Chungkai Camp and Hospital Camp 60k - Thailand
Chungkai Camp & Hospital Camp 60k – Thailand
This camp was about 6 kilometres from Tamarkan. From Tamarkan the railway line veers left over a river crossing to the next camp location, Chungkai.
Chungkai was HQ for Group 2 (made up of about 11,000 POWs) and their work included the two bridges across the River Kwai, one of which was constructed of wood and the other which commenced at the same time, was constructed of steel. Better known as “The Bridge on the River Kwai”.
Chungkai was originally a work camp. Today if you visit Chungkai you are able to walk over one or two of the original cuttings.
The Commonwealth War Cemetery is very near the original site of the Chungkai Cemetery. The Camp was situated just beyond and later became a Base Hospital Camp for sick POWs from the north
Mostly British and Dutch POWs are buried here however however several non military Australians can be found resting here.
Chungkai No. 3 Hospital Camp was one of several Base hospital camps for the southern end of the railway. Chungkai opened in Nov 1942 and remained in operation until it was closed in June 1945 during which time 19,975 patients had been treated with an average of 2,000 at any one time.
Chungkai was a big camp where atap huts covered a large area. Earlier inmates had prepared a soccer pitch, a chapel and a well-tended cemetery. For those arrivals who had survived the line and Tarsau Hospital Camp in 1943 found Chungkai an improvement – food was more plentiful. A few months later the patients were moved again down the line to Tamuang where the Japanese would draft fit men into work parties for Japan.
On 1st April 1944 the sick were graded. The heavy sick sent to Nacompaton and light sick to Chungkai. The men from ‘F’ and ‘H’ Forces had all returned to Singapore by April 1944. Those POWs considered by the Japanese to be fit enough to travel to Japan from ‘A’ and ‘D’ Forces had been removed with many in transit and others waiting to depart.
By March 1944 the majority of POWs were brought out of the jungle work camps and the men were concentrated in the main camps at Nacompaton, Non Pladuk, Tamuang, Kanchanaburi, Tamarkan and Chungkai.
The number of camp huts increased over time from seven to 20. About 6 large trees provided some shade over the camp as well as as a few mango trees.
It was at Chungkai where the Japanese camp doctor was known as the ‘Horse Doctor’ was located. He was not a doctor at all and at the most, a chemist of sorts. The Japanese promoted him to Lieutenant in recognition of his atrocities committed against the POWs.
Chungkai, Burma – Thailand Railway. 1944-05-19.The cast of “Wonder Bar” (a play on the German word wunderbar) lined up on stage at a camp theatre. The play ran over two days, 1944-05-19 and 1944-05-20. In front is the audience, including some Japanese prison guards. Standing on the far left: Leo Britt wearing a loin cloth, known as a Jap Happy, and wooden thongs. This outfit was the daily dress for prisoners. All materials for the musical were supplied by the prisoners. Costumes were made from assorted items such as rice sacks and backdrops were made from bamboo and bamboo fronds. This photograph was taken by one of the Japanese prison guards and later given to one of the prisoners.
Chungkai (Kao Poon), Thailand. c. October 1945. Lieutenant G. H. Schroder, Netherlands East Indies Army, a ex-prisoner of war (POW) member of a War Graves Commission survey party, standing in a bund, or drainage trench, around the Chungkai POW camp. These trenches, dug in 1944 by POW labourers, also provided security at camp. Machine guns were strategically placed to cover these bunds, and there is evidence that the Japanese intended to use them as mass graves after a massacre of the POWs occupying the camp. Such massacres were, it is believed, set to take place towards the end of August 1945, in anticipation of an Allied invasion of the Thailand-Malaya area. Chungkai, approximately two kilometres north of Kanchanaburi, was the site of a large POW base hospital opened by the Japanese in November 1942, and which functioned until it was closed on 26 May 1945, when the remaining occupants were transferred to Tamuang, approximately eleven kilometres south of Kanchanaburi (Kanburi). (Donor A. MacKinnon)
Soldiers dressing ulcers at Chungkai Camp
2/4th men who died Chungkai:
WX8381 Elvish, Robert Philip worked Burma
Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand V Battalion. Evacuated to Chungkai, died 9 October 1943 pellagra and tropical ulcers aged 42 years. Grave No. 643, Chungkai.
Below: Chungkai – this part of rail remains in use today.