The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Joseph Lewis
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- 'B' Company Headquarters
- Place of Birth:
- West Melbourne, Victoria
- Father's Name:
- Douglas Lonsdale
- Mothers's Name:
- Blanche Emily Lonsdale
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Sales Assistant
- Selarang Camp Changi, Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp), River Valley Road Camp, Selarang Barracks Changi
- 'D' Force Thailand, V Battalion
- Camps Thailand:
- Kinsaiyok, Brankassi, Hindaine, Brankassi, Non Pladuk
- Camps Japan:
- Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 17, Omuta
- Aramis Party
- Return Details 1945:
- Nagasaki-Okinawa, USS Cape Gloucester, Okinawa-Manila, details unknown, Manila-Sydney, HMS Speaker, Sydney-Fremantle, HMT Dominion Monarch.
Lew enlisted 24 September 1941 aged 18 years. He joined 2/4th and was Taken on Strength to Woodside Camp, South Australia on 5 October 1941. He was with ‘B’ Company Headquarters.
Having resided in several POW Camps in Singapore, Lew was selected with ‘D’ Force V Battalion to work on the Burma-Thai Railway. V Battalion departed Singapore Railway Station 17 March 1943.
Lew was one of the fortunate of ‘D’ Force V Battalion to survive working on the Burma-Thai Railway. V Battalion had one of the highest death rates on the line. 50%. Please read about this Battalion.
Not only was Lew lucky to survive the railway, he was sent to Non Pladuk when the railway was completed. It was here he was selected by the Japanese to work in Japan with ‘Aramis’ Party.
He was sent to Omuta 17. Omuta was truly a hell-hole – run by ‘American Mafia’. Please read further.
For some men the thought of being crushed by collapsing ceilings, suffocation and/or blast injuries were very real. Others simply feared working in a confined space. Apprehension was dealt with the usual Japanese method of persuasion and brutality. It is known some Dutch and Americans deliberately injured themselves (breaking an arm) to avoid mine work.
WX16727 ‘Lou’ Lonsdale who arrived with ‘Aramis’ Party 19 June 1944 describes the work underground in his Affidavit to War Trials. (AWM54 File 1010/4/92)
‘We were worked 8 or 9 hours a day on shift work in the mine and were actually away from camp about 12 hours because we had to march about two miles to the mine and back again. Work in the mine was divided into three sections.
- Work in the extraction section consisted of blasting the coal wall and shovelling coal into trucks and elevators to the surface.
- In the preparation section work consisted of building rock walls along the tunnels as coal was being taken out, to make it as safe as possible.
- In the exploration section work consisted of tunnelling through from given points making new laterals and coal.
Japanese and Koreans were working in the mine at same time as POWs and Chinese labour battalions working in the adjoining mine, which connected with the mine we were working in. Reports came to us that the Americans had originally owned the mine and abandoned it as they considered it unsafe to extract more coal. When we arrived at Omuta we found the mine had been re-opened. We were taking out pillars of coal that should have been left there for safety measures. In some parts of the mine laterals had sunk so low we were bent almost double while carrying tools such as jack hammers, shovels, picks etc. and heavy logs for timbering. There were quite a lot of falls of coal and rock. Ironically the Japanese suffered most in these falls’.
Returning to WA after the war, Lew married in 1946 to Marie Jean Waters in Perth. In 1954 Electoral Role Marie and Lew were residing in South Perth, he was recorded as ‘trainee’.
Several years later Lew moved to Queensland.
Lew passed away aged 78, December 31 2002, Upper Fern Tree Gully, Vic. He was a insurance broker. His wife Marie died in 1984 in Queensland. The couple had resided in Palm Beach, Coolangatta for years.
Lew Lonsdale was awarded O.A.M. in April 1995.
- River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
- Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp) - Singapore
- Brankassi, Prang Kasi, 208k - Thailand
- Hindaine, Kui Mang 200k - Thailand
- Kinsaiyok Main, 170.2k - Thailand
- Non Pladuk, 0k - Thailand
- Omuta Miike, Fukuoka #17-B - Japan