Alfred Thomas Jury
483/118 FIELD REGIMENT
Alfred is front left
Worked on the Thailand-Burma Railway
5am Tuesday 24th March 2009
I Don't Know Why But I Joined The Territorial Army
I caught the Euston train for Uttoxeter. On the 27th of October 1941 the Regiment left Claygate which is near Uttoxeter, and went on board the 28,000 ton ship Orcades.
We left Liverpool Docks on the 29th of October.
We were to cross the Atlantic in one of the roughest storms and were not allowed on deck as it was most unsafe. I was not sick at all but quite a lot of the men were and that left a lot of food for us which were feeling all right. I enjoyed the journey, even the roughest bits.
The convoy of ships were carrying a whole division of soldiers so it was very vulnerable and half way across the Atlantic an alarm was sounded. The convoy was the largest ever we were told, but with only two destroyers, aircraft carriers with several planes, battleships and several smaller war ships protecting us we could have been attacked and all the convoy sunk with no trouble, but we were lucky as we were met by the United States Navy. They did a bit of showing off circling our convoy. Our two little destroyers that protected us through the most dangerous seas, turned around and went back to England.
After a pleasant journey across the Atlantic, we stood about half a mile off of Conception Bay, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
From our ship we could see the Docks, and in it a big ship which was the U,S,S America, with the war time name of U.S.S. Westpoint a 33,961 ton ship, that was the ship we sailed in - with no shore leave.
I had a comfortable bunk in the smoke room and a good run of the ship. It had Ice cream parlours and I think two cinemas but we were not allowed to wear boots on the ship. My mate Albert Barnes and I spent a lot of time on deck as the ship steamed down the East coast of America about twenty miles off shore. ship, occasionaly seeing dolphins and flying fish.
The convoy called at Trinidad port of Spain but n soldiers were allowed ashore because Trinidad was not big and not civilised enough to cope. The ships anchored about a mile off shore, which was a lovely tropcal beach with beautiful yellow sand, a backdrop of palm trees, little coloured houses and the sea lapping the shore. It is a great pity we could not go ashore, but we had such a large number of soldiers and it was impossible but about twenty lucky American sailors did go ashore.
Rum was a shilling (5 Pence) a bottle (1 pint ), some of the black crew were a bit drunk and they were knocked off of the ladder into the sea. I do not know why the ship stopped there, maybe the senior members of the ships crew needed a little relief. After a short period the ship moved west out of Trinidad Bay, turned south, then as we turned north the sea looked black and so deep it seemed as if it was bottomless, also the other ships in the distance looked small and insignificant in such a sea, just like toy ships on a little pond.
We were given some information by the ships commander from time to time, whether it was correct or precise I do not know, but we were told over the ships speakers that we were not travelling in a regular or straight line so to deceive enemy war ships and submarines. We steamed 8,500 miles from Trinidad, southeast to Capetown. After the war we heard that the Orcades was sunk off Capetown.
We arrived at Capetown on about 12th December, it was magic going from blackouts and rations. there was plenty of everything. Albert Barnes and I decided as we had money saved, while we were on board ship, we would go for a special meal in a good restaurant. We had a blowout of the best food plus drinks. When we went up to pay for it the cashier said it was free to soldiers on our convoy, we were both so embarrassed but they said they were so pleased that we so enjoyed our meal and we could come again anytime. We never went back to that restaurant again as they would not let us pay.
The next day, we went walkabout and came across St Andrews Presbyterian Church where they had tables and chairs outside. We sat down and a lady brought us tea and cakes. She sat and talked to us saying I looked like her son who was a soldier in North Africa. We had a pleasant conversation, talking about her son, about my wedding and my wife Grace. Mrs M. M. Stewart of 19 Broadwalk Square, Pinelands, Capetown sent a letter to Grace on the 29th December 1941 telling her about me and her son.
One evening we were in Havelock Road, it was dark with an open door of what looked like a dance hall . A woman in evening dress ran out into the dark street and into a black man, although it was her fault, out of the darkness came two policemen and beat him to the ground with their battens. There was nothing we could do but carry on walking. That was our first experience of appartite. We walked up Havelock Road unaware that two soldiers had been knifed there the previous evening. As we walked a black man walked by our side and said:-
“Walk a few yards after I leave you then walk back the way you came because this is District Six”.
He walked on and we turned round and walked back down Havelock Road and out of the black District six. It was evening and on the left we heard music coming from a theatre so we made our way in. There was no one on the door or at the cashiers desk and it was dark apart from the lights on the stage. Two people got up and moved along giving us their seats. After a while the lights went up and we found ourselves in a black theatre. We thanked the two people for the seats and made our way out, when we got to the landing outside the auditorium some black boys had a guitar, playing as we spoke to them, they asked us if we could play, Albert said he would try and strummed for a while, after that they wanted to take us home. In the theatre everyone was friendly. so much for appartite. There are bad whites and blacks but I met a lot of good blacks in Capetown. South Africa is a beautiful place with a very good climate but it is a shame about the animosity between the blacks and whites because it is so unnecessary.
We were in Capetown for about a week and had a wonderful time with such kindness from both blacks and whites.
We boarded the U.S.S. Westpoint and steamed up the East coast of Africa for the North Africa campaign but on the way our senior Officers were told of the defeat of Rommel, so there was a Division of highly trained soldiers at a loose end. Some of the convoy stopped off at Mombassa but we steamed to Bombay India.
I must add this after the war, about 1958-1962, I was doing a plumbing job for a Mr De Souza and happened to tell him about our stay in India. “Oh!” he said “I was your Paymaster”. He said there was a fortune spent on phone calls too and from Bombay to England, because the 18th Division was in excess of the Indian Garrison. It took two to three weeks to get money for our pay. He was Major General De Sousa, Pay master to the British Army, India. He was Indian and a very nice man, and he could make a lovely cup of tea. He came to England, settling in Canadian Avenue, Catford, London, but back to the story.
The Westpoint entered Bombay Harbour when the tide was in, when the tide went out the ship sat on the sea bed on its side, for a 33,000 ton ship that was serious. So when the tide came in again the ship was taken outside the harbour for turning trials (I took it that the rudder or screws could have been damaged). It was very exciting, the sharp turns, and seeing the sea life being churned up to the surface, the big fish, squids and octopus appeared giants.
After the tests we entered Bombay Docks and disembarked having a day looking around Bombay. It was different, and interesting, everywhere hot and so dry, the general population so poor and the smells, I heard they cook on dried cow dung.
We arrived at Ahmadnahga after a long train journey with no pay for two weeks, but we had quite good food, were housed in good huts and slept on surprisingly comfortable beds.
I do not remember doing any army training or drill, but we played five aside football and we were told it was 100 degrees in the shade, I thought my head was on fire. I also climbed a 30ft palm tree, from which I was given a dressing down by one of our officers as he said I was lowering the prestige of the British soldier, I thought I was doing just the opposite. My mate Albert Barnes climbed one in Singapore, got so far up and did not have the strength and slid down, scratching his arms and chest. Our battery were photographed in a large group in Ahmadnahga I still have the photos.
Ahmadnahga was a desert, I went for a walk and found the soil very interesting, it was sandy soil about 18 inches deep, under that it was about 4 to 6 inches of mica like crystal !!
I read that thousands of years ago terrific heat caused by something like an atomic explosion must have caused this. I sometimes think there was a civilisation before ours. I picked up a piece the shape of Africa but it was stolen out of my kit bag, maybe they thought it was a valuable stone.
We were in India for about three weeks travelling back to the Bombay Docks by train and the U.S.S. Westpoint, to the same place on the ship and the same bunk .
The ship steamed out of Bombay toward The Malay Archapelago and Singapore, down South east in the Arabian Sea, round Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), east toward Malaya and round north of Sumatra to Singapore
We were very lucky we did not have any trouble from the enemy, we had an alert but it was a false alarm. We arrived at Singapore Docks on the 29th January 1942. to hear that the Japs were on their way down the Peninsular of Malaya towards Singapore Island.
We all left the U.S.S. Westpoint except for the unloading party and made our way to a bungalow estate north of Singapore Town. On our way there was some bombing and a few of our men were killed and injured. When we arrived at the estate we made ourselves at home. All of the bungalows were unoccupied some having a little furniture. A few days after we arrived a Jap plane dropped a stick of bombs, none of us were hurt, but a bomb hit the corner of our bungalow bringing our ceilings down, the mosquito nets over our beds took the weight of the plaster. A soldier in a block of flats was not so lucky, he was sitting in a big armchair when a bomb came through the roof and landed between his legs, exploding it blew his legs off. On the 14th February 1942, I was in Sarangoon Road school awaiting orders when I was told that someone had taken my lorry, we ran out to where I had left it and it was still there. We were deciding what to do when a Chinaman came out of a house with a full sack on his back, I challenged him and he started to run. I lifted my rifle to fire over his head just as a mortar bomb came over. I made a dive to the only protection available which was a rainwater channel about four feet deep and four feet wide. These channels start on the highest part of Singapore at about a foot wide and deep as a flood protection system to take the rain to the outfall into the sea. I was in such a stinking filthy state that I dumped all of my clothes and my fellow gunners had the great pleasure of hosing me down which hurt in certain places.
