Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Jack Sharpe

with 8 comments

Jack Sharpe was sent to Singapore just a few days before the Japanese invasion there, and captured by the Japanese. He was sent to Thailand to work on the notorious Burma Railway and was nearly executed over an attempted escape. Before his court martial for escape, Sharpe defiantly proclaimed that he would live to see all of Japan surrender and that he would walk out of the prison on his own two feet.

Sharpe was sent back to the Outram jail in Singapore; almost no one survived it for two years, and it was from this infamous prison that Sharpe was liberated in August 1945 with the dubious distinction of being its longest survivor. True to his words, he walked out of the gates on his own two feet, and collapsed immediately afterwards. During his captivity, plagued by scurvy, dysentery and scabs, Sharpe saw his weight decreased from 70 kilograms to less than 25 kilograms. In September 1945, the world was stunned by the publication of Sharpe’s skeletal figure cheerfully smiling from the end of his bed. The photo told the story of appalling Japanese treatment of their prisoners, and also the indomitable spirit of Jack Sharpe, who eventually lived to be 88.

One in three POWs under the Japanese during the war perished — seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians. In fact, around 90,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 Allied POWs died on the Burma Railroad alone. The Japanese, coming from a shame culture which would rather commit suicide, never understood the concept of surrendering, and treated their prisoners with the greatest of contempt.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 17, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Politics, Society, War

Tagged with , ,

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. As a reader from Singapore, its surreal to see this photo featured on your blog. The photo is regularly used in school textbooks and local exhibitions on the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.


    June 18, 2010 at 1:30 pm

  2. The Japanese understood the concept of surrender, and did not all commit suicide, read up on the Sandakan death march. At the end of the war those guards turned up to surrender wearing red cross armbands and saying they were from a hospital unit – they not only understood surrender, they understood that what they had done was criminal and now they were in real trouble.

    harry buttle

    June 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    • Unbeleivable!

      Brian Nolan

      October 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      • Sorry, Unbelievable as having to fight with the Pigs for scraps and having to drink water, if any out of their shit buckets, the floggings, Murder, & Starvation of decent people, the Story of Billy Young who also survived is gut wrenching and gives great insight of what they went through, he and Jack both went to Changi for their 1st decent feed in years upon release (The Story of Billy Young) Proud to see both grew to be Old Men, who could have deserved it more, Thank you.

        Brian Nolan

        October 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm

  3. I’m disapointed… No WiKi article about this man and is story.


    June 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm

  4. There is a very poignant obituary in the Independent about his


    Vicki Day

    June 23, 2010 at 9:34 am

  5. […] Jack Sharpe […]

  6. My dad spent 3yrs in Japanese POW camps, landed up in Nagasaki was there when bomb dropped. Had nightmares for rest of his life. Died in his sleep aged 56. Hated everything Japanese who could blame him ????

    Robin Meeson

    September 27, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: