Edited by COFEPOW member and author Louise Reynolds, (nee Cordingly, whose father was FEPOW Padre, Eric Cordingly), ‘Echoes of Captivity’ has been published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VJ Day. The book is a 400-page retelling of the lives and experiences of those who grew up after the war as children of returning FEPOWs. Louise describes her work:
I’ve taken an unusual slant on the FEPOW story by concentrating on the families, especially the children, of the men who came back from the Far East in the autumn of 1945, many of them deeply traumatised by their experiences as POWs.
Thirty-five interviewees have each given a compelling testimony of what it was like when their fathers returned home and some of them feel that their lives were profoundly changed as a result.
There are common themes: for instance, many of the men suffered from nightmares and shouted out in their sleep, which terrified their children. Some exhibited what would clearly be called the symptoms of PTSD if they were diagnosed today. They were cruelly advised by the government to keep silent and since many of the children never dared to ask what had happened to them, they took their secrets to the grave. Many of the second generation, myself included, have been haunted by a feeling that we never really understood our fathers and we’ve been searching ever since to learn the truth of what they’d been through. There is also a theme of forgiveness running through many of the interviews: whether it was possible to forgive their Japanese and Korean guards the needless cruelty they inflicted on the POWs. Some feel it is essential to forgive in order to move on, others are equally convinced that forgiveness is impossible, especially on behalf of the friends they lost through starvation, illness or brutality.
I was very touched that so many people willingly offered to share their very personal stories, and I’m sad that I could include only a tiny percentage of the families who have been affected.They are not all sad stories: some are uplifting and inspiring, one or two are amusing, but they are all very vivid, sometimes telling their stories through the eyes of a child and other times as adults, looking back poignantly at the past. As one interviewee, Gerry Lewcock, said:
“I wish that my father was still alive today to enable me to hug him close and ask the many questions I still have, and to say at last to him ‘Dad, I understand.’ ”Louise Cordingly