TOM FAGAN POW DIARY 105 Kilo Camp June-July 1943 – NX47533 Lance Corporal T H Fagan, 105 General Transport Company (formed
FAGAN WAS RETURNING FROM MIDDLE-EAST EXPECTING TO SAIL TO AUSTRALIA – BUT INSTEAD WAS ‘DUMPED’ AT JAVA & THERE TAKEN POW OF JAPAN MARCH 1942.
THE FOLLOWING ARE THE WORDS OF TOTAL DESPAIR FELT AT 105KM CAMP BY TOM FAGAN – AROUND HIM MEN ARE STARVING, ILL AND DYING- THERE SEEMS TO BE NO END AND NO HOPE, FAGAN WAS SENT TO BURMA END OF RAILWAY WITH WORK PARTY FROM JAVA.
105 KM – ‘A’ FORCE CAMP
5 June 1943 – Cholera has broken out and four men died last night (including WX10366 Norm FRASER 2/4th MGB) others are being isolated in a hut to be monitored. The orderlies are doing a marvellous job nursing them at the risk of their lives.
10 June 43 – Four things govern our lives – RAIN, MUD, RICE and WORK.
It breaks my heart to see so many starving and unhealthy men.
Hundred are just lying on their bed-spaces, unable to move or fend for themselves. Dysentery, malaria, pellagra and malnutrition are making inroads upon so many already weakened and crippled.
Those of us who survive will always remember the railroad of death and our barbaric tormentors, who put us through hell and caused the death of so many of our mates.
Very few have footwear, our legs filthy masses of tropical ulcers that run from knee to ankle. The only treatment is boiling water packs. The greatest fear is gangrene. (There are no bandages or cloth of any kind. Not even rice bags to cover their ulcers. No Medicines.)
I hate and despise these barbaric Japanese, and the just as sadistic Korean guards for the suffering they mete out to humans, and animals and birds. There is no end to the lengths to which they’ll go to inflict pain. I seeth with fury as I feel and see their bursts of cruelty.
(One cannot help but feel Tom Fagan’s absolute and total despair for their situation)
In pre-war days, or more particularly before becoming POWs of Japan, no-one could have ever convinced me I would see grown, supposedly educated men, go to such lengths to cause hardship and horror, or to perpetuate, deliberately, demoniacal acts of unbelievable violence towards men, women, children or animal life.
Tom Fagan wrote the following: He had landed in Java sailing home from Middle East supposedly to Australia!
Just a few points on Java and some of the things I have seen there. I am writing this while I am a prisoner of War in Batavia. Taken prisoner March 9th, 1942. We landed here in Java 19th February from the Middle East. We were all very disappointed and disgusted to land here as we were under the impression that we were on our way home to defend our own shores from invasion. One has to learn to swallow pride and disappointments in the Army where one is so often messed about. As I write this, maybe I am a little bitter at the way we have been dumped here, set an impossible task and then left high and dry without any support from our Allies. Besides the Australians, there are Americans, Punjabs and Tommies here, making a total somewhere near 12,000 we are all told. There are Dutch here of course, but I have yet to hear of where they have done any fighting on this island. I will start this book from Christmas day in Syria 1941 and try and memorise all my moves since then to the present time.
CHRISTMAS DAY – 1941 This is my first Christmas day away from my wife and I am spending it in our camp at Haddett in Syria. The village is situated on the slopes of a mountain and just outside of Beirut. It is a day that I will remember for quite a while. Where we had a roasting day in Australia last year, we are freezing here today and there is quite a lot of snow on the hills. We were fortunate as we were able to procure some very good Aussie beer, which helped to make things more pleasant.
We wish to acknowledge and thank Jan Hunter, Albury and District Historical Society Papers No 31 ISSN 1835 5455, and the Fagan Family for their work in printing Tom Fagan’s words – so that we, the second and third generations of Australia’s 8th Division can learn and never forget what depths of despair our young soldiers reached in such horrific camps and during such dark days and with incredible strength, overcame.