One day during the battle of Singapore, I was out with a load of ammunition along Sarangoon Road, when Sergeant Major Dowset stopped me and asked me where I had been, before I could speak he pointed his revolver at me, he said “Now what are you going to do now !!!!”
I replied that it was not me that is in trouble Sergeant Major, but you !!!!
“This morning I asked for a four man cover party because I could not rely just the one man in my cab and four Lea Enfield rifles are pointed at at your head !”
He put his revolver away and praised me for being alert !!!!
I was sitting on the floor at Sarangoon Road School on February 15th 1942 and was just about to pick up a mess tin of tea when a mortar bomb exploded outside the window, I was lucky but another man next to me was wounded in the head. Albert Barnes and I took him out and stopped an ambulance, putting him in it with a Chinese man with half a foot blown off, we both jumped in to make sure our mate and the Chinese man got to hospital as the ambulances had no crew, only a driver. We got them both into Alexander Hospital.
When we came out the ambulance had gone taking our rifles with it. While in the hospital we heard that the battle of Singapore was finished and the armistice was at three o’clock, as it was nearly that we left the Hospital.
What we did not know was that Jap soldiers were rampaging through the Hospital killing people on operating tables and in their beds. Some of the hospital staff were taken and thrown into a blazing petrol tank as we were in another part of the hospital we knew nothing about it until weeks after.
As we made our way down the drive of the hospital we were sniped at from the top of a block of flats. We were lucky as there was a wall on the side of the drive which we took advantage of and made our escape back to Sarangoon Road School.
To prevent unnecessary killing it was agreed that the Japanese army would stop outside Singapore Town over night. Small parties of British soldiers would go to certain map references to meet the Japs and advise them. If I can remember correctly, there was an officer, Mr Barbour, a Sergeant Major, a Sergeant and six Gunners and I was chosen to drive them. The meeting was up the Bukit Timor Road on the North of Singapore Island. It was not known how long we would be there, so as we neared the meeting place Mr Barbour sent me back to get some food and drink. I had no maps and as there were several roads meeting Bukit Timor Road going back, I took the wrong road and got lost. While I was contemplating two men appeared dressed in native garb, I grabbed a pistol which had been left in the car and asked what they wanted. They were two Gorden Highlanders and they said they had a boat hidden on the coast and were going to escape. I thought about it and as I knew Singapore was hundreds, maybe thousands of miles away from safe lands, I did not go with them. I hope they survived, if they did and they read this, I would really like to know.
Being lost and very tired, I decided to get some sleep. That was easy as we got little or no sleep during the battle of Singapore. Battles are so noisy!
I found my way back to the Regiment in Sarangoon Road School.
The next day, the 16th of February, we moved from Singapore Town to empty Army Married Quarters in Changi which is in north east of Singapore Island. We thought that was wonderful as we still had some western food, but those conditions did not last long. We started living on a rice diet, most of the men reported sick because we were peeing so much. The doctor told us that it was a complete change in our diet and after a while things did settle down, but not for the better.
Just after we arrived at Changi, we heard machine guns blasting away North of Changi. It was said that a great number of Chinese men were shot on the beach on the north-east coast of Singapore Island.
After a while the food and conditions deteriorated, we were getting sick and I went into Changi Hospital with dysentery. The conditions in hospital were atrocious, our medicine for dysentery was Manganese sulphate (epsom salts). I do not remember much about the bed except that it had a mattress and a pillow. The toilet, lavatory or sh** house was at the end of the ward where there was I believe six pans, which were dustbins with a seat type lid, they had been full for several days and were overflowing onto the floor, down the concrete stairs. I was relieved of my dysentery and told that I was cured, at that point I weighed seven and a half stone. After a few days out of Hospital we left the Haven of Changi and went on foot to River Valley Road P.O.W Camp, which was a 16 miles walk from Changi, North of Singapore Town. We got about a mile from River Valley and a kind Chinaman gave me an ice cold lemon drink and I collapsed. They bundled me into a lorry and I awoke in our first real P.O.W. camp, River Valley Road. There was a stream on the south side of the camp but we had no access to it. It would have been good to wash in, but there was a fence between us and it.
A few of us kept together for a while. There was Bombadier Smith and as I still had some photos, I showed him one of Innerliethen, Scotland and a group on the snow slopes with a five seater toboggan we had made. He looked at the photo and he was so excited. He asked how I took it, I told him and he said that a young lady in the photo was his wife. He had no photos of her and I had two so I gave him one, he was so pleased, really out of his mind. That made my day too, I never saw him after River Valley. I don’t think he made it out of the jungle, but I hope he did.
One day Gurka POWs went past our camp and threw food over the fence to us, another time a huge stingray was given to us, but when it was cooked it turned to jelly and was uneatable.
Peter Broome had the bed space next to me, he lived in Croydon. He had a mosquito net as did I. The nets were big enough for two bed spaces. The bed spaces, were on a continuous platform each side of the hut, a bed space being about 3ft wide, so we sold one of them and shared the other. Peter was very unhappy and one night I awoke to find him crying. The following morning he was very sick, we called our medical officer and Peter was taken to Hospital, he died multiple diseases but I think he just gave up, that was 25th of June 1942. I Reported sick the morning of 27th June, with diarrhoea and went into Changi hospital. I was discharged on the 2nd July. It must have been something I ate. Sent a card to Grace:-
Darling Grace, I am healthy and unhurt being treated very well, send love to Mother and Father and all, keep smiling - Love Toni.
I wrote ‘Toni’ because Grace knew that is my nom de plume, and that the card really was sent by me.
On the 3rd July we went into Singapore town with builders barrows, to help to clear bomb damage. We have been forbidden to accept food from anyone outside camp but we accepted food from the Chinese. They are very kind to us and we knew, they would not give us food that was bad. The Chinese women ran up and down our line of barrows giving us what we call Chinese wedding cakes. They are small square cakes made of tapiyoca flour and sugar. The Jap guards club the women around the head with their rifle buts but if the women can get on their feet they carry on giving us the cakes. One day the guards saw a Chinese man giving us food, they made him take his shoes off, and stand on the pavement, which was extremely hot from the tropical suns rays, holding a five gallon oil drum above his head, if he lifted a foot he was clubbed. After a while his feet were burning and blistered, he was then unable to walk but got away on his hands and knees. Another day we were in Singapore with the barrows when we saw a crowd, there was a head laying on what looked a book shelf. After we heard that eight Malays, were found guilty of stealing rice and killing a guard. They were executed by having their heads cut off which were displayed in different places in Singapore.
The end of July we were working in a granite quarry, about one and a quarter miles south of the Causeway, we found the skeletons of eight Australian soldiers, three in one group were blown to pieces, the helmet of one was found 350 yards away on the other side of the valley.
On the 8th August I was taken to River valley Hospital, then to Changi hospital with dysentery.
3rd September the Japs sent forms for us all to sign which made us promise not to escape. Since then they have made a lot of restrictions and tightened up on our freedom. One man died today with dysentery. On average, three men a day in the hospital, die of dysentery.
On the 3rd October I left Hospital and on the 11th of October, thanks to the Red Cross, we had a typical Sunday meal. Mid October back to hospital for three days.
On the 7th November we went to Singapore Railway Station and are loaded aboard all steel trucks, 16ft long, 6ft wide and 6ft high. Up to 35 men to a truck bound north up Malaya for Bampong, Thailand, travelling over 1000 miles through tropical heat by day and very cold at night, travelling at high altitudes over high hills.
I do not remember getting any food except from sympathetic native Malays and this was once when the train stopped, from a Malay woman with a huge basket of bananas, we gave her a large sheet for some bananas and she threw the basket and all of the bananas into our truck. Needless to say we gave the basket back which she did not expect. The water situation was very bad, the only water available was when the train stopped to fill up the engines water tanks, but then we had nothing to save the water in so we could only drink what we could at that time.
We arrived at Bampong, Thialand after travelling for seven days and nights and were assembled after leaving the train. A Jap read out three names:-
Bombadier A. Newcombe, Sergeant J. Collier? and Gunner, A.T. Jury.
The Regiment will go to building the Railway and the three picked men will go into the workshops in Nong Pladuk. I asked if I could refuse and stay with my Regiment, the Jap in charge said that he wouldn’t if he were me, if I did I wouldn’t go anywhere. I did not refuse, our Regiment left us and went up country and the three of us went to Nong Pladuk. There was no more contact with our Regiment till after the war. The Japs had used our civilian occupation records, mine said - Apprentice Plumber, Foundry Worker. The other two were, Newcombe - Draughtsman and Colliier - Electrician. We three, worked our trades in the workshops.
