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POW Memorabilia on Display - Innisfail Regional Library

Railway spikes from the Burma-Thailand Railway, a telegram to a mother confirming her son is a prisoner of war, the mother's carefully-crafted letters to her POW son - these are just some of the items on loan to the Innisfail Regional Library from a local family.

A poignant display has been set up at the library in the lead-up to Anzac Day with items that have never before been made public.

Innisfail brothers Lewis and Andrew O'Farrell say their late father Lew O'Farrell's wartime possessions are a way to personalise history, especially for the younger generation.

Other items currently on display at the Innisfail Regional Library are a canvas pouch fashioned by Lew O'Farrell for his meagre possessions while a POW, more railway spikes - this time from the bridge on the River Kwai, currency issued by the Japanese Government during its occupation of East Asia and Lew's demobilisation booklet and medical records.

Lewis O'Farrell said his father Lew enlisted with the AIF as a 21-year-old in 1940 and was promoted to sergeant two years later after helping to defend the Malayan Peninsula from Japanese attack.

Just two weeks later, after a period of intense fighting, Allied Forces surrendered Singapore and Lew became a POW interred in the infamous Changi Camp. He was officially reported as missing in August 1942 and for 18 months his family didn't know what had happened to him. Lew endured hard labour under brutal conditions in his three and a half years as a POW. He was one of over 22,000 Australian servicemen captured by the Japanese, with one in three dying before the war's end.

Letters from his mother, which had to pass through Japanese censors, tell Lew "we are anxiously awaiting news of your liberation". She says "all is well at home", his siblings Fred, Eddie, Joan and Brian who were also serving in the Australian Army are "all busy" and there is "no news" on family friends Jim and Jack.

Innisfail Regional Library staff are making digital copies of the documents for the region's local history collection.

The display went up this week and will remain in place until Tuesday 2 May. There will be an official launch on Wednesday 26 April at 2pm. Members of the public are encouraged to come along.

Anzac Day displays are also up at the Tully, Cardwell and Wongaling Beach libraries and the Innisfail Regional Library is staging a free public screening of an Anzac-themed movie on Monday 24 April at 2pm. Bookings for the movie are essential.


Posted 20 April 2017