Tiger relives war memories in POWs' exhibition
By REN LANZONnewsroom@gladstoneobserver.com.au
'WE NEVER had boots,' was the first thing Tiger Treseder said as he entered the Gladstone Art Gallery and Museum yesterday.
When I heard the gallery was pre- paring for the opening of its latest exhibition, In Enemy Hands: Austra- lian Prisoners of War, I thought I'd take Tiger along to get his im- pressions.
As a former Prisoner Of War (POW) Tiger was able to relive many of his personal thoughts and memo- ries as we took in the tragic images displayed on the gallery walls.
That is not to say that Tiger, now 82, is bitter ? he's not that type.
As we walked through the gallery, he was not even angry, just matter of fact and with more than a hint of Aussie humour.
What drew his comment about the boots was a photograph of one which is said to have been worn by a pris- oner of the Japanese.
Another photograph of a wasted Australian prisoner told another sto- ry. He was wearing what looked like rough thongs. 'We used to make them from latex and canvas we used to snip off the Japanese soldiers' tents,' he said. Such action was done at some risk which often led to a beating. "I was once beaten with a pick handle,' he said.
Tiger was captured by the Japa- nese while fighting in Singapore. He said his 19th Battalion fought the Japanese for 55 days while being driven back toward the sea.
'We just ran out of land and had nowehere else to go,' he said.
From there it was alternating from Changi, constructing the dread- ed railway, working on the wharves, building the aerodrome or digging the tunnels of Saigon.
The only other item of clothing they were given was a lap lap (a cloth big enough to cover their private parts) and not even a blanket.
Tiger, who weighed just five stone andsix ounces at the end of the war, said the Japanese did not feed any- one who was not able to work.
'We used to get a third of a pann- ikin (tin mug) of rice, so we used to share that with our sick mates.'
He stopped at a photograph of a skin and bone prisoner sitting up in his bunk.
With dry humour he said: 'That bloke isn't sick, because he can still sit up.'