To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”


Compiled using lists from Kew Files and Commonwealth War Graves



Rangoon Central Jail


PoW Medical Treatment

Deaths and Disease


These pages are compiled from KEW File  AIR 40/1855


(F) Medical Treatment - Deaths and Disease


(i) Medical Organisation - Stores — Treatment

The reports of doctors who were PoWs establish the fact that no proper hospital or sick quarters were available and the wounded could not be adequately attended to owing to the lack of medical equipment. Ordinary huts and rooms were improvised as hospital wards. Japanese doctors were, from time to time, in attendance, especially for the purpose of carrying out inoculations and vaccinations; they always seemed grateful for any assistance doctors could give and were always pleased if they could get out of carrying out an operation,

One doctor was ordered to give written answers to a number of medical questions. He was then transferred to a particular block and told that his sole duty was to look after the sick. This doctor was allowed to use his judgement, after time, as to whether the PoWs were fit to work. In the early days medical opinion was ignored and all PoWs were forced to work.

It appeared that some medical stores existed but were in the main inadequate. There were medical stores and drugs in quantity, including quinine, in a rough medical section which the Japanese set up in the middle of 1944. This section was staffed by a visiting Japanese officer and a permanent Sergeant and Orderly. The Orderly was fairly reasonable and has been stated to have been the only Japanese encountered who seemed human according to western standards. One PoW received anti-cholera and anti-beri beri injections and states that vitamin tablets were in good supply in early 1943 but were soon used up and not renewed. It is reported that in the case of wounds and stomach troubles using salt was the only treatment available in the early days.

Several instances occurred of both good and bad medical treatment before admission to the jail when a PoW was wounded. No reason for either can be traced and it would appear to rest on the fancy of the Japanese who made the capture.

The problem of sanitation in the jail was very difficult. Excreta was dumped in an open compound about 200 yards away.

The water supply was not plentiful and broke down at one stage. Only boiled water was allowed, to be used for drinking.


(ii) Diseases and Deaths

These were mainly dysentery, malaria, beri beri, jungle sores and malnutrition.

At one time there was an outbreak of cholera due chiefly to bad sanitation which was dealt with promptly by the Japanese embarking on an inoculation campaign.

In October 1942 500 Dutch were in the jail and by February 1943 when they were transferred, 213 had died, chiefly through dysentery.

It appears that the main, difficulty was that the diet was not sufficient to build up a man who had been sick and it is estimated that the critical period of sickness was some 7 to 10 months after capture.

On an average there were always approximately 30 to 40 in the sick quarters and an estimate of the average of deaths among white PoWs in the jail over a period upwards of three years, other than the Dutch PoWs referred to above, was approximately 20 to 25%.


(iii) Conclusion:-

The lack of medical organisation and supplies on the part of the prison authorities was part of the general picture of neglect of by the Japanese. Such as were provided were probably the result of a realisation on the part of the authorities that if some care were not taken, they could lose the labour which the PoWs gave and in the case of epidemics that the Japanese themselves would suffer if precautions were not taken. The resourcefulness of PoW medical authorities and their power to improvise and provide some treatment was a considerable factor in maintaining the general morale.







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Keeping The Candle Burning

Fepow Family

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