LSTM’s longest running collaborative project with the former Far Eastern Prisoners Of War (FEPOW), has been celebrated by an audio feature on the Wellcome Trust’s online platform, Mosaic, dedicated to exploring the science of life.
Utilising some of the FEPOW interviews recorded as part of a social history project by Honorary Research Fellow Meg Parkes, the Mosaic piece is incredibly moving. ‘Unspoken: The Forgotten Prisoners of War’, tells the harrowing story of the men’s captivity, survival and continuing problems in their own words. These interviews also became the basis of Captive Memories, the book she co-authored with Emeritus Professor Geoff Gill.
Even before the men returned from captivity at the end of the Second World War, LSTM’s then Dean, Professor Brian Maegraith, addressed a large group of their families in Blackpool in early September 1945, answering questions about the kind of tropical diseases and infections that they might return with. Over the years that followed many of the men, particularly those from the north of England, found their way to LSTM, beginning the unique scientific and medical collaboration which is now in its seventh decade.
From 1967 LSTM became the primary centre to carry out Tropical Disease Investigation (TDIs) for FEPOW. This continued until the last TDI was carried out in 1999, at which point the relationship between the clinical staff and FEPOW at LSTM had led to improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of some tropical diseases. In 2007 Meg began her project, interviewing 66 former FEPOW, along with some of their wives and widows six decades after their release.
Both Meg Parkes and Geoff Gill are featured in the online piece, which is released with several supplementary articles, and Meg was delighted with the finished product. She said: “It was very moving to hear the men’s interviews, especially in the context of their journey from prisoner, to patient to survivor. Many of those I interviewed are no longer with us, but I think that their families will be as moved by the retelling of their experiences as I was. It is incredibly important that the story of these men is told and that their words are heard, it is the history not just of medical ingenuity, but also of survival.”
To correspond with the release of Mosaic’s article Meg Parkes and Geoff Gill will be giving an informal talk about the project hosted by the Reading Room at Wellcome Collection on Euston Road, London, on Thursday 10th December between 7 and 8pm. Entrance is free and the event is open to all. Details will be published on Wellcome Collection’s website on the day.