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Burnley man who saw funny side of POW camp hell
11:14am Thursday 26th September 2013 in News
IN THE crowded and terrifying conditions of a Singapore prisoner of war camp, Des Bettany decided to bring some light humour.
As a POW, Lance Bombardier Bettany kept spirits up by producing a series of cartoons, some of which satirised his captors at Changi Prison.
He also became part of a ‘production line’ creating programmes for the many theatrical and musicals produced in the camps.
Now, his artwork has been brought to life online by his relatives — who only discovered his drawings and paintings after he died.
Des was born on Abbey Street in Burnley in 1919, and grew up the second of four children.
In 1939, Des joined the Territorial Army (Royal Artillery) and was mobilised in August of that year.
He fought in France and Belgium before boarding the troopship Empress of Canada, bound for the Far East.
Des then fought the Japanese at Ipoh, Alor Star and Kuantan, and saw most of the major actions in Malaya until he was captured in Singapore in February 1942. He was imprisoned at a camp on Towner Road before he was later moved to Changi Prison but decided to continue with his drawing. Des passed some of the drawings and paintings on to friends, but kept many which were only discovered after his death in 2000, aged 81.
Son Keith, who lives in Adelaide, Australia, said: “We knew he had a few paintings from his time as a POW in Changi in the top of his wardrobe, but not so many.
“As these over 300 paintings sat in dad's cupboard for 60 years, upon his death we scanned them as they are all originals.
“Some time later we paid a friend to create a website.
“It is still being added to now, a living website, as relatives of ex POWs scan other bits of dad’s work and email it to us. He obviously gave a lot away to his mates.
“Here we are in Australia, receiving emails that contain dad’s work we have never seen before from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada and Singapore.”
Visit http://changipow art.com/
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