Pudu originally housed about 350 British and Australian POWs and civilian prisoners. Another estimation put the figure at about 500 confined in buildings intended to house 70 prisoners during the British regime.
Included amongst the numbers were soldiers captured in Malaya and escaped POWs from Singapore including Jock McClaren, Burnett and Wilkie who had all been together with Penrod Dean and Jock McGregor of 2/4th at a Chinese Guerrilla Camp in Malaya having escaped Singapore.
Conditions were primitive and rations scarce with almost all prisoners suffering with beri beri, pellagra and other vitamin deficiencies. Lack of vitamin 3 resulted in ‘the four D’s’ – diarrhoea, dermatitis, dementia and death.
Dysentery was rife with overcrowding. Initially the small outdoor areas were dug up to provide pit latrines which overflowed. Prisoners then switched to buckets.
Fortunately POWs could volunteer for work parties that went into the city to load scrap iron and other materials intended for the planned Burma-Thai Railway – and where opportunities arose to scavenge food. Those too sick to to work were unlikely to survive. Known escapees were forbidden to work in the city – including McClaren, Burnett and Wilkie. They were trapped inside the overcrowded and disease-ridden gaol and knew they would be lucky to survive.
Four Australians and 101 British died at Pudu between January to September 1942. Following the retreat in the face of Japanese advancement to Singapore, many soldiers were caught behind the front lines had lived in the jungle for months before being brought in; and were in dire physical condition.
During October 1942 the POWs were moved to Changi, Singapore.
McClaren was later sent with ‘E’ Force Borneo from Singapore to Sandakan. He was one of the 8 successful escapees from Berhala Island as the Japanese were moving the POWs on the last stage to Sandakan. The 8 men were assisted by the Sandakan Underground Network – in fact they could not have escaped without their invaluable assistance.
QX20158 McClaren, Robert Kerr (known as ‘Jock’) Enlistment photo.
Successful POW escapee from Singapore only to be captured in Malaya, imprisoned Pudu Gaol POW Camp before being returned to Singapore.
Below: At the end of War, MClaren in Beret in centre visits Berhala Island, from where he was one of 8 successful escapee POWs – only made possible by assistance of Sandakan Secret Underground Network.
Omuta – Just when you think you have read the worst about POW Camps…
Just when you think you have learned or read the worst story or stories about POWs – illnesses they suffered, tropical ulcers which destroyed limbs, bashings they endured, deaths of mates, the stench and fifth they lay amongst, the months and years of hoping ……the terrifying sea journey wondering if they would live to see another day – these men arrived to work at Mitsui Omuta, Japan.
Omuta Camp 17
Bay of Omuta about 17 miles northwest of Kumamoto & 40 miles south of city Fukuoka as was liberated 2 Sep 1945.
The mine was ruled by Mitsui, the camp was ruled by IJA and finally there was the American mafia to deal with. They all used brutality beyond our comprehension.
The Australian POWs had to quickly learn that honesty and spirit of comradeship which existed in Singapore and on the railway did not exist at Omuta. Thieving, cheating and racketeering was the way of life. Wet clothes could never be hung to dry out unless you watched over them. The same for food and utensils in the mess hall.
The American mafia was in fact a group known as the Democrats run by Lt. Edward Little of the US Navy who ran the Mess Hall and Sgt Bennett who was in charge of Omuta Camp Duties.
Starving men traded anything and illegal food trading took up much of camp routine.
Corporal Billy Alvin Ayers, 4th Material Squadron 1942 Bombardment Group, US Army Air Corps wrote in his Affidavit:
“Bennett and Little made every effort to win favour of the Japanese prison authorities”
“The two Americans would report minor infractions of Omuta’s fierce rules to the Japanese, causing POWs to suffer severe discipline by the Japanese.”
This was quite probably the real home of ‘King Rat”.
Lt. Little was court-marshalled after the war, however this is little compensation for the misery for which he and his thug mates were responsible. It is not possible to bring back limbs, health or life.
