‘D’ Force S & T Battalions, Thailand

‘D’ Force S & T Battalions

Apart from the group that left Singapore with Major Charles Green on ‘A’ Force Burma ‘D’ Force S and T Battalion contained the largest number of men from 2/4th who worked on Thailand end of the Railway.

On 14 March 1943 S Battalion having travelled by train from Singapore crowded into small wagons, little food or water and taking turns to lie down, sit at the opened door during the heat of the day, arrived at Non Pladuk on 18 March 1943 staying overnight at the transit camp at nearby Konma.

The next day S Battalion travelled by truck 49 kilometres to Kanchanaburi for a brief stopover. It was here S and T Battalions then moved out to Tarsau via Tardan.

At Tarsau S Battalion was engaged for the next few weeks clearing the path ahead for the rail laying gangs.  The men found these weeks working at Tarsau most reasonable.  The work was not too hard and Camp conditions were favourable in particular compared to what lay ahead of them.

T Battalion moved out of Tarsau 12 kilometres to the south where a camp was set up on a creek bed near the junction of a river where an embankment was being built up.

After two weeks T Battalion moved further south downstream of an established British POW Camp at Wampo.   The Wampo Camps were 114 kilometres from Non Pladuk and 16 kilometres south of Tarsau. There were 3 Wampo Camps – North, Central and South. It is difficult to confirm where T Battalion was exactly camped.

The Australians had been brought into the Wampo area assist to the British with earth moving for an embankment. The path for the railway alongside the River Kwae Noi had been progressing slowly in preparation for construction of viaducts at 103 km and 109 km points. The pressure was on to complete the job and POWs worked shifts around the clock. The final shift produced a 30-hour spurt of energy – no doubt a measure of the Japanese Engineer’s stand-over tactics that would see the embankment job through to the end.

One of the viaducts was known as the Double Viaduct – a wooden bridge probably not unlike the Pack of Cards Bridge at Hintok, that was at least 400 yards long and built around the side of the cliff face and supported 25 feet above the River Kwae Noi. There was a gap of about 600 yards followed by another viaduct in the region of 150 yards long – hence the name double viaduct.

On completion T Battalion now marched north for 2 ½ days to join S Battalion in the area of Kanyu II Camp. The date is believed to be about early May and when S and T Battalions amalgamated. S Battalion is known to have arrived at Kanyu II on 25th April 1943. On 8 May 1943 Capt Reg Newton of U Battalion was at Tarsau 1943 when T Battalion passed through, dropping off 50 sick POWs before continuing north 20 kilometres.

Within half a day of T Battalion’s arrival they were again back working on the Hellfire Cuttings, ie. before the new camp was established half of T Battalion was sent to work!

S Battalion moved out of Tarsau to Kanu II arriving on Anzac Day, 25 April 1943.  This Camp in the Hellfire Pass Cutting would test every man as they were forced to cut through the massive rock face with only limited hand tools.    Work consisted of hammer and tap.

S & T Btns should now continue with the story of O and P Battalions at Hintok River Camp.

 

KANU I RIVER CAMP

Following the cholera outbreak at Kanyu II, this camp was evacuated beginning in mid July. Cholera patients were moved down from Kanyu II and III to Kanyu I River Camp. The cholera patients were isolated under canvas away from the main group. The remaining non-cholera sick were in such poor condition they only remained at Kanu I Camp about 2 weeks before being evacuated by barge to Tarsau or one of the other hospital base camps further south along the River Kwae Noi.

About mid July 1943 what was left of S and T Battalions working at Kanyu II were broken down indiscriminately as 2/4th Machine Gunners were sent to Hintok Road Camp and Hintok River Camp.