Author(s): Kevin Blackburn
Japanese World War II POW camps conjure up a notorious picture of deprivation and brutality. The idea that sport, of all things, flourished in such hellish conditions is hard to envisage but the truth is, it did. Captives played Aussie Rules football and rugby at the infamous Changi prisoner-of-war camp, and tennis on the Burmese side of the BurmaThailand Railway. They played soccer, cricket, baseball or basketball, and sometimes their prison guards even joined in for a game. There were many elite sportsmen in these ranks intent on reviving their sporting careers after returning home at wars end, and many of them succeeded. The Sportsmen of Changi tells the story everyone forgot of how sport became a lifeline for POWs after the fall of Singapore, when 50 000 Australian and British soldiers became prisoners of the Japanese. Inspiring and absorbing, it shows that in unimaginable conditions people will do all they can to hold onto what makes them human.