Stolen Years: Australian prisoners of war


I had a wife and a little girl. And the will to live.
Snow Peat

I hated their guts, and I wanted to get home.
Geoff O’Connor

A strong emotion, hate or love, could help men get on the boat home.
Ray Mynors

Many prisoners of war asked how and why they had survived. Answers differed: some stressed military discipline, others individual initiative. Some stole and scrounged from guards and even from each other; most helped their mates and relied on them when things got tough. All needed luck.

Captain Rowley Richards, a medical officer on the Burma–Thailand Railway and in Japan, kept detailed notes and a diary documenting the experience of captivity. He used this material to write a memoir The Survival Factor. It is because of the determination of men like Richards to tell this story that we are able to understand what captivity was like.

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Rowley Richards' diary (450Kb PDF file)
During his last days in Thailand, Rowley Richards made a six-sheet summary of his diary, sealed it in a beer bottle, and buried it under the grave cross of Corporal Sydney Roy Gorlick while on a work party on an island off the coast of Singapore. The diary was recovered by members of the War Graves Commission after the war and returned to Rowley, two and a half years after it was buried.

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Records kept by Captain Rowley Richards while a doctor on the Burma–Thailand Railway.


Prisoners of the Japanese