Kanchanaburi (Kanburi)- 'F' and 'H' Force Hospital Camps
Kanchanaburi (often referred to Kanburi)
The ‘F’ and ‘H’ Force Hospital Camps, Kanchanaburi
also known as Aerodrome No.s 1 and 2.
Kanchanaburi was the Japanese Headquarters for the construction of the southern part of the railway in Thailand and the most important base station for the Japanese. In the area of Kanchanaburi was a large locomotive shed station and as well as the POW camps and hospital. The whole area was one big storehouse. The railway head offices were located near 49.00 km.
These included the whole train control for all the moves north to the border.
Many of the Japanese senior officers were housed in the town, as well as some of their independent offices. On a day to day basis, the Japanese lived amidst the local Thais.
Kanchanaburi was also where most of the local fresh and dried food was sourced and sent north to the camps.
The Construction of the railway was supervised by the Japanese 9th Rail Regiment.
At Kanchanaburi there was a Base Hospital Camp, Working Camp and Aerodrome Camps No. 1 and No. 2. Later ‘F’ and ‘H’ Hospital Camp was constructed.
This hospital was established in January 1943 by Lt-Col Malcolm, R.A.M.C. and remained in operation until December 1943.
This hospital was to serve the sick POWs generally on ‘D’ Force on the Thailand side of the railway.
When ‘D’ Force V Battalion staged through Kanchanaburi on their way to Kinsaiyok Peter Dimopolous who had managed to learn some Japanese during his time at Changi was commandeered by Lt-Col Malcolm to act as an interpreter. Peter remained at this camp until 23 December 1943 whence he moved to Aerodrome Camp located in the centre of Kanchanaburi. He remained here until 29 January 1944 when he was moved about 5 miles to Kao Rin Specialist Camp where he saw out the end of the war.
Late in July 1943 evacuations of sick from ‘H’ Force to this hospital camp had commenced before the completion of ‘H’ and ‘F’ Force Hospital. The camp was under the command of Lt-Col P. Toosey of ‘D’ Force, the most senior British officer connected with the Burma-Thailand Railway and an extremely competent leader. This hospital was one of the larger hospitals like Tarsau and Chungkai.
These three hospitals were the ‘dumping grounds’ for the terribly ill POWs being evacuated south from the construction camps in the jungle. They were the healthiest of the sick but still many arrived dead and in appalling transport conditions. This was particularly so during ‘speedo’ months from May to August 1943.
By January 1944 the majority of POWs were concentrated in the Kanchanaburi area where there were three camps – Tamarkan, Kanburi Camp No, 1 and Kanburi Camp No. 2. Kanchanaburi and Kanburi are actually the same place.
Kanchanaburi is where the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery is located. The name Kanchanaburi has been chosen rather than Kanburi.
The construction of this camp hospital for ‘F’ and ‘H’ Forces was completed on 27 August 1943………12 hours before the first sick began to arrive from up river.
They were sited on Kanchanaburi’s No.1 and No.2 Aerodromes. Overcrowding in the new 8 atap huts with 28 wards soon became commonplace. Initially 60 patients were accommodated in each hut but this soon became 100.
The large numbers of sick placed a heavy demand on the medical personnel necessitating the forming of a medical group known as ‘L’ Force of which Peter Dimopolous from 2/4th was a member.
Patients from ‘H’ Force alone numbered 2,296 sick. As soon as the sick recovered they were sent to the ‘Fit’ Camp about 2 miles away located in a jungle clearing. Conditions here were greatly improved with better food and treatment by the Japanese.
This helped relieve the pressure on ‘F’ and ‘H’ Force Hospital Camp.
As well as the ‘D’ Force and the ‘F’ and ‘H’ Force Hospitals there was also a Tamil Hospital next door to ‘F’ and ‘H’ Hospital.