Nagasaki: the forgotten prisoners

September 25, 2023


A talk given at BRLSI by John Willis, Monday 25th September 2023, Queen Square, Bath. With painstaking research of diaries, letters, interviews with relatives and scraps of notes that were buried and then retrieved after the war, John has pieced together powerful personal testimonies of the Nagasaki bomb and the events that preceded it in these men’s lives. They had already endured unspeakable hardship as soldiers and prisoners in Malaya, Singapore, Java and Burma and the Pacific theatre of the war, including enforced labour on the infamous Thai-Burma railway. Much has been written about America’s use of atomic bombs against Japanese cities in August 1945, but personal testimonies, like these, are an integral part of the story that have remained largely untold, until now. These Allied prisoners became valuable eye-witnesses to one of the most remarkable events in modern history as the full force of America’s atomic Manhattan Project was unleashed again to devastating effect just two days after its bomb on Hiroshima. John Willis is one of the UK’s best-known television executives and programme developers. As Director of Programmes at C4 he oversaw breakthrough series like Father Ted, Cutting Edge and Secret History and iconic British films including Shallow Grave, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Trainspotting. He was Director of Factual and Learning Programming at the BBC. He is a previous Chair of BAFTA and currently Chief Executive of Mentorn Media, which produces Question Time for the BBC. His previous books include Churchill’s Few (2020) and Secret Letters: a Battle of Britain Love Story (2020).

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