Was part of the Original 7,000 POWs
which left Singapore as
‘F’ FORCE 9 THAILAND
VX44770 Lt. Col Samuel Austin Frank Pond 2/29th Battalion, 8th Division
9 Nov 1940 Brigade Major, 27th Brigade
15 Aug 1941, arrived Singapore
25 Jan 1942 Lt Col CO Officer 2/29th Battalion
Overall command of 7,000 POWs of ‘F’ Force was under British commanding officer Lt-Col S. Harris, 18th Division.
AIF to provide 3,600 men and the British 3,400. Lt. Col. Dillon M.C. would command the British contingent and Lt.Col Kappe the AIF which was predominantly made up of 2/26, 2/29 and 2/30th Btns with Artillery and Signals support personnel. It would take 13 trains to transfer the POWs from Singapore to Banmpong, Thailand.
POND’S PARTY OF 700 MEN
Upper Konkoita to Lower Teimonta or Taimonta, Thailand
16 May 1943 to 21 June 1943
Pond’s Party was first group to arrive from Singapore at Bampong, Thailand. For this reason, they would have been in a healthier state than POW groups arriving after them.
Pond was appointed to command a work Force of 700 POWs which separated from the main ‘F’ Force. Pond hadn’t been happy about this decision for him to take up leadership of this ‘break-away’ group. We recommend you read the ‘F’ Force Story where more facts are laid out about this ‘doomed’ work force.
Starting out on their march Pond’s POWs had to carry all their equipment and were unable to stop long enough to get organised. They were however, able to send their sick down river from Yakanun on two occasions.
We wish to acknowledge the following information is from the AWM:
‘Collection relating to the Second World War service of Lt Col Samuel Austin Frank Pond, officer commanding 2/29 Battalion. The collection consists a 1942-1945 diary kept as a prisoner of war in Changi after the fall of Singapore; regimental roll of 2/29 Battalion; a published history of 2/29 Battalion; a handbook “A Progressive Course of Physical Exercises” (1915); a leaflet “Distribution – amongst former prisoners of War of the Japanese – of Moneys available from the Liquidation of Japanese Assets in Australia”; a letter written on Christmas Day 1942 to Pond from a fellow POW, Cyril Wild; a note accompanying a presentation to Wild written by Pond; an empty envelope addressed to Pond from his wife; two newspaper cuttings; and an obituary.
The diary contains biographical, medical (death statistics) and general notes as well as a daily record of events. Pond wrote the diary in a number of languages, but predominately French, in an effort to delay any punishment the Japanese might exact on him if the diary were discovered. The regimental roll was kept by WO1 Heath Watus RSM during the Burma Thailand railway construction and records movements, illnesses and the fate of battalion members.
With Lieutenant Colonel John Charles Robertson (1940–42); Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Austin Frank Pond (1942) served as a commanding officer of the 2/29th.
As a POW of Japan, Lt-Col Pond was selected with ‘F’ Force Thailand to travel to Burma-Thai Railway.’
- Below: Pond
10 May 1943: as ‘F’ Force marched north from Banpong (end of train line) through Thai jungle, 700 men under the command of Lt-Col Pond were halted at Koinkoita, a short distance before Shimo Ni Thea and about 300km from Banpong. Lt Col Pond reported to Lieutenant Maruyama of the IJA Engineers. This group of men would not see the rest of ‘F’ Force until December 1943.
Pond Party: the first to arrive on train from Singapore to Banpong, Thailand. The party probably a fitter group of men at the start than those arriving from Singapore later. Starting out on their march POWs had to carry all their equipment and were unable to stop long enough to get organised, but were able to send their sick down river from Yakanun on two occasions.
Konkoita had previously been occupied by Romusha and was in a filthy condition with few huts with roofs and insufficient accommodation. Camp conditions were appalling and the men were exhausted from their long march from Banpong.
The POWs were immediately sent out on work parties the next morning to build bridges and roads. Within five days, there was a cholera break out in the nearby Romusha Camp. It would not be too long before cholera arrived at Konkoita . As further ‘F’ Force parties headed north passing through Konkoita, cholera travelled to all ‘F’ Force Camps.
Very challenging times lay ahead for Pond’s Party – they would be fragmented and sent to various camps including Taimonta and Tha Khanun to the south, where they remained for two months.
Roy Mills who was doctor with Ponds Party, wrote in his diary Taimonta South was a similar hutted camp to Konkoita – ‘no roofing, insufficient tents with Burmese camped beside’ and one tent for sick.
Roy Mills further described Pond group had 6 Officers and 91 other ranks to work with the men on the bridge building.
Firstly slit trenches had to be dug for latrines. Then messing shelter. At this time there was no rain – the days were hot and the nights cool.
Another major hurdle to cross was water – it was essential to boil all water – however there was a shortage of dixies.
The POW food consisted of rice and onion stew only.
On 12, 13 May i.e. first few days after Pond’s group had arrived, several other groups having arrived at Bampong, now marched through South Konkoita, often during midnight hours as that was when they marched from Camp to Camp, heading for their destinations.
On 15th Mills wrote the flies were particularly bad – they were breeding in Yak manure. To his delight the Burmese moved out! He wrote at that time and with little experience, he found ‘Coolies and Dutch had very poor and absent hygiene which was a menace’ however added sometimes Australians were just as bad.
Once Pond Party was settled into camp – instructions re good hygiene were faithfully followed as far as was humanely possible.
Sunday 16th – the remainder of ‘F’ Force’s 700 POWs marched in including 34 sick men travelling by truck. Mills and Lt. Noel May were the only two in camp and they put up two tents for the sick
The monsoon season was now upon them and it was pouring with rain. The tents were of poor quality and the rain poured through leaving men perpetually wet and muddy.
(I am writing the above from copy of Roy Mill’s book ‘Doctor’s Diary’ – I regret it may sound disjointed however I am following Roy Mill’s diary as he wrote it.
C. Mellor 2/4th historian Aug 2022)
Monday 17 May. Mills wrote he took over role of RMO of this group of ‘F’ Force POWs under commanding officers Lt. Col Pond and Lt. Col Kappe as they awaited their move to HQ.
An urgent call was received from camps further north from Lt. Col Harris for medical assistance for doctors John Taylor and As/Surgeon Wolfe had an outbreak of cholera and had five deaths out of 16 AIF patients. Bruce Hunt left by truck from Konkoita collecting Major Stevens and Pete Hendry from South Tiamonta – leaving Roy Mills sole medical officer to 700 men!
By moonlight Mills gave 140 anti cholera injections – 107 men had missed their second injections at Konkoita or been too sick.
18 May Slit trench latrines had been dug. (Japanese latrines were uncovered deep trenches with bamboo tops).
19th May. Burmese coolies moved in occupying huts near Australian slit trench latrines – now made out of bounds for Aussies.
POWs had to use IJA latrines and shovel dirt over deposits proving most unsatisfactory. Necessary to dig own deep trench latrines and put put fly proof lids on them (wire fames covered with hessian).
Sunday 23 May. 171 men off duty with dysentery, diarrhoea or convalescing. Fit men working on roads and bridges.
Cholera outbreak further north reported to be under control. It was believed Major Bruce Hunt, LLoyd Cahill and John Taylor went to No. 1 Aust. camp and Major Stevens, Pete Hendry and Frank Cahill remained at No. 4 Camp about 16 kms north of here.
Daily procedure for Roy Mills: Daylight 0745 Reveiille.
0800 sick parade for new sick overnight,.
Breakfast. No improvement in rations.
0930 sick parade for 200 odd sick in lines (This is Tokyo Time. Tokyo Time is two hours ahead of Bangkok Time). Followed by hospital rounds, then lunch.
Then anything that crops up.
Signing paybooks for sick records – camp rounds with Lt. Col. Pond.
Following by wash – tea – evening sick parade – late Hospital rounds – to bed about 2200.
Lt Col Kappe has moved into this tent.
Almost continuous rain for three days – conditions pitiful – half the men have no cover. I have 3 hospital tents. I (Mills) have been going around with old towel pinned around me – not worthwhile wearing socks.
Men collapse on way to latrines wading through all mud, their clothes all wet.
Out to work soon after daylight. Back at dark – rice and onion (onion water) stew for morning, midday and evening meal. Ground becoming fouled by men who can’t make the latrines in time.
Mills saw Lt. Onoguchi, IJA medical officer who moved in here a day or so ago. Friendly relations established. Request made for rice polishing, improved rations, accommodation and soap. He pointed out the condition of roads now impassable except to yaks!
First case of cholera in camp.
Friday 4 June. Have had a hectic and disastrous 9 days. Cholera has broken out. First case 23rd May. 10 cases here to date with 4 deaths.
Monday 24 June. First cholera death. Received 7000 quinine from IJA last night.
No work. Camp quarantined.
Hygiene and sanitation improved with fit men in camp to work.
The following from Sig CJ (John) Parkes NX 72917
His recollection of the privations of POWs of ‘F’ Force, Delivered at Remembrance Day Service, Hellfire Pass, Thailand, 11 Nov 2005.
‘Prisoners of War of the Japanese 1942-1945’
‘For the 9 months we were on the line approximately 50% of F Force died, two thirds British and one third Australian and in Pond’s Party similar statistics prevailed. Without the efforts of our wonderful doctor, Roy Mills and his medics I believe it would have been worse. He and the medical staff worked day and night to try to help the sick with limited or no medicine or medical equipment. Roy Mills himself had been ill all the time he was with us. He carried shrapnel in his shoulder from the defence of Singapore until he managed to have a British Medical Officer remove it on 18 October near Koncoita. Unfortunately Dr Mills contracted TB and on his return to Australia, was unable to work and spent 2 years in hospital.’
‘It was at Teimonta that cholera stuck. It was the start of the monsoon and the rain did not stop until we finished work several months later at Takanoon. We were working, eating and sleeping in the rain much of the time. A separate cholera tent was set up and the medical staff led by Dr Roy Mills and George Beecham did their best to treat the victims of cholera for whom there was little hope. Men were dying every day and we had to cremate bodies every day. Dr Mills tried to treat men with intravenous injections (IVI), but it was almost hopeless and very few survived. He was unable to cope with the workload on his own and trained his medical orderlies in the IVI procedures. The cholera continued to strike right through the rainy season from Teimonta to Nikke and down to Takanoon. Approximately 56 from Pond’s Party died of cholera.’
Tha Khanun or Takanoon Camp, Thailand
3 July 43 to 3 Sept 1943
The camp site was on a bamboo covered hillside sloping to a tributary of the main river: ‘road one side, dry creek bed the other—railroad the other and creek the other’ was how Dr Roy Mills described it . Only half a day was allocated for clearing and preparing the site before the men were sent to work. Only men who were close to death were spared working parties.
To get to their work site men had to negotiate a high level bridge, 70 metres long and made of slippery logs only 15 cm wide. Or they crossed a low bridge 60 to 90 cm under the water. The hours of work were long, almost inhuman. On two terrible days the men worked from 8 am to around 2 am the following morning. Their work included embankments and a cutting into the near vertical cliff above the Kwae Noi. At times officers were ordered to work in special parties on a slightly lighter contract basis.
Tha Khanun was a cholera camp. The first case was diagnosed on 9 July. By 8 August there had been 59 cases and 21 deaths. ‘It has been hell—accommodation inadequate and even then muddy, Insufficient men to look after them, insufficient containers to boil water for them— pouring rain’, was how Roy Mills described the situation.
In late July dysentery broke out.
Medical Officer Roy Mills at lower Taimonta Camp wrote in his diary………………no roofing. Insufficient tents, Burmese camped beside camp … water a problem—all had to be boiled—shortage of dixies—Rice and onion stew only.
(later published ‘Doctor’s Diary and Memoirs’: Pond’s Party F Force, Thai–Burma Railway, New Lambton, NSW, R.M. Mills, 1994, 56)
Dr Roy Mills wrote in his diary
‘Lt Col Pond’s party was moved five times, carrying the sick and the dying on improvised stretchers and struggling with cooking gear, Japanese tools and wet tents. After the completion of the railway, men continued to die at a base camp at Kan Buri in southern Thailand and they died after returning to Changi’.
Mills was over 6ft tall, rosy cheeked. He supposedly looked like a great big boy! One of the POWs in a back row was heard to say
“Jesus we’re getting a bloody schoolboy for a doctor!”
From Peter Brune’s book ‘Descent into Hell’ Page 660& 661.
A corporal from 2/29th described Roy Mills –
‘He was a gentle man; a very quiet man; a very kind looking man……….when we went to Thailand Mills had virtually no equipment and almost immediately cholera arrived and the various diseases. Mills looked after the men walked up and down the line marching from Konkoita to Taimonta to Takanun, time and time again, to the different camps because he was the only doctor. Mills got belted up by the Japs on more than one occasion’.
Another 2/29th bloke remembered to Brune ‘when the Japs came around and grabbed really bloody sick blokes out of hospital to work, Mills would just openly cry. He would cry about what the Japs were doing to these really sick POWs.‘
Peter Brune describes he aloneness felt by Roy Mills was like that of Capt. Rowley Richards ‘A’ Force and Capt Dave Hinder with Newton’s ‘U’ Btn.
In late October 1943 the track-laying parties from the Thai and Burmese ends of the railway finally met at Konkoita.
The Japanese hosted an elaborate ceremony with a general driving a gold spike into an ebony sleeper.
A train pulled by a locomotive shipped from Japan pulled across the joining point to mark the completion.
Below: the infamous gold spike – now housed at Imperial War Museum, London.
2/29th – Lt Col Pond
‘Arrives Bakri on 17 January, Australians established strong defensive positions, following day, with assistance from an anti-tank regiment, repulsed a heavy Japanese attack that had been supported by armour. Japanese felt for 2/29th Battalion’s flanks & their position grew increasing tenuous and they were in danger of being surrounded. 2/19th arrived & allowed 2/29th to withdraw, but further flanking moves by the Japanese cut off withdrawal route. Fighting their way through several Japanese road blocks and almost constant air attack, they found river crossing at Parit Sulong in Japanese hands and despite several efforts to wrest control of it, the combined Australian and Indian force had to break track and head into the jungle in an effort to reach Yong Peng, which was still in British hands. Had to leave their wounded behind with a handful of medical personnel, trusting that they would be cared for by Japanese. In the end, all but two of the 135 men were executed by their captors. Of the two survivors, one was Lieutenant Ben Hackney of 2/29th Battalion, who was later captured by the Japanese, but who survived the war as a prisoner.
Heavily depleted by the withdrawal, 2/29th was withdrawn back to Singapore; the 130 men that successfully completed the trek back to Yong Peng were joined by a draft of 500 fresh replacements, many of whom were very inexperienced having been rushed from in Australia with very little training. The battalion’s commanding officer, Robertson, had been among those killed in action around Muar, and he was subsequently replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Pond, previously the brigade major on staff of 27th Brigade, who subsequently led the battalion through the remainder of the short campaign. As the battalion was reconstituted with 19 new officers amongst the reinforcements, Pond sought to implement a hasty training program, in the short time available.
Meanwhile, the fighting in Johore continued until 31 January when the Allied forces withdrew across the Causeway, which was subsequently blown up to delay Japanese forces from crossing the Strait of Johore. In anticipation of a Japanese assault across the strait, the Australian forces took up defensive positions in the north-western side of Singapore island, with the 27th Brigade assuming a position west of the Causeway. Despite the battalion’s inexperience, it was assigned the role of divisional reserve and given additional tasks related to rear-area security.
When the Japanese assault came on 8 February, the main thrust initially on 22nd Brigade’s positions further west, but as the situation worsened the 2/29th was sent to Tengah airfield to bolster the 22nd Brigade’s defence of the north-west sector. Plans were made to launch a counter-attack to re-capture the village of Ama Keng, but these were cancelled when further Japanese advances made this impossible. Throughout 9 February, the battalion fought to hold the airfield against growing Japanese attacks before the defenders were forced to withdraw further back to the Bulim line, positioned on the Choa Chu Kang Road in between the 2/18th Battalion and a composite unit. There, the battalion turned back a Japanese attack on 10 February, but after neighbouring units withdrew amidst the confusion, the 2/29th were also forced back. Withdrawing in contact, elements of the battalion became separated until they were regrouped at Bukit Panjang.
Over the course of the week, further fighting pushed them back to the Kranji–Jurong line where the 2/29th experienced the main force of a further Japanese thrust after the 12th Indian Infantry Brigade was pushed back by two Japanese divisions. Lacking supporting fires following obfuscation from higher headquarters, the battalion was nearly split in half as it withdrew in contact again towards high ground around Bukit Timah. In the process of the withdrawal, individual platoons were forced to fight their way back to Allied lines. At Bukit Timah, the battalion again regrouped minus one company which found itself detached and subsequently fought alongside the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Further fighting saw the Allied forces withdraw towards Singapore City’s suburbs, where elements of 2/29th were used to shore up the line along Reformatory Road along with part of 2/20th Battalion and 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. The Australian forces subsequently formed a perimeter around Tanglin Barracks where they were making preparations for a counter-attack by the time the garrison surrendered on 15 February following the loss of the city’s main water reservoirs.
The battalion’s remaining personnel were subsequently ordered to congregate around Changi prison where they were captured. They remained prisoners of war for over three years. During this time, they were moved to camps across south-east Asia, including Japan, Burma, Thailand, and the Dutch East Indies where they were pressed into hard labour and subjected to harsh conditions. A total of 582 personnel from the 2/29th were killed in action or died in captivity, while 143 were wounded in action. Personnel from the battalion received the following decorations: one Officer of the Order of the British Empire, two Military Crosses, one Distinguished Conduct Medal, one Military Medal and 13 Mentions in Despatches.’