Ubon - Thailand ***
Ubon – Thailand ***
Allied intelligence reported there was one large camp about 6 miles north-north-west of Ubon and several smaller camps in the same area with an estimated 3,000 POWs who had been transferred from the Kanchanaburi area.
Ubon is located in the north-east corner of Thailand near the Laotian border.
The POWs were to construct an airfield – to assist Japans war effort in north-eastern Thailand and Indo-China.
Ubon Aerodrome Camp was located outside the town of Ubon Ratchatani, some 390 miles northeast of Bangkok. The first draft of other ranks and medical officers arrived in Ubon from Non Pladuk on 26 February 1945. By mid March the transfer of troops would be complete.
Major Chida, who had been IJA commandant in Non Pladuk, remained in charge at Ubon. Unlike at Kachu Mountain, the POW administration at Ubon was in the hands of two noncommissioned officers.
Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Toosey at Non Pladuk had appointed his Regimental Sergeant Major A. McTavish in charge of the Australian and British POWs and Warrant Officer S. J. Slotboom in charge of N.E.I. troops.
There had been no previous camp at Ubon and the POWs were keen to build their living area, however the Japanese insisted they start work on the two airfields immediately. The POWs would have to camp out in open paddy fields. Too bad if it rained! The nights were cold and it was hot during the days.
By this time the POWs had little in the way of clothing, and what they wore was in tatters. They had nothing to keep warm during nights.
The aerodromes were 7-8 miles away and the POWs had to march to and from work.
Life was grim.
An Australian was caught trying to escape and executed. It seemed in no time an Englishman also tried to escape, was caught and executed. These attempted escapes resulted in severe restrictions for the POWs and their miserable lives deteriorated.
By early April there still was no camp for the POWs – there existed an obvious lack of discipline amongst the POWs, the Japanese introduced further restrictions including the cropping of POW’s hair, many were nearly naked and existing day to day. How easy it is here today, to wonder if the men were finally losing all their strength to keep going. This is the closing 6 months of war and the men had been POWs for 3 years, worked on the rail link in the most unimaginable conditions during speedo, endured severe starvation, beatings, tropical illnesses and seen too many deaths.
Today the airstrip is less than half the original size and not in ruse. The site of the POW Camp is now grazing land for cattle.
Major Charles Green, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion was flown from Bangkok to Karot near Ubon to accept the local Japanese commander’s surrender. This took place on 27 August 1945 after which Major Green returned to Bangkok.
Bill ‘Bullets’ Struthers mentions in his diary that his group travelled by train from Bangkok via the old capital of Ayuthaya to Ubon.