I was fairly experienced in foundry work and knew moulding core making and most other items of foundry work, so I got on o.k. The one thing I did not like was my footwear. We were casting up with 100 pound pots of molten metal, brass, copper and aluminium, any splashes would burn our feet, which did happen a few times. I still have a few small scars on the top of my feet. Our footwear was very sub standard and our feet had little or no protection. To add to the danger, if any creatures found their way into the mould when pouring the liquid in, their bodies exploded into steam and small amounts of liquid metal would fly about, very often down toward our legs and feet. Because of this we always left the moulds open and put the tops of the moulds on just before pouring the metal. The manager of the foundry was of course Japanese, he was a very small man, about 4ft 9inches tall, but he could be very violent. One of our men did something wrong and the manager hit him on the back of his legs with a 6ft long by 3inch square, piece of wood, it almost broke his legs. The man that looked after the furnace was Johnson, he was about 6ft tall and built like Garth, being extremely muscular. One day the manager had severe pains in his stomach and he called for Johno, when Johno went to him he told Johno to take him to the doctor. Johno said:
“Come here you little bastard.”
With that he picked the Jap up like a baby and as Johno walked away to the Jap hospital with the foundry manager we heard him say:-
“Lets find a f***ing deep hole and drop you in it”.
It was lucky the Jap did not understand English
There were two Chinese men working in the foundry, Lee Sang and Pong Ki Hong (he said that family and friends called him Pong Gow). They were moulders and core makers. Lee made a batch of cores and placed them close together, piling wood shavings from the carpenters shop around and over the cores, then with short stakes into the ground, placed iron sheets around and over the cores, setting light to the shavings in the (oven) to bake the sand cores. Once, after the cores were baked and cold, Lee Sang had left a stake in the ground, Pong Gow, did not see the stake, squatted and bulls eye, yes, the stake went up his rectum. Thankful that it did not cause any internal damage but it drew blood and was very painful. Pong Gow, with his trousers being held up with one hand, chased Lee Sang round the foundry for about fifteen minutes with an axe, then Johno caught hold of the axe and Pong Gow. If it had not been for Johno’s intervention, Lee Sang would have died with an axe in his head, we nearly died laughing. To cap it all the foundry manager went into the workshop and came out with a bottle. The foundry was completely open on four sides and he told Pong Gow to drop his trousers and bend over, well Pong did and the manager took the lid off of the bottle and pulled a brush dripping with iodine, out of the bottle, pushing it up Pong’s rectum. Oh Boy! I think Pong Gow broke the world high jump record. He went up in the air, came down, ran around the foundry then out into the jungle. We did not see him in the foundry for days (we think he must have run around the world), some of our men and the Japs collapsed onto the floor laughing. So did I, poor Pong Gow, he didn’t laugh.
There was another incident. To get from the camp to the workshops, we came out of the camp, turned left, past a few natives huts, bore right, over the railway, through paddy (rice) fields and left into the assembly area, which we called the slave market. This was about a half a mile from our camp where we were separated into smaller groups and ushered to our respective workshops. In the centre of the slave market was a huge pole, I guess about 60 to 100 ft high, the base of the pole was about 18 to 21 inches in diameter and the top was about 7 inches in diameter with three ropes stabilising it. We were crowded into the slave market when a lorry came in, hitting one of the ropes which broke about three feet off the top of the pole and of course it came down! The crowd of men not knowing what had happened, panicked, over running the guards and each other when the broken top of the pole came down, it hit one of our men at the back of his head caving his head in and killing him. Because the pole had a large orange ball at the top representing the Rising Sun, the Japs performed a Japanese funeral for him, I think that was the only P.O.W to have that kind of funeral.
When we had the opportunity we stole anything from the workshops, small tools, hacksaw blades, anything we could hide on our person, which was a bit difficult considering that we only had tiny shorts and some tinier than that. Some had what we called b*ll**k bag, that was a string around the waist with a piece of cloth about six inches wide fitted to the string or tape (which ever was available) hung down the back, then between the legs and then up over the string, or tape to hang down the front, low enough for decency. The Japs wore them often when they were off duty. I never wore one, I had a pair of shorts for about two years. When we were free my shorts had the third lot of patches on them after the original shorts had disappeared. Even under those conditions I felt decent. The cotton thread, I got from any piece of cloth I found and pulled to pieces thread by thread. As for the needles, I found one when we were going from our camp to the Mayama Butai workshops. The lane from the camp to Miamah Butai in the dry season was about a foot of sand coloured dust and one day, going to work, I bent down and picked up a good and shiny sowing needle. I cannot remember where the other needles came from but that one was a miracle.
I met some Dutch soldiers in our camp in 1943, one was Arnold Echholts (I think I have spelt his Surname right, if I did not I apologise), he held a Government post in Holland before the war, I heard that after the war he was secretary to The Holland P.O.W society. When we were moving out of Nong Pladuk, Camp, Arnold gave me an oil lamp he had made, I made one when that one got broken, how we made it ? I will tell you:-
You obtain a quinine pill jar and a piece of string and a mess tin full of water. Someone holds the jar and two men hold the ends of the string, with one turn of the string round the bottom of the jar. The two men pull the string in turn, as in a sawing motion as fast as possible, the friction of the string being pulled in turn heats the aggravated glass, when it has heated up you plunge the bottom of the glass jar quickly into the water and if you have done things right, the bottom of the jar will crack all round and fall off, leaving you with a glass funnel for an oil lamp. So with a container with oil in it, stand the glass funnel in it with a piece of thick string for a wick, you now have an oil lamp.
I sold my wedding ring that Grace gave me to a Thia man for a few Thai dollars, that’s how desperate we were for food, personal belongings do not mean much when you are hungry.
All of the incidences in my story are correct and true, but the times and dates may not be because watches were very scarce, watches went to pay for eggs and bananas, I can only tell you about times and things I can remember. I still have my diary of prisoner of war times, but writing tools and leisure were very rare in Nong Pladuk camp.
We got accustomed to the conditions and had our moments of fun and laughter, like Christmas 1942. We had a day or two off, I do not know how but a stage was erected and a show was put on. Some of the men in our camp did their best to entertain us. The Japs told us that we must not sing the National Anthem so we did not, we sang LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY, I have never heard it sung better or louder ever before or since, not even in The Albert Hall. It was heard three and a half miles away in the Bampong camp (Bampong was a little shanty town similar to an old cowboy town in U.S.).The Jap guards were going crazy, running about shouting - mateo - mateo - stop - stop! But the more they shouted the louder we sang. For the men that were there it was wonderful and unforgettable.
To get a little money we stole small tools etc. from the workshops, anything that was saleable to the Thais who hung about on our way to from the workshops. We had the excuse and called it ‘sabotage’. Leaving the workshops, the Jap guards would be in the slave market armed with rifles etc. and a search would be on the cards, although we had nowhere on our person to hide things, some of the men would have tools etc.. When we were about a quarter of a mile away from the search the Thais started buying things off us. Things went on like that when we had the opportunity.
In the Nong Pladuk foundry, was a young Jap about twenty years old.. His name was Omah, I think he was a country boy, a peasant . He was good and kind .If I met him, I would shake his hand. I think all of us that worked in the foundry liked him. He was the Only Jap I could say that about. Sometimes he slid off and came back with fish, that he had caught in the paddy fields, they were put in the hot core ovens and when they were cooked, he slipped us one each.
The railway engines ran on wood, I and another man were cutting old sleepers up for them with a large two handle crosscut saw. While we were sawing them up, four Japs came along. I think they wanted to wear me out because they were very muscular with big necks and arms. They told the other man on the other end of the saw to get up, one of them sat down and grabbed hold of the other end of the saw. I knew how to handle a crosscut saw, the easy way, is not to push and pull, in other words each man just pulls the saw away from the other man. The first Jap went mad, trying to wear me out, pushing and pulling like a maniac, I just pulled without much effort, because he was pushing hard to me. After about ten minutes he was wacked, I was hardly sweating. The second Jap sat down and did the same, then the third and then the fourth. They all stood and just looked at me amazed as I was not at all tired and hardly sweating, they did not know how to handle a crosscut saw and I did. The secret was, when I was about 15 years old in Shawbrooke Road, Eltham, a few doors from my old mate Frank Wright, lived a Dutch man, he really knew how to use a crosscut saw and he taught Frank and me the easy way. The four of them like four big gorillas, just looked at me in disbelief, grunted something in Japanese and walked away.
The Thais would cut wood logs for the engines and leave them stacked up by the side of the railway, this one time about 300 of us formed a human chain from in the jungle to the railway for the steam engine crews to pick up. We stood about a yard apart, passing the logs along the chain. There was a hold up and I was holding a log. I felt something scratching the palm of my left hand so I dropped the log expecting to see an innocent ant, instead it was a scorpion. It stung my hand ever so quick, it must have punctured me ten or more times. I knocked it to the ground and stamped on it, then the pain started, it was pure agony. The Jap guard saw the scorpion and knew that I was incapable and in agony so I was taken to the camp hospital. The hospital could not do anything for me so I just had to just get over it, it was painful for a long time, but I survived.
The Singapore to Bankok Express crashed at Nong Pladuk. I forget when it happened but I think it was 1943, the Singapore to Bankok Express, crashed right outside our camp. We heard that one of the points were switched wrong, the engine fell over to the right. Behind the engine tender was a truck where the crew ate and slept and next was a truck full of live chickens, these the two trucks fell to the left. The first coach full of passengers mounted the trucks and stayed upright, the other coaches stayed upright on the rails. The driver and the stoker jumped from the tender but the engine fell on them. We were kept away from the crash as I believe the Japs thought we might help ourselves. One good thing was that no passengers were hurt, they just walked off the train. I heard that the train was travelling slow, because Nong Pladuk, was a marshalling yard. There were many incidences where trucks were fly shunted, that was connecting loose trucks to another lot of trucks by pushing them with an engine at a certain speed, the engine stops, letting the trucks run on, hopefully slowing down and hooking on to the column of trucks safely, but things did not always go right. Sometimes the trucks would collide at speed and go flying up in the air doing a lot of damage, that always brightened our day.
I do not remember much about leaving Nong Pladuk camp, except that things were a bit disorganised. Our men had their eyes peeled for anything we could sell to the Thais, for instance, one of our men, who would be carrying a long gas bottle on his shoulder, would go behind a hedge, coming out minus the gas bottle but richer by a few Thai dollars. We all did our best to make ourselves a little cash, for instance three of us found ourselves in a hut with with four stacks of brass ingots, the hut was only a yard inside the crossed bamboo fence, and the walls of the hut just reeds, which was calledan called attapi. One of us was on lookout for the Jap guard, one passing the ingots through the hut wall the other selling the ingots to a Thai. There was only two guards covering the camp and they could not look everywhere, so we were able to get away with it.
Sergeant Major Jock Kelly, nearly had his chips!!! He had his eye on an alarm bell that hung outside the Jap office. The bell was taken down and laid at the side of the office in the grass, which in the workshop grounds was about three foot tall. Jock lay on the ground and dragged the bell over to the fence. A Thai man was there ready to buy as a sale and price had been agreed. Jock went to pass the bell out through the fence but the bell just would not go, so brute force was the answer. Jock lay on his back and pushed it rounded top first. The bell flew through the fence and struck a rock !!!!!!!!! Boy, that bell sounded !! Everyone looked including the guard with his rifle at the ready. Jock lay flat for what seemed like hours, but I think it was about ten minutes, and he got away with it.
We made a little money out of what we swiped (sabotaged). We carried out quite a bit of sabotage when we had the opportunity, sticky fingers. That was the end of Nong Pladuk Workshops for us.
In March 1944 I received a letter from Grace, in it was this poem...
Absence makes the heart grow fonder,
Though the saying is not new,
Every hour from you I wonder,
makes it seem to me more true,
makes me long to see you, kiss you....
look into your loving eyes,
teaches me how much I miss you,
and how much your love I prize,
So when once again I greet you,
on that happy day In store,
You will know dear when I greet you,
Absence made me love you more...
This is and always will be my favourite poem. I love Grace and always will. As I am writing this on 26th September 2000, the date I never, ever thought I would ever see, I am 80 and 4 months old, Grace is 78 years and still beautiful. I looked death in the face so many times - I thank Grace for so much.
in June 1943 we were at Tamuan, Kaorin Camp. Our living quarters for Mayama Butai Workshorps. The camp was about half a mile from the workshops. The huts we lived in were bamboo with attapi roofs.
The walls were constructed of bamboo and the huts were about 30 to 40 yards long, by about 20 feet wide. with a six foot wide walkway down the middle, with a bench either side running the full length of the hut. The benches were about six feet from the side of the hut to the walkway and about two feet high. We each had about three foot wide space, that was what we called our bed space. Occasionally at night a Jap guard would walk through the hut when we had just bedded down for the night and as soon as we were aware of him there would be an orchestra of farts!! Real ones, from when he arrived in the hut, to the time he left, all the way through the hut he would keep saying “Engrish solder no good !”
It was a good job the hut had plenty of ventilation.
Our beds, consisted of an empty rice sack for a pillow and a army blanket. The bench we slept on was one inch diameter bamboo, roughly trimmed with no cushioning. I could not sleep on my hips, so I went to sleep laying half on my front, but during the night I often found myself on my hip, which I still have the scars from.
The camp was about 300 yards square, the Jap quarters being opposite ours across the parade ground , we had our living quarters plus a cook house (hut) manned by our own cooks. They did well, our menu was rice and stew every meal, occasionally, a skinny member of the cattle family would be slaughtered by one of our medical officers (Doctor), and we would eat every part of it except the skin, bones and horns. We also had blood and vegetable stews, when we were lucky!!!
I had an ulcer on my ankle from which I still have the scars. The M.O. operated on it, then went out and killed the cattle for our cookhouse. I was in his hospital several times, mainly with dysentery and malaria. The last time I was in with malaria the Medical Officer said he would give me a shock dose, kill or cure ! I told him he could do anything he wished. He came up with a glass, it looked like about a third of a pint, about a third full of powdered quinine, topped up with water. He told me to drink it so I drunk all of it. I was out for about three days. My mates in hospital said I was counting most of the time - 1,2,3,4 - and so on, up to about a hundred, then I started again, some of them said they could have killed me, so they could get some sleep, but they did not, lucky me.
I had two incidences when I should have died. The first was mid 1945. It was a very hot day, during midday break, I felt a bit restless and walked around the foundry, not thinking, I wandered into the jungle a few yards, but a Thai boy saw me and went and told a Jap and he told me to follow him. On the way one of my mates called to me and asked what the trouble was, I told him and the Jap turned around giving me a wack on the head with his black ebony sword stick. He then took me into the Jap hut to have fun with me. First the boy came in saying something in Thai, then in came a Thai girl who said I had chased her, the Jap then he tried to use his fists on me, but I was too clever for him and he did not touch me. He was in a vile temper and had a go with his wood sword stick, I pretended it did not hurt, but it did. His real sword was on a velvet cloth on the floor and he went to pick it up by the sword hilt, I reacted and jumped on his wrist, whether I broke his wrist or badly hurt it I do not know, but he was holding his wrist and screaming in great pain. All this time the other Jap soldier engineers in the room were laughing at him. That made him wild, he was uncontrollable with such a noise. The Manager of the foundry was a Japanese Soldier with the British Army in the first world war, he came over to see what all the screaming was about. As I was his foundry worker, I belonged to him while I was in his employ, other Japanese in the workshops had no jurisdiction over me. He asked me through an Indian interpreter what I did wrong, I said I was restless and thinking of my wife and children (the wife was true but I had no children but the Japs had a soft spot when it comes to children). When I told him that I was walking round the foundry and not away from it, he said that he would give me my punishment, or send me back to camp. If I had been sent to camp it would have been a beating with pick shafts and maybe a broken back. The foundry manager told me to go and stand out in the sun without a hat (which I did not have). I thanked him and went out and thankfully did just that.
There was another occasion when I was near to death. My friend Ben Brown,from Hadliegh in Suffolk had the great idea of each taking two small copper Ingots in our haversacks down the railway line and selling them to the Thais. We did not consider the consequences which would mean a beating or death. We left the foundry and made our way down the line. We had two ingots in each of our haversacks hoping to see a buyer. We approached a line coming in on our left and coming toward us on that branch line was a Jap patrol.
Ben said “What shall we do?”
I said “We cann’t do anything, do not look at them and keep on walking”
When we got up to the branch line the Jap patrol was about four yards away and I could feel them looking at us.
Ben wanted to run but I told him not be a silly boy, or words to that effect. I was so sure that we would die, as we walked away from them down the line, I thought we could now be dead, but we still kept walking. As we walked on Ben was not very happy but we carried on for a few hundred yards then I bent down forward and looked back between my legs backwards down the line and the Jap patrol had gone. We threw the Ingots away into the jungle then walked on ahead for a few hundred yards turning around we looked hard for the patrol and as we could not see them we quickly made our way back to the foundry. I do not know how we got back to the foundry without trouble, but we did ! This episode was never mentioned, to each other or anyone else because it could get to the ears of the Japs and that would have been our lot.
In April 1945 I received letters and a photo of Grace, that was a great treat as letters were very rare.
