POND’S PARTY, ‘F’ FORCE THAILAND
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.’
- Please read about ‘F’ Force
On 10 May 1943 as ‘F’ Force marched north through the Thai jungle, 700 men under the command of Lt-Col Pond were halted at Koinkoita, a short distance before Shimo Ni Thea. 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.
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.
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)
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.