Aussie Mateship by Otto Kreefft


Burma Railway a visual recollection” by Otto Kreefft

Following is Kreefft’s description with a section of his drawing (above) of Aussie POWs walking to work through jungle and  rain,  wearing ‘their new uniforms’ otherwise known as Jap-Happys, accompanied by a guard  



‘About Aussies, the story went round that they sold everything that was loose or attached. These men indeed often possessed nothing but their big hats, water bottles, canteens and minuscule pieces of fabric as loincloths. Anything else they had owned had been sold to obtain some extras: tobacco, sugar or a piece of salted fish.
The tjawat (Jap-happy) was their only piece of clothing and became their new uniform. All the same, from such a group on their way to work, all thin as rakes with their felt hats on their heads and their ludicrous, pathetic appearance something positive was radiating …namely mateship.
(tjawat = loincloth. Some were black and some white. The first were regarded as their ‘evening dress’).’
Otto Kreeftf was born in Java in what was formerly known as Dutch-East Indies. His father was a lessee -coffee planter. When war broke out in 1941 Kreefft was in his final year of high school at Jogjakarta. He served as a conscript at an anti-aircraft battery at Andir airfield near Bandung. When the KNIL surrendered to Japan he became a POW and was soon after transported to Burma to work on the railway.
Kreefft was recovered from Thailand at the end of the war.
Following the transfer of sovereignty to Indonesia Kreefft and his family were evacuated to the Netherlands in 1957.
There have been several editions of this book, First Dutch 1998, First English Dec 2004, Second 2005 and Third edition 2008.
ISBN 978-0-646-48349-8
This book captures everyday life working on the railway and reveals a unique insight in the engineering feats undertaken by POWs.
Printed by Sukhumvit Printing Co., Ltd. for Thailand-Burma Railway Centre (T.B.R.C. Co. Ltd.) Kanchaburi, Thailand.  We extend our sincere thanks for permission from TBRC to share the above.