WX10931 HUMMERSTON, Laurence Slade ‘Mick’
Mick was born in Kalgoorlie 1919 to parents Harry Goldsmith Ada Mary Hummerston. He enlisted 14 Feb 1941 and later joined ‘C’ Company 10 Platoon.
At Singapore he was selected to work on the Buma-Thai Ralway with ‘D’ Force V Battalion.
He was later selected by the Japanese to work in Japan – he sailed with ‘Aramis’ Party and was unfortunate to work at Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 17 Omuta.
Mick wrote ‘some of the food at this camp was not too appetising – including dog, whale meat that he described like eating Tarzan’s Grip! When it was the season for persimmons they would eat them endlessly until season was finished, then there were frogs – and they would eat them for a while’.
But there was always tobacco available to buy.
The POWs never had any days off from work. During the latter months they spent time in air raid shelters as the Americans bombed regularly – the sight of the bombers raised the men’s spirits. At the same time they feared the future – when would the Americans invade, and where would they invade? What would happen to them – would they be wiped out by the Japanese?
One day there was a great explosion over the Bay (we were located across the Bay from Nagasaki) and thought the bombing may have hit the gasworks. Next minute they saw a great mushroom of smoke and they felt the shaking of it over the Bay – 30 miles away.
Of course the men did not know about the Atom Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki – eventually they learned the details. There were several hidden radios in the camp. Suddenly the war was over – “but we POWs were to stay where we were. An American Major came into the Camp – all the Japanese had gone.”
The American bombers began dropping food in 44-gallon drums.
Mick Hummerston decided he couldn’t wait around at Omuta for a month to leave as the POWs were advised and about 3 days after the news he with several POWs decided to leave (they were threatened with a court -marshall when caught up with). “Being court-marshalled after being a POW for 4 years would be like having a holiday!”
Looking back Mick decided it was a stupid thing to do – but four of them departed camp. Walking to the Railway Station they intended to head south of the Island where they knew the Americans had taken over the Airport. The group proceeded to take arms off every armed soldier they came across!
On the train journey they had to get out a few times because the railway lines had been destroyed in every large town. They walked to the other side of the town to find another train. Sometimes they were picked up. The cache of arms grew considerably. They must have looked a terrifying sight. Four skinny men in rough clothes each armed with rifles.
Eventually they found there was no railway line to continue their journey. They came across a Japanese kempitai (Military Police) sitting in a truck. The 4 men commandeered the truck and under great duress got the driver to deliver them to where the Americans were, about 30 miles away.
The first American they came across in the perimeter of the air base couldn’t believe his eyes! He asked where they were from. They were probably the first POWs the men had seen.
Mick and his 3 mates were flown out to Manila after a day at the American base. They were provided new clothes. The four of them stayed in Manila for nearly 3 weeks. They were eventually joined by the POWs from Omuta by which time they were quite fat!
Mick was recovered from Omuta at the end of the War.
He moved to NSW to live after the war.
You can listen to an interview with Australian David Runge, Driver with 8th Division, AASC sent to Omuta
Runge was tortured, forced to kneel for days in snow. Camp Dr. Duncan had to amputate legs below the knees. Guards carried legs around laughing. Documented in Whitecross’s excellent book, Slaves of the Son of Heaven. Published in 1951, the book mentions many names and incidents from Camp 17.
Above: Runge being carried off his ship home to Australia 1945.
WX227 STEVENS, Alfred (Alf) born Perth 1913. Prior to enlistment, Alf Stevens was employed as an engine driver by Union Flour Mills, Kellerberrin.
He was one lucky man. He was sentenced to serve a prison sentence at Outram Road Gaol for his role in the Secret Underground at Sandakan.
Stevens had been sent from Singapore with ‘B’ Force Borneo to Sandakan, where POWs would work to construct two airfields.
72 men from 2/4th lost their lives mostly during 1945 marching from Sandakan to Ranau. Alf was one of three 2/4th to return home to WA.
His time at Outram Road Gaol would have been horrific.
Alf returned to Kellerberrin and resumed his work at the Mills.
Did you know there was a POW Control Centre in Kellerberrin during WW2?
During 3 June 1944 to 30 May 1946 a POW Control Centre for 200 Italian POWs was planned for Merredin (57kms east of Kellerberrin) – but was too close to military installations. Meckering was the next choice however there was no suitable accommodation.
The number of POWs decreased to 125 and sent to work at 79 farms from Kellerberrin.