Onte, Yongthi, 213.20km - Thailand
Onte, Yongthi, 213k – Thailand
When the party from ‘D’ Force U Battalion walked into Onte they found it to be pretty terrible and not very large. There were about 280 Australians there. U Battalion was made up of about 40 men and were without an officer. They did have Sergeant-Major Leo Scott who was a great soldier of small stature.
Their accommodation consisted of one hut and a couple of large tents which gradually rotted through and the men slept on the ground. When the monsoons arrived the POWs built bamboo platforms to sleep on – no change the schedule a little so the men would get a break of a few days with shorter working hours.
They had one decent Jap guard who would bring eggs to the sick.
Four blokes died of Cholera and they carried them by stretcher to Bangan to bury them, on one occasion wading through water up to their waists.
There was an incident when the Japanese guards blamed the Australians for sabotaging some of their gear. The Australians knew the guilty was a party of natives passing through.
The Japs lit a well-stoked fire and ordered some POWs to stand over it whilst the Japanese held bayonets. The whole camp watched in horror and fury, ready to act. Fortunately the Japanese took the 10 men out of the fire. They were given pineapples and bananas. Unpredictable behaviour.
The Japanese wouldn’t allow any singing or music.
When the Australians left Onte, the Camp was closed down.
The men worked on a 5-kilometre stretch of the line for about 4-5 months. They did the cuttings, built embankments and built 3 little bridges over creeks. Work commenced at 5 am. They would have a meal and if you didn’t eat it fast enough the guards would kick the food out of your hands. The POWs returned to the camp in the dark, eat and collapse in bed. Sometimes it would be an hour later they would be woken by the guards to get back to work.
The POWS were exhausted. When the Japs couldn’t raise sufficient men for a work party they would order them from their sick beds.
The following information is from Murray Ewen’s “Colour Patch” and same as recorded for Bangan Camp 214.50 km.
‘D’ Force V Battalion Group 6
This group worked at Brankassi-Onte-Bangan Camps between 5th May 43 to10th July 1943.
When V Battalion was split up on 6 May 1943 having finished their work at Prang Kasi (Brankassi) a group of 172 men under command of W.O.Glen Blyden of 2/3 Ordnance Stores Company walked north approximately 6 kilometres to a clearing in the jungle to a place called Onte. Major Clough recorded in his diary there was a wooden bridge bridge constructed across the River Kwae Noi. On completion of work at Onte, the group moved north approx. 4 kilometres to Bangan.
Bangan was used to store supplies for the Japanese and a base where they would bring in sick men, place them on barges and rail to the hospitals south.
It is thought there would have been 250 men working at Bangan permanently at any one time. When the Bangan part of the line was completed the POWs were trucked out – they couldn’t believe their luck – having marched all the way from south and now, at the end, they didn’t have to march back! (Some POWs remained for maintenance.) The V Force POWs all left. They were trucked to Onte and then Kinsaiyok where those who required hospital treatment we able to do so.
It is not known how many Australians deaths there were.