‘H’ Force Group No 3

‘H’ Force Group 3

This campsite was on uncleared, slightly sloping ground and located roughly 450 yards east of Hellfire Pass Cutting and to the north of ‘S’ Force S Battalion’s Camp, Kanu II, believed to be 1.42 kilometres away.

A small area about the size of a lawn bowls green was cleared on afternoon of ‘H’ Force’s arrival on 21 May 1943 and 20 tents were pitched. During the following two days the camp area was enlarged and bamboo floors laid inside tents. Water was drawn from small stream and boiled prior to use as a precautionary practice. The stream was just south of the campsite and was crossed by a bridge on the Kanu to Hintok access road. There was another stream running south of Kanu II ‘D’ Force Camp which was also crossed by a bridge on the same road.

‘H’ Force Group 3 departed Singapore 8 May 1943 arrived at Non Pladuk four days later moving to the nearby Konma transit camp. The following day 13 May 1943, this group marched out of Konma transit camp at 2300 hours, arriving at their first rest camp at 1000 hours the next day. ‘H’ Force followed in the steps of ‘F’ Force to Kanchanaburi heading for Malayan Hamlet/Kanu II.

‘H” Force was initially an all-Australian force under the command of Lt-Col R.F. Oakes. Major Bert Saggers from 2/4th was his second in command and in charge of the group’s pay and records.

At Kanchanaburi ‘H’ Force camped in an open paddock. During the night local Thais crept amongst the tired and sleeping men, stealing whatever they could escape with. This would have been maddening for the men. They rested during the day and marched out at night to Temple transit Camp which ‘F’ Force had earlier passed through.

During their journey they hired 20 oxen and carts to carry their gear forward to Tardan Bridge Camp as had ‘F’ Force.

Their routine was to march by night about 15 miles and rest during the day until they covered the total distance of 90 miles. They reached Kanu III Camp at 0400 hours on 21 May. The last 4 miles to Malayan Camp took 3 hours to complete.

By the time they reached Malayan Camp the Force had increased in number to include 114 British and POWs ex-Java. On 30 May a further 98 additional stragglers marched in. Total numbers now included approximately 500 Australians, 200 British and some Americans. 111 Australians and 106 British POWs would die at Malayan Hamlet.

Japanese engineers called for the first work party on 24 May, 3 days after ‘H’ Force arrived. Officers had difficulty firming up numbers.

The workforce was split into 4 shifts from A to D with each shift numbering 100 men. Two shifts worked during daylight and the other two during darkness.

Within weeks the weather began closing in for monsoon season and the Camp anticipating a possible cholera outbreak had pitched two tents in the jungle about 165 yards from the main camp.   The first case was diagnosed at 1000 hours on 16 June. The POW’s death soon followed at 1630 hours.

By this time cholera had already appeared at Kanu II and Hintok Road Camps which had used a separate water supply.

Following the cholera outbreak at Malayan Camp on 18 June 1943, 59 British were brought from Kanu III to set up a new camp called Kanu IIIa (Tampie North) or KIIIr (Tampie South) Advance Camp.

On 25 August 1943, 83 Australians from Groups H3 and H6 joined ‘H’ Force No. 1 Sub-Section and travelled by train to Konkoita in a last minute dash to complete the railway in that sector.

On 8 September 1943 the first Australian party from ‘H’ Force consisting of stretcher cases was evacuated to Kanchanaburi. During the following few days a further 4 parties were evacuated totalling about 500 men. This left a workforce of about 25 men to remain behind and clean up the campsite.

On 16 September the rear party who had been at Tonchan Spring Camp moved forward to Kanu IIIa (Tampie North Camp) to join the other Australians before this last group also moved south to Kanchanaburi.

The evacuation of sick to Kanchanaburi had commenced prematurely on 29 July 1943 before ‘F’ and ‘H’ Force Hospital had been completed. For the next month the sick were accommodated at ‘D’ Force Base Hospital Camp No. 1 until their own hospital was completed on 27 August and able to accept them.

As soon as the sick were classified fit, they were transferred to a ‘Fit Camp’ located two miles away in a jungle clearing. On 19 November 1943 the first party of 500 fit men left under the command of Lt-Col T.H. Newey as an advance party back to Singapore. Newey had come into Kanchanaburi from Konkoita with ‘H’ Force No. 1 Sub-Section, arriving between 8th-12th November 1943.

Between 20 November and 10 December 1943, ‘H’ Force returned to Singapore en-masse by train with the exception of some seriously ill men who would not return until May 1944.   Singapore would learn of the appalling conditions experienced at the construction camps on the Burma-Thai Rail link.

Deaths 

1 Jul 1943 WX7628 Howard Edgar Joseph (known as Tim) died cholera aged 31 years Grave No. 22 Malayan Hamlet (not cremated).

17 Jul 1943 WX8747 Hall William Harrison (Nobby) died beri-beri, cerebral malaria and cholera aged 42 years.  Buried Grace No. 38 (not cremated).

 27 Jul 1943 WX9052 McDonough Henry Elvin  died cholera aged 28 years, buried unmarked cemetery approx 300 yds North of Kanu IIa (Tampie North) on Kanu-Hintok  Road, Grave No 18.

7 Sep 1943 WX7623 Shelton George Tom died post pneumonia  and beri-beri aged 24 years.  Buried Grave No. 80 Malayan Hamlet.

24 Oct 1943 WX7250 Kidd George died cardiac beri-beri Kanchanaburi aged 37 years.    Buried Grave No. 214 Kanchanaburi.

24 Jan 1944 WX9293 Langdon Ronald Guy died cadiac beri-beri at Sime Road Camp, Singapore aged 32 years having earlier been evacuated to Kanchanaburi from Malayan Hamlet with cholera and beri-beri.

21 May 1944 WX10370 Hall Douglas Charles John died septic thrombosis AGH Roberts Barracks Changi, Singapore aged 25 years.  Buried AIF Cemetery, Changi,  Grave No. 134.