Brankassi, Prang Kasi, 208k - Thailand
Brankassi, Prang Kasi, 208k – Thailand
‘D’ Force V Battalion Group 6 worked here from 5 May 1943 to 10 July 1943.
On 2nd May V Battalion moved north from Kinsaiyok to stage overnight at RinTin. The next day they arrived at Hindato 197.7km Camp and staged overnight. Hindato was Headquarters for ‘D’ Force Group 6 under the Command of Major Shida. The following day the Group moved on another 10 km to Brankassi Camp, arriving 5th May.
On 6 May, a group of 172 men split up from V Battalion to go to Onte and Bangan.
On 27th July Lt ‘Scotty’ Howell was detached to go back to Brankassi with about 80 other ranks as W Party.
‘D’ Force V Battalion now consisted of three separate groups – one at Onte, one at Hindaine and the third at Brankassi.
Brankassi was located at 208km point on the rail link, situated beside the river and predominantly occupied by Dutch. There was a pagoda nearby and Brankassi was judged as being the same as Hindaine – under canvas with tents leaking in the rain, surrounded by mud, little food and men dying. It was worse than Kinsaiyok. The men were subjected to severe bashings and sadistic violence for little or no reason.
The first few weeks the weather was dry at Brankassi. The men built a cookhouse of bamboo, erecting it very near the Kwai River, which at the time was quite low. This was to assist the cooks so they didn’t have to carry water so far up the bank in kerosene tins.
Then the monsoons came and one night the River rose 20 feet in level. The men had to move the cookhouse in the rain and dark so it was above the flood level. This procedure occurred three times, until the River ended up quite wide and 40-50 feet deep.
Up until this time, the POWs were reasonably healthy even though they were moving up to 5 metres of soil a day! However with the arrival of monsoons came cholera. Already suffering weakened health; the men susceptible and large numbers became ill with cholera.
Cholera isolation huts were constructed and the Japanese inoculated the POWs. Most victims died but surprisingly a few survived. There were no medical supplies. Primitive saline drips from thin, hollow leaf stems were made in an effort to save the patients from dehydrating. The only medication available were Creosote tablets and charcoal for dysentery – when the Japanese issued them.
POWs died from Cholera very quickly thankfully. They would lose all their body weight and their tendons drying up. It was frightening for all.
It was not unusual to wake up in the morning and find the man next to you had died during the night of various illnesses.
Initially the sick were ordered to bury the dead, however it became the task of the ‘healthy’ who would be driven out to work in the early mornings and come home 18 hours later and then have to bury the camp dead.
From Brankassi the railway line extended a distance both ways to 6 kilometres and by this time a large number of men were very sick with tropical diseases and ulcers. ‘Speedo’ hadn’t yet started!
The men from here were sent to northwest of Brankassi to a new camp called Hindaine, which was about 12 kilometres away. Hindaine was not as large as Brankassi Camp.
The POWs who were ill at Brankassi developed worsening conditions at Hindaine.
The Japanese were accommodated in three huts and the Japanese Camp Commander had his own separate little house. The POWs were accommodated in tents which were very old and threadbare, 22 men per 10 feet by 12 feet The beds were bamboo slats raised about 2 feet from ground.
A Japanese Engineer Corporal named ‘Black Cat’ by the POWs was at Brankassi at this time and savagely attacked Bill Dwyer beating him unconscious and then pushing bamboo sticks into his ears and eyes. Many others were viciously belted including Lt. ‘Scotty’ Howell from 2/3rd Motor Transport Company who also witnessed the torture of Dwyer.
27 POWs died in this camp including five men from 2/4th.
WX10390 Dwyer, William Andrew Died 22/8/1943 Malaria and dysentery aged 24 years. Read Jeffery’s Affadavit to War Crimes.
WX7562 Elkins, Harry Laurence Died 12/8/1943 dysentery and acute enteritis, aged 37 years.
WX7998 Giese, Phillip Arthur Died 28/9/1943 dysentery aged 25 years.
WX7138 McKay, William Died 23/9/1943 Acute enteritis, aged 35 years.
WX8840 Powell, Allen Ethelbert died 6/9/1943 Dysentery aged 33 years.
WX7416 Preedy, Eric Lincoln Died 7/8/1943 Acute enteritis, aged 30 years.
WX9325 Tregenza, John Ernst died 2/9/1943 cerebral malaria aged 28 years.
WX17973 Wilson, John Died 25/8/1943 Dysentery aged 36 years.
On 20th August 40 of the heavy sick including Capt. John Hill of 2/4th were evacuated.
On 30th August Major Cough was ordered to take 150 of his fittest men to the next camp, Kuii. The remainder of the group returned to Brankassi Camp.
Brankassi was also used as a staging camp. It was named Hitler Camp because the resident guards took charge of the columns passing through and were obsessed with discipline and handing out punishment for the slightest misdemeanour.
It was necessary for POW columns marching north to stage overnight at a camp as there was a very real danger of being attacked by Thai bandits. There were several instances where POWs and their guards fought off gangs of bandits. It is thought that about 20 POW stragglers lost their lives to bandits in what was also known as tiger country. When columns stopped for breaks (allowing stragglers to catch up) the Japanese often lit big bamboo fires.
Brankassi was a large Kempetai Camp. POWs saw comfort women arrive by train at night. They stayed a few nights and were moved on. On one occasion a POW managed to exchange words with some of the women as they bathed at the river. She told him the women all had diseases.
One day the POWs were lined up while the Japanese selected men they considered fit to go to Japan. The men were all sick, there were no fit men at Branakassi. Still a number of men were chosen to go.