Harold Martin Documentary

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Over the past two years I have been working on an ongoing project about my dear friend Harold Martin, who is now 97 years old. He was a prisoner of war during World War 2, captured by the Japanese in the Fall of Singapore, and spent the next two years in POW camps building the Burma Thai Death railway along with 60,000 other allied soldiers, of which 12,399 died as a direct result of working on the railway. Harold has an epic tale of survival.

I have been documenting Harold and his story now for two years, both video and stills, filming in Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, San Francisco and at Harold’s home in Albany, Australia. Along the way, I have recorded his stories with the intention of compiling a documentary about his experience about being a POW and his travels going back to Myanmar and Thailand.

Two years ago, I traveled to Myanmar (Burma) with Harold, my father and a few of his close friends. Myanmar finally opened up to tourism and it was his first opportunity to go back to find the gravesites of his fallen mates. It was an amazing experience to be alongside Harold and you can see more of project from then here.

Harold’s latest request was to travel to Thailand to attend the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) day service at Hell Fire Pass in Kanchanaburi. My dad and our dear friend Murray, decided it would be another great adventure. I decided to join in too to continue the project. In the middle of already a very hectic travel schedule in April, traveling to the United Arab Emirates and Mexico for work, I managed to get a week in Thailand. I surprised Harold at the hotel in Bangkok with a knock on his door, he didn’t know I was coming. We kept it a secret incase it did not work out. That moment will forever be a favorite. I was a little nervous I may have given him a heart attack from the surprise, but instead he pinched me to see if I was really there. He didn’t really believe it :)

From Bangkok we headed to Kanchanaburi, which is close to where the Thailand side of the railway line had started.  We visited and walked many different parts of the railway line, went to the bridge over the River Kwai and we attended the ANZAC day services at Hell Fire Pass and at the cemetery in Kanchanaburi. Harold was a VIP guest along with two other POW survivors who had traveled over from Australia. We also visited one of the original Japanese trains that carted the POW’s on the 5 day journey from Singapore up into Thailand. Each carriage had 34 men crammed into them, the carriage door was closed and it had no ventilation. There were no toilets and many of the men were very sick and many died along the way.  I have been working on this project for two years now and it was not until seeing inside one of these carriages that it all really hit me. The reality of it all.

I am in the stage of obtaining the historical photographs and footage and then will enter the editing phase. I hope to have this documentary finished by early October so it can be shown at the ANZAC Centenary celebrations in my hometown of Albany, Western Australia, also where dear Harold lives.

I’ve been working on this project solo up until now (with the help of my parents & friends who also traveled with us, in holding my sound equipment & lugging my heavy equipment). I have been  funding it all myself from the travel expenses to the additional equipment needed. But I am now at the stage of obtaining the historical photographs and footage from the Australian War Memorial, which I have to pay for. Each photograph is a few hundred dollars to obtain and the bill is quickly adding up. I need help in covering the costs of entering the post production phase and getting this film finally completed. I originally resisted the idea of reaching out for help, but so many people have told me how they are touched by Harold’s story and asked if they could help in any way. In finally acknowledging to myself I need help in getting this project finally finished, I  have set up a crowd sourcing campaign. If you would please visit the funding site and potentially please contribute a few dollars, it would be so greatly appreciated. I can offer postcards, prints & photo books to the higher donations. All funds donated will go directly towards to cost of obtaining the historical footage and covering the costs of getting the film edited.

My intention of creating this documentary and photo series is to help educate the younger generations about what our soldiers sacrificed. It is not my intention to profit from this project whatsoever, this is purely a labor of love, to create something special and to honor my dear friend Harold Martin.

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  • Glenn Stephenson said:

    I've been following your document of Harold Martin since the beginning. With each new instalment, I make sure I share it with my family- we sit back and are silenced by your portrayal. What I have just seen is not only visualy stunning, but incredibly moving. Your images reach out and touch the soul and with the subject you have chosen (or chose you) you have 'documented him accurately and done him justice'
    Love everything I see.
    Glenn.

  • carley said:

    Samm. Loves these images, have loved this series since you first shared it! Good luck with it all x

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  • Melissa said:

    These are amazing Samm. It's so moving watching Harold through your images. I really hope you get enough to complete it, it's such a worthwhile story xxxx

  • Scott Thiele said:

    Samm, I spoke with Harold on 15 Sep and he told me of your work. This is stunning. My late grandfather was with Harold when they were torpedoed in '44 and shared a makeshift raft until their rescue. The 15th of course was the day of the rescue, which happens to be my mother's birthday.Thank you for this memory.