Meg Parkes MPhil, trained as a nurse in Manchester in the 1970s. She is the daughter of a survivor of WWII Far East captivity and in 2002 self-published the first part of her late father’s POW diaries, the sequel following in late 2003. In 2007 she started working with Dr (now Emeritus Professor) Geoff Gill at LSTM initially conducting an oral history study interviewing British WWII veterans, all former Far East prisoners of war (FEPOW), about their unique long-term perspective of captivity. Shortly after starting interviewing she embarked on a part-time dissertation MPhil based on the study and attained in 2012.
As part of the MPhil Meg undertook a study into the extraordinary inventive medicine and ingenuity practiced in captivity by skilled workers – tinsmiths, plumbers and other artisans – who worked closely with medical officers in the unending battle to keep men alive. While interviewing veterans Meg noted the number of pieces of artwork, created during captivity and treasured during the post-war years, that she was being shown. Some were done by the veteran, others by friends or a well-known FEPOW artist in one of the camps. The artwork was fascinating, a tangible link to captivity providing a vivid visual stimulus to understanding the extreme conditions under which Allied POW were held across the vast area of southeast Asia and the Far East.
When the MPhil was completed, Meg and Professor Gill embarked on a research study, helped by the Wellcome Trust, looking at FEPOW art and locating artists and artworks that have remained out of sight during the post-war decades. In the past six years over 40 previously unrecognised artists and their work have surfaced. Their work will be exhibited to the public in The Secret Art of Survival: hidden documentary artwork of Far East captivity which opens in October 2019 at the Victoria Gallery and Museum in Liverpool and runs until June 2020, the 75th anniversary of the ending of WWII and the liberation of Far East captives.
Meg has published five books to date and contributed to an edited edition. In 2002 and 2003 she self-published two books based on her father’s secret wartime diaries kept in captivity in Java and Japan. She was also invited to contribute a chapter to the Cultural Heritage and Prisoners of War, published by Routledge in 2012. In recent years she has co-authored three books: Nursing in Liverpool since 1862, (2012, Scotforth Books) with University of Liverpool’s Professor Sally Sheard, to mark the 150th anniversary of the establishing of the first School for Nurses outside London; and companion volumes with LSTM’s Emeritus Professor Geoff Gill, Captive Memories: Far East POW and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (2015 Palatine Books) and Burma Railway Medicine: Disease, Death and survival on the Thai-Burma Railway (2017 Palatine Books).
Meg and Geoff are currently collaborating with Jenny Wood, retired senior art curator at the Imperial War Museum, on a third volume, based on the FEPOW art research and forthcoming exhibition.