Pakan Baroe-Moearo - Sumatra **
Pakan Baroe-Moearo Railway, Sumatra
Pakan Baroe was a small port about 90 miles along the Siak River from its mouth. The river was sufficiently deep to accommodate ships up to 800 tons all year round.
From early 1944 when Japan realised the tide was turning and they were losing many ships to the Allies it was decided that in event of an Allied attack on Western Sumatra, Japanese reinforcements could be brought in by sea utilising the shelter of islands between Singapore and Sumatra. Japanese troops would then be brought straight up the Siak River to Pakan Baroe.
At this time there was no railway, however roads connected Pakan Baroe to Padang on the west coast and Oosthaven on the south coast. The Japanese still had sufficient POWs to build this railway.
Little is known of this Railway Project in Sumatra. Of the 5,000 men who worked 513 POWs would lose their lives building this railway, as well as the many POWs and Romeshas (Netherlands East Indian conscripts) who would lose their lives when their ship Junyo Maru was torpedoed 18 September 1944 by a British submarine whilst in transit from Java to Sumatra. Just as important, we have no confirmation of local, coolie or native labour loss of life.
These figures fade into obscurity when compared to the loss of life and massive effort the Japanese put into building the Burma-Thai Railway. It is probably the reason the Pakan Baroe-Moearo Railway has been cast under the shadow of the Burma-Thai Railway.
Work on the railway began 24 May 1944 from Pakan Baroe – the 000.00 kilometre point.
There were 16 work camps on the line.
Pakan Baroe – Camp No. 1 000.00km
Tengkirang Hospital – Camp No. 2 005.00km
Koebang – Camp No. 2a 015.00km
Teratakboeloeh – Camp No. 3 018.00km
Camp No. 4a/b 019.00km
Loeboeksakat – Camp No. 5 023.00km
Soengei Pagar – Camp No. 6 036.00km
Camp No. 7a 069.00km
Lipatkain – Camp No. 7 075.00km
Kota Baroe – Camp No. 8 111.00km
Logas – Camp No. 9 142.00km
Loeboek Ambatjan – Camp No.10 160.00km
Pinto Batoe – Camp No.11 176.00km
Siluewah – Camp No.12 200.00km
Moearo – Camp No. 13 220.00km
Tapoei-Petai spur line – Camp No. 14 118.00/119.00km
Construction commenced 26 October 1944 – completed 22 August 1945, after the end of war.
Quite early the Japanese decided progress was too slow and ordered work commence at the other end of the line at Moearo, as was the case with Burma-Thai Railway. The two ends met between 10 and 11 Camps. The 220 kilometre railway was completed on 15 August 1945, the date of Japanese capitulation.
The rails and locomotives for this railway were removed from the existing railway on the east coast of Sumatra between Medan and Belawan. As well as Sumatra, railway materials were procured from Java and Malaya. The construction of the railway was made more difficult by virtue of the fact that the first 60 kilometres had to be built through swamps.
Nationalities included in the 5,000 POWs used for this project
4,000 Dutch East Indies,1,000 British and 300 Combined Australian, New Zealand and American.
Most Allied POWs had been captured up to two years earlier and incarcerated in camps in Sumatra and Java.
POWs sent from Singapore
The entire draft of 1,257 POWs who were destined for Pakan Baroe had been split into smaller drafts. They were transported from Singapore directly up the Siak River on an old ferryboat named Elizabeth, otherwise known as the ‘white boat’.
This small ferry unable to carry many passengers transported the POWs in several parties between 7 and 8 August 1944.
Those men of the 2/4th who lost their lives on the project include:
WX8766 Booth, Harold Vernon who died of beri beri on 15 April 1945 and was buried at the Camp cemetery 4 km from Pakan Baroe.
WX8262 McAskil, Robert Ramsay died cardiac beri beri 28 March 1945 aged 44 years at Kampoeng 106 km near Kota Baroe, Sumatra