On the 11th July 1945 I went into our camp hospital with an ulcer on the back of my right ankle above the ball of my heel on the ligament, the ulcer was about a half an inch deep. Our army doctor of course, operated on it to clean it out. He made an excellent job of it except where he anaesthetised it, the needle transferred the infection next to the old ulcer and started another ulcer which he also stopped . After he operated on me he went and killed a cow, it was a skinny cow, but it made a few dinners, nothing was wasted.
In August 1945 one of our men was chosen to repair a Jap officers radio with a Jap guard who had been told that our man must NOT listen to English news. The Jap guard told our man to listen to any news and he swore on his Japanese honour that he would not tell any one. Radios were an absolute rarity. When our man had repaired the radio they heard news of the German surrender. We had heard rumours but we took it with a pinch of salt, never believing it, but this news was first hand.
We did not know what the Japanese would do. Some of us spoke about it, would they kill all P.O.W’s, then commit universal suicide. We thought of all sorts of things, knowing the Japanese mind that could happen.
On the 21st August we were called out on parade. Our camp being Kaorin, the camp for P.O.W’s of Mayama Butai Workshops, Thailand. That address will live with me until the day I die. The living conditions, the food, the hard work, the brutality and suffering, dysentry, malaria, ,jungle ulcers, plus violent Japs, and being near death on many occasions. We owe our lives to our Medical Officers, our Doctors, who treated us for our diseases, operating on us for ulcers, bone breakages, poisoned flesh, scratches from green bamboo and sundry thorns in our feet through lack of or no footwear. They even had a bedside manner that would put a Harley Street doctor to shame. They worked in terrible conditions with little or no medicines, operating tools and little or no anaesthetic. This is my opportunity to thank them all for my life, for all they did for us. These Doctors were really our life savers, I thank every one.
The Japanese camp commander stood on a box in front of us all and told us the war was over and we were free men. He warned us not to leave the camp as it was not safe outside, there were those that would kill us. We were told that we would be going home as soon as transport was organised. When we were told the news, we were stunned, although we knew what the parade was about, it was hard for our brains to accept. No one was visibly excited, we just said, that’s good, great and stupid things like that.
We heard that after the parade the Jap Camp Commander committed hari kari.
That night I do not think any of us slept, very few of us even lay down, we just walked around, inside the camp until we were too tired to keep awake. The next day or two was just a dream. We never ever thought we would survive when the train came to take us to Bangkok, it was not coaches, it had trucks but that was a site to behold ! It was taking us home, but it was not all happy news. We heard that men had died while waiting for the train to pull into the station. On the way to Bangkok the train stopped for a few hours in Nong Pladuk Marshalling Yard. On the track next to ours was a Jap troop train, that had come from Burma. Four Jap soldiers had died on the train since the train stopped a few hours ago. We saw one climb up into the truck and keel over dead, another Jap stabbed him with a bayonet then cut off his little finger to send back to Japan so that part of his body returned to Japan. Some of our men took pity on them and gave them bananas. Maybe I should have done the same but I did not . My hatred for them was so strong that I kept my three Thai dollars and I still have them. They did not deserve help or sympathy. We left Nong Pladuk and making our way to a real railway station at Nong Com Patong.
We passed a Buddhist Temple with the largest gold covered roof in the World. It is a half a mile from the station at the end of a straight road, which is at right angles to the railway. We were told that if we went to the temple it would take three days to walk around the inside and the train would have gone, as it was I did look inside for about ten minutes. When I came out, the train was moving, it moved about a hundred yards and stopped. It moved just to frighten us and get us on the train. I ran a half a mile to the train scattering the people at the market stalls lining the road. I just did not want to miss that train, I got to it as it came to a standstill !!!!!
The train moved off east toward Bangkok and after a short while arrived at Bangkok Railway Station. We were given coffee and biscuits, then left for the ferry across the river. On the way some of our men went into a Jap hut for a drink, they were given sweet tea, some skeletal Jap soldiers asked for a drink and they were sent round the back for water. The Japs have no love, or comradeship for a lost army, that also goes for Jap officers. I heard that all ranks have no rank or standing in a defeated army.
As we made our way to cross the river to Bangkok Airfield, we were cheered all the way. We always knew the Thais were on our side as they treated us kindly when ever it was possible. They are kind people.
At the riverbank, we saw a dead Jap floating face up with a bayonet through his throat.
When we arrived at the Airfield it was raining hard. We were ushered into a marquee and sat down to the loveliest meal I can ever remember ! New bread and cheese, followed by tinned mixed fruit and cream and a lovely cup of tea. Such absolute luxury after living on crappy rice in all its forms for three and a half years. An English lady serving asked one of our men if the meal was alright. He replied “F***ing smashing”. Well he forgot that he was not in the camp as a P.O.W. where that language was common. When he realised what he said he was in a terrible state, he blushed crimson, hid his face and tried to apologise. To him and to all of us all English women were angels. The lady told him not to worry and she realised how he felt.
We went to bed that night, I cannot remember where or how.
The next day we boarded a Dakota Troop carrier Plane for Rangoon, Burma. I was dressed in the shorts I wore in the P.O.W. camp and nothing else, not even footwear. The Canadian Pilot was a kind man and told us the plane would be flying above 20,000ft and it will be cold, he covered me with a blanket. We knew that Dakotas flew high over our hospital camp and we told the Navigator that we had left our sick mates there as they would be taken home with Doctors and Nurses. He said we could drop a message through a shute from the plane, wishing them well and a safe journey home. We told the navigator where our camp was and he said he knew it. When we were near the camp the men were very excited, they shouted “There it is” and I looked out but found myself looking at the sky, I did not know the plane had banked and I looked out of the wrong window. It is strange, that you cannot tell what is up or down when a plane banks.
We arrived at Rangoon Airport at 11.30 am, and were taken to Rangoon Hospital for a three day check up.
6th September 1945 and it is Graces birthday. Four days later Lord Mountbatten came in to the hospital and gave a speech, and chatted with us.
We were then moved into a transit camp and given a crime sheet to fill in but thinking back on it was a waste of time because all the horrors were behind us and all we could think of was getting back home, which will be paradise.
On the 18th September we embarked on to the ship that was taking us home. SS Boisevain. It was a Dutch Liner with British Administration. I do not remember very much about the journey home on the ship. I was in the ships hospital for a short while with a touch of malaria for a few days. I remember how good and exciting it was to be on the Boisevain, steaming away from all of what we had endured the last three and a half years. We steamed across the Indian Ocean to Colombo (Sri Lanka) but we were not allowed ashore, maybe we were not considered fit enough, but we enjoyed the scenery and the luxury of just being free. The Boisevain made its way through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal . Enjoying the views we dropped anchor at Port Said. I bought Grace a handbag off of the salesmen on the little boats, she hardly used it and it is still in a cupboard some where.
It was raining as we steamed through the Mediterranean Sea. We were told the ship stopped at Gibralta during the night to pick up mail, I did not see it, I was asleep.
We passed through the Bay of Biscay and up to Liverpool. I cannot remember much about leaving the ship, or having meals, but we boarded the train for London and home !!!
I arrived at 13 Rancliffe Gardens and was greeted home by my family, and most important of all I was hugging Grace, it was exactly four years to the day after our Wedding. We were married on the 15th October 1941. Cast off from Liverpool on the 29th October and arrived home to Grace 15th October 1945.
I settled down but I found freedom very strange. When I was a prisoner of war we sat for hours without talking to each other because we had said it all and there was little more to say. When I arrived home I found conversation very difficult.
But It was wonderful being home, being kissed and hugged by my Mum and Dad and Grace.
I loved Grace then and still do.
Little Red Diary
Inside Cover Details .....
Present Address – 17:02:1942
GNR A.T Jury P.O.W.
483/118 FIELD REGIMENT R.A.
CHANGI P.O.W. CAMP
1/ - Time of writing – 21st March 1942
We arrive at Singapore on the 29th January 1942 and go straight to Haig Road Bungalow Estate.
We, or rather the governor of Singapore capitulates at 4 o’clock in the afternoon 15th Feb 1942.
We march to Changi camp on the 17th Feb and take over the married quarters “H”.
We live for one week on food we brought up with us.
We get our supply of rice so we get rice 3 times a day – every day.
The Japanese are in my opinion very good soldiers as regards the way we are treated (so far) they have left us entirely alone up to now, 21st March ’42.
We have had ceremonial parades, one for a Japanese General and another for an Air Force official.
Each time they thank us in “orders” for the parades.
To tell of the feeling towards their soldiers and ours, we were at the water pump one day when a lorry load of Japanese soldiers came up, threw packets of cigarettes to us and drove on. They very often gave us the ei’ei salute and also we get our rations regular.
3/ - Weds 25th March 1942
There is a ceremonial Parade for the Japanese Chief of the General Imperial Staff.
Sgt Thompson died of wounds on Monday the 23rd of March 1942.
We have been getting limed rice for the past 5 days, also herb tea for the past 3 days.
Rations are getting very bad.
28th March Sat
Things are a lot better, we are used to the tea and the limed rice is sieved and mixed with 50% good rice and is quite eatable.
The Japs enquired into our personal wealth of which I have only 90 cents so I said nought.
Monday 30th March 1942
We hear Japanese orders read to us saying the to attempt to, or to get outside the 18 Divisional Prisoner of War ??? area is execution by shooting.
2 Aussies got shot the other day but we have been given a very good but we have been given a very good chance I’ll keep where I am.
Monday April 7th 1942
Nothing unusual has happened except that we have has awful rice for the last 2 days. It smells very strongly of a very foul urinal.
I have been working in the cook house for about a month.
Thursday April the 16th 1942
We have had good rice for about 5 days. Quite a few men are going down with slight dysentery.
I am stoker in the cook house for about a week.
Wed 22nd April 1942
Came out of cook house on Monday with ringworm on the left leg and Tenier, a sort of ringworm.
Reported to skin specialist at Roberts Hospital Changi.
Sunday 26th April 1942
Still attending hospital with ringworm.
76 men of each Bty go west to Singapore town yesterday 25th. It leaves us pretty lonely.
Friday May 8th 1942
Everything very comfy since the majority went to Singapore. I am in a room with Peter Broome.
Everything is ok except for rations.
The tea we have has no sugar or milk. The main food is rice which we get 3 times a day every day.
Between 12 – 16 ounces a day. We get 3 very small cakes and sometimes a little veg or stew to flavour and a very small ration of meat, 4 ounces approx once every 3 – 4 days.
“Roll on that ship that takes me home to a beloved wife and plenty food.
Sunday May 10th 1942
Well, its Sunday evening and I have just finished my dinner which is the largest meal of the day and I feel very hungry. Dinner consisted of – a cupful (teacup) small) of boiled unsweetened or flavoured rice. About four dessert spoonfuls of a concoction of sweet potato, boiled cucumber and a little bully beef with rice thickening.
One rice cake and a bread roll each about 2 inches across and an inch thick, and a cup of tea without sugar or milk and not much more tea.
Breakfast – 2 ½ cookhouse spoons of blank boiled rice and cup of usual tea and the same for tiffin (midday meal).
“Roll on the ship that takes me home”.
Tuesday 12th May 1942
I did some work yesterday, the first for over 3 weeks. I have worked my loaf with my ringworm which is very trivial.
It is pretty definite the remainder of the regiment minus the Divi concert party and about 3 per battery are moving down to Singapore town for work parties. Let’s hope it’s for the better.
14th May 1942
We marched 17 miles right through the middle of the day from Changi P.O.W. camp to River Valley P.O.W. camp in Singapore Town.
What a gruelling march. Around 3 – 4 o’clock the sun was almost unbearable. We arrived at 6:30 approx, has tea and rice and so to bed. We moved to a different hut this morning.
Sat May 16th 1942
Inspection parade for Jap commander.
Monday May 18th 1942
Out on working party yesterday digging new foundations for new P.O.W. camp at Chinese High School.
Today carting breeze blocks from 2 miles down Havalock road to a mile the other side of our camp on barrows.
One journey before tiffin, one after. 5 breeze blocks on a barrow and 3 men pushing. Jap made us take one off ours as we were one man short. They are very fair.
Wed 21st May 1942
Everything going fairly well. Are being treated well by Japs. We work at a camp being built on Buket Timor road one day and carrying bricks on the road the next. We are being paid 15c a day by the Japs and are allowed to buy from Chinese hawkers on the road.
Thurs 21st May 1942
We work this morning making boxes for our handcarts and have the afternoon off as today is Japanese Sunday or day of prayer.
We were on the brick carting job yesterday and we stopped for a break near a Chinese temple se we went in the porchway for a spell from the sun and the old priest gave us 50c each 4 of us.
Tuesday 26th May 1942
A nasty thing happened on Sunday 24th. We went as usual on the barrows carting breeze blocks from Govt buildings near docks to a mile past Havalock Road when a Chinese man and woman gave the men some cut pineapple. The Jap officer saw them and beat them up, tied their hands behind them and marched them ......
Pages 10 – 13 missing
Tues 9th June 1942
We were paid today 2 dollars 70c.
Sunday 14th June ‘42
Since we were paid we have had men (P.O.W.) come round with sandwiches, fritters, eggs, soup, all of which are quite good. They run at 5c and 10c.
Weds June 17th ‘42
2602 ... I and many others have ceased to work as our boots are being repaired.
Jap order:- P’s.O.W. shall not buy from shops or street vendors: if the Chinese try to sell to us they are ill treated.
Friday 19th June 1942
Ever since a few weeks after going to Changi “July the 5th” has stuck in my mind. Heaven knows why, but I’ll wait till July 5th to see “if” anything special does happen.
Rice ration is decreasing. It was 25 ounces a day, now it is 16 ounces, and we have heard that it is expected to go to 13 ounces and 11 ounces daily.
Wed 24th June 1942
I saw Wade, Barnes and Ingram this afternoon whilst coming back from Alexander Hospital Work Camp.
We were marching along the road and they were in a camp enclosure.
Thurs 25th June 1942
We usually have all Thursday off but we took our barrows out and had our photos take with our barrows out and the P.O.W. transport section.
We have had instructions about cards we are getting to send home so I am planning what to say.
Peter Broome Died with Dysentry in Changi hospital.
Thurs 25th June 1942
News came this afternoon of the death of Peter Broome. We were sharing his mosquito net only 6 days ago. He became ill last Thursday week and I ate his ration of food. Then he went to the River Valley Hospital in the camp at the back of ours. The following morning I saw him on a stretcher being put on a lorry to go to Changi.
We were only wondering this afternoon if he was coming back to this camp.
He slept next to me and we were the remaining two B.H.Q. drivers left when the others went to Singapore. We had a room to ourselves.
Sat 27th June 1942
I reported sick this morning with dyorrea [sic]. The time is about 10 o’c and I have been six times. I am going to River Valley Road Hospital tonight at 7 o’clock.
Monday 29th June 1942
I am supposed to have dyorrea but the last time I went was 2 o’c yesterday and I don’t feel as though I ever had anything. All wrong with me is I feel hungry.
I have been on” fluids” since I have been in hospital.
Thurs 2nd July
I was discharged from hospital this morning and left after dinner.
Wrote a card to send home. Handed it in this morn.
Specimin – Darling Grace, I am healthy and unhurt. Send love to Mother, Father and all. Keep smiling. Love Toni.
Darling Grace. I am healthy and unhurt. Being treated very well. Send love to Mother, Father and all. Keep smiling
Friday 3rd July 1942
Went out on the barrows today. The Japs have forbidden the purchasing or eating of pineapples, drinks or bread etc as a move against a cholera scare that has hit the island.
I think we would be safer in action than here with all these diseases about.
Dysentry, Malaria, Berry Berry, Cholera, that’s without the skin diseases owing to the climate and lack of good food :-
Dobies itch, Ringworm, Erticaria, Singapore Foot and many others.
Roll on that ship.
Queen Mary or Winkle Barge.
Monday 6th July 1942
We went with the barrows to a place down Orchard Road. Outside the Alambra we saw a crowd around what I thought was a sideshow.
It was the head of a Chinaman neatly cut off and put on a shelf. Then put on show in public. He was found guilty of stealing, executed and then put up as an example. The truth is it was one of eight Malays caught by a sentry stealing rice. They killed the sentry and were later caught executed and their head put on show in different parts of the island.
Wed 8th July 1942
Had inoculations for Cholera last night. Buddhist festival today and the Japs have given us half a day off.
A.A. guns and coast guns have been belting away today and about 50 bombers and fighters have been in the demonstrations.
Friday 17th July
Went out with barrows, sold my cigarettes and bought a bottle of coconut oil and flour to make rice rissoles and fry spuds if we get the chance.
When getting the flour my line of barrows went past and when I came out of the shop two black guards stopped me. I got off well with a slap round the face.
Sat 18th July 1942
Went on Alexandra Hospital work part and quite a few men got slapped around for slacking.
Weds 22nd July 1942 - 2602
Today has seemed the hottest day I’ve ever experienced since we came from Changi. I have not worn a shirt and we work all through the day with a break from 12:30 – 2 o’c Jap time which is 12:30 to 3:30.
We work in actual Singapore time.
A darky today told us that we must be either tough or mad to stand it. When walking back along the Alexandra Road I saw what appeared to be a Chinaman asleep on the pavement in a Chinese village. I have just heard that he was dead. He died of starvation.
Tues 28th July 1942
Went to work at a granite quarry about 1 ¼ miles from the causeway. At tiffin time some of us wandered around the valley and found the skeletons of eight Australian soldiers all in fighting equipment. 3 in one group were blown to pieces and all that was left was 3 helmets and 3 sets of equipment and fragments of bones.
