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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 April 2006, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
'Unique' event for war veterans
A service taking place at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas
The arboretum is dedicated to those who served in conflicts
World War II veterans who were taken prisoner in the Far East are taking part in an international conference.

Nine former prisoners of war from the UK and the US visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Organisers hoped the meeting would help family historians discover more about relatives who fought in the Far East.

The veterans, all aged in their mid to late 80s, were meeting more than 90 delegates, most of whom are related to a Far Eastern Prisoner of War (FEPOW).

Spokeswoman Meg Parkes said the two-day conference in Alrewas near Lichfield would be a unique event.

We are fortunate to have such an illustrious guest list
Meg Parkes, spokeswoman

"This is the first significant opportunity FEPOW families in the UK have had to get together to share information and thus increase our knowledge and understanding of what happened in the Far East during World War II.

"We are fortunate to have such an illustrious guest list and we are grateful to all the speakers and to the FEPOW for giving their time."

Lectures are being given by international researchers including Rod Beattie, director of the Thailand Burma Railway Centre in Kanchanaburi, and Roderick Suddaby, Keeper of the Department of Documents at the Imperial War Museum.

The veterans, some of whom built railways, others who worked down coal and copper mines, and some who even witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, were on hand to talk to delegates about their experiences.

Ms Parkes said a conspiracy of silence surrounded their time in the Far East as the men had been instructed not to try and explain what had happened to them to family and friends on their return home.

She said she hoped the conference would throw light on the hardships they had suffered.

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