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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK
Memorial to Far East PoWs opens
Two British soldiers freed from a Japanese prison
Most of the Allied PoWs were held for about three-and-a-half years
A memorial building to British prisoners of war in the Far East was opened in Staffordshire on Monday.

A service was held at the 450,000 building at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas to coincide with the 60th anniversary of VJ Day.

It has been built with the help of money raised by a group which supports the families of former PoWs.

Created to resemble the jungle huts in which prisoners were kept, the memorial building houses veterans' memorabilia.

Fundraising appeal

It is situated next to a section of the notorious Thai-Burma railway, that was brought to the Arboretum three years ago as a lasting tribute to the thousands of servicemen who died constructing it.

The commemoration included a service of thanksgiving and remembrance taken by former PoW, the Rev Ray Rossiter, who is also national chairman of the National Federation of Far East Prisoner of War Clubs and Associations (NFFCA).

The building itself was opened by Air Marshall Sir John Baird, Surgeon Vice-Admiral IL Jenkins and Lieutenant Colonel CG Stallard at 1100 BST on Monday.

It was followed by a fly-past of a World War II Spitfire.

The opening comes three-and-a-half years after the founder of the Children and Families of the Far East Prisoners of War (COFEPOW) group, Carol Cooper, launched a fundraising appeal on the 60th anniversary of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese Imperial Army.

Died in captivity

Three-and-a-half years was the length of time most of the estimated 200,000 Allied PoWs were held.

Mrs Cooper's father, Lance Corporal Bill Smith, was one of the 40,000 who died in captivity.

He lost his life to malaria working on the Thai-Burma railway when she was a toddler in December 1943.

Mrs Cooper set up COFEPOW in 1997 after finding a secret diary her father had written about his time in captivity.

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