Sat 8th August 1942
Report to M.O. with diahorrea and I am sent to River Valley Road Hospital.
Sunday 9th August 1942
Motions of bowels very painful. I visited Arthur Ambrose last night.
Monday 10th August
I used the bedpan last night and it was diagnosed as blood and mucous or banom dysentery so I get a dose of salts which are very rare and precious and are only given to “bad” patients. Since then the motion has become much easier.
Tues 11th August
I am taken to Changi Hospital today.
Mon 17th August
I was weighed today in hospital. Weight 9 stone 7 ½ pounds.
Thurs Sept 3rd 1942
Wednesday AI form came round to all prisoners to sign saying they promise not to escape but nobody signed it since the Japs knew that they have shifted all prisoners from Changi, closed all canteens, stopped our grant pay and cigarettes and minimised the hospital staff.
One man died with dysentery on our ward today. There is an average of three deaths a day in the hospital.
Four men attempted to escape about a month ago. They caught diseases and were put in hospital. Three were very ill and one was on crutches when they were taken out yesterday and executed by shooting.
Sunday Sept 6th 1942
It is Graces birthday today. I wish I were with her to celebrate it but I am out of luck.
I hope to God she is healthier than me.
I have had a relapse of dysentery and I am passing blood and mucous 12 times a day.
I hope to spend enough time in Australia or another place of similar climate to recuperate.
If I get that chance I’ll show some people how to put on flesh, muscle and a brighter countenance.
Today is national day of prayer and a service is just finishing at the side of our ward – W-3.
The Church is helped in music by an old organ procured from somewhere by some means and someone.
Sat 3rd Oct 1942
Came out of hospital today.
Sun 4th Oct 1942
Weight in hospital 9 stone.
Sunday 11th October 1942
This evening we had the first full European meal since about Feb 28th.
The menu was
Roast Mutton *
Yorkshire Pudding *
Green Peas *
New Potatoes *
Greens – Malay *
Baked Jam Roll
During the day we had an issue of sugar, tin milk biscuits.
Thanks to the Red Cross
Our first riceless meal.
Monday 12th Oct ’42 - 2602
I have had a relapse of dysentery since Friday 9th. 12 times a day. I have improved today.
Tues 13th Oct 1942
Return to hospital.
Friday 16th Oct 1942
Discharged from hospital.
Moved up to Banpong (Thailand).
Party went up to Bangkok – Burma Railway.
Building camps on Nov 6th
I go for a trade test as a foundryman. Pass out as moulder. Start work on the 8th Nov.
27th Nov 1942
Met a Stalham boy today. He’s been sleeping 2 yards from me for over 2 weeks. He live up near the green at Stalham.
Name of place Thailand. Our camp is at Nong Pladuk – near Banpong – 30 miles from Bangkok.
Sunday 13th Dec 1942
I am working in the foundry on moulding and casting with 100lb pots. We’ve been issued with a number of pigs. I suppose they are for Christmas but six are carrying and two died last night. I don’t expect much more than rice and stew and I don’t think we’ll get it.
In spite of the cooks efforts we had rice and stew for 3 meals.
We had a concert in the evening and got wrong with the Nippon by singing the National Anthem.
New Years Eve 1942-43
In orders today we are asked for 10% of our pay for – 50 men are suffering with very bad eye ailments and almost 50% are on the way to partial and complete blindness unless they get certain vitamins.
I hope Grace will forgive me. I sold my wedding ring just before Christmas.
I am sure she would rather me sell it for necessary food than keep it and have a greater chance of ailments through lack of .......
17 Jan 1943
We were inoculated for Cholera today.
Wed 20th Jan 1943
I had a fever night before last and I have reoccurrences ever since. I have not reported sick yet. Not since I came out of hospital in Oct 1942.
20th Jan 1943
Went in camp hospital with malaria. Temperature reached 105.
Discharged from hospital.
Inoculated for plague.
Thurs 4th Feb 1943
Go to hospital – relapse.
(missing part of page)
Discharged from hospital.
17th April 1943
Received a letter from Grace today dated 20th July 1942. It is the first since before I left England.
13th June 1943
Had Cholera injection. Many deaths up the line caused by cholera.
Thursday 29th July
I saw Stan Wishart today. He told me he had seen the graves of “Darkie” Collier and Foley up the line.
Sat Sept 4th 1943
The Bangkok goods – passenger express piles up outside our camp. The points are switched wrong.
I volunteer to go out all night to clear the line. I go out at 8 o’c and come in at 12 o’c.
Sept 6th 1943
Graces birthday. I hope to spend the next with her.
Sent cards home.
Enter hospital with Coryza = cold + fever
Discharged from hospital.
Erticaria breaks out on me. It is caused through quinine.
Erticaria is worse. It is all over me. On my head, neck to my hand and feet.
Erticaria is better.
Mr Campbell told me I have finished paying for my glasses. I have paid $9:50.
Friday 15th October 1943
It is the second anniversary of our wedding and it is rumoured that the railway is finished at 11 o’c PM.
I have a terrible cold.
Nov 9th 1943
Received 3 letters from Grace dated Sept -6 – 20 – 27 1942 and one from mother with no date.
Nov 11th 1943
We had 2 minutes silence on the 7:30 PM roll call parade. “Ace” Conelly , the camp trumpeter played “last post” and “reveille”.
Dec 25th 1943
“Christmas comes but once a year” and I’ve seen 3 since I left home. I hope and pray the next one I spend at home.
I have heard that Denis East died up jungle also that our regiment is getting a hell of a time.
Dec 28th ‘43
This morning we start packing up the foundry.
We finish packing the foundry into boxes.
We just mess about and clear up.
Jan 1st 1944
We have 2 days off and I enter the sports in the inter hut relay race.
I and 3 others represent hut 3.
I am last of our four and in taking the baton I slip but come in second. In the final the Dutch cut a corner and are disqualified and we are third but the officers are second and hand their prize of 50c each to us.
When I slipped I took the flesh off my right thumb and nearly dislocate it. It is very swollen and painful.
There were a few football matches. The highlight was Officers vs Korean Guards.
The Officers won 2-1.
A Happy New Year. I Hope.
Jan 18th 1944
Moved with rest of specialists to Tamwa, near Canchanaburi. Good to fair place but water shortage.
July 1st 1944
Pay goes up to 45c and 55c a day and I scald my leg with tea at tiffin time.
24th September 1944
I have got Yellow Jaundice.
1st Oct 1944
Receive mail from Grace and Mum.
I am sorry to hear that Grace is in the A.T.S. I hate to keep thinking of my love roughing it in some awful cold Army barracks. God speed the war’s end.
Oct 8th 1944
Yellow jaundice is cured. Work tomorrow.
Received 3 cards from Grace – Feb 1st, March 5th and April 21st 1944.
Sister Vi has baby daughter.
CONGRATULATIONS Vi and Fred.
I wish it was Grace’s and mine. It has made me feel so happy you would think it was ours.
Start work in the foundry at Mayama Butai.
While breaking iron with a 35lb hammer a piece flew off and smashed my glasses.
I go sick with malaria.
Receive four letters from Grace.
22nd Dec ‘44
Go in hospital with ulcers on right leg.
23rd Dec ‘44
Send 25 word letter to Grace.
25th Dec 1944
Christmas day and the third I have spent today as a P.O.W. I am sure I’ll be home or at least free before the next.
29th Dec ‘44
We had a pantomime called “Sleeping Beauty”. It was a very good show.
30th Dec ‘44
Came out of dock.
31st Dec 1944
We were allowed to sing “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight, se we all made a big circle in the parade ground holding hands and sung the old year out and the New Year in. Then we all shook hands and wished each other a Happy New Year.
Welcome 1945 and Freedom What Price July.
1st January 1945
Yasume – Holiday
Sat 19th Jan 1945
The officers left us today bound for Kanburi.
23rd Jan ‘45
I weigh 11 stone 4 lbs. Quinine in camp NIL.
March 5th 1945
I go in dock with Malaria.
March 14th 45
Discharged from hospital.
In dock again with Malaria.
I haven’t been so ill in my life as I was today. Even worse than when I was ill at Changi.
April 4th ‘45
Discharged from hospital.
Received 10 letters from Grace and one from Mum and Dad. Also a wonderful photo of Grace. What a lovely surprise.
April 18th 1945
Go in dock with fever.
A.N.Z.A.C. day. I am discharged from dock.
May 11th ‘45
Discharged – fever.
Thursday 23rd May
Enter dock with ulcer on right heel.
29th May Tuesday
20th June 1945
Start cigar business.
11th July 1945
Still in dock with ulcers. Malaria came on today.
Came from Jamuan.
The Red Cross delegate arrived at Jamuan camp just in time to see the arrival of the sick from the jungle. One of them died on the station platform.