The above information has been gathered from several sources including:
‘No Time for Geishas’ by G.P Adams, Corgi, London 1973
‘On Paths of Ash’ by Robert Holman edited by Peter Thomson, Pier 9, Murdoch Books P/L, NSW 2009.
‘Slaves of the Son of Heaven’ by Roy Whitecross, Kangaroo Press, 2000.
For some men the thought of being crushed by collapsing ceilings, suffocation and/or blast injuries were very real at the Omuta Mines. Others simply feared working in a confined space. Apprehension was dealt with the usual Japanese method of persuasion and brutality. It is known some Dutch and Americans deliberately injured themselves (such as breaking an arm) to avoid mine work. Who can blame them. The working hours were constant, work, sleep, work. They had some time about once monthly for themselves. With travel to and from the mines their work day was 12 hours or more.
WX16727 ‘Lou’ Lonsdale who arrived with ‘Aramis’ Party 19 June 1944 describes working underground in his Affidavit to War Trials. (AWM54 File 1010/4/92)
‘We were worked 8 or 9 hours a day on shift work in the mine and were actually away from camp about 12 hours because we had to march about two miles to the mine and back again. Work in the mine was divided into three sections.
Work in the extraction section consisted of blasting the coal wall and shovelling coal into trucks and elevators to the surface.
In the preparation section work consisted of building rock walls along the tunnels as coal was being taken out, to make it as safe as possible.
In the exploration section work consisted of tunnelling through from given points making new laterals and coal.
Japanese and Koreans were working in the mine at same time as the POWs and Chinese labour battalions worked in the adjoining mine, which connected with the mine we were working in. Reports came to us that the Americans had originally owned the mine and abandoned it as they considered it unsafe to extract more coal. When we arrived at Omuta we found the mine had been re-opened. We were taking out pillars of coal that should have been left there for safety measures. In some parts of the mine laterals had sunk so low we were bent almost double while carrying tools such as jack hammers, shovels, picks etc. and heavy logs for timbering. There were quite a lot of falls of coal and rock. Ironically the Japanese suffered most in these falls’.
Joe Starcevich WX8758 had his left leg injured in a rock fall on 5 Jan 1945 while working underground at Omuta.
by THOMAS H. HEWLETT, M.D., F.A.C.S., COL. U.S.A. (Ret)
Our mortality is recorded, and I might comment that it is lower than Dr. Proff and I predicted it might be after our first two months in Camp 17. One hundred twenty-six men died in the 2-year period; 48 deaths attributed to pneumonia, 35 to deficiency diseases, 14 to colitis, 8 to injuries, 5 to executions, 6 to tuberculosis, and 10 to miscellaneous diseases.
MORTALITY RATE (in percentage points)
Total population 1859 (126) 6.7%
American 821 (49) 5.9%
Australian 562 (19) 3.3%
British 218 (17) 7.7%
Dutch 258 (41) 4.2%
(“A” 500 (21) 4.2%)
What has just been presented to you is not documented elsewhere in the medical annals of this country, the proverbial land of plenty. Certainly no human would knowingly submit to a controlled laboratory study aimed at duplicating this experience. I believe, along with Dr. Jacobs, that we survivors still face disabling physical and emotional problems which can be traced to our experience. Medical computers and the young physicians of the V.A. are, I believe, completely confused when called upon to evaluate our problems. Medicine is not an exact science — it has chosen to deem the profession an art and a science. Our hope must then lie with those physicians who evidence art in dealing with the whole patient.
There is no summary to a nightmare that was permanently tattooed in our brains, but that is how it was for those who were “expended”…..
Runge was tortured, forced to kneel for days in snow. 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 transport ship back to Australia, 1945.
