We sadly report the recent death of Dr Kamal Khan, who as a Consultant Psychiatrist befriended, treated and supported many hundreds of ex-Far East POWs who suffered mental health problems as a result of their experiences in captivity.
Dr Kamaluddin Khan – widely known as “Kamal” – was born in India in 1937, and qualified in science (BSc at Agra University) and medicine (MB,BS at Lucknow University). He later moved to the UK and trained in psychiatry, including as a Senior Registrar at Sefton General Hospital in Liverpool. It was here, in the mid-1970s, that Kamal was approached by Dr Dion Bell from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM). Dion was the tropical diseases consultant in charge of the School’s inpatient beds at Sefton. These were at the time mostly occupied by ex-Far East POWs (often known as “FEPOWs”) undergoing tropical diseases investigation. Dion was concerned that many had significant psychiatric disturbances related to their imprisonment, and asked if Kamal could see some of these patients. Kamal agreed, and after assessing a small number, was so concerned by their mental health status that he offered to see all the ex-POWs referred to the tropical unit.
The men had varying degrees of depression and anxiety, often associated with nightmares and flashbacks of their captivity experiences. Retrospectively, this represented a form of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but this diagnostic label had not at the time been clearly defined.
In 1977 Kamal was appointed to a Consultant Psychiatrist position on the Wirral (close to Liverpool) and continued to regularly assess and treat ex-Far East POWs, establishing a weekly “FEPOW Clinic” . He also began a major research investigation into the mental health of a randomised group of ex-Far East POWs, comparing them with a similar group of non-imprisoned members of the 2nd World War Burma Campaign. He found that 40% of the POW group had significant psychiatric consequences of their captivity, and the work was successfully written up for a PhD degree. All of this clinical and research activity was carried out in addition to his routine busy NHS caseload.
When he retired in 1995, many of his POW patients were devastated at losing such a caring doctor and good friend. In an oral history interview to the Liverpool Tropical School, one ex-POW said,
“he was a wonderful man… I was able to tell him things that I couldn’t tell anyone. I went on a regular appointment, there were lots of FEPOWs there ….. and each time he was wonderful”
Kamal’s contribution to the Far East POW community was immense, and his unique research was of major academic value to our understanding of the Far East POW experience and its outcomes.
It is with regret that due to the comparatively high infection rates and the resulting uncertainties, we have reached the decision that we are unable to stage the conference, originally planned for 2020, in 2022.
We have explored the potential for running an online conference, but have concluded that whilst technically this may be possible, we would lose many of the benefits of hosting the conference. We know from the feedback that we have had from our delegates over the past 15 years that we have been organising conferences, that the strength in what we do is to bring like-minded people together to meet others with similar (or not) research interests. Delegates are used to open access to the range of experts who agree to share their knowledge at the conferences, all within a convivial social setting. We simply cannot replicate this aspect of the conference virtually for our community.
The good news is that the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) have agreed to us deferring the conference until June 2023. This means that it would fall within the school’s 125th anniversary year. This would inevitably help us to reach a wider audience than previously. We will let you know in due course how to register your interest for this event.
We may need to make some alterations to the original proposed conference programme to reflect any changes to speakers and any travel restrictions that we may need to consider. We also hope to be able to accept contributions from remote speakers via online platforms. We would like to hear from anyone who has any ideas for potential topics, either new or revisited, for the programme. We have also previously had some interest in the possibility of us holding a smaller online event during the coming year. If there is sufficient interest, we would like to hear from those of you who would like to join an event like this remotely later in 2021. Please click hereto share your thoughts on this.
We thank you for your continued interest and also your patience during these challenging times.
Martin Percival, Chair of the Researching FEPOW History Group
To mark VJ Day75, and as a legacy of the highly successful Secret Art of Survival art exhibition in Liverpool, hosted and curated by our partners Victoria Gallery & Museum, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine is re-launching it’s Far East prisoner of war (FEPOW) research website – www.captivememories.org.uk.
As you will see from the attached flyer the exhibition was accompanied by a new book – Captive Artists, the unseen art of British Far East prisoners of war (to order a copy visit the website).
As well as more unseen FEPOW artwork and stories revealed by the exhibition and book, the website now includes:
A virtual tour of the “Secret Art of Survival” exhibition, with enhanced information about many of the previously unknown artists and their artwork
NEW! Downloadable resources for teachers and families:
Teacher’s resources featuring FEPOW artwork and histories and designed as an aid to explore FEPOW history with a range of Year Groups
Family resources, interactive and craft based activities to do with younger members of the family to introduce a FEPOW relative
In addition, there is a link to the Secret Art of Lockdown, the University of Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery & Museum’s creative arts project marking VJ Day75 commemorations. It features digital images of artwork submitted by members of the public on the theme of connecting people to friends and family who they have not seen for many months.
Secret Art of Survival was funded by players of the National Lottery, Trusts, FEPOW groups and individual donors.