Here is a contribution that I've been meaning to post for ages! Many thanks to Bronwen Barry who shared this story of her grandfather's acquaintance with Ronald Searle.
"Geoffrey Brameld--my Grandfather, my Mum's Dad-- In India 1939, not long before he went away to war and was captured by the Japanese; he was a POW in Singapore(and I think Siam) for about 6 years. He was in the Changi camp with a very young artist named Ronald Searle for a time.When he was released he weighed 120 lbs, he was 6'6".
On one of my trips to England as a kid of 11(in 1967) I distinctly remember Grandpa (who was quite frail at the time-- he died in 1969) bringing out some rather yellowed rolled up drawings Searle had done in the camps and given him.. very like the ones we know from the Kwai book. Grandpa treasured these.. I thought they were amazing.. For the past 30 years I've been asking after these drawings.. and no one in the family(including my late grandmother)ever seemed to know what happened to them.. Heartbreaking.
Though we've all been touched by the Searle drawings in the Kwai book,it remains impossible to imagine what those fellows went through in those camps..My Grandfather was 40ish at the time, and, though he was always slender, for his height (as you well know) 120 lbs. is beyond emaciated.(He never told me this firsthand-- it was my Mother who told me of his condition upon release.) Though he (as did most people back then) smoked like a train, his health never really recovered after the POW experience... He died of emphysema at the age of 69 in 1969).
As for the missing drawings-- I wish to heaven there was an attic somewhere I could rummage through. Alas, since I've spent my whole life in Canada and the US, and my grandparents were by then back in England, people have since moved, died and so forth.Any living relatives who would know anything at all claim they have never come across them; so I just have to let the whole idea go,and assume I've been told the truth.
When I wrote to Mr Searle I mentioned my Grandfather in detail, hoping he might remember him, as clearly they knew each other well enough for a London follow-up and the drawing given (along with an autographed copy of Souls in Torment).When he kindly replied, he said his memory re: the camps was no longer as sharp as it once was, so unfortunately he couldn't recall him.]
And last but not least, the above mentioned drawing that Mr Searle gave my Grandfather for my Mum in London in 1954.As both my parents have now passed on,it is as you well may imagine, one of my most cherished possessions..."
(Many thanks to Bronwen-sorry it took so long to publish!)