I almost forgot to remember…

Remembrance Day passed without a hitch unlike the wars that it remembers. Seemingly endless columns of damaged people proudly walked, marched and wheeled in military procession turning their eyes, many sightless, to return the salute offered by the designated dignitary. The places vacated by the passing of the last of the Great War veterans have been filled, and more, by young blood. There is something so breathtakingly sad about Remembrance Day that I nearly forgot to remember a fine gentleman.  My uncle and Godfather, Freddie Stowell, who was imprisoned by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore, was a fine example of the waste and damage of war. Although he survived and lived on to the ripe old age of 90, the damage only became evident in his last few days. The nightmares could no longer be held in and things,  so dreadful that he had never spoken of them before, became a reality, for him, once again.  Below are his possessions from his time in the camp. He also had his pipe. This is a drawing signed Rick, his nick name, which gives a stark impression of life,,,and death in the camps.

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About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in Digital photography, Excellence, photography course, Photography holiday, The Great War, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to I almost forgot to remember…

  1. Mad Dog says:

    It’s amazing what people were able to endure.
    A fitting tribute.

  2. You did your uncle, and so many others, proud.

  3. cecilia says:

    Good God. How dreadful. Poor fellow. How he must have fought to put all those dreadful memories aside and live another life afterwards. That drawing is haunting.. c

  4. The picture says a lot. Those crosses stretching out behind the hut. And how awful that the horrors which happened to him earlier in life came back to haunt him in his last days. Man’s inhumanity to man. It is sickening.

  5. That poor man; he must have been haunted by terrible images all his life, but finally let them out at the end of his life.

  6. spree says:

    Oh Roger, this was heartbreaking. The memories of the fallen and the harmed (and all the attendant emotions) are so close to the surface. Your remembrance of your Uncle touched me deeply. How unspeakably tragic it is that our minds (THEIR minds) can never truly and fully forget, and for ALL their lives, there is a deep and lasting price. Thank you, Roger.

  7. This took my breath away. A moving tribute.

  8. Eha says:

    Thank you for sharing a little of your history . . . Here in Australia there has been a huge renaissance in celebrating both our ANZAC DAY [Gallipoli etc] and Remembrance Day: so many children and grandchildren take the place of the departed in parades etc wearing their medals with pride. I am an army brat born and bred: for me the days are ones of immense pride and not at all sad: just the frustration of lives lost in their prime makes one strive to do everything to find ways to a more peaceful world . .

  9. Tessa says:

    A very touching post. Today in the U.S. is our version of Remembrance Day, we call it Veteran’s Day. My family and I are so thankful for all who sacrificed so much so we can enjoy our freedom today. We must never forget. Thank you Roger for sharing.

  10. I was hoping to read more about your Godfather.. the incredible destruction of talent and spirit wrought by war is heartbreaking… and all the more so when brought face to face with a beloved family member’s photos and artistic drawing. How sad his last few days were given back to an awful war.. I pause to think of the new young men and women who have joined the ranks of those who’ve serve and those who didn’t come home. I wonder about their nightmares now… I’m so glad you’ve shared this with us, I’m honored to have read about your Uncle Freddie. xx

  11. Roger, a very poignant tribute to Uncle Freddie. How he must have suffered, physically during his captivity, mentally at the end and internally in the intervening years. Yesterday was Veterans Day in the States and there was a ceremony in our town to honor the fallen and the living. Many of the Veterans passed in review and most were WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Mentally, I saluted them, and silently thanked them for their service, but could not help recalling to mind the closing lines of Tommy Makem’s “Waltzing Matilda” where, as the “old men of a forgotten war” march by and the the young men ask “what are they marching for?” And the aged, amputee, veteran says “and I ask myself the same question.” Sad!

  12. ChgoJohn says:

    Thank you, Roger, for sharing a bit of your Uncle’s story with us. I can only imagine the horror he endured while at that camp. That he, and so many others, returned home to lead normal, productive lives is astonishing. They are called the “Greatest Generation” with good reason.

  13. Thanks Roger for your post. My father is one of the few italian survivors of the terrible massacre in Kefalonia (Greece) in 1943. Yes, he has nightmares too about those hell days…

  14. Very moving photos and tribute. The personal stories, rather than the official ceremonies, are what move me and I think of my grandfather who died as a result of having been gassed in the trenches in the First World War. Remembrance day just makes me feel so sad the the violence and death continue and politicians don’t learn.

  15. Very moving Roger. We were in Canterbury on Sunday and saw the ceremonies outside the Cathedral – very emotional and certainly time to reflect on the sacrifices that were made for us.

  16. Judith Cheney says:

    His drawing illustrates the real scenes we saw only in movies (Bridge on the River Kwai, Empire of the Sun, Three Came Home and more). I guess they could not possibly ever be forgotten completely. I thank you for posting this to remember him and honor his courage, strength and steadfastness. We are all in his debt forever.

  17. Tandy says:

    War is devastating!

  18. War is a terrible thing. Your uncle’s drawing is very good and at the same time devastating.

  19. Michelle says:

    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    Stunning photos, Roger. What a nice tribute.

  20. Karen says:

    What a poignant remembrance, Roger. It is terrible that our minds keep the horrible thoughts hidden only to be remembered later…he never forgot what happened to his friends.

  21. wow Roger. despite not knowing your family, seeing possessions like those in your images seem so familiar from what we see in museums. extraordinary people fight in wars – so much courage and selflessness.

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