Below are two condensed versions of Little and Bennett’s US Naval Court Martial which I have copied so you read something of what life was like for the POWs at Omuta. (Cheryl Mellor, 2/4th MGB Historian 8 March 2022 – I wish to acknowledge the sources)
THE US NAVEL COURT MARSHALL OF LT COMMANDER LITTLE, IN CHARGE OF MESS HALL and T/SGT BENNETT, IN CHARGE OF CAMP DUTY – OMUTA CAMP, JAPAN
Above: Little is on right, guarding Kunimitsu Yamauchi – civilian interpreter with Mitsui Mining – later sentenced to 33 years fo his treatment of POWs. (Dec 1945)
The court heard of the shocking torture by Japanese of POWs – with electric currents. 1st Lt. Fukahara, Commander of Omuta Camp forced prisoners to hold iron bars in each hand which were about 8” long and 1” diameter. These bars were attached to electric current of approximately 100 volts. Water would be poured on the bars and the power turned on. Prisoners became unconscious for about 10 minutes then regain consciousness. This was repeated every two hours for a period of several days. Cold water was poured over the prisoner’s clothing and not permitted to dry out.
The Court placed some of the blame on Little and Bennett who collaborated with Japanese authorities by reporting infractions of rules rather than dealing with them in their own way.
One of the most gruesome events was the starving to death of Corporal James Pavlockus of the US Marine Corps (captured Philippines). Little of California, was being tried with Decatur for turning Pavlokus over to the Japanese.
Chicago- born Pavlockus of Greek descent, was unruly and difficult to discipline. He had a great fighting record as a member if 4th Shanghai Marine Regiment. According to Samuel Schulman of Brooklyn, who has preferred charges against Little, Little came over to Wise’s table and asked “Where did you get that rice?”
“From a friend” Wise replied .
“Don’t lie to me” Schulman quotes Little as saying. “You got it from the Greek for two and half Yen.”
Wise admitted this was the fact.
According to a Sworn Affidavit by Wiilie Reem of Gilbert, La:
Little turned Pavlockus over to the Jap authorities. “He was placed on solitary of rice and water for 30 days. The next 8 days his water was taken away. His rice ration consisted of one ¼ canteen cup per day. Pavlockus died on the 38th day of his solitary sentence, and was cremated in a nearby town.”
“I spoke to him on three occasions the last time was on his 25th day of confinement. He was pretty well gone by then. He had to hold onto the wall to get to me where I was standing in an open space. Little was responsible for this man’s death. Marine Sergeant Joe Dudley asked Lieutenant Little why he had turned Pavlockus over to the Japs and Lieutenant Little said if he had to do it over again, he would”.
Schulman states that other prisoners tried to throw food over the wall to Pavlockus, but the Japs saw to it that this was stopped. Major Thomas Hewlitt of New Albany, Indiana, senior medical officer who examined the body, said that Pavlokus’ weight was reduced from about 175 to 55 lbs. Schulman stated that Pavlockus was so thin and being a tall man his body was too long for a Japanese coffin and folded in half.
According to Schulman, Pavlockus though unruly, had a heart of gold and if he had extra food he would share it with other men. Schulman said Pavlockus had a previous row with Little for which he was turned over to the Japs. The latter said if they caught him again they would kill him.
Although secrecy shrouded the court martial trying Little, it was believed he was not being charged with the death of Pavlockus or Private William Knight of New York, who was also starved and beaten the death.
One charge against Little was for slugging Schulman in the mess hall and threatening him with words “You are standing on the brink of death”.
Schulman stated that before any threat could be carried out, Major Robert Schott, then Camp Commander, intervened.
Apparently Little incurred the hatred of every enlisted man and officer amongst the 1700 American, Australian, Dutch and English POWs interred at Omuta. One officer remarked he was amongst the last of the 1700 liberated POWs to pass before the American examiners of war crimes, to whom statements were made regarding Japanese war guilt. The examiners remarked:
“You don’t need to tell us about Little. Every man before you has made a statement about him.”
