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How the war horror nightmares live on

08 November, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Louise Reynolds

THE after-wave of trauma and shock from the horror of war can be passed down into the family like a virus decades after the war has gone into the history books.

This is what Louise Reynolds has discovered.

Her own haunting memories sunk into her as she grew up with a father, a priest, who had been a prisoner of the Japanese in the Second World War.

The privations he suffered – the nightmare of his fellow prisoners in the Far East camp – were all part of the family folklore.

And it was this that made her set out to talk to other families who had grown up in the same shadow.

The results of 30 interviews are shocking.

There is one case of a man in his late 60s who fell into deep depression in his later years and when admitted to hospital was asked to draw something about his feelings – and found himself drawing his father, a Japanese PoW, who had become a withdrawn, brooding, lonely figure, all set against the outlines of the camp.

Louise Reynolds, who lives in Hampstead, also talked to several women who had endured poor parentage because the father – a PoW – had been traumatised by the cruelty of the Japanese guards and was so distant that family life fell apart.

And, as a result, they told her, they themselves had never become fully rounded personalities and had never got married.

Lives wasted, hopes destroyed.

If she had told me about the destruction of the lives of those who were actually in the camps I could have understood it.

But to find out that other members of the family – sons and daughters – had suffered so much from the soiled relationships spawned by memories of nightmarish camp life in the 1940s that today’s generation has also been brought low by them is difficult to relate to.

The thought tumbles into place this week when the nation is commemorating not only the First World War but all the other wars that have plagued us since.


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