|By Des Bettany. Reproduced with kind permission of his family. |
To see more images, refer to http://www.changipowart.com/
Food was the stuff of dreams for a POW of Japan. Starvation was a Japanese strategy of both intent and error to subdue their Western captives. British Lance Bombardier Bettany captured in Malaya after the fall of Singapore in February 1942 and imprisoned at the infamous Changi used a purloined brush and pen to help transcend the POWs despair to hope.
In contrast to much of the Western POW art which survives from this period, Bettany’s finds uplifting humor in the day-to-day existence of the POW. Much of his POW work is one of light-heartedness, helping keep a sense of optimism in the face of a brutal captor.
Bettany's survival as a POW of Japan was in no small part due to his not being sent to work on the notorious Thai-Burma Death Railway, which claimed the lives of some 16,000 allied POWs and a much greater number of forced labor Asian workers. Des was repatriated to England late September 1945
Other well-know artists of the POW of Japan experience are Ben Steele (United States), Murray Griffin (Australia), Jack Chalker (Australia) and Ronald Searle (United Kingdom).
More on painting the horror.