Tamarkan, Tha Makham 56.20km - Thailand
Tamarkan, Tha Makham 56.20km – Thailand
Kanchanaburi is 5 km south of Tamarkan.
Tamarkan Camp is located on the east side of the River and near to the railway. This is the reason POW Camps were destroyed and POW lives lost when the Allied Bombs raids took place.
Tamarkan was initially a work camp. Commencing 26 October 1942 under Colonel Phillip Toosey British & Dutch POWs built two bridges a wooden one and a steel one across the River Kwai (Kwae Yai).
Above: Lt Col Phillip Toosey. Read further ***
Then towards the end of 1943 – large numbers of POWs began arriving from Burma – the men of ‘A’ Force. Amongst them were the ill and dying – the train journey taking three days.
The very ill remained hospitalised in Burma – the medical staff nursing them in their final days, Every man who could walk out of the camps did so.
It is the site of the “Bridge on the River Kwai” and although the original bridge did not survive Allied bombing, the Thai and Japanese Governments together, rebuilt the existing River Kwai Bridge which today draws tourists from all around the world and great numbers of Thai visitors.
The course of the original railway continues to operate to Nan Tok Station. A train ride attracts large numbers of tourists on its 3 trips per day journey.
Photograph of the bridges over Khwae Mae Khlong taken adjacent to Tamarkan POW Camp – Steel bridge lies derelict in the background. Photo courtesy of unknown British engineer post war.
Tamarkan No. 2 Hospital Camp
This was one of 3 base Hospital Camps at the southern end of the railway and opened in May 1943.
The camp was 60 yards from the bridge of eleven steel spans and a large AA position. The camp was surrounded by observation post, Japanese engineers, cavalry camp and the railway line. The camp was surrounded by targets for Allied bombing raids! On 29 November 1944, 21 planes bombed the area and 4 dropped on the camp killing 18 POWs and wounding 37.
There were further Allied raids during December. The wooden bridge was destroyed and repaired by POWs.
The POW Camp Commanders complained continually to the Japanese to no avail to have the men moved to safer Camp sites.
The main steel bridge was bombed several times causing considerable damage.
By March 1944 the majority of POWs were brought out of the jungle work camps and so-called hospital camps (these camps were without medical supplies and equipment) and the men were concentrated in the main camps at Nacompaton, Non Pladuk, Tamuang, Kanchanaburi, Tamarkan and Chungkai.
Large numbers of POWs had arrived during the previous months – the Japanese wanted to build up the strength of the men in preparation for selection of work parties for Japan. POWs for work parties for Japan were selected from Tamarkan.
Tamarkan was considered one of the better camps it was well run by a British Officer Col. Phillip Toosey and was well provided by a secretive Thai network of business men, expats and others as well as bankers all of whom risked their lives and those of the families.
On 23 May 1944 was the first time Red Cross parcels were passed onto the prisoners – 6 men to one parcel! For many POWS their first mail was received at Tamarkan on 28th May 1944.
‘A’ Force sick arrived from Burma to Tamarkan December 1943
For the sick who arrived on train after travelling 3 days from 55km camp Tamarkan was sanctuary. The journey was a nightmare and they were hungry, thirsty and dying.
Brigadier Varley was quartered at Tamarkan. He made tremendous efforts to better conditions for his ‘A’ Force men for whom he was responsible. The Japanese adhered to ‘sick mans do not eat’ policy and Varley fought tirelessly.
Those men of 2/4th who died at Tamarkan Hospital whilst Toosey was in charge included:
WX8870 GITTOS, Thomas Edwin of ‘D’ Force S Battalion died post leg amputation and dysentery 25 Sept 1943 aged 23 years.
WX8007 KING, Edric Herbert of ‘D’ Force S Battalion died 12 November 1943 of pulmonary tuberculosis aged 32 years.
2/4th who died at Tamarkan Hospital Camp:
WX8855 Davies, David John died cerebral malaria 10 July 1944 aged 37 years. Davies was AWOL at Fremantle and sailed to Java, joined ‘Blackforce’. Left Java with ‘A’ Force Burma, Java Party No. 4 Williams Force. He departed 133 km Camp and arrived Kanchanaburi 13 Jan 1944.
Davies had been selected ‘fit’ by Japanese to work in Japan. Marched out with Party on 27 June 1944, however returned sick on 5 July 1944.
His funeral was conducted by Chaplain F.C. Corry of 2/4th MGB, assisted by Lt-Col Green and Lt. C. Blakeway.
WX6071 Willacott Leslie George (aka Leslie George Willacott Williams) with Green Force he was evacuated to Tamarkan.
He died 7 Feb 1944 of malaria and dysentery aged 36 years. His Grave No G28. Whilst at Ye Aerodrome, Burma Willacott underwent an appenddix operation on 20 Sept 1942. During the fighting in Singapore he was WIA at Hill 200, Ulu Padan on 12 Feb 1942 and admitted to 2/13th AGH with gunshot wound to his right leg. Discharged to unit on 21 Feb 1942.
WX7429 Yensch, Frederick Bernard (Freddie) d. cerebral malaria on 19 Mar 1944 aged 29 years. He was being entrained between Nikhe and Tamarkan on 18 March 1944 when he drifted into a coma. His Grave No. G2 Tamarkan.
Former shop assistant Freddie enlisted AIF 6 Aug 1940. He later joined HQ Coy. No. 3 Platoon.