Songkurai 294k – Thailand
Site of the ‘Bridge of 600’ – This was a death camp.
The camp was settled in a clearing on the banks of the Huai Ro Khi River. The POW’s day began at dawn with a 8 mile march through thick mud to reach work. Work was clearing jungle, cutting down trees, adzing (trimming) timber, driving piles, loading elephants, carting earth and moving rocks. The earth was moved in flat baskets or stretches. A stretch of the railway included building a three-span wooden bridge held together with iron spikes driven in with heavy hammers. No bolts or nuts were used on this bridge.
F Force No 2 Camp for 1000 British. Major Cyril Wild was in command. The men ‘dragged’ themselves through the Thai jungle for 17 weary nights, 220 miles. Monsoon season had arrived and the men sodden with rain – often up to their waists in mud.
1680 men arrived at this camp and less than 250 POWs survived.
600 died here and another 600 died when evacuated to Thanbaya and Kanburi.
The POWS began work immediately – piling earth and stones in little skips onto a railway embankment. Work began at 5 am until 9pm or sometimes later. Their spirits waivered with the slave working hours, insufficient food, sickness and rain.
The men were driven with blows from fists, rifle-butts, sticks and wire hoops. If the guards thought they were slacking their punishment was to stand holding a rock above their heads until they dropped – then they were beaten.
Cholera arrived. Without any medical instruments they improvised with bamboo holders for saline transfusions, used boiled water and common salt. They could lose anywhere between 20-50 men daily.
As in every camp the hospital was a dilapidated hut with a leaky roof, no walls, no lights. The men lay on split bamboo planks – bodies were crammed in, touching each other.
Cholera killed 750 ‘F’ Force. Dysentery aggravated by malnutrition and often complicated by malaria or beri beri or both was widespread. About 100 POWs a day available to work.
They had been forced to leave behind their medical kit – the Japanese said it would would arrive later but of course it never did.
Col Harris and Col Dillon came to Songkarai during last four months – but As Wild said it was too late the damage had already been done. Harris and Dillon arrived when 500 men lay dying in one hut.
Two months after leaving Changi on 1 May 1943 the Japanese arrived to ‘glass-rod’ the POWs to find cholera carriers.
10 POWs escaped hoping to reach Ye on the coast. Several died of illness during their quest for the coast. They reach Ye River on 14 August 1943. Were arrested on 21st August by the Japanese. Taken to Moulmein, Kami Songkurai for two weeks before arriving back at Songkurai where they were brutally interrogated.
Major Wild was told the men would be executed, but instead were sent to Singapore for a court martial. They were given 8-9 years hard labour. Sent to Outram Road Gaol.