, 60,000 Dutch were taken prisoner in the Dutch East Indies and a considerably larger number of Americans in the Pacific. [...] All of us were subjected to inhumane and brutal treatment. The experiences I [describe] were therefore generally common to all. The death rate for Allied prisoners in Germany (excluding Russian prisoners) was about one per cent. For those held by the Japanese the rate was forty per cent. At Sonkurai camp on the Thailand/Burma border, the worst camp of the lot, the death rate was ninety percent.”
Moving Half the Mountain is a fantastic project which has captured on film the memories of Sir Harold Atcherley and others like him who worked on the Thai-Burma railway but were somehow spared the fate that befell so many of their fellow servicemen. Uniquely, I suspect, it has also recorded statements from some of the former Japanese servicemen who were involved. The film documents the terrible conditions under which the POWs worked, and the appalling manner in which they were treated by their captors. Yet it also carries a strong and perhaps unexpected message from those who survived: one of forgiveness. As Sir Harold says in his book, “in the end, hatred only damages those who hate.”
Please, if you can, support Moving Half the Mountain. Let us make the war in the Far East the remembered war, and let us also make the voices of those who survived one brutal part of it, heard by as many people as possible. If the survivors can forgive, the least that we can do is not forget.
For further details of the film project and how you can donate, visit Moving Half the Mountain at indiegogo.
Sir Harold Atcherley’s book Prisoner of Japan: A Personal War Diary is available from Amazon (in print and Kindle formats), WH Smith, Sony Reader Store (ebook), iTunes (ebook) and other booksellers; it also currently on sale via eBay.