One insight into the prisoner’s attitude towards Little is given by Donald D. Rutter, former US Navy radioman of Michigan who wrote this columnist the following:
“What has happened to the testimony of 1700 American, Australian, Dutch and English POWs that were under him hated him as much as they ever hated a Japanese – and for a good reason:
“My legs today have no reflexes because of Little – who turned me in for stealing a little rice.”
“Little stole – and it was our Red Cross supplies, otherwise how did he drink American coffee all the time, eat spam and smoke American cigarettes. His henchmen traded our ration of rice to us for the little we had. He was merciless and as cruel a dictator as Hitler ever was. He was even hated by the officers in our camp. We feared him as we feared the Japs.”
“Knight and other POWs caused trouble by stealing, but when Major Manerow was in charge, he handled the situation without turning our boys over to the Japs to torture and kill”.
On my mess kit are words inscribed in Japanese I will long remember as meaning nothing but pain and harshness”. On the bottom of my mess kit is the sentence in American ‘Get out of my mess hall’. These are Little’s famous, or more rightly infamous words he used often. Those words I will remember always. Words of hate in the hearts of all men who knew him in Camp 17-B, Omuta, Fukioka, Japan”. (1947)
Pavlockus had obtained two bowls of rice from a Japanese soldier and sold one to fellow POW Stephen Wise in the American mess hall.
A Naval Court Marshall in Washington tried Commander Little, Omuta POW Camp, Japan in strict secrecy. Court witnesses were lectured they were not to talk to anyone about their testimony. All the while, the Japanese public had complete access to all the facts.
In a Sworn Affidavit from fellow American POW Billie G Ayers presented to the court stated Lt. Little handed over fellow POWs for punishment to Japanese guards.
Omuta Camp Conditions
The barrack comprised 33 one-story buildings, 120′ x 16′, with ten rooms to a barrack, of wood construction with tight tar paper roofs. More barracks were built a more prisoners arrived. Ventilation was satisfactory. Three to four officers were billeted in one room, 9′ x 10′. No heating facilities, and while the climate was mild, it must be remembered that the men were sensitive to temperatures around 50 degrees F, and because of their weakened condition due to malnutrition, the dampness and cold were very penetrating. The barracks were light enough during the day without artificial illumination. Each room had one 15-watt light bulb.
Air raid shelters were dug into the earth about 6′ deep and 8′ wide, 120′ in length, timbered in similar manner, to coal mines, covered with 3′ of slag and an adequate splinter-proof roof.
During the bombardment in June 1945 two of our barracks — one of them was my housing — were hit and burned down; the occupants of these two barracks had to sleep with one blanket on the tables at the far end of the mess hall till the day we were evacuated! Luckily the occupants of the two barracks worked in separated mine-shifts.
The beds consisted of tissue paper and cotton batting covered with a cotton pad 5’8″ long and 2′ 6″ wide. Three heavy cotton blankets were issued by the Japanese in addition to a comforter made of tissue paper, scrap rags and scrap cotton.
(b) latrines. In each of the 33 buildings, and at the end thereof, were three stools raised from the floor about 1.5 feet on a hollow brick pedestal, each being covered with a detachable wood seat, and one urinal. A concrete tank was underneath each stool. The prisoners made wood covers for each of the stools, thereby reducing the fly nuisance. The offal in the tanks were removed by the Japanese laborers each week.
bathing. The bathing facilities were in a separate building equipped with two tanks (shown above) approximately 30′ x 10′ x 4′ deep, with very hot, steam-heated water. The American camp spokesman would not permit the men to immerse themselves during the summer months on account of skin disease. In the winter the tubs were used but not until the men had taken a preliminary bath before entering the tubs. The men were required to watch each other to see that none “passed out” because of the heat and their weakened condition. After bathing, the men would dress in all the clothing they had and go to bed for the night. Even then the prisoners would fill their canteens with hot water and place them beneath the covers. With these precautions, the men slept comfortably through the cold nights. Every two barracks had an outside wash rack, 16 cold water faucets and 16 wood tubs with drain boards. Prisoners washed their clothes by scrubbing with brushes on the drain board and rinsing them in the tubs. There was a constant shortage of soap.
