Tag Archives: Conference

Jack Chalker’s Centenary

10 October 2018, would have been Jack Bridger Chalker’s 100th birthday. Widely known as the “Burma railway artist”, he is famed and remembered for his remarkable depictions of captivity under the Japanese during the Second World War: a vivid and uncompromising documentary of disease, death and survival thanks to remarkable ingenuity, in camps along the Thai-Burma Railway.  Meg Parkes and Geoff Gill write for RFHG about a remarkable man and his enduring legacy.

Chalker - working men cropped
Working Men © J.B.Chalker

Jack Bridger Chalker: 10 October 1918 – 15 November 2014

Born in 1918 in London, Jack was educated at Dulwich College and later Goldsmith’s where he studied graphics and art. Awarded a scholarship to the Royal College of Art,  this was deferred due to the outbreak of war in 1939. He volunteered, joining the Territorials’ 260 Battery 118th Field Regiment Royal Artillery. In October 1941 Jack’s unit was posted to Singapore, sailing from Liverpool on the Orcades. Stopping briefly in India, his ship docked in Singapore on 29 January, just 17 days before the garrison faced a humiliating surrender to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.

After initial imprisonment at the vast Changi POW camp, he moved first to Havelock Road camp to work on the docks, before being sent north to Thailand arriving at Ban Pong on 19 October. Marched 160 kilometres north through raw jungle to Konyu River camp, Jack worked on the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway. Here the combination of disease, malnutrition and working like slaves meant mortality was high. A near-fatal bout of sickness had Jack moved south, first to Tarsau and then on to the larger POW “hospital” camp at Chungkai at the southern end of the railway.

During an interview in 2007, Jack recalled that early on in Changi he had drawn pictures of sexy ladies for his comrades for whatever the going currency was. But soon he was producing depictions of imprisonment in and around Singapore, including examples of Japanese brutality. On the railway he expanded this work to include the beautiful things that surrounded them – breath-taking scenery, exotic flora and abundant wildlife – as well as details of camp life. Later, at the base hospital camps, he concentrated on recording the medical problems and the improvised equipment used for treatments. In addition he also filled notebooks with anatomical studies. All this work was done at great risk as any form of record-keeping was strictly forbidden by the Japanese.

chalker - old
This exquisite 3” by 2” miniature watercolour, painted by Jack’s great friend and fellow artist Ashley Old, was done quickly, in secret and kept hidden.  It shows the aftermath of Jack’s near-fatal encounter with a Korean guard who spotted him sketching while in the sick hut at Konyu camp. Courtesy J. Chalker © Bartholomew family

It was at Chungkai that Jack worked closely with the Australian surgeon Colonel Edward “Weary” Dunlop and, after the Japanese official surrender in September 1945, he was invited by Dunlop to remain for a while in Bangkok, acting as war artist for the Australian Army HQ. There he completed and added to his collection of drawings and paintings, some of which were used in subsequent war crime tribunals as well as in medical journals in Australia.

On return to England Jack took up his scholarship at the Royal College of Art. There followed a highly successful career, including posts as Director of Art at Cheltenham Ladies College, Principal of Falmouth College of Art, and later a similar position at the West of England College of Art in Bristol. He retired in 1974.

After the war, Jack did not involve himself with the Far East POW community and for many years his artwork from captivity was largely unknown in Britain. In the early 1980s, Dr Geoff Gill at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) noticed some of Jack’s drawings illustrating a 1946 paper, published by Dunlop in the Australian Medical Journal. These were attributed to “Gunner Chalker” and for some time it was assumed that the works were by an Australian. However, eventually Jack was tracked down to his studio in rural Somerset.

jack and weary
Jack with “Weary” Dunlop, Somerset, 1980s © A.Chalker

Jack visited LSTM where he underwent tropical disease screening. He brought photographic copies of his railway art collection, which he presented to the School. His links and friendships with staff in Liverpool continued throughout the rest of his life.

Jack’s reputation as a POW artist grew and he published his epic book, Burma Railway Artist, in 1994 with a revised and expanded edition in 2007 (Burma Railway – Images of War). Though remembered mainly for the illustrations, Jack’s text in both books was a perceptive and detailed reflection of POW life and conditions. Tim Mercer, who published the 2007 volume, said: “Jack was one of the most special people I have ever met. No bitterness, no regrets and he even said he would not have missed his time as a prisoner of war for anything…Cheers Jack..!”

