Harold Martin. POW. 1942-1944

Some people come into your life for a particular reason. Your encounter with them, for however long or short, has tremendous impact. The impact so strong, their influence sends you in a new direction.

Im fortunate enough to be able to account numerous amazing and inspiring people who have came into my life and changed my paths. Their impact so great.

One person in particular is Harold Martin. A ninety five year old gentleman that lives in my hometown, Albany, in Western Australia. Harold wandered into my life a few years ago. He has been coming into my parents restaurant for many years for a morning coffee and my mother has got to know him over the years and learn about his story. Over the past 5 years or so, Ive also got the honor of getting to know Harold as well, when I visit my parents at Christmas and other times throughout the years.

It was Christmas day in 2011, that was the very beginning of what was going to become a major shift in my life. I can relate so many things that have happened in the last 7 months to this particular decision and I am so thankful for all the opportunities that have come my way because of this.

Sitting around the dinner table, talking with my dad about the year ahead, dreaming about our travels as we normally do, he tells me how he is going to take Harold to Myanmar (Burma) in March. A trip for Harold to visit the grave sites of his mates that were killed during their time spent working on the Burma Thai Railway as Prisoners of War. Myanmar had finally opened up after years of Military rule, and now they were welcoming tourist back into their country. Harold had been searching for these grave sites for many years and was eager to go back to finally say goodbye to them.

Without hesitation, I told my dad, I needed to come on this trip to document his story. His story is important. It is a story that I believe needs to be told and shared. It is a story worth telling.

These are the types of stories I want to document, to share and to let the stories be heard.

I had no idea of the impact this project would have on me.

I spent the next three months teaching myself as much as a possibly could about video and audio equipment and the art of documentary film making.  I invested thousands of dollars in new equipment and flights and off I went.

The 4 days I spent in Myanmar were incredible.

I blogged about it briefly a few months ago with the out takes / behind the scenes images from the trip.

Since then I made this short 2.5 minute video, just to be a trailer of sorts. I have some grand plans and dreams of what it will become.

The project is a combination of stills, video and audio. I did all the filming, photographing, audio (and with some help from my darling parents who helped with the microphones both in Australia and Myanmar), editing, directing. I did it all. I want to do so much more. This is just the very start of a new chapter.


A little more on Harold Martin..

Harold Martin was a prisoner of war in World War II. 15,000 Australian soldiers were captured by the Japanese in the fall of Singapore in 1942. After he was captured, he spent two long and brutal years working on the Burma “Death” Railway. Many of his friends died while working on the railway due to illness and being executed for attempting to escape. It is estimated that 16,000 Allied prisoners died while working on the railway.

Harold survived this ordeal but was then shipped to Japan on one of the notorious “hell ships”. While being transported to Japan, the convoy of Japanese ships was torpedoed by US submarines. The ship Harold was on sunk and he managed to survive by clinging onto a makeshift raft. After 4 days drifting in the ocean he was rescued by USS Pampanito along with 72 other Allied soldiers.

70 years later, Harold, who is 95 years old travels back to Burma for the first time to visit the grave sites of three of his mates that are buried in a Commonwealth war cemetery near the village of Thanbyuzayat.




Great work just met with harold & your dad at dylans ,its good to hear first hand what these guys went through
good to make harold be the main core of the story.
my great uncle royal james baggs (a classical violinist)was on the same boat as harold but after 4 days in the water he slipped away
I am also from kalgoorlie now live in perth we used to play as children at the white feather sand dunes in kanowna
harold has such a great spirit

Just watched your movie in Town Square Albany. Congratulations on portraying a unique story of an incredible man.

Hi Samm, just watched the short intro to your doco on Harold Martin. Congratulations on a well produced, thought provoking and very watchable piece. I breifly met Mr Martin recently in Albany through the tribute to Anzac mural I painted at Dog Rock shopping centre. Felt very humble. Thanks and all the best.

[…] 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. […]

An amazing story Samm, this should be shared more. Chocked the whole family up when we watched it. Such a proud granddaughter of this great man. I only wish that people could learn more about the Burma railway and what happened. Everyone knows of the other battles but not many know about the this one.
Thank you for sharing his story

A wonderful character. I have a photograph of a WW2 serviceman on his wedding day. He applied for special leave to marry his ‘sweetheart’ in Albany Western Australia in 1942. The photograph of bride and groom were taken (I think) by Martin Portraits, Albany. The word Martin is very faint. I have been trying to decide whether it was Martin or Master Portraits. Can you tell me if there is a connection,
Best wishes for your project,
Helene S

just saw this for the first time. such a beautiful & powerful story. I’m excited to meet you at Field Trip! :-)

[…] who’s story of being a POW survivor I have been documenting for the past few years. I made a short documentary about this back in 2012, which is still a work in progress into turning into a larger documentary. I entered the short […]

Great story . An awe inspiring man. A true hero.

Thank you so much for doing this. As a former soldier myself, I think these story’s need to be told and these men rembered. My Grandfathers brother was also captured at the fall of Singapore, and was sent to Sandakan and died on the death march. Our family only in the last few years, found out what happened to him. His brother (my grandfather) died before he found out what happened to him.
I plan to one day travel to Borneo to visit his grave.
Again.. Thank you.

Very moving, I can’t explain why but for sme years now those Australians who suffered under Nippon are never far from my thought, as it should be. Craig

You are doing great things Samm. Don’t stop.

I’ve been following you for a quite while now and your work always inspires me. However, I think this is by far the best piece you have ever done.