When he saw the condition of the men and lack of clothes, boots and beds many of which had slept in rice sacks for over 3 years. The delegate was dumbfounded and stuck for words for the food had just come from the cook house and he tasted it.
He said that was enough by itself to hang the Nips.
Many Nips – officers and soldiers, have been reported for their ill treatment and murders of P.O.W.’s and many of them will be executed including our present Nip Camp Commander and the last one.
7 pages of news were read to us by S. Mjr Appleby.
I join Police.
24th August 1945
I go in dock with malaria. We have been told to look out for planes which will drop supplies by parachute.
We have a large P.O.W. painted on the Parade Ground.
A British Spitfire zoomed over the camp today, the first I have seen for nearly four years.
All rations have increased and everything is getting better every day.
I sent a telegram today.
We left Kaorin at approx 4 o’c this morning by train. We stopped at Nong Pladuk.
A Jap troop train just came from Burma and the condition of the Japs was appalling. They were absolutely filthy, eaten with disease and starving.
Our boys although remembering too well what the Japs had done for us, they gave the Japs cigarettes, eggs, bananas and money. It just goes to show that ((the English man can’t kick a man when he’s down)).
The Japs had arrived the previous evening and 5 had died since they arrived. Two of them died while we were there. I saw one of them climb onto the truck and crumple up dead.
His comrades kicked him out of the truck, stuck a bayonette in him to make sure he was dead then cut his little finger off to take back to Japan then left him at the side of the track.
I was speaking to two English speaking Nips. They said there is nothing of comradeship in their Army. They never help each other.
We told him that the English always help his comrade. He could not understand it. Who wants them to.
We arrived at Bangkok station in the afternoon and had coffee and biscuits. We left the station for the ferry across the river. On the way some of our fellows went to a Nip hut for a drink. While they were there some of the Burma skeletons (Nips) came for a drink.
The Bangkok Jap swore at the Burma Japs and made them go round the back.
We had sweet tea and his comrades had ordinary water.
We crossed the ferry and we were cheered wherever we went. We drove right through Bangkok to the aerodrome, slept there overnight and left Bangkok in a Douglas Dakota troop carrying plane. The pilots were Canadian.
We flew over Kaorin Camp where we lived for 1 ½ years and dropped a good luck message to the men still in the camp.
The diving and banking gave me air sickness but I enjoyed the trip.
We arrived at 11:36 (Rangoon) and from the Drome went to Rangoon Hospital for a three day check over.
We went to a Cinema show this afternoon. It’s Grace’s birthday today and I am happy beyond words.
Monday 10 Sept ‘45
Lord Louis Mountbatten came to our hospital this morning and gave a speech.
15th Sept 1945
Moved to Inseia transit camp today. A batch is moving out to embark tomorrow.
I saw the film “Song of Russia”. It was good.
16 Sept ‘45
I filled in War Criminal Sheet.
Tuesday 18th Sept 1945
We left the transit camp this afternoon and embarked on the Boisevain. A dutch liner with British administration. It looks a pretty good boat.
I posted a letter (email) to Grace this morning.
I handed in 56 Rupees today to QMS Gedney via Sgt Collier for changing. Received £4 4s.
Sept 19th 1945
Reported sick this morning and was admitted into ships hospital and treated for Malaria.
We moved off at about 1 o’c today 19:9:45.
It is a sight worth seeing, seeing the land slip away from Rangoon, life of misery to a happier world.
22nd Sept 1945
We arrived in Colombo at 9 o’c tonight. Red Cross officials came on board. I had a very interesting talk with a Yank.
We left Ceylon today at 2:30. Sent airmail and cable.
We entered the Red Sea during the night.
We passed the submarine Brighton this morning and they sent a message – Will you thirsty soldiers save some beer for us.
Our P.O.W.’s are very thirsty.
We arrived at Port Suez – 4th October.
We pulled alongside the quay and in the morning we went to an Ordnance Depot for Winter clothing and had shore leave.
In the evening we saw an E.N.S.H. show on an invasion barge. I went back to the ship and saw Lester Howard in “Blithe Spirits”.
We left Port Suez and entered the Canal.
I saw the Lessops Monument in the morning.
We arrived at Port Said in the evening.
We left Port Said the entered the Mediterranean in the morning.
9th October 1945
We stopped at Gibraltar during the night for about ten minutes to pick up mail. I was asleep.
KILLED IN ACTION
L/Bdr Eric Eaton 483 Battery
Gnr Bendon 483 Battery
Gnr D Pilbeam 483 Battery
Gnr Purdom 483 Battery
Gnr Alsop 483 Battery
Gnr G Eireira 483 Battery
Gnr Radford 483 Battery
Gnr Midwinter 483 Battery
Gnr George Ayres 483 Battery
Sgt Thomson – died 23:3:42
Gnr Griffin OBE
KILLED IN ACTION
Sgt Major Pethybridge
Died Sgt Bill Crew
DIED WITH DYSENTRY
Gnr “Bob” R. Spurling
Thurs 25th June 1942
Peter Broome died with Dysentry in Changi Hospital
Just before capitulation a number of men believed to be six from each regiment, as far as I know these men went from ours.
Lt Martin “Bob”
We heard that a building they were in got a direct hit.
Then after that we heard that they actually got away on an American Destroyer laid on to take them on a secret mission.
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Names in Diary .....
Albert J Barnes
81 Nightingale Road
WH Foley Esq
23 Greenfield Avenue
Mr W.J French
113 Globe Road
Mr WJ Bester
16 Wroxton Road
J.L. Smith (Carwardines)
138 Kingsland Road
Poems in Diary by Alfred ...
The ship rolls on and soon we’ll see
Old Englands shores again
When we arrive I’m sure we’ll find it
Pouring down with rain
Our little home, our nest for two
In Eltham’s thoroughfare
We’ll build it up, just me and you,
And chase away all care
I know your eyes are shining
And your heart is always pining
For your lover who is very far away
But soon you’ll stop your pining
But your eyes will still keep shining
With the love he gave you ‘fore he went away
Through these long-long years I’ve missed you
How I’ve longed so much to kiss you
But we’ve always been so very far apart
But soon my love I’ll hold you
In my arms I will enfold you
And never-never more we’ll ever part.
The Fall of Singapore
There is a call, a call so great that every nerve is strained
To hurry to our unknown fate, lost ground must be regained
The Japs have struck a sudden blow a cruel and fierce attack
We must get there to meet the foe and try to turn them back
The ships speed on the guns all trained, everything is ready
When from the sky the bombs are rained, everything is steady
The guns bark back their stern reply in British style so true
And every panting heart knows why we must, we will get through
The enemy is pushing down towards our fortress isle
We must hold out we know, but now they’re gaining mile by mile
The bombs and shells fall everywhere and bullets whistle by
Our air force boys are not up there, Jap dominates the sky
Bridges are wrecked and roads a blown and petrol is all aflame
The fates of France and Crete are known, is this to be the same
With backs to wall our orders came, we must drive back the Japs
To do or die we are all game to save a changing map
The gunners with their faces set send over shell for shell
And as their fire by fire was met, our lads just gave them hell
The water cut and ammo short, the rumours float around
We cannot hold this island fort, we’re quickly losing ground
The town is bombed and there we see a cruel and wicked sight
Civilians killed, what can this be? Is this the right of might?
We try to help them but then again the devils rain down more
Viciously adding pain to pain, this is a bloody war
The fight goes on with gallant deeds by men of every call
With bayonets fixed they meet the need to push them back or fall
Then came the news our cause is lost, the white flag’s being flown
And as I look around the cost on every face is shown
Our flag is shown the Japs on high, our hearts are stabbed with pain
We try to speak, we can but sigh, have our lads died in vain
We pray to God for England’s right to make a fresh attack
That we should see that glorious sight, a flying Union Jack
----------------- // --------------------
Through these long long years I’ve missed you
How I’ve longed so much to kiss you
We have always been so very far apart
But soon my love I’ll hold you
In my arms I will enfold you
And never, never more will ever part
ATJ – 9.3.45
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To General Sir Archibald Wavell
Now come on Archie, hurry up
We wonder where you are
We don’t care just which way you come
By bus or motor car
We’ve waited very patiently
But now we’re all forlorn
We don’t like rice, our boots are through
Our clothes are worn thin
We’ve heard that you are there
All ready to attack
We’re giving you just one more chance
Get there or get the sack
So hurry Archie, hurry
----------------- // ----------------------
No man can be happy without a friend, nor be sure of him ‘till he’s unhappy
Do right and fear no man, don’t write and fear no woman
She is my joy, she is my cure and woe
She is my pain, she is my ease therefore
She is my death, my life also
She is my salve, she is my wound so sore
In fire she hath the hand and knife
That both may save and end my life
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A man was unhappy because he had only one boot until he met a man with only one foot.
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God Bless Alfred - Rest in Peace
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