Jack was married twice and had three children. Those who knew him remember a delightfully modest and unassuming man. He held no bitterness for what he had experienced, and even said that he had benefitted enormously because of “all the wonderful people I met”.

Jack Chalker died on 15 November 2014, aged 96. Previously unseen examples of his artwork from captivity will be included in next year’s Far East POW Secret Art of Survival exhibition organised by LSTM and held at Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery and Museum, opening on 19 October 2019.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Adrian Chalker and Tim Mercer for their help in compiling this tribute. Title image: Jack Bridger Chalker, 2010 © Parkes LSTM

 

Legacies of Captivity: last few places remaining!

We are absolutely thrilled with the response to the conference launch…However, it does mean that we only have a few places  remaining for the 6th International FEPOW History Conference.  It’s all taking place in Liverpool, 9 – 11 June 2017…

Just some of our confirmed speakers include:

Jeya Jeyadurai (Changi Museum, Singapore)

Jon Cooper (TAAP)

John Cardwell and Emma Nichols (University of Cambridge)

Anne Wheeler (A War Story)

Stephen Walton (IWM)

Frank Taylor (Borneo tours)

Rod Beattie (Thai-Burma Railway Centre)

Flora Chong (ALPHA Education, Toronto)

It’s sure to be fabulous – don’t miss it!!! To make sure of your place, you can download a registration form here.

Call for postgraduate bursary applications

The Researching Far East POW History Group (RFHG), in partnership with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)

6th International Research Conference: Legacies of Captivity

9 – 11 June 2017

Call for Postgraduate Bursary Applications

What was the personal impact of captivity in the Far East during the Second World War? How did survivors rebuild their lives post-liberation? And where do families share and preserve their stories today?

Combining medical expertise with the most current research, this three-day conference will be aimed at: families of former POWs and civilian internees; professionals in the heritage sector; researchers, writers and the general public. Events running throughout the weekend will encourage audiences to reflect on the myriad ways that histories of captivity in the Far East have influenced individuals, families and communities.

We are inviting postgraduate researchers to apply for a bursary that will cover their full conference delegate fee.

There are three bursaries available. To apply, please submit a one-page (A4) proposal explaining how the themes of this conference relate to your current research, and the benefits to your project/career development in attending.

Note that successful applicants will need to arrange their own travel and accommodation – the bursary covers delegate fee only.

Completed proposals should be emailed to Dr Lizzie Oliver: hrieo@leeds.ac.uk by 5pm on 8 July 2016

Applications will be reviewed by Professor Geoff Gill, Dr Lizzie Oliver and Dr Bernice Archer.

Informal enquiries about the conference, or your application, should be made to Meg Parkes MPhil meg.parkes@liverpool.ac.uk or Dr Lizzie Oliver: hrieo@leeds.ac.uk.

Download the Call for Applications here

2015 Conference

2015 Conference Programme

The Researching FEPOW History Group announces the 5th International Conference in association with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) – UPDATE: The Conference is now fully booked but there is a waiting list for places

SURVIVING FAR EAST CAPTIVITY AND THE AFTERMATH: 70 YEARS ON

Friday afternoon, all day Saturday & Sunday, 5 – 7 June 2015
Old School, LSTM, Pembroke Place, Liverpool L3 5QA

Delegate fee: £120
(per person for the weekend, as previously does not include meals)

 CONFERENCE WEEKEND – THE DETAILS

In alphabetical order, speakers confirmed include:
Keith Andrews (research), Jeya Ayadurai (Changi, Singapore), Rod Beattie MBE (Thailand), Frank Cottrell Boyce (scriptwriter, The Railway Man), Jon Cooper (Singapore), Jane Davies (Lancashire Fusiliers Museum; FEPOW in Korea), Professor Geoff Gill (LSTM), Dr Rosalind Hearder (Australian medics), Dr Lizzie Oliver (Sumatra Railway), Meg Parkes (FEPOW medical art), Martin Percival and Stephen Rockliffe (RAPWI and Repatriation), Philip Reed (IWM) – Roderick Suddaby Lecture, Stephen Walton (IWM),

And once again we hope to have FEPOW and civilian internees as guests of the conference.

Lectures will be held in the Nuffield lecture theatre at the Old School, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), a ten-minute walk from the hotel (see below).

On the Friday evening the conference will briefly relocate to the historic Liverpool Medical Institution (LMI) in Hope Street, a leisurely 15 minute walk from LSTM. Some delegates will remember it as the venue for the 2012 “An afternoon at the Theatre” lectures, headlined by Professor Sears Eldredge.

The walk goes through the historic medical quarter and heart of the 1881 Liverpool University College buildings, through the new University Square and on past the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral (built on the site of Liverpool’s largest workhouse) to the corner of Hope Street. This is home to Liverpool’s two cathedrals which stand at either end of the street, the famous Everyman Theatre, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and Paul McCartney’s Liverpool School of Performing Arts (LIPA).

Following an early supper (with a distinctly local flavour!) delegates will assemble in the LMI’s original galleried lecture theatre (built in 1837) for a “Night at the Flicks” – presentations and discussion with the creators/screenwriters of several TV and films which have portrayed different aspects of Far East captivity over the years.

Closing the first day at 9pm will leave plenty of time for those who have worked up a thirst to visit Liverpool’s iconic hostelry, the Philharmonic Dining Rooms halfway along Hope Street.

CONFERENCE OPTIONAL EXTRAS;

Friday evening: early supper at the Liverpool Medical Institution (approx. £15 per head)

Saturday night: Conference Dinner at The Liner (approx £30 per head)

Sunday evening: early evening visit to Liverpool’s Pier Head home to see the Repatriation Memorial and take a trip on the famous Mersey Ferry (£8 ferry round trip ticket)

Monday morning: visit to Preston for exclusive access to Lancashire Infantry Museum’s FEPOW archives (2nd Loyals, held in Singapore, Thailand and Korea) based at Fulwood Barracks (built in 1830s and now home to the Queens Lancashire Regiment) which is…
“… today the finest and most complete example of mid-Victorian military architecture left in the country.”

This archive is a jewel and should not to be missed by those with an interest in FEPOW history (more information at: www.lancashireinfantrymuseum.org.uk/the-collection). Minimum party of 6, maximum 15, allocated on first-come basis (cost of travel and lunch to be advised, depends on numbers).
(NB – for those travelling to Liverpool by train consider returning home from Preston as it is on the West Coast mainline with excellent links north and south).

So, how about making it a long weekend and combine the conference with a city break?

Hotel – Organisers, speakers and guests will be staying at Liverpool’s premier themed hotel, The Liner, in Lord Nelson Street. Next door to Lime Street station, with free parking, the Liner is within sight of the world famous St George’s Hall and very close to the famous Walker Art Gallery. It’s a 10 minute walk away from Liverpool One, the new showcase retail centre of the city. And a 10 minute walk in the opposite direction from the hotel brings you to the School of Tropical Medicine (for those who prefer to ride the station taxi rank is outside the hotel).

The Liner is offering delegates the following preferential B&B rates in excellent, spacious accommodation:
£110 per room (up to 2 people) (Saturday night)
£195 per room (up to 2 people) for 2 nights (Friday and Saturday nights)
£264 per room (up to 2 people) for 3 nights (Thursday to Saturday inclusive)
£333 per room (up to 2 people) for 4 nights (Thursday to Sunday inclusive)
(no discount for single occupancy – know another delegate? share a room and share the cost!)
Delegates must make their own reservations; quoting discount booking code: 1560LSTMCO

So, take full advantage of the opportunity and plan to arrive a day early and spend time discovering Liverpool’s world-class attractions including: the Albert Dock retail and leisure complex on the banks of the Mersey, the Pier Head with its legendary Three Graces and the new Museum of Liverpool, The Tate Gallery and not forgetting The Beatles, Anfield and Everton!

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NB – Do not delay. Registration forms (one per person) must be received by 30 September 2014; so book soon to secure your place. Download the Registration Form here (322KB pdf).

Registration: 1pm, Friday 5 June, conference ends 4.30 Sunday 7 June, 2015

For registration enquiries contact: Mike Parkes by email: mike.parkes@talktalk.net, telephone: 0151 632 2017 or write to: Kranji, 34 Queens Road, Hoylake, Wirral CH47 2AJ. For other enquiries contact Meg Parkes: meg.parkes@liverpool.ac.uk

“To remember them, is to honour them” – Roger Mansell 1935 – 2010