Nikhe, Ni Thea, 133Kilo Camp, 281.80 km - Thailand (Williams Force January 1944)

Nikhe 133 km Camp 281.80 km – Thailand

First and foremost, Nikhe was the Headquarters and Base Camp for ‘F’ Force’s (7) seven POW Camps spread out over a 17 mile stretch to Three Pagoda Pass.
These POWs had marched from Lower or Shimo Nikhe (the southern most ‘F’ force Camp) where they had planned to stay the night before however it was about to be shut down due to cholera.  The river was in flood, the road bridge was washed away and supplies could not be expected for a long time.
British Lt. Col. F.J. Dillon, Indian Army  was CO of about 600 POWs, 400 Australians  They were a motley lot – too sick or too weak to walk and keep up with their columns.  From varying units and separated from their officers and NCO’s discipline had withered as had the notion of mutual help and solidarity.  Survival was now equated with theft.
At Singapore Lt. Col Dillon was a much admired officer.  He had been ordered to leave Sumatra where he was then located and few days prior to capitulation (any officer receiving these orders was highly regarded by British Army).  Instead of looking after his own safety, he remained to organise other parties to sail for Ceylon and safety.  Dillon was therefore recaptured and sent back to Changi.
During very early days at Nikhe Camp, Lt Col Dillon’s official interpreter Major Wilde had not arrived from lower Nikhe,  he  called  upon John Stewart as he wanted to address the POWs after  Roll Call.  What Dillon wanted to say to the men was not for Japanese ears – John Stewart was relieved the Japanese quickly left for their own quarters.
The POWs waited in untidy rows of four expecting to be dismissed.  Dillon stood straight, feet apart and faced the men.
You complain of being treated like dogs by your own officers!  Well it may be so, but I didn’t imagine British soldiers could behave the way you do.
Yes you will probably say the Japs are responsible.  But I will let you have it straight out:  I’ve never seen such scum of the earth  as I see here assembled in Nikhe.  I never thought such scoundrels would come out of England.  And I hate to think that I deliberately sacrificed my freedom in Sumatra for the likes of you!”
John Stewart wrote, then came the reason Dillon wanted the Japanese out of the way before addressing the men.
“Now tell me, are we going to let these bastards think that the  white man, even in defeat, behaves like an animal?”
The men remained immobile and  murmuring.  Stewart was concerned  the men may break rank and attack Dillon!  He however decided the murmur signified admiration.

Dillon thanked them in a wavered voice, close to tears.

Nikhe was the end of their exhausting march of between 17 to 25 days from Banpong.  The health of the POWs had never been great was now precarious – men unable to stand let alone work because of their severely wounded feet now bed-ridden, others already ill with tropical illnesses and with 100 sick men were not expected to survive with cholera  about to arrive.
There were so few fit men work on the rail link and embankments stopped.  A small party of men left the camp every day trying to maintain the road – to keep the supplies coming through.
A month earlier a dozen POWs from Lower Nikhe had been sent to try to save the bridge.  The worked 12 hour days standing chest high in the river.   They had all died.


From Sgt John Parkes NX9127 8th Div Signals, Collection of the privations of POWs of ‘F’ Force – Delivered Remembrance Day Service, Hellfire Pass, Thailand, 11 Nov 2005
Pond’s Party
‘The Japanese wanted 300 reasonably fit men to go to Nikke. Many of these so called “fit” men were quite sick and some were later sent on to the hospital camp at Tanbaya in Burma, along with our well respected Signals Captain, Fred Stahl. A third of the men sent to Burma died there.At Nikke there were a lot of Burmese bullocks loose on the edge of the jungle and it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss to have some beef. In the 9 days we were there, we acquired and killed 23 bullocks. The first night we sat up all night eating, the meat was tough and stringy and it didn’t do our digestive system much good, but it filled our stomachs.
We returned to Teimonta and joined the rest of Pond’s Party and walked and worked our way back 70 kilomteres down to Takanoon, carrying all our stretcher cases, cooking gear and tools. Whenever we moved the guards made us carry heavy bundles of tools up to 10 to 15 kilometres before we could return to the camp for something to eat. As soon as we were out of sight of the guards we tossed some of the tools away into the jungle and retied the bundles as before. The guards never once found out what we had been doing. We were lucky as other parties were dealt with severely for losing tools etc. This went on whenever Pond’s Party moved.’


Williams Mobile Force 11 Jan to 25 January 1944
This was the last camp on the rail link for Williams Force.
The two ends of the rail link had been joined on 17th October 1943 at the 262.87 km point between Konkoita and Lower Thimongtha.
On 25th January Williams No.1 Mobile Force moved north back to the border to Changaraya 113.97km – 300.95 km Camp and about  10 days later moved back to the 104.29km Camp at Aungganaung, i.e. 105 km Camp, Burma where they met up with the remnants of Australian work groups still in Burma.
These included Robertson’s Java Party No. 5a, Burma Administration Group 5 Burma, who had been employed on woodcutting for the steam locomotives.
ALSO at 131 were POWs from ‘A’ Force Green Force No. 3 such as Graham Wilson.


Location of Nikhe, Ni Thea, 133Kilo Camp, 281.80 km - Thailand (Williams Force January 1944)