4th April 1942 Cough’s party left Changi for Adam Park,arriving as darkness was falling, very weary after the long march. The next morning some of the men were moved onto Jahore Bahru. Later while working on the Burma-Thai Railway those men remembered the two-storied mansions they ‘lived in’ overlooking the Straits of Johore. For several weeks they chungkled a hill into the Straits then returned to Adam Park.
At Adam Park they worked at the Golf Links, had midnight tenkos, frog races – they remembered how they groused! Little did they know what a good spot it was!
(The above information was copied from April 2000 edition of Borehole Bulletin – editor at that time was Ted Wallin, Historian Les Cody. Wallin and Cody worked on Thai-Burma Railway with ‘F’ Force – Wallin would have obtained information from other sources.)
Starvation, disease, Japanese brutality, mud, rain and never-ending misery. More than 50% of the men in ‘D’ Force V Battalion died working on Burma-Thai Railway 1943.
Major Alf Cough’s V Battalion suffered the greatest loss of life of all the Australian battalions in ‘D’ Force Groups 4 and 6 originating from Singapore.
S Battalion Group 4 lost 14.2%
T Battalion Group 4 lost 21.2%
U Battalion Group 4 lost 5.2%
V Battalion Group 6 lost 50.0%
The following explains V Battalion’s reason.
Capt Reg Newton’s group were at Rin Tin Camp
Work at this camp consisted of maintenance with repairs to embankments and bridges. Whilst here Newton ventured north about 9 km back up the line to Kuii where he came across Major Alf Cough’s V Battalion.
“In the middle of about 1,500 Indonesians we found the 2/4th m/gunners. Alf Cough and Les Riches and their chaps crowded round and poured out their story of being placed under the command of the Indonesians from the moment they had arrived and, had been working on all the usual things, embankments bridges, cuttings, etc and had lost a number of men. Things had gone hard for them with the Japanese ‘treatment’ and being under Dutch command as they had no control of their work figures and always received the thin end from the Dutchies: they had had little medcal attention as it was centred mainly on the Indonesians and above all they had no representation on the rations and in the kitchens, consequently had to take what they were given.’
On the 17th March 1943 ‘D’ Force V Battalion was transported from Selarang to Singapore Railway station for their five-day horror train trip to Thailand. Conditions were terrible with men crammed into railway trucks with standing room only. The men had to take turns to sit. It was stinking hot during the 4-5 day journey and the nights freezing.
WX691 Edward (Eddie) Bell had been appointed quartermaster in charge of the cookhouse and rations. Bell was recovered from Ubon at the end of war.
Travelling via Kanchanaburi and Tarsao, ‘V’ Battalion Group 6 arrived Kinsaiyok Camp on 31 March 1943 and remained here until 1 May 1943. At Kanchanaburi they met up with Major Cough’s group and thereafter moved off under his command. 300 British and 600 Dutch POWs already occupied Kinsaiyok. Major Cough’s ‘V’ Battalion consisted of 5 officers and 482 other ranks – ‘V’ Battalion would suffer more than any other ‘D’ Force groups with heavy loss of life. Alf Cough was not yet 21 years of age.
2nd May 1943 – ‘V’ Battalion moved north to staging overnight at Rin Tin Camp. The next day they set out arriving at Hindato Camp (otherwise known at Hindat Camp) at the 197.75 kilo point, again staging overnight. The following day they moved another 10 kilometres to Brankassi Camp (Prang Kassi Camp) – arriving 5th May 1943.
Brankassi-Onte-Gangan Camps 5/5/1943 to 10/7/1943
Brankassi Camp (otherwise known as Prang Kassi) was located at 208.11 km point on the railway. Working conditions, accommodation and food would be the same as they would encounter from July at Hindaine Camp. It was judged as being worse than Kinsaiyok with mud contributing to the discomfort.
Below: Cough writing in his diary – Brankassi June 1943.
27 men would die at Brankassi including 8 machine gunners.
WX10390 Dwyer, William Andrew Died 22/8/1943 Malaria and dysentery aged 24 years. Read Jeffery’s Affadavit to War Crimes.
WX7562 Elkins, Harry Laurence Died 12/8/1943 dysentery and acute enteritis, aged 37 years.
WX7998 Giese, Phillip Arthur Died 28/9/1943 dysentery aged 25 years.
WX7138 McKay, William Died 23/9/1943 Acute enteritis, aged 35 years.
WX8840 Powell, Allen Ethelbert died 6/9/1943 Dysentery aged 33 years.
WX7416 Preedy, Eric Lincoln Died 7/8/1943 Acute enteritis, aged 30 years.
WX9325 Tregenza, John Ernst died 2/9/1943 cerebral malaria aged 28 years.
WX17973 Wilson, John Died 25/8/1943 Dysentery aged 36 years.
William Andrew Dwyer WX10390
had been in a weak and delirious state thought to be brought on by cerebral malaria. He had been placed in a cholera camp. A sadistic Japanese Engineer Corporal known as ‘Black Cat’ took great delight in beating Bill Dwyer unconscious. ‘Black Cat’ then pushed bamboo sticks into Bill’s ears and eyes! Another POW witness said Bill stood up magnificently to what was an unprovoked barbaric attack on a seriously ill man. Bill Dwyer died on the night of 22 August 1943. Lieutenant ‘Scotty’ Howell, 2/3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company witnessed this insane and sickening act – it is thought Bill Dwyer was with ‘W’ Party when attacked with such depravity. Tom Gough was also on this party.
On 6th May 1943 ‘V’ Battalion was split up when 172 other ranks under the command of W.O. Glen Blyden, 2/3rd Ordnance Stores Company were detained to continue 6 kilometres north of Brankassi to a jungle clearing called Onte. In his diary, Major Tom Gough mentions Onte where there was a wooden bridge constructed across the River Kwae Noi. W.O. Arthur Hewby WX8207 of 2/4th was with this party. He arrived sick and returned to Brankassi where it is presumed he remained.
Following completion of their work at Onte, the men moved north approximately 4 kilometres to Bangan.
Hindaine Camp 10/7/1943 – 31/8/1943
This camp was located about 8 kilometres south of Brankassi close to Hindato on a small tributary of the River Kwae Noi. This would place it around the 200km point. The camp was also under canvas and as usual the tents would not do what they were designed to do.
Major Alf Cough wrote:
‘This camp is just hell, the whole area a sea of black stinking mud, very little food; and men dying every day. For the last here weeks we have eaten nothing but rice and dried fish; for three weeks prior to that we had rice and dried cabbage at the rate of one cupful plus a dessertspoon full of fish or cabbage. The men cannot last out much longer unless we get some decent food and medical supplies. I am tired of reading burial services and watching my men die without being able to lift a hand to help them; they are full of courage and keep their chins up until the last moment.’
On 27th July Lt. ‘Scotty’ Howell was detached to Brankassi with about 80 other ranks as W Party. ‘D’ Force V Battalion now consisted of three separate groups, one at Onte, one at Hindaine and W Party at Brankassi.
On 10th August 40 of the heavy sick including Capt. John Hill were evacuated. A total of 28 men died at this Camp. This Camp’s remoteness and location prevented the POWs trading with locals for vital foods. On 30th August Major Cough was ordered to take 100 of his fittest men to the next camp, Kuii.
The remainder of this group returned to Brankassi Camp.
Machine gunners who died at Hindaine Camp included the following
WX6976 Clare, John Mostyn died 8/8/1943 chronic diarhorrea aged 36 years.
WX9327 Hunt, Edgar Harold died 18/8/1943 Bacillary dysentery aged 29 years.
WX14327 Nybo, Lawrance Roy died 4/9/1943 beri beri aged 22 years.
WX16274 Whitacker, Fred died 6/8/1943 Dysentery aged 36 years.
Kuii Camp 31/8/1943 to 18/12/1943
Kuii was about 10 kilometres south of Hindaine Camp and located at the 190.48 km point. Located about 4 kilometres from the River Kwae Noi, this established atap hutted camp was already occupied by 1700 Dutch POWs.
‘V’ Battalion travelled down river by barge from Hindaine and commenced work on 1st August. Every available man worked here until 17th December 1943. Lieutenant Les ‘Pard’ Riches and 29 other ranks of heavy sick men were evacuated on 11th August.
A total of 52 men including 21 machine gunners died at this camp. On 18th December 1943 the remaining officer Major Alf Cough and 18 other ranks from the original party were evacuated to Non Pladuk. Three of these men died within 3 days of their arrival, including:
WX9589 Barrymore, F.M. died malaria 21/12/1943 Non Pladuk
WX13442 Bullock,L.N.W. died 31/12/1943 beri beri Non Pladuk
Of the original 500 men, 200 had died by December 1943 and other 20 died by March 1944. Had ‘V’ Force been able to remain with the Australians instead of the Dutch it is certain many more of these men would have stood a better chance of surviving.
Major Alf Cough and his men were placed under the command of the Dutch Indonesians – they had no control of their work figures, always receiving the thin end of the stick from the Dutch. The machine gunner received little or no medical treatment and worse, they had no representation on the rations and in the kitchens. Consequently ‘V’ Battalion had to take what they were given which often was much less than the Dutch. The Australians did poorly.
Those who died at Kuii
WX9031 Brennan, Maurice John died 27/9/1943 beri-beri aged 30 years.
WX15989 Buckley, John Scott died 19/9/1943 malaria, general debility and tropical ulcers aged 36 years.
WX7714 Clark, Francis Denis John (aka F.D.J Stevens) died 10/10/1943 malaria and cardiac beri beri aged 30 years.
WX15707 Cooper, Hugh Myles died 3/10/1943 dysentery aged 38 years. “The midnight stars are shining upon a silent grave” the inscription on Hugh’s grave at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
WX7909 Davidson, Thomas died 18/9/1943 acute enteritis aged 33 years.
WX8733 Harrison, Henry Ralph died 15/9/1943 malaria aged 27 years.
WX9348 Heppell, Colin Leslie Died 6/10/1943 colitis aged 38 years.
WX10635 Hoppe, Vernon T.W. died 19/11/1943 cerebral malaria aged 33 years.
WX15402 Jaensch, Lawrence died 6/10/1943 of acute enteritis and malaria aged 36 years.
WX8425 Leadbitter, Edward Johnathan died 10/10/1943 cholera, aged 24 years (prior to his death, Ted Leadbitter was severely kicked and beaten unconscious by ‘Black Cat’, Brutal Japanese engineer.)
WH7640 Lee-Steere, Forrest died 3/10/1943 Cholera, aged 36 years.
WX7660 Manning, Donald Thomas died 22/10/1943 avitaminosis aged 28 years.
WX9324 McCarthy, Jack died 21/7/1943 Linson Camp malaria aged 24 years.
WX15905 Moir, Edward George died 1/10/1943 malaria and dysentery aged 32 years.
WX7426 Murphy, John Patrick died cholera 30/11/1943 aged 27 years.
WX17458 Newling, Oswald Kitchener died 22/10/1943 malaria Aged 28 years.
WX8432 Newling Rexford Frank died 20/9/1943 malaria aged 30 years.
WX7902 Philp, William Hawksley died 18/9/1943 malaria aged 35 years.
WX17344 Slater, Albert died 26/9/1943 beri- beri aged 22 years.
WX9351 Treasure, John died 13/9/1943 cerebral malaria aged 24 years.
WX13161 Wright, Henry Edward (Ted) died 5/10/1943 avitaminosis aged 22 years.
Rex and Ossie Newling’s older brother Rolf died 13 June 1945 in North Borneo at Ranau Camp having marched from Sandakan. He was 33 years old.
Above: this Full Statement of Atrocity was written by Peter Alan Gardiner WX10925 – half brother of Ted Moir. Gardiner was with V Battalion, refers to the hated Japanese guard known as ‘Blackcat’ – known for his sadistic treatment of POWs and responsible for many of their deaths.
The first death at Kui was
13 September – John (Jack) Treasure (cerebral malaria)
He was 24 years of age. He enlisted AIF 30 October 1940, later joined 2/4th MGB’s HQ Coy, No 3 Platoon as a Driver under command of Quartermasters Capt. Phelps and Lt. O’Sullivan.
Jack was talented footballer, playing for 2/4th team.
He was from the pioneering Treasure family of Kojonup. His parents resided at Broomehill.
Right: John Treasure.
15 September – Henry Harrison (malaria)
18 September – Tom Davidson (acute enteritis) and William Philp (malaria)
19 September – John Buckley (malaria/general debility/tropical ulcers)
20 September – Rex Newling (malaria)
26 September – Albert Slater (beri Beri)
27 September – Maurice Brennan (beri beri)
1 October – Edward George Moir (malaria/dysentery)
3 October – Hugh Cooper ((dysentery) and Forrest Lee-Steere (cholera)
5 October – Henry ‘Teddy’ Wright (avitaminosis)
6 October – Colin Heppell (colitis) and Lawrence Jaensch (acute enteritis and malaria)
10 October – Frank Clark (cardiac beri beri) and Ted Leadbitter (Cholera)
22 October – Don Maning (avitaminosis) and Oswald Kitchener Newling (malaria)
19 November – Vern Hoppe (cerebral malaria)
30 November – John Murphy (cholera)