Tonchan South, 131k - Thailand
Tonchan South, 131k also known as Tongnang & Spring Camp – Thailand (the distance between the two Tonchan Camps is 9 kms)
‘D’ Force U Battalion worked here under the Command of Reg Newton who was known for his roaring even towards the Japs with whom he showed no fear. In fact he became known as ‘Roaring’ Reg.
The men were building bridges including a big one on the 40 kilometres between Tonchan and Rin Tin camps. The Japs used the POWs as pile-drivers – the men would fell a thick tree trunk and then wedge four handles into it . They would then have to lift up the tree trunk and drop it, lift up again and drop again driving the tree truck into the ground to become part of the bridge.
The men were also working on hammer and tap. Work was endless.
The Japanese in charge was known as ‘the Tiger’.
Cholera hit Tonchan South. Fortunately only 7 Australians died but the British lost 132. Reg Newton, Doc Hinder and Lieutenant Ralph Sanderson ensured the Australians obeyed their commands for hygiene and cleanliness. The men had to sterilise their Dixies before they got their rice.
The benefits of hygiene kept the Australians alive all up and down the line.
Reg Newton had long ago introduced a system whereby the pay awarded to the men was pooled so Newton and Doc Hinder could purchase food and medical supplies from Boon Pong, the brave Thai trader who provided supplies to the Japanese but also risked his life and his family to assist POWs on the line. This system of pooling pay meant the sick would eat because under Japanese Command they were not allocated food. If you were sick you were of no use to them.