The Secret Art of Survival

The Secret Art of Survival

The Secret Art of Survival - Creativity and ingenuity of British Far East prisoners of war, 1942 - 1945

This project is the culmination of over seven years’ research identifying and locating previously unseen art works. The work had to made secretly and kept hidden by British servicemen in Far East captivity during the Second World War. To date over 65 artists have been identified, the exhibition in partnership with Victoria Gallery & Museum brings together their work for the first time. The work gives a rare insight in to life as Far East prisoners of war (FEPOW). 

Where: Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool
Opening: Friday 25 October 2019

About the Project 

The FEPOW study is the longest running project in LSTM's history.  From late 1945 until the late 1990s the emphasis was on healthcare, diagnosing and treating tropical infections and the effects of prolonged gross malnutrition. Since 1999, the focus has shifted to recording this unique medical history.  

Whilst conducting a major FEPOW oral history study from 2007 to 2009, researchers became aware of a growing number of previously unseen and unknown artworks, created secretly and hidden during captivity by numerous amateur artists; much of it remained hidden long after liberation, until now. Treasured by the veterans and now their families, this "documentary art" illustrates many aspects of captivity from everyday life, disease, medical ingenuity, the beauty of their surroundings to faith, humour and survival.

Events & Talks

A full schedule of events in conjunction with the exhibition will be available here in due course.






01/04/2020 17:30 - 19:00  Teatime talk series (4 of 6) – ‘Lines of Engagement - Drawing Live Action by Julia Midgley’. A reportage artist with a special interest in medicine, military medicine, surgery and rehabilitation  VG&M  POSTPONED
04/04/2020 11:00 - 15:30

Focus on FEPOW Day:

Throughout the day we will have guided exhibition tours by exhibition researchers Meg Parkes and Geoff Gill – Maximum of 12 people per tour
Start times (20 -30 mins per tour):

o 11.45am
o 12.30pm
o 1.30pm
o 2.15pm
o 3pm


Introduction to conservation workshops by James Caverhill, who conserved and framed most of the artwork for the exhibition – Maximum of 20 people per session

o 11:30am – 12:15pm
o 12.45pm – 1.30pm
o 2.30pm – 3.15pm


Gill Wareing, web manager at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine will have tips and guides on how to add your stories on to our online FEPOW Family Descendants Families Oral History project (drop in): 

11:00am - 12:30pm
1:15pm - 3.:30pm


Film of the play 'Captain Duncan's Diaries' including short documentary of the making of the play, which was commissioned for the Wirral Art Festival 2018.

o 11am – 12.15pm
o 12.45pm – 2pm
o 2.15pm – 3.15pm



We need your support!

We would like to say THANK YOU for the overwhelming support we have received toward this unique and historically important project. Without your generosity, this project would not be possible!

Your donation, no matter how big or small will help us to deliver a learning and activity programme for a wide range of audiences, including local school children, veterans and ex-service personnel and community groups. This will greatly increase awareness and understanding of FEPOW history and engagement in the exhibition developed in partnership with the Victoria Gallery & Museum. 

If you would like to dontate to the campaign you can do so online by CLICKING HERE or by sending a cheque to Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to:

Fundraising Office
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Pembroke Place
L3 5QA

With thanks to:


We would like to acknowledge the support of our donors who generously contributed via our Crowdfunding appeal:

Martin Percival
Julie Aldridge
Felicity Jones
Medical Artists Association of GB
National FEPOW Fellowship
Stephen Campion
The Java FEPOW Club 1942
Hugh Neil McQuaid
Barbara James
Tony McQuaid
Paul Dufton
Judith Provis
Keith Andrews
Trish Cooper
Martin Percival
Sarah Galbraith
Carol AM Friend
Sandra Mary Gill
Patrick Toosey
Margaret Diane Bakran
Graham Spearing
Nicholas Campion
Meg Parkes
David Redwood
Frank Davis
Dr Alfred Anthonny Gilbertson
Dr Kamaluddin Khan
Dr Aleksander L B Jedrosz
Agnes McDowall
Paul Bartholomew
Sean Bruce Duncan
Michael Thorneloe
Sarah Hunt
Melanie Aspey
Nick Beeching
Sally Warnock
Mrs Vicky Taylor
Sarah Hay
Louise Reynolds
Ronald Liam Wilson
Angela Danes
Pete Starling
Vicky Kirby
Dominic Stallard
Mark Davies
Ray Withnall
Paul Wakefield
Richard & Susan Brown
Miss Jayne McGeorge
Damien Lewis
Walter Tuttlebee
Keiko Christine Holmes
Kathy Knott
Thomas Wilson
Dominic Evans
Melanie Woollam
Kathy Moore-Stanley
Ben Stallard
Helen Chown
Andrew Rice
Anne Read
Jay Kennedy
Jean Taylor
Alison Gill
Joseph Marsh
John Ridyard
Linda Meister Pavillard
Frank Williams
James Coxhead
Thomas Wilson
Christine Gate
Linda Jones
Keith Foggin
Rosemary Murphy
Diana Neaves
Martin Vaughan
Sally Grumbridge
Rosemary Butcher
Nick Aldridge
Kevin Noles
Helen Innes
Amanda Farrell
Jonathan Gill
Bobbie Jeal
Alastair Blair
Adrian Davies
Jill Thompson
Michael O'Hara
Alan Mawdsley
Barbara James
Graeme Norways
Toby Norways
Simon Munton
Stephen John

With thanks to the many other donors who wish to remain anonymous and to all the lenders of the items on show, especially the FEPOW descendants.