Samm you have a wonderful talent of capturing emotion, substance and depth. My family and I have been fortunate enough to call Harold our adopted popy for 10 years. Knowing Harold is an honour and I can truely say that no-one else could of captured him as you did, thank you dearly, your work is brilliant !

[…] to escape. It is estimated that 16,000 Allied prisoners died while working on the railway.” – harold martin. pow. 1942-1944 posted in interestingness « The Cosmic Gate will be our […]

I am touched learning that this man fought for the freedom of my country, Singapore.

What an incredible story. Can’t wait to see what happens with all of this.

This is so beautifully done Samm. My Grandfather was a prisoner of war but was killed in 1947 so we will never know his story. Thank you for sharing this amazing mans story.

[…] The image that became a finalist was the following – titled :  ”A 95 Year Old Australian P.O.W. Survivor Holds Up A Portrait Of Himself Taken 72 Years Ago”. You can learn about my project on Harold Martin in this post. […]

Oh Samm … this is just so lovely!! What an empowering story … a lifetime of resilience in that man’s heart. I hope you’ll continue to connect with people like this & tell their stories.

Simply amazing! Can’t wait to see what you do with it.

This is beautiful Samm, so so so moving. =)

Incredible. What an amazing man!

Samm, this is touching. My grandfather was a survivor of the Death March. I never met him, but so many share similar experiences. Thank you for sharing Harold’s. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing the rest of his story.

absolutely wonderful! not only is the story incredible, but it is so beautifully shot. amazing work.

incredible project, amazing work.

Simply Brilliant! We need more films. Excellent job!

this is just incredible. i hope we all take advantage of the opportunity to tell the stories that might be right in front of us..

absolutely moving. thanks so much for this.

Incredibly moving story and subject…thank you for introducing me to this time in history and such a man – beautifully told Samm.


Goosebumps, tears and heart clenching moments reading your words. I wonder what your complete body of work on this project will bring? My dad is a vet and has yet to be shared experiences. I will send him this, who knows, it may open the door for him. Thanks Samm… Amazing and moving.

Beautifully done Samm.

Wow Samm, this is really touching, such a great story. The blend of photography and video was masterfully executed, you’ve done really well.

The last image is very moving Samm. Amazing x

You are a natural Samm :)

Oozing with Sammy’s special sauce! Really beautiful to watch it again. SO inspiring, x.

Amazing story, fantastic photos.

These are the stories worth telling and you did it in a beautiful manner.

This story and project are so incredible. Amazing work Sammy. Thank you for creating, telling, and inspiring.

Like! Thanks Samm :)

A very powerful story, beautifully captured. I can’t wait to see what else comes from the footage and photography that you captured over those 4 days.

Samm, this is amazing! Thank you for sharing such an amazing story. You just reminded me how important it is to do personal work. Thank you.

Samm, I have always had a lot of respect and think very highly of your work. This is amazing and taking it to a whole new level! I really look forward to seeing more.

Sam this is remarkable because many years ago I purchased, from the ABC shop audio tapes of Prisoners of War, Australians Under Nippon. After many moves I could not find the tapes. Just a month or so ago I got I touch with Tim Bowden the journalist who had interviewed the survivors. Tim sent me a complete copy of the tapes on CD.

So to read what you have done is amazing. We must never forget what our soldiers suffered.

If you would like a copy of the CD’s please let me know.
Kind regards (Jen Regan.’s mum)

this is incredibly moving. You have captivated the soul of Harold through your talent.

Thank you.

Samm, this is so beautiful and moving. I look forward to seeing more xo

I stumbled upon your site by accident (?luck) and think that you what you captured in such a short profile is amazing and touching and above all respectful.

absolutely no words. i want to give Harold a hug.

This is moving. The photos are perfect… incredibly captivation and I could stare at them for a long time. Beautiful, beautiful work.

What beautiful and important work! I love all of this- so inspiring!

So haunting and beautiful. Truly captivating, Samm.

Thanks Samm, for moving me yet again x

Such a moving story ! Really love this documentery is we’re the passion is ! :)

beautiful – tears in my eyes xxx

Oh Samm you are a blessed being. Your talent is beyond words and again you love and heart for what you do is an inspiration.
Incredible….. Just incredible

what a portrait. Thanks for your diligence and hard work in an effort to reclaim a man’s memory and shed light on our own. Thank you Samm! “more to come” i hope so…

Every war veteran deserves to have their story told as with Harold. Beautiful work.

Wow. Such a powerful, moving story. A story that should be told and remembered. Amazing work x

Wow. These are the stories that need to be told. Well done.

the world needs more Samm Blakes. the stories you discover and share with the rest of the world are truly unique and heart-wrenching. I cannot WAIT to see the rest of this. never stop doing what you do. because you are a gift to the rest of us.

I’m transfixed with the final image of Harold sitting on the bed and looking forward to seeing the next chapter to his story in video. Happy Birthday for today as well Sam.

A special project there Samm. Kudos for taking on something that was a jump in the deep end, but also no doubt emotionally difficult (in a good way).

speechless… wow! what a tremendous story!

Chills. Cried as I watched it. This is so powerful, Samm.

Oh Samm, no words can really say what I am feeling right now. I am choking up big time. This is beyond words. It is so lovely to finally see this Samm. Amazing !

samm! im lovin this :-) thanks

Of Samm. This is incredible. I can’t wait to see where you take it when it is already so haunting.

Thank you for making this.

samm! no words. what an honor it is to know you. the world needs MORE samm blake films!! xo