‘H’ Force consisted of six groups/parties within ‘H’Force from H1 to H6 Officers Party. Two of these groups included men from 2/4th – H3 and H6 Officer’s Party.
The Officers were expected to participate on labouring on the rail link like the other ranks in ‘H’ Force. We can surmise that by April/May the Japanese were running out of POW labour and finding their pool of labour was not limitless. ‘H’ Force had been despatched to this area in Thailand to beef up the labour force. This middle section had encountered problems and progress fallen behind in schedule.
Like ‘D’ Force V Battalion had been separated from Japanese
Thailand Administration Group 4, ‘H’ Force Groups were similarly separated and neglected because the remained under Singapore’s administration and not Thailand.
This may explain why the sick of ‘H’ Force were not evacuated down river by barge to Tarsau and instead moved by train to Kanchanaburi Hospital Camp. ”H’ Force totalled 3,270 POWs which included 705 Australians spread between H3 and H6 Groups.
The first ‘H’ Force train departed Singapore on 5 May 1943. This was virtually on top of last ‘F’ Force train’s departure which had commenced 18 April 1943.
H6 OFFICER’S PARTY
17 May 1943 320 officer POWs including 68 Australian Officers and one other rank – a medical orderly, departed Singapore like the five ‘H’ Force groups had before them. The H6 Officer’s Party
arrived Non Pladuk 21 May 1943 and went to Konma Transit camp for two days. It had been raining and the camp was a sea of mud, a foot deep. The five huts each about 120 feet in length were constructed of Bamboo and atap with no sides and the earthen floor was now a mud floor. The rain continued for their two-day duration.
They left Konma marching 29 miles over two nights to Kanchanaburi and moved into a crowded tented camp. The 68 AIF component was issued two 14ft X 12ft tents for the duration of their stay in Thailand.
On 28 May following a 6-hour wait at the railway station they travelled by train to 125km point of rail link a Wanyai. This indicated the rail link had been pushed through Tarsau, through Chungkai cutting and around the viaducts at Wampo.
‘D’ Force T Battalion had finished their work at Wampo and had passed through Tarsau on 8th May, dropping off their sick.
H6 Officers Party made another night march to the bivouac site at Tarsau North. The following day there was another march, up steep hills bringing the group into Tonchan South, where ‘H’ Force Group H5 had arrived two days earlier.
TONCHAN SOUTH CAMP, May-July 1943
The officers on arrival began setting up what was going to be a permanent camp. They had to clear the jungle of heavily grown bamboo and timber before they could pitch their tents and lay sleeping platforms inside. The commander of H5 Group felt compelled to assist H6 Officer’s Party.
The railway line crossed the road from east to west about 1 mile to south of camp where it then turned north and ran parallel with the road, about 1 1/2 miles away, between and camp and the River Kwae Noi. The ground sloped to the railway line but then fell away sharply in the last mile to the Kwae Noi where there was a perpendicular fall of about 100 feet to the river. A current ran so swiftly that even close to the bank where its strength is weakest, it would have been impossible to swim against.
There was another group at Tonchan South at this time. Capt Reg Newton’s ‘D’ Force U Battalion were camped on the opposite side of the road. Their camp was described as being placed on an escarpment overlooking a wide valley with a stream running through the camp.