The occurrence of splintered work parties & formation of Miscellaneous Work Groups
Harris Party is part of ‘D’ Force
Capt. Reg Newton wrote the 2/19th Battalion Unit history ‘Grim Glory’ and explained the splintering of ‘D’ Force U Battalion prior to moving from Kanchanaburi:
‘About two hours after receiving the news that we would move up tomorrow, the IJA came back and told us to leave 225 (men) behind as a work party for them and that no sick would be left behind at Kanchanaburi Hospital (British). As it was our policy not to leave any group behind anywhere without an officer backstop, Captain Fred Harris was selected to stay. He did not like the idea (nor did anybody else) of being dropped off from the main group and very forcibly said so, and then asked that he have his own choice of NCO’s.
WO II Geoff Riach, Sgt Laurie Sheather from 2/19th Bn, WO II Ken Cullen, Sgt Eddie Derkenne and Sgt Ben Raven from 2/20th Bn with several Corporals including Abbie Hutchins, Eric Saunderson from 2/19 and Ern Parkinson of 2/20 Bn. remained behind. Some of the party were sick and it was thought that with a British POW Hospital nearby they had a better chance than go on.’
The splintering of the battalion group continued. ‘Some of Fred Harris’s Party of 225 men finished up in three locations in Japan, some finished up in Saigon, a few back at Changi and the others spread over camps in Thailand.’
The following is Capt. Harris’s and Sgt Derkenne’s stories as explained in their war crimes affidavits.
Capt. Fred Harris:
‘I was in captivity at Kanchanaburi camp, Thailand from 1st April 1943 until May 1943. I was in charge of a working party of approximately 200 men, half English and half Australian. We were working on a night shift, loading ballast trains on the Kanburi River.’
Sgt Eddie Derkenne:
‘From Kanchanaburi I went to the British General Hospital where I remained during April for a little over a fortnight. I then went to Kinsaiyok Jungle Camp No. 2 where I remained from May until August 1943. There were 32 Australians in this camp. We were engaged in bridge building work. Capt. Atkins was in charge of the party of English and I was in charge of the 32 Australians. He left me to look after my own men as best I could. Another NCO and myself went out and eventually got the tents erected and made another jungle camp outside the other one. From Kinsaiyok I went to Konkoita where I remained from August until December 1943. There were 45 Australians in this camp and we were engaged in building embankments for the railway. When we first arrived at Konkeita, we slept in tents which were very old and holey; some of the men had only groundsheets and bits of bamboo to keep them off the ground. We were evacuated from Konkeita to Hindata, which was the headquarters of the Japanese in charge of the Thailand POWs.’
In the 2/20th Battalion unit history Sgt Eddie Derkenne again relates his experiences:
‘The only time I thought I was going to die was at Kinsoika. I joined Capt. Harris’ party there and we worked on the bridge building at Jungle Camp No. 2 even though I had the hospital armband on the Japs gave you. From there I went to Hindata where I got hepatitis and Harris said you can’t go out with the work parties you stay here.’
It is thought that 19 or more men from 2/4th were connected with Capt. Harris. This party is recorded being at Non Pladuk on 4 March 1944.
Some of these men were selected for the Saigon Party and remained here until the end of the war. Sgt Derkenne from 2/20th Btn found himself included on Aramis Party and despatched to Japan.
Tom Gough from Major Cough’s V Battalion was also selected for Japan and sailed on the Aramis. (The common denominator is both men worked in Thailand in the Kinsaiyok, Hindaine, and Hindato area.)
The selection of prisoners who were included on this party as well as the Saigon party was made at Non Pladuk.
Major Cough’s V Battalion emerged from their jungle working camps and moved to Non Pladuk.
The following men from 2/4th are known to have been on the Capt. Harris Party:
WX8729 Badock, Ron (Kinsaiyok only) – Both Party
WX222 Barnett, Thomas James ‘Lance’ – Both Party
WX12335 Brown, Ronald Edmund – Both Party
WX8735 Curtin, John Goode ‘Taddy’ – Both Party
WX7864 Flanagan, James Joseph – ‘Aramis’ Party to Japan.
WX9139 Hadden, Lloyd Foster – remained Thailand
WX18170 Hickey, Stanley Raymond ‘Ray’ – Both Party
WX9290 Hicks, George Halley – Both Party
WXC7467 Jamieson, Donald Keith – Both Party
WX7697 Jeffery, Ronald Ralph – Both Party
WX13338 Miller, Reginald James – ‘Aramis’ Party Japan – Omuta
WX10802 Outtrim, Noel James d. illness Kinsaiyok 22.11.1944
WX8758 Starcevich, Joseph Frederick – ‘Aramis’ Party – Omuta
WX10117 Thomson, Eric Gerrard – Both Party
The men were entrained to Singapore, accommodated at River Valley Road Transit Camp to await their ships to Japan.
WO II John Dooley from 2/3rd MAC (Motor Ambulance Company) kept a roll of ‘D’ Force T Battalion No. 18 Section No. 4.
Dooley mentioned that he was at Kanchanaburi on the railway ballast party but was not with Capt. Harris’s group, instead remained at Kanchanaburi until early June 1943. Ivan Lawer recalls working on a big cutting to the north of Kanchanaburi which is thought to have been the Chungkai Cutting. Originally a tunnel was to be cut through this rock face but because the Japanese did not have any experienced tunnelling engineers this Chungkai Tunnel became Chungkai Cutting. Although the H6 Officer’s Party passed through this cutting by train on 28 May 1943 it is quite possible the cutting required widening in sections if the excavation work had been pushed through in a hurry.
The following 2/4th men are known to have been with WO II John Dooley:
WX16441 Crane, Thomas – Both Party
WX8092 Dunn, Cecil – Both Party
QX6599 Lawer, Ivan (transferred to 2/4th on 2 April 1943 from A.A.S.C. to be with his brother Reg Lawer. At Tamuang Reg was selected for Japan, and Ivan remained Thailand) – Aramis Party
WX8810 Lawer, Reg – Thailand, Bangkok.
WX10809 Nicholas, William John – Both Party
WX10382 Warrington, John – remained Thailand, Ubon.
WX8753 Wheelock, Jack Logan – Both Party
WX9002 White Henry Charles Frederick – Thailand, Ubon