Starvation, disease, Japanese brutality, mud, rain and never-ending misery. More than 50% of men in ‘D’ Force V Battalion die working on Burma-Thai Railway 1943.
Major Alf Cough’s V Battalion suffered the greatest loss of life of all the Australian battalions in ‘D’ Force Groups 4 and 6 originating from Singapore.
S Battalion Group 4 lost 14.2%
T Battalion Group 4 lost 21.2%
U Battalion Group 4 lost 5.2%
V Battalion Group 6 lost 50.0%
On the 17th March 1943 ‘D’ Force V Battalion was transported from Selarang to Singapore Railway station for their five-day horror train trip to Thailand. Conditions were terrible with men crammed into railway trucks with standing room only. The men had to take turns to sit. It was stinking hot during the day and the nights freezing.
Travelling via Kanchanaburi and Tarsao, ‘V’ Battalion Group 6 arrived Kinsaiyok Camp on 31 March 1943 and remained here until 1 May 1943. At Kanchanaburi they met up with Major Cough’s group and thereafter moved off under his command. 300 British and 600 Dutch POWs already occupied Kinsaiyok. Major Cough’s ‘V’ Battalion consisted of 5 officers and 482 other ranks – ‘V’ Battalion would suffer more than any other ‘D’ Force groups with heavy loss of life. Alf Cough was not yet 21 years of age.
2nd May 1943 – ‘V’ Battalion moved north to staging overnight at Rin Tin Camp. The next day they set out arriving at Hindato Camp (otherwise known at Hindat Camp) at the 197.75 kilo point, again staging overnight. The following day they moved another 10 kilometres to Brankassi Camp (Prang Kassi Camp) – arriving 5th May 1943.
Brankassi-Onte-Gangan Camps 5/5/1943 to 10/7/1943
Brankassi Camp (otherwise known as Prang Kassi) was located at 208.11 km point on the railway. Working conditions, accommodation and food would be the same as they would encounter from July at Hindaine Camp. It was judged as being worse than Kinsaiyok with mud contributing to the discomfort.
27 men would die at Brankassi including 8 machine gunners.
WX10390 Dwyer, William Andrew Died 22/8/1943 Malaria and dysentery aged 24 years. Read Jeffery’s Affadavit to War Crimes.
WX7562 Elkins, Harry Laurence Died 12/8/1943 dysentery and acute enteritis, aged 37 years.
WX7998 Giese, Phillip Arthur Died 28/9/1943 dysentery aged 25 years.
WX7138 McKay, William Died 23/9/1943 Acute enteritis, aged 35 years.
WX8840 Powell, Allen Ethelbert died 6/9/1943 Dysentery aged 33 years.
WX7416 Preedy, Eric Lincoln Died 7/8/1943 Acute enteritis, aged 30 years.
WX9325 Tregenza, John Ernst died 2/9/1943 cerebral malaria aged 28 years.
WX17973 Wilson, John Died 25/8/1943 Dysentery aged 36 years.
William ‘Bill’ Andrew Dwyer WX10390
had been in a weak and delirious state thought to be brought on by cerebral malaria. He had been placed in a cholera camp. A sadistic Japanese Engineer Corporal known as ‘Black Cat’ took great delight in beating Bill Dwyer unconscious. ‘Black Cat’ then pushed bamboo sticks into Bill’s ears and eyes! Another POW witness said Bill stood up magnificently to what was an unprovoked barbaric attack on a seriously ill man. Bill Dwyer died on the night of 22 August 1943. Lieutenant ‘Scotty’ Howell, 2/3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company witnessed this insane and sickening act – it is thought Bill Dwyer was with ‘W’ Party when attacked with such depravity. Tom Gough was also on this party.
On 6th May 1943 ‘V’ Battalion was split up when 172 other ranks under the command of W.O. Glen Blyden, 2/3rd Ordnance Stores Company were detained to continue 6 kilometres north of Brankassi to a jungle clearing called Onte. In his diary, Major Tom Gough mentions Onte where there was a wooden bridge constructed across the River Kwae Noi. W.O. Arthur Hewby WX8207 of 2/4th was with this party. He arrived sick and returned to Brankassi where it is presumed he remained.
Following completion of their work at Onte, the men moved north approximately 4 kilometres to Bangan.
Hindaine Camp 10/7/1943 – 31/8/1943
This camp was located about 8 kilometres south of Brankassi close to Hindato on a small tributary of the River Kwae Noi. This would place it around the 200km point. The camp was also under canvas and as usual the tents would not do what they were designed to do.
Major Alf Cough wrote:
‘This camp is just hell, the whole area a sea of black stinking mud, very little food; and men dying every day. For the last here weeks we have eaten nothing but rice and dried fish; for three weeks prior to that we had rice and dried cabbage at the rate of one cupful plus a dessertspoon full of fish or cabbage. The men cannot last out much longer unless we get some decent food and medical supplies. I am tired of reading burial services and watching my men die without being able to lift a hand to help them; they are full of courage and keep their chins up until the last moment.’
On 27th July Lt. ‘Scotty’ Howell was detached to Brankassi with about 80 other ranks as W Party. ‘D’ Force V Battalion now consisted of three separate groups, one at Onte, one at Hindaine and W Party at Brankassi.
On 10th August 40 of the heavy sick including Capt. John Hill were evacuated. A total of 28 men died at this Camp. This Camp’s remoteness and location prevented the POWs trading with locals for vital foods. On 30th August Major Cough was ordered to take 100 of his fittest men to the next camp, Kuii.
The remainder of this group returned to Brankassi Camp.
Machine gunners who died at Hindaine Camp included the following
WX6976 Clare, John Mostyn died 8/8/1943 chronic diarhorrea aged 36 years.
WX9327 Hunt, Edgar Harold died 18/8/1943 Bacillary dysentery aged 29 years.
WX14327 Nybo, Lawrance Roy died 4/9/1943 beri beri aged 22 years.
WX16274 Whitacker, Fred died 6/8/1943 Dysentery aged 36 years.
Kuii Camp 31/8/1943 to 18/12/1943
Kuii was about 10 kilometres south of Hindaine Camp and located at the 190.48 km point. Located about 4 kilometres from the River Kwae Noi, this established atap hutted camp was already occupied by 1700 Dutch POWs.
‘V’ Battalion travelled down river by barge from Hindaine and commenced work on 1st August. Every available man worked here until 17th December 1943. Lieutenant Les ‘Pard’ Riches and 29 other ranks of heavy sick men were evacuated on 11th August.
A total of 52 men including 21 machine gunners died at this camp. On 18th December 1943 the remaining officer Major Alf Cough and 18 other ranks from the original party were evacuated to Non Pladuk. Three of these men died within 3 days of their arrival, including:
WX9589 Barrymore, F.M. died malaria 21/12/1943 Non Pladuk
WX13442 Bullock,L.N.W. died 31/12/1943 beri beri Non Pladuk
Of the original 500 men, 200 had died by December 1943 and other 20 died by March 1944. Had ‘V’ Force been able to remain with the Australians instead of the Dutch it is certain many more of these men would have stood a better chance of surviving.
Major Alf Cough and his men were placed under the command of the Dutch Indonesians – they had no control of their work figures, always receiving the thin end of the stick from the Dutch. The machine gunner received little or no medical treatment and worse, they had no representation on the rations and in the kitchens. Consequently ‘V’ Battalion had to take what they were given which often was much less than the Dutch. The Australians did poorly.
Those who died at Kuii
WX9031 Brennan, Maurice John died 27/9/1943 beri-beri aged 30 years.
WX15989 Buckley, John Scott died 19/9/1943 malaria, general debility and tropical ulcers aged 36 years.
WX7714 Clark, Francis Denis John (aka F.D.J Stevens) died 10/10/1943 malaria and cardiac beri beri aged 30 years.
WX15707 Cooper, Hugh Myles died 3/10/1943 dysentery aged 38 years. “The midnight stars are shining upon a silent grave” the inscription on Hugh’s grave at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
WX7909 Davidson, Thomas died 18/9/1943 acute enteritis aged 33 years.
WX8733 Harrison, Henry Ralph died 15/9/1943 malaria aged 27 years.
WX9348 Heppell, Colin Leslie Died 6/10/1943 colitis aged 38 years.
WX10635 Hoppe, Vernon T.W. died 19/11/1943 cerebral malaria aged 33 years.
WX15402 Jaensch, Lawrence died 6/10/1943 of acute enteritis and malaria aged 36 years.
WX8425 Leadbitter, Edward Johnathan died 10/10/1943 cholera, aged 24 years (prior to his death, Ted Leadbitter was severely kicked and beaten unconscious by ‘Black Cat’, Brutal Japanese engineer.)
WH7640 Lee-Steere, Forrest died 3/10/1943 Cholera, aged 36 years.
WX7660 Manning, Donald Thomas died 22/10/1943 avitaminosis aged 28 years.
WX9324 McCarthy, Jack died 21/7/1943 Linson Camp malaria aged 24 years.
WX15905 Moir, Edward George died 1/10/1943 malaria and dysentery aged 32 years.
WX7426 Murphy, John Patrick died cholera 30/11/1943 aged 27 years.
WX17458 Newling, Oswald Kitchener died 22/10/1943 malaria Aged 28 years.
WX8432 Newling Rexford Frank died 20/9/1943 malaria aged 30 years.
WX7902 Philp, William Hawksley died 18/9/1943 malaria aged 35 years.
WX17344 Slater, Albert died 26/9/1943 beri- beri aged 22 years.
WX9351 Treasure, John died 13/9/1943 cerebral malaria aged 24 years.
WX13161 Wright, Henry Edward died 5/10/1943 avitaminosis aged 22 years.
The first death at Kui was
13 September – John Treasure (cerebral malaria)
15 September – Henry Harrison (malaria)
18 September – Tom Davidson (acute enteritis) and William Philp (malaria)
19 September – John Buckley (malaria/general debility/tropical ulcers)
20 September – Rex Newling (malaria)
26 September – Albert Slater (beri Beri)
27 September – Maurice Brennan (beri beri)
1 October – Edward George Moir (malaria/dysentery)
3 October – Hugh Cooper ((dysentery) and Forrest Lee-Steere (cholera)
5 October – Henry ‘Teddy’ Wright (avitaminosis)
6 October – Colin Heppell (colitis) and Lawrence Jaensch (acute enteritis and malaria)
10 October – Frank Clark (cardiac beri beri) and Ted Leadbitter (Cholera)
22 October – Don Maning (avitaminosis) and Oswald Kitchener Newling (malaria)
19 November – Vern Hoppe (cerebral malaria)
30 November – John Murphy (cholera)
‘D’ Force V Battalion – those who died hospital camps and elsewhere after departing Kuii Camp.
WX5989 Barrymore, Frederick Markwell died 22/12/1943 malaria Non Pladuk Hospital Camp No 2. aged 35 years.
WX13442 Bullock, Leonard Neville William died 31/12/1943 Non Pladuk (evacuated from Kuii) Beri beri aged 22 years.
WX20076 Dwyer, William died 5/5/1945 Japan, Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 1, acute colitis, aged 38 years.
WX8381 Elvish, Robert Phillip died 9/10/1943 Chungkai, pellagra and tropical ulcers aged 42 years.
WX8874 Findlay, Alexander William died 19/1/1944 Non Pladuk malaria aged 44 years. (Fought with 51st Highland Division, WW1 and was POW in Germany)
WX17445 Fletcher, Charles Henry died Non Pladuk 21/2/1944 colitis aged 43 years.
WX8000 Geary, Michael Herbert died Linson 9/8/1943 acute enteritis aged 31 years.
WX8007 Kuhlmann, Laurance Anzac Christian died 3/3/1944 Non Pladuk, acute colitis aged 27 years.
WX9318 Lally, Kenneth died 23/3/1945 suffocation coal mine Japan, Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 17 Omuta aged 30 years.
WX16931 Oswald, Henry Christopher aka Hugh Christopher Oswald died 7/11/1943 No. 3 Base Hospital, Kanchanaburi, dysentery aged 21 years.
WX20074 Ridley, John Thomas died 8/11/1943 Kanchanaburi Base Hospital No. 3, tropical ulcers and malaria aged 40 years.
WX10785 Rutherford, John Maurice died 13/10/1943 Chungkai cardiac beri-beri aged 22 years.
WX343 Hill, Jack (John) Harris was evacuated sick from Hindaine Camp to Non Pladuk. Jack survived the war and was returned to Western Australia 15th October 1945. Jack (or John as he was known) married 15th November 1945 to Elizabeth Ashton. On 24th January 1946 John was travelling in an army truck along Allora Road, Toowoomba, Queensland. There had been tropical rains and the road was flooded. John lent out the back of the truck to place his map case over the exhaust when the truck suddenly lunged. John was thrown from the vehicle and his skull crushed beneath a wheel.
Having overcome illnesses, starvation, working in slave conditions on the railway whilst enduring endless unprovoked Japanese beatings it seems to us John’s life ended unfairly. He had watched and held the hands of so many mates who died. He was 26 years of age and left behind his young widow Elizabeth.
Those who survived to return home to Australia included:
WX7253 Bow Water Verdun – Brankassi, Hindaine, Hindato, Evacuated to Non Pladuk. Remained and recovered Thailand. Bangkok (go-downs) and Japanese Transport Camp just outside Bangkok to repair trucks – accompanied by Swift and Manthorpe)
WX10199 Duggin John Allan – ‘Aramis’ Omuta, Japan.
WX17595 Dunnell Norman Lenard ‘Bob’ – ‘Aramis’ – Omuta, Japan
WX8178 King James Hunter – Remained Thailand
Evacuated to Non Pladuk, then Kanchanaburi, Kinsaiyok, Nacompaton Hospital Camp, Kinsaiyok, Linson Wood Camp, Non Pladuk Hospital, Recovered Bangkok (go-downs).
WX7446 Krasnostein Leslie – was sick Hindaine and sent Non Pladuk. Selected with ‘Aramis Party’ to work in Japan. Initially transported to Saigon, French Indo-China the Japanese realised it was futile to attempt departure from Saigon as the American submarines were successfully blockading the harbour. ‘Aramis’ Party sent back to Singapore via Bangkok to leave from Singapore harbour for Japan. ‘Aramis’ survived the marauding Submarines, however as luck was not with Les, he was sent to Omuta Camp ** Japan which was a ‘hell-hole’ controlled by the ‘American mafia’ and the guards brutal. Les/Krass was severely beaten.
‘WX16727 Lonsdale Joseph Lewis – Was at Kinsaiyok, Brankassi, Hindaine, Brankassi and evacuated to Non Pladuk. ‘Aramis’ Omuta, Japan **
WX8656 Magor Reginald Gordon – Evacuated sick from Brankassi to Non Pladuk. ‘Aramis’ Omuta, Japan **
WX11472 Manthorpe Ronald Frederick – Evacuated Chungkai Hospital. Remained and recovered from Thailand, Bangkok (go-downs) and Japanese Transport Camp repairing trucks with Jack Swift and Wally Bow.
WX7124 Marriott Leslie James – Evacuated to Non Pladuk then Nacompaton. Remained Thailand and recovered Bangkok (working go-downs)
WX16347 Matson Wilford Neville – Kinsaiyok, Brankassi, Hindaine, Kuii, Tamuang, Tamajao (line maintenance party). Evacuated to Tamarkan, Non Pladuk, Tamuang, Non Pladuk, Wampo-Tavoy Escape Road – evacuated sick to Kanchanaburi, Nacompaton Hospital Camp from Tavoy 22.5.1945, Recovered Bangkok.
WX8834 McNulty Wilfred Noel Kain – Evacuated to Tamarkan, Non Pladuck, Chumphon, Petchabrui and recovered from Kachu Mountain camp.
WX12599 Murdoch Arthur Reginald – Arrived ill with S Battalion at Tarsau and joined V Battalion about 29 April 1943, Kuii, Tamuang – From Singapore joined ‘Rashin Maru’ Japan, Yamane, Niihama with ‘S’ Battalion.
WX10796 Murray Louis McGuffy – Evacuated to Nacompaton. Recovered Thailand working go-downs Bangkok.
WX7738 Parke Charles Spencer – Kinsaiyok, Hindaine, Kanchanaburi, Non Pladuk. ‘Aramis’ to Omuta, Japan **
WX11046 Riches Leslie Gordon – Kinsaiyok, Brankassi, evacuated sick from Kuii. Recovered Nacompaton Hospital Camp.
WX16269 Ronan Edmund John – Evacuated Non Pladuk. Remained Thailand and recovered from Ubon.
WX6441 Smith Alexander Julian – Evacuated from Kuii to hospital 23.9.1943. Both Party to Saigon
WX7725 Spackman Clifford Joseph – Evacuated Nacompaton, remained Thailand Nacompaton, Ubon and recovered from Bangkok.
WX8738 Struthers William – evacuated Non Pladuk remained Thailand and recovered Ubon.
WX4924 Swartz Joseph – Hindaine, evacuated to Chungkai, Non Pladuk. ‘Aramis’ to Omuta, Japan **
WX12378 Swift John Cecil – Kinsaiyok, Hindaine, Hindato. Evacuated to Nacompaton. Remained Thailand, Bangkok (go-
downs) and Japanese Transport Camp with Wally Bow and Ron Manthorpe.
WX16324 Tanner George Douglas ‘Doug’ – was Brankassi only evacuated to Non Pladuk. Omuta, Japan **
WX7248 Thaxter Frank Dawson – Evacuated sick from Kinsaiyok to Chungkai. Remained Thailand – Non Pladuk, Tamajao Wood Campo, Tamarkan, Nacompaton, Prachuab Kirikham-Mergui Escape Road, recovered from Petchaburi.
WX9179 Wilkes Hugh – Kinsaiyok, Hindaine, Brankassi and Kuii, evacuated to Non Pladuk – selected from here with ‘Aramis’ to Omuta, Japan **