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Soldiers give cash for POW memorial

PUBLISHED: 17:39 21 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:24 03 March 2010

GENEROUS donations by old soldiers from Suffolk have enabled a memorial to be completed to the prisoners of war who worked on the "railway of death".

Organiser of the memorial, Felixstowe war veteran and campaigner Frank Champkin paid tribute to those who had helped provide the money.

GENEROUS donations by old soldiers from Suffolk have enabled a memorial to be completed to the prisoners of war who worked on the "railway of death".

Organiser of the memorial, Felixstowe war veteran and campaigner Frank Champkin paid tribute to those who had helped provide the money.

"I just want to say a big thank you to all those who sent donations – especially Evening Star readers," said Mr Champkin.

"We had to raise £861 in order to pay for the artefacts needed for the memorial and to transport them through Thailand.

"The Royal Navy then brought the pieces of track to England by sea and they were then transported by road and delivered to the site.

"It has been a wonderful effort by all concerned and thank you to everyone."

He also paid tribute to the support received from Viscount Slim, president of the Burma Star Association, and British Bangok embassy official Col Johnny Thoyts.

Four pieces of the original rail track, plus sleepers and spikes, of the Burma-Siam railway built during the second world war were bought to be displayed as part of the memorial at the 150-acre National Memorial Arboretum.

Despite the horrific memories which the rails will rekindle for many survivors, Mr Champkin – chairman of the Kwai Railway Memorial Three Pagodas Group – said it was important that the artefacts are seen by future generations.

"This will now be a fitting memorial to all the men who gave their lives for us all in the last war – those who were captured as prisoners of war under the Japanese suffered horrific conditions of slavery and brutality," said Mr Champkin, 80, who survived four years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

"It is a memorial to those who did not return – to those who died out there. It will ensure that those brave men will not be forgotten."

More than 13,000 Allied serviceman, including many from the 4th and 5th Suffolk Regiment, died building the 250-mile railway, which ran from Ban Pong in Thailand to Thanbyuzayat in Burma to supply Japanese forces.

Royal Artillery men from Felixstowe and Woodbridge, and field ambulance brigade staff from Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds also worked on the line.

Mr Champkin, of Gulpher Road, Felixstowe, recently handed over the money raised to David Childs, director of the National Memorial Arboretum and Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness, at Alrewas, Staffordshire.

The memorial will be dedicated in August.

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