Archibald "Arch" Henry Flanagan was a prisoner of the second world war, but he was also a family man, a gentleman, and a man of integrity. His story lives on through his family, and his legacy and wishes will never be forgotten.
Arch was placed in the C-Company of the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion in World War II. He served on the Thai-Burma Railway as a prisoner of war, and his commanding officer was none other than Sir Ernest Edward "Weary" Dunlop, making him one of "Dunlop's Thousand".
All of Arch's children, and some of his grandchildren, have felt a strong pull to his past. Tim Flanagan, and two of his brothers, traveled to Japan and met some of the villagers who were small children when the POWs were in the camp. Many of the family also traveled to the Thai-Burma Railway.
"I have been tothe Burma end of the railway. There is, buried at the big war cemetery, one bloke from dad's company who enlisted in Tasmania in mid-1940. I put flowers and ribbons with their battalion colours on it on the headstone. I suspect no one else who knew of him had been there, at least not for a long time," Tim said.
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Arch's family see themselves as "the children of the railway," and his grandson Michael Voss expressed how much of a profound effect that notion had on his life growing up. "It was such a defining part of my grandfather's life that it followed after him to influence his children's lives and their children as well," he said.
Michael, just like many of his family, traveled to the railway to better understand history and Arch's trials. He found it an incredibly moving experience that will stay with him forever. He was was able to lay flowers on the graves of those that his grandfather had spoken of.
"I think his desire would have been that all of those people who never made it home would be remembered," he said. "At 28 I was given the chance to stand in the same place where my grandfather had been at the same age. I definitely think it reinforced my connection with Arch."
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Michael said he will always remember his grandfather as a man of kindness and compassion."Despite all that he and others had suffered and witnessed he was a firm believer that the most sacred thing in life was compassion," he said. "Arch loved the underdogs, and the battlers, and all of God's creatures."
Another of Arch's children, Mary Voss, said her dad wanted his family to honour those who fell and remember them always. "His abiding wish and what he hoped for most was that those men who didn't get home from the war would never be forgotten," she said.
Arch left behind a legacy that will stand tall and proud throughout the generations of his family, and they will carry his memory with them forever.