Internationally renowned war artist and former POW living in Bleadney dies

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BLEADNEY resident Jack Chalker, a British artist and prisoner of war on the Burma-Siam Railway, has died aged 96.

Mr Chalker painted the atrocities that saw more than 12,000 Allied prisoners perish during the railway’s construction, along with at least 90,000 Asian labourers.

Born on October 10 1918 in London, his father, Alfred, was a stationmaster who had been made an MBE for dispersing troops during the First World War. Jack won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art but found his studies interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.

The construction of a 258-mile railway line between Bangkok in Thailand and Rangoon in Burma during 1943 was intended to provide a supply route for Japanese forces in Burma.

The 96-year-old was a bombardier who had been captured at Singapore, working on a stretch of the line at Kanchanaburi Province in the west of Thailand.

His sketches and watercolours, along with the works of his fellow PoW artists, Philip Meninsky, Ashley George Old and Ronald Searle, now form a valuable record of the brutality experienced by the men who were made to work for the Japanese forces, sometimes for up to 16 hours a day.

Mr Chalker managed to produce more than 100 drawings, sketches and paintings, detailing his captivity between 1942 and 1945. He spent time in Changi Prison and two labour camps before being sent to work on the Burma-Siam Railway, arriving at a camp on the Konyu River in Thailand after a five-day train journey.

On his release in 1945, he joined the Australian Army HQ in Bangkok as a war artist and some of his work was used in evidence at the Tokyo war trials.

When he returned to England he resumed his studies, graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1951.

Later in life he settled in Bleadney and often gave talks about his war experiences.