Taipei, Nov. 11 (CNA) Bells in Taiwan rang out at 11 a.m. Sunday, as the country joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
"We are showing here in Taiwan, half a world away, our solidarity with all those in England, France, Belgium, and the other Allied countries," Michael Hurst, director of the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, said at an annual service in remembrance of Allied prisoners of war (POWs) during World War II.
The 21st Remembrance Day service was held at the site of the World War II Kinkaseki POW Camp in Jinguashi, New Taipei, and co-hosted by the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society and the British Office Taipei, to pay tribute to former POWs who suffered or died in Taiwan.
At 11 a.m., a bell in a nearby temple tolled, while the participants in the service observed a moment of silence to mark the 1918 signing of the armistice between Germany and WWI Allies, exactly 100 years ago.
One of the attendees, former U.S. Army doctor Elizabeth Pepe, traveled from Florida in search of information about her grandfather Frank Brezina, one of the thousands of Allied soldiers captured by Japanese troops during WWII and interned in Taiwan.
Brezina, a colonel in the U.S Army Quartermaster Corps, was held in Karenko Camp in Hualien in 1942 and was later moved to Shirakawa Camp in Tainan, where he died on June 26 the following year.
"I've been searching for many years on the Internet, trying to find information about my grandfather," Pepe said. "My mother had not heard from him since she was 17."
Pepe said her mother is now 92 and could not make the trip to Taiwan.
"I promised her I will take photos and movies and tell her what went on here," said Pepe, who was wearing an American POW medal that was awarded posthumously to her grandfather.
Pepe said much is owed to the veterans of different wars who made sacrifices for their countries and families.
British Representative to Taiwan Catherine Nettleton said the service was held Sunday to remember the people who had fought and died in WWI, WWII and other conflicts and to reflect on how to create a better future.
"We remember for very important reasons," she said. "So we don't forget who gave their lives for us; so that we understand what we are capable of, good and bad; to learn what led to war; to learn from our mistakes so that from understanding we can work to prevent the repetition of war; and to defuse wars in the making, because wars are brutal costly failures for humankind."
Nettleton said remembrance also helps to create inclusive societies based on reconciliation and acceptance of differences, in which all lives are equally valued and opportunities for all are fostered.
According to the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, the Japanese captured more than 200,000 Allied POWs during WWII in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines and sent them to Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar and elsewhere to serve as slaves.
In Taiwan, more than 4,350 Allied POWs were held in 16 camps between 1942 and 1945 and about 10 percent of them died in captivity from starvation, sickness, overwork and beatings by guards, according to the organization.
Sunday's memorial service in Taipei was also attended by Director of the American Institute in Taiwan Brent Christensen, Director of the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office Moira Turley and representatives of other Allied countries.
According to international media reports, bell-ringing events are scheduled to take place at thousands of churches across the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia and other counties at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 to mark the 100th anniversary of the WWI Armistice and honor those who served in the war.