The Soldier's Details

First Name:
Charles Donald
Nick Name:
Regimental #:
'B' Company 9 Platoon
Place of Birth:
Swanbourne, Western Australia
Father's Name:
John Edwin Lee
Mothers's Name:
Else Gertrude Lee
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Government Wool Appraiser
Selarang Camp Changi, Johore Bahru, Adam Park, Selarang Barracks Changi. Returned from Thailand to Sime Road Camp (December 1943), Changi Gaol Camp
'H' Force, Group No. 3
Camps Thailand:
Kanu II Malayan Hamlet, 'H' Force No. l Sub-Section, Konkoita sub camps.
Return Details 1945:
Singapore-Darwin-Sydney, HMT Arawa, Sydney-Melbourne by troop train, Melboume-Fremantle, HMT Strathmore

General Description

Lee enlisted AIF Nov 1940.  He was later appointed CO of 9 Platoon, ‘B’ Coy.
Appointment Terminated 7/12/1945.
Don Lee was selected in Singapore with ‘H’ Force to travel by train to Thailand for the Burma-Thai Railway project.

Please read further about this Force.

Listen to an oral history interview of Charles Donald Lee recorded in Singapore in November 1981.


Don Lee gave an address for Remembrance Day, Hellfire Pass, Thailand 2004 – Memories of Burma Thailand 1943

(Written in full on the website Prisoners of War of the Japanese 1942-1945.)

Below are excerpts taken from this address.

He spoke mainly about ‘his experiences of ‘H’ Force at Kanyu No. 2 Camp, later known as Malayan Hamlet.  ‘H’ Force, 3,270 men, left Singapore early  May 1943. Our section numbered 750; there were 500 Australians and 250 British. In this Kanyu No. 2 Camp our losses were 43% dead in six months.
Those on night shift had a bad time, There was no labour to maintain the  Camp. Everyone was working in the Cutting so in the afternoons we were called out to carry back bags of rice and other items from the barge landing or cremate the bodies of the cholera victims. Cholera dehydrates the body which burns up. Some were so light they could be picked up with one hand. After a week or so the Japs objected to the smell ordering we bury the bodies. One afternoon we buried eighteen.
As more men became too sick to work the Japs drove those working harder and longer and the shifts went from twelve to fourteen, then sixteen and finally eighteen hours. Then cholera hit our Camp.
The men had been warned repeatedly to drink only water that had been boiled and was readily available from the cook-house. Many ignored this and filled their water bottles from the clear creek near the Camp.
The Cutting was finished on August 24. The Japs ordered 100 men to be sent further north to continue working on the rail. Only 83 could be mustered, the fittest of the unfit. We went by rail to the Konkoita area to work on bridge building. I alone was sent to an all officers camp at South Konkoita. I entered that camp a stranger and do not know the fate of the other 82 of my original group.
My new Camp was an all-Officers working one – we hauled teak logs together with elephants. The huge logs were cut high up on the mountain, trimmed, then sent thundering down to bury themselves in the river bank. They were hauled out by 100 or 200 men on ropes plus two or three elephants.
There were a few despicable incidents.
We can all thank with pride and reverence the brave men who suffered so much and gave their lives for our freedom. We should also remember in our prayers the thousands of Asian workers who suffered and died as slaves of a cruel and implacable enemy.
In the 20th century we were all reduced to total slavery by the Japanese, where a 2nd or 3rd class Private could beat a man to death with impunity.
History will record to Japan’s eternal shame, and never to be erased, the awful atrocities committed on the Railway of Death.’
Returning to Singapore Lee was accommodated at Sime Road Camp in Dec 1943 and then Changi Gaol from where he was recovered at the end of war.


The following letter was included in the ‘Borehole Bulletin’ July 1990.



Don Lee died 4 May 2007 aged 94 years.

Camp Locations:

  • Changi Gaol Camp - Singapore
  • Johore Bahru, - Malaysia
  • Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Sime Road Camp - Singapore
  • Kanu II, 152.30k - Thailand