Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Collection of the month: Prisoner of War papers from the nutrition collection

During the Second World War a number of medical officers, who had been interned in prisoner of war camps in the Far East, produced a fascinating set of records and data concerning nutrition and diet in civilian camps. They have now become available to researchers.

From 1942-1945 British medical officers who specialised in nutrition spent their time monitoring and alleviating the worsening situation in prison camps. A wealth of material was amassed and was later used in the publication 'Deficiency diseases in Japanese prison camps, MRC Special Report 274' by Dean Smith and AW Woodruff.

Woodruff was held in the notorious Changi internment camp for three years and over that time carried out medical inspections on patients suffering from malnutrition. Dean Smith, who was in the Stanley camp in Hong Kong, was chief medical officer for nutrition and brought back with him patient records, nutrition reports, rationing plans and statistics. All of this material reflects the duress under which the work was carried out since the officers only had primitive means of recording data and we are very fortunate that it has survived.

The papers are catalogued and can be searched through on the online catalogue:

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