OL: The mineworkers had to take a bath in the mining-compound with two large tanks with hot water, because you needed it to wash off the coal dust. I think it was the same in the sink factory.
mess hall.There was one unit mess with 11 cauldrons and 2 electric cooking ovens for baking bread, 2 kitchen ranges, 4 store rooms and 1 ice box. Cooking was done by 15 prisoners of war, 7 of whom were professional cooks, all working under the supervision of a Japanese mess sergeant. The men working in the coal mines were given 3 buns every second day to take with them for their lunch when they did not return to the camp to eat. Other days they were given an American mess-kit level with rice. Prisoners ate in the mess hall in which were placed tables and benches.
Goldy: The mess was entirely ruled by Lieutenant Little. If supervised by a Japanese mess sergeant, it was seldom evident. Little went as far as ingeniously constructing scales to make sure the POWs did not get an extra grain of rice. People working in the mine received only two meals a day. Going to work, they received a box about the size of a 25-cigar box with steamed rice and topped off by several slices of salted radishes and several strips of soy-soaked seaweed. OL: There was plenty of hot tea in a huge wooden container in the mess hall, but it was tea from the stems only; tea leaves were not for POWs.
(e) food. Usually consisted of steamed rice and vegetable soup made from anything that could be obtained, three times a day. Upon occasion of a visit to this camp by a representative of the Red Cross in April 1944, a splendid variety of fats, cereals, fish and vegetables were served, which naturally impressed the representative, and in his report to headquarters he called particular attention to the menu. It is known that the spread was to impress the Red Cross man, and that it was the only decent meal served in two years. Rice and soup made with radishes, mostly water, remained the diet throughout. The men working in the mines were given 700 grams of rice, camp workers 450 and officers 300. Our American camp doctors stated that such scant ration was insufficient to support life in a bed patient. All of the prisoners were skeletons, having lost in weight an average of around 60 pounds per man. Again, only men in the mines were given buns to eat. The city water was drinkable.
Goldy: I do not recall any vegetable soup or buns except on rare occasions. We were given a roll or baked sweet potato when we came out of the mine at the end of the work shift. OL: I have never received any bun — this was luxury — as a meal for the mines, neither as one of the other meals, with the exception of 2 or 3 times we got baked bread (a third of a loaf as a complete meal). As for a meal, it normally was always rice with some pickled vegetables and/or seaweed and not more than a spoonful. I think the POW-personnel working as cooks did their utmost to make the best of it.
LD: Several POW’s have mentioned buns, however several noted that the buns were allotted by the mess hall crew and receiving one was sometimes dependent upon who, at the time, the mess crew “favored.”
(f) medical facilities. Medical section and surgical section of the infirmary had ten rooms each with capacity for 30 men. Isolation ward could accommodate 15 men. Daily medical and dental inspections by American officers, but they had but little to work with in the way of medicines and instruments. The dentists had no instruments and could only perform extract ions, and without anaesthesia. For dysentery, the Japanese provided a powder which they concocted, the use of which produced nausea and diarrohea when administered to the American patients. There were no American hospital corpsmen in this camp until April 1944, when 10 men were added to the hospital corps with two doctors and one dentist. After October 1944 medical supplies were provided and an operating room installed. Prior to October 1944 the camp was practically without medical supplies. The Japanese doctor was entirely disinterested.
OL: The only doctor I have seen during my 18 months was the Japanese doctor and American orderlies — mostly Navy personnel — who did an excellent job under these circumstances. I myself was treated because of ulcers because of lack of vitamins — two times by incision with a razorblade with no painkillers and another time because of a kind of tropical open wound, neglected and looked very bad and like green moss growing on it, but the orderly managed to clean the whole wound with pincers up to the fresh meat and powdered it with silver-nitrate of which he (the orderly) still had something left.
(g) supplies (1) Red Cross, YMCA, