Migrant works to honour war heroes
By Lincoln Tan
4:00 AM Thursday May 20, 2010
Christina McTaggart, 66, gives regular talks about her family's war time ordeal "to keep it real" for Kiwis.
Her next talk will be at the Avondale Library tomorrow morning, where she will share her story of being the first baby to survive the jungle hell in Fuji-go, a resettlement camp set up in what was then Malaya in 1943 by the Japanese military authorities.
A recent AUT University study suggests interest in Anzac Day is likely to decline over time.
Historian Professor Paul Moon found that an increase in the number of immigrants, without an understanding of the significance of Anzac Day, would also contribute to that decline.
Mrs McTaggart, originally from Singapore, said treating Anzac Day as "a day we honoured all Kiwi heroes who fought in all wars" would make the day more meaningful, especially for new migrants who knew little about Gallipoli.
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Mrs McTaggart said she was too young to remember or understand anything about what went on, but her mother never stopped telling her stories about the war.
One that was often told was about the time Singapore fell to the Japanese and the interrogation of men that followed.
"They were tortured, burned with cigarettes, their heads held under water and they were beaten until they talked. If they worked for the British, they were taken away and killed."
But she remembers one happy tale her mother told.
"It is about how the New Zealand and Australian forces came, as bearers of good news, bringing food to the village and the news that the Japanese had surrendered," Mrs McTaggart said.
"Since young, I have always had a warm feeling about the New Zealand and Australian Army because of that story. I think those who died in Malaya should be remembered just as much as those who fought in the battle of Gallipoli."
Mrs McTaggart's mother, Hilda Wee, now 91, still lives in Singapore.
During the Japanese occupation, at least 300 people in her village died, mostly from malnutrition, beri-beri, malaria and other insect-borne diseases.
"I don't think many in this new generation can imagine the horrors of war," Mrs McTaggart said.
"Death is just an integral part of it, and those who were not killed or tortured to death died of starvation because there was not enough food," she said.
"My family did not starve, but the less fortunate people had to eat whatever they could find, such as wild fowl, snails, frogs and cats. My mother had to enter the jungle to catch monitor lizards, which were a delicacy."
Mrs McTaggart moved to New Zealand in 1971 after she married naval architect Daniel McTaggart. He died six years ago. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lincoln-tan/news/article.cfm?a_id=308&objectid=10646145