The 70th anniversary Vocal Orchestra concert – Singing to Survive (St Paul’s Church, Chichester, Saturday 26 October 2013) – was organised by five women who each have a deep and abiding interest in the history of internment in the Far East during World War II:
Dr Bernice Archer PhD, author of The Internment of Western Civilians under the Japanese 1941-1945: A Patchwork of Internment (2005); Margaret Caldicott, flute teacher and daughter and granddaughter of two of the Palembang women; Barbara Coombes (MA), lecturer and biographer of Margaret Dryburgh and Shelagh Lea (Margie’s mother); Meg Parkes MPhil, a researcher in WWII Far East captivity and author of two books based on her father’s Far East POW experiences (2002, 2003) and Lavinia Warner, author of Women Beyond the Wire (1982), which tells the story of the women and Palembang and the creation of the Vocal Orchestra. Lavinia, an independent film and TV producer, created and storylined the hugely successful 1980’s TV series Tenko which gave a fictionalised account of the experiences of the women and children imprisoned by the Japanese.
It was during a Far East POW conference in 2011 that Meg first suggested to Bernice the idea of organising a concert in 2013 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Vocal Orchestra’s creation. Margaret Caldicott, Barbara Coombes and Lavinia Warner eagerly supported the idea. The organisers share the belief that the women of Palembang, and in particular Norah Chambers and Margaret Dryburgh, should be remembered and honoured for their courage, tenacity and creativity. Their example is as vital and life-enhancing today as it was 70 years ago. All felt a duty to bring this history to life for a new generation and to encourage anyone who is inspired by it to mark the 70th anniversary (or any future anniversaries) in their own way.