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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Memorial to Sumatra railway dead
Samatra Railway memorial
The memorial recreates part of the Samatra railway
A monument is being unveiled to commemorate the 700 Allied PoWs who died building the notorious Sumatra railway.

The replica section of railway track goes on show at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, near Lichfield, Staffordshire.

The unveiling, taking place on VJ Day, Wednesday, 15 August, will be attended by former PoWs and the Japanese ambassador to Britain, Sadayuki Hayashi.

Thousands of captured Allied troops were forced to work on the 100-mile (200 kilometres) railway which was due to open 56 years ago on 15 August, 1945.

Replica

The tribute has been designed by Jack Plant, who was captured by the occupying Japanese forces in Indonesia in 1944 and made to work on the railway.

The memorial recreates a 20-yard stretch of the railway, which passed along the Equator through swamps, jungle, rivers and mountainous terrain.

Deserters memorial
A statue is dedicated to WWI Allied deserters
Mr Plant, 83, from Great Wyrley, near Cannock, Staffs, who is one of only a handful of British survivors still alive, said the group were determined to have a lasting tribute to the dead.

The replica is based on sketches made of the railway by one of Mr Plant's fellow prisoners, Owen Greenwood, in 1944-45.

Commander David Childs, director of the Arboretum, said: "The significance is that this is the first anniversary of the end of World War II in the new millennium.

"Those of us who are moving in to the next century really feel that we must live in a spirit of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation if this coming century isn't going to be as bloody as the one just gone."

Railtrack has donated the length of line while the Forest Enterprise has carved the sleepers.

The ceremony will also see the unveiling of an International Grove featuring European Maple and Japanese Cherry trees plus a reconciliation stone.

British youngsters and Japanese children in traditional dress will plant the trees with the Japanese ambassador and the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Colin Bennetts.

The Millennium Commission-funded Arboretum is dedicated to armed forces personnel who served in conflicts across the world as well as those men and women who aided the war effort.

See also:

21 Jun 01 | UK
Tribute to WWI 'cowards'
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