Read Capt Fred Stahl’s description of conditions on ‘F’ Force Thailand
QX6306 Capt Frederick Edwin Stahl, 8th Division Signals
Staff Captain (Administration) to Lt.Col. Kappe
Appointed Commanding Officer of Australian contingent of ‘F’ Force Thailand of 3,600 POWs.
Fred Stahl was invited to speak at an event, Adelaide, SA .
After the war I was often asked to comment on the behaviour of those who had been POWs. In reply, I would give my opinion – to which I had given a great deal of thought after observing the actions and reactions of many men in those dark and difficult days, that under those circumstances men could divided into four classifications – Gold, Silver, Brass and Dross.
The Gold – the first group – were those who would do anything they could, at any time, to assist their fellow men, irrespective of cost or risk to themselves.
Silver – the second group – were those who would do anything they could to assist others, provided there was no great cost or risk to themselves.
Brass – the third kind – were those who were interested only in their own welfare and would do all they could to advance it, short of causing injury or ham to others.
The Dross – the final bunch – consisting of those who were not only interested solely in their own welfare, but they would do all they could to advance their own selfish cause regardless of any inconvenience, injury, or loss or hurt that might befall others as a result of their actions.
Stahl went on to say he would place
10% in the Gold,
50% in Silver,
30% in Brass and
10% in Dross – which included a Private who broke out of camp one night (Nikhe) stole a yak from a Thai farmer and killed it with a pick he illegally appropriated from the Japanese tool store. Over a number of trips backwards and forwards to the Camp, he sold the 400 lbs meat to the starving and meat-hungry POWs for the equivalent of Australian currency 1 pound for each pound of flesh!)
Worse was to follow.
The private left the stolen pick at the killing spot. Stahl refers to this man as ‘Yakkity’ – tools were scarce and precious to the Japanese engineers. Every night the POWs returned to camp they cleaned their tools before handing back to be recorded. Every morning a POW was allocated equipment and recorded.
That very night, the POWs returned late as usual, at 11.30, exhausted and went through to procedure above. About midnight it was realised a pick was missing -all hell broke out in the camp. Stahl wrote ‘the seriousness of this situation was such that one could be forgiven for thinking the POWs had mislaid a battleship!’
All company commanders and OCs of working parties were called out and thoroughly berated for the loss. They were told there would be no food for anybody other than the working party men and those too ill to leave their hospital beds (not that they received very much) until ‘the pick’ was found.
The theory was that everyone else was to look for the pick!
‘Yakkity’ of course did not own up.
Stahl wrote ‘Yakkity didn’t care one jot for the welfare of anyone other than himself.’
Breakfast time came and went without food for anybody except those on the railway working party.
‘Yakkity’ was a ‘full on Dross’- not only was he responsible for everybody going without food he did nothing to correct the situation. He remained quiet about taking the pick and did nothing about recovering the pick. While most of the camp went hungry, Yakkity and his few cronies feasted on the last of the yak meat.
This event shone a light on a member of the Gold group – Sgt Cameron of the AASC managed to find the spot where the killing took place and ‘retrieved the priceless instrument’. Cameron then ‘arranged’ for the pick to be discovered under his bed, and returned at 10.30 am.
The Japs punished Cameron by making him stand in front of the guard house with a heavy object held above his head at arm’s length from 10.30 until 3.30pm. There was no lunch. It was not until 3.30 when the punishment was concluded that restrictions were lifted for the whole Camp.
‘Yakkity’ continued with his illegal operations. With the yak-meat sales he next purchased the entire stock of tobacco stock from a passing Thai trader. He then began to sell the stock to the many POWs craving tobacco. Not only did these POWs have no cash (10 cents pay a day did not stretch far) they were allowed to sign I.O.U.s payable in Australia after the war. Yakkity and his cronies acquired I.O.U.s for many thousands of Australian pounds.
On their return to Australia, the POWs were informed by the Australian Government that I.O.U.s would not be honoured!
(Dont you feel some little jolt of joy?)
About mid June 1943 – Nikhe Camp
There was a very serious shortage of food at Nikhe. Stahl details how much each POW and how little the sick were allocated- many would have died of starvation. He writes a certain senior officer was also affected by the serious food shortage! This officer had arrived at Nikhe to take over command of Australian troops. One of his first acts was to issue a command that he was to receive double rations. His reason ‘Someone has to get back to tell the story of this bastardry and I am the one best qualified to do it’.
There were protests, but the officer ensured his order was carried out. This Lt. Col was Kappe! He would definitely have been part of ‘Dross’ group.
Having read about the discipline in other work Forces I am surprised about these incidents. In a Hunt Camp a POW was found to have stolen from another, Hunt gave him a hiding the bloke would have been too terrified to repeat this act. I doubt Dunlop would have put up with this behaviour either.
When Stahl was at Tanbaya Hospital Camp, there were a couple of notable ‘Dross’ POWs who again caused chaos with purchases without approvable and which caused angst.