Saturday, 14 January 2012

POW Drawings by John Mennie!

I read about these drawings by Aberdeen artist John Mennie (1911 - 1982) who made these amazing drawings during his time as a Prisoner of War in Thailand. Just thinking about the effort it must have taken to create these stunning prints is incomprehensible but the beauty found in such hard conditions and the will power to create are truelly inspiring!


"John's prints were made from linocuts of the same size copied from original drawings made in the camps. These drawings were on odd bits of paper like cigarette packets, blank flyleaves found in books and even paper rifle practice targets. In exchange for cigarettes John acquired a box of Chinese watercolours. The watercolour drawings were done on the spot in the POW camps.

Roughly the prints were made from drawings as follows. Changi Singapore 1942 : Kanu 1943 : Chungtai and Tamawau 1944 : Pratchi Thailand 1945. You can tell from the state of the dress of the POWs when the drawings were done. The Japanese never gave any clothes and you went from the clothes you were captured in, in 1942 to almost complete nudity in 1945. After the Railway was finished in 1943 - 44 the Japanese used POWs as a labour corps to the Japanese Army and sent them from POW camps for various tasks. 

One such camp was an ammunition depot near the bridge made famous in the film. They were bombed regularly by the RAF so the Japanese decided to move the ammunition further east. Trains were loaded by POWs to accelerate this task. When the war ended in 1945 John was working on building fortifications in the east of Thailand at Pratchi. John Mennie managed to keep his drawings hidden throughout the war but near the end of the war the Kempi Police who had a habit of searching from time to time found them and confiscated them, but they did not destroy them. The drawings were found after the war and returned.

When POW’s came home from the Japanese Prison of war camps they had to sign an undertaking to the Government that they would not talk about the War Crimes they witnessed.
His is a remarkable story of a very quiet and brave man."

You can see more of John Mennies work HERE, a very talented man and an inspiration!