DR PETER HENDRY, MO 2/10TH AUSTRALIAN FIELD AMBULANCE – ‘F’ FORCE
We wish to acknowledge author Pattie Wright and her book ‘THE MEN OF THE LINE’ and her interview with Hendry.
Hendry was one of several young doctors sent with ‘F’ Force Thailand. As a 26 year old he found himself in a foreign country in circumstances he could never ever have envisaged and treating diseases he would have only read about if he was fortunate.
Hendrys obituary: Peter studied Medicine at Sydney University. At first, inspired by his father’s example he wanted to be a ‘medical missionary’ but over time that changed into Surgery and ultimately into Pathology. That was the right decision for him and certainly the best decision for Pathology.
He worked at Neikhe, Lower Sonkurai and Sonkurai where he remained for the longest time, six months. Hendry was fortunate never to contract malaria.
Neikhe – Hendry’s job was mostly pick the men from the line of sick POWs to be sent out to work. A most trauma filled responsibility. Hendry felt the sick hated him and each one hoped he would not be sent. Hendry admitted he didn’t stand up to the Japs – but those who did were bashed and the Japs always got the number of men they wanted.
Sonkurai – building a big bridge across the river
The British had been here for three months and were in terrible shape. There was no proper hygiene, no control and the camp was in crisis. Hendry wrote, the powers that be (I imagine he is referring the British leadership) set Hendry up with 2 atap huts in their own area away from the main camp – the British hospital with 800 patients which were being cared for by Australian doctors Lloyd Cahill and John Taylor.
Hendry was in charge of the patients who were too sick to work and really came to die. There was always between 50 and 100 patients. Hendry talks about his group of 10 orderlies – who were given the name ‘Universal Providers.’
Hendry put in charge of cleaning up the camp one of orderlies Pte Harry Williams who did a wonderful job. Gave orders to the Poms and took responsibility for the Camp.
The group of 10 young soldiers came from around Casino, NSW – country hicks. Initially lost when they first joined AIF, the young men stayed together through the entire war, even on the Line. The ‘Universal Providers’ earned their name because they would go under the wire and buy anything. Three of them would die on the Line, one at Sokurai.
Fortunately the Japs were too terrified and did not come near them because it was a death camp for the very ill and dying POWs. There was not a POW who could work! Hendry and his hard-working orderlies tried their best to keep their patients cheerful, comfortable and mobile if they could. They medical staff presented two concerts for the patients.
Hendry considered beri beri the worst illness. Once you had beri beri then a POW was susceptible to malaria and cholera. They had no medical supplies to deal with cholera.
Hendry wrote his youthful enthusiasm got him through this time on the line, however he was delighted to return to the ‘land of milk and honey’ – Changi.
Hendry was positive Sonkurai was the very worst camp on the Line. Certainly there were some notoriously cruel and sadistic Japanese at Sonkurai.
above: Doctors Cahill, Vic Brand & Hendry at Singapore
His was an extraordinary life. Peter Hendry died aged 102 years NSW.