William Henry Hall
By Christine Beer (William’s daughter)
William joined the 135 (Hertfordshire Yeomanry)Field Regiment of Royal Artillery when he was 19 years old. He was on 25lb Guns and in the 18th Division and a driver to officers whilst at Catterick Camp- Just like his friends Sammy Greenwood and Jim (Cyril) Drayton. It is believed Sammy was a driver to Colonel ‘Toosey’, and William was driver to Lt. Col. Lilly when they were stationed at Catterick. According to army records William was still in England on 1940/11/20.
On 29th October 1941 William sailed with the 18th Division for the Middle East on board the ‘Duchess of Atholl’ with convoy CT.5. He was part of the 53rd Infantry Brigade.
At Halifax Nova Scotia, they changed ships to the USS Mount Vernon which became the Convoy William Sail 12X. America at this time were not involved in the war. During the voyage on December 8th Pearl Harbour and Malaya were attacked and USA entered the war. On 30th December the USS Mount Vernon disengaged and became the convoy DM1 which at high speed sailed for Singapore. The convoy berthed at the Navy Yard, Singapore at 1315 hours on the 7th January 1942. After embarking the 53rd were ordered to Malaya to help try to hold back the Japanese advance. William records show he was in Malaya on the 12th January 1942 being forced back by the Japanese there was disarray and communication was lost until reaching Singapore.
The rest of the 18th Division arrived a week before Singapore fell to the Japanese and William became a Japanese PoW at 22 years old.
CHANGHI: Singapore)(15/2/1942) Camp Leader LT Col Holmes.
William was marched to Changi Camp in Singapore under his Camp Leader LT Col Holmes.
RIVER VALLEY ROAD: 13/5/1942 Camp Leader Lt Col Heath
On 13/5/1942 dad was sent to River Valley Road camp and Lt Col Heath was leader at the camp, then in August 1942 Colonel Fukure, the Jap commander called upon every prisoner of war in Singapore to sign a certificate saying he would not escape. EVERY MAN REFUSED TO SIGN. .As a result, on 2nd September, the Jap commander ordered all ranks (except those sick in hospital) to proceed to Selerang camp.
This is portrayed in ‘Charles Thrayle’ sketches. There were no sanitary arrangements, and this was when he contracted dysentery. The camp was to hold 850 men, and into this camp the barbaric Japs squeezed 16,000 men. Dad recalled that the Japs had machine guns trained on them, and they had to stand and sleep in searing heat for four days. William and others had to help dig latrines. As disease was already rife the Japs showed they meant business by executing a number of men who tried to escape. The officers told the men to sign under duress, and returned to their camps.
Transported to Thailand - 20/03.1943
By Charles Thrayle
William became part of ‘D‘ Force and sent up jungle by train no 6 on 20/3/1943. The steel cattle trucks where the prisoners were crammed were very hut during the day and heat must have been Immense without ventilation, they couldn’t even sleep lying down as there was not enough room and very little water was available, the journey took about five days.
When reaching Ban Pong, Thailand the marched through the Main High Street and up through walled Arch area of Kanchanburi and into a Camp called the Aerodrome 1+2 Camp. The Mayor at the time was Boonpong a local shop trader who could see the plight of the sick men and the Japs went to him for supplies, whilst they were talking to his daughter, he would sneak much needed medicines and food into boxes, which undoubtedly saved a lot of POWs lives, had Boonpong been caught he would have been executed by the Japs. After the war Boonpong was commended for his very brave actions and he was awarded Recognition for his actions.
WANG PHO (Wampo): 10/4/1943 Camp Leader Lt Col Lilly
William was then moved to camp in Chungkai and then on to working on the building of the Bridge at Wang pho (Wampo) Viaduct, it was built entirely with timber,( as P O W artist Leo Rawlings).
When finished Williams party was sent overland further up country to clear through the rock face to start work at the Hintok Pass where they had to cut through the Hillside and using 'tap and pin' technique the rocks were then moved in baskets in the blazing heat amid the jungle noises and without stopping for water and food, which was not available to these poor young souls and the many Malay and Thai civilians who were also transported to the railway. Heat, exhaustion, disease, malnutrition and beatings caused many to loose by the Japanese Engineers, who were by far the worst type. It was ‘Speedo’ ‘Speedo’ from morn to night, until death became a welcome release .Later William said ‘for every sleeper laid a prisoner died!’ William had a bad bout of Malaria and because Quinine was of short supply and didn’t go sick early enough he had to work, and while he walked along, a guard walked behind him and beat him with a Bamboo stick with every step he took. William was later to suffer from a leg ulcer.
Against all the odds William survived .
KINSAIYOK: ( 1 Jungle camp): (10/5/1943) Camp Leader Maj (Darrell) .Dayrell.,
On 10/5/1943 the POWs were marched to the Kinsaiyok Jungle 1+2 Camp under Major Darrell as Camp Leader. There were many dying from Cholera and other diseases like Beri-Beri which William, the men washed and clean up in the river which later was discovered to spread disease.
KROENG KRAIi: 01/8/43 Camp leader ( Maj (Darrell) Dayrell .
Once the Railway was completed here, William’s party were moved to Kroeng Krai after 3 months being at Kinsaiyok. From here William walked to the Cholera Hospital, where the dead were put on log fires to stop the disease spreading. This was near Songkurai No 2 camp ,(there is no doubt that my Dad was at this camp, as he wrote about it down on a piece of paper but it’s not shown on any records held in the( Thai Burma Railway Centre Museum in Kanchanburi) William said that as the bodies burned they would sit up and he then had to poke them down. William wrote about his friend next to him who became sick with cholera , he later went to the Cholera hut and William never saw him again.
THA SOA (Siam)(Hospital): (6/12/1943) Camp Leader Col Harvey..(He was a Doctor),
As William became ill he was sent to Tha Sao (Hospital) camp 6/12/1943.
NAKHOM PATHON (Hospital): (10/4/1944) Camp Leader Col Coates .( He was a Doctor).
William was sent to another Hospital Campunder Lt. Col Coates who was a Doctor at this Camp in Nakhom Pathom (according to Records shows he was in a Sanatorium in Thailand so the story seems to tell me that he like so many others were very ill ,and not surprising after working with the Cholera bodies, and being so malnourished and beaten daily and treated so appallingly by the Barbaric Japanese & Korean guards).
Liberation August 15th 1945
According to Williams Japanese Index Card, on 4th September 1945, William was handed over to Col.Mc Eachern who was Senior Allied Officer in Thailand and he took charge of repatriating approximately 30,000 troops. William spent the last months being treated for the tropical Diseases he was stricken down with, before they flew him out by a Dakota Plane to a Hospital in Rangoon.
Dad said his prayers every day,( so someone up above must have been looking after him from his known hell) ……What a brave man he was. He was always my Hero.
Dad contacted Tropical Diseases:- Beri –Beri, Malaria, Dysentry, & Strongyloides (worm parasite).
When the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, this saved all the prisoners lives as the japs had already dug trenches for their graves ready for them to be machine gunned. The Japs had already turned the guns into the camps so my Dad told me. My Dad was flown out of the jungle by a Dakota plane as he was in a very poor condition, to a hospital in Rangoon in November. Something that I never had any idea about was told by a FEPOW whilst meeting up with fellow COFEPOWs at our gathering at a Bournemouth hotel,... that once the allied troops saved the prisoners from their living hell in the heart of the jungle, that the japs had fled from...was that they were flown to either Rangoon , Canada, or Australia where they were nursed back to a reasonable weight and health by feeding them little and often, up to 5 times a day! In order for them to board a slow journey back to English soil by boat, so that the general public wouldn’t be too horrified at the emaciated prisoners returning. For many years after they suffered from their tropical diseases and ulcerated legs and Horrendous nightmares.
My Mum and Dad met two years after he survived the horrors of being captive by the Japanese Army, they worked at the same factory which was Sleepeze in Croydon. the story my mum tells me is that one of the lads who worked there swore at my Dad and so he was then punched by Dad and then both had to go to the Manager's office to be reprimanded. The manager knew what my dad had been through as he kept his job open for him to return to after the war, so he understood when Dad explained that for all the years he was sworn at and beaten by the Japs that no one else was ever going to get away with it ! Hence why he clocked this bloke one!!
It was the year of 1947 on the 6th September that my parents married and Dad used to have terrible nightmares according to my Mum, saying that he would 'scream to leave him be' and mum would hold him until he calmed down, this went on for the first two years of their marriage and gradually with mums understanding and help they then were not so often. .Dad was such a laid back quiet private man who adored his wife and two Daughters. I can also remember a time when I must of only been about 10 years old when we were waiting for a Ferry at Portsmouth to go over to the Isle of Wight, And Dad always wore his blazer with FEPOW badge on the pocket, when striding towards us were three Japanese Naval officers who had just come off their ship that was docked, and Dad started shouting at them 'I wish I had a spade to bash you with as you done to my friends' my mum had to grab him to calm him down, as my sister and I were crying.
This was so out of character for my Dad, and I can remember a gentleman striding towards dad with same Badge on his Blazer, shaking my Dads hand but not saying a word to each other as he must of understood exactly how my Dad was feeling, as he was surely a FEPOW himself.