Thailand’s “death railway” is notorious in the English-speaking world (in part thanks to the film Bridge on the River Kwai), but few people are aware that the Japanese operated at least fifteen POW camps in Taiwan during World War II. More than 4300 men were incarcerated on the island, most of them British or Commonwealth troops captured in Hong Kong or Singapore, Dutch from Indonesia and Americans from the Philippines. Life was as brutal for the POWs here as anywhere else in Asia, with each camp revolving around a system of forced labour: in Camp No. 1, also known as Kinkaseki (金瓜石戰俘營; jīnguāshí zhànfúyíng), near Jinguashi, prisoners were forced to work in the Japanese copper mine in appalling conditions, while those at Taichu Camp (Camp No. 2), near Taichung, worked on a massive flood channel – many died from starvation, disease and ill-treatment. The camps were largely forgotten after the war, but thanks to a long campaign by former prisoners and expats living in Taiwan, a memorial was erected at the Kinkaseki site in 1997, and in 1999 the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society was formed to research all POW camps on the island (wwww.powtaiwan.org). Several plaques have since been erected all over Taiwan, and a short memorial service takes place at Kinkaseki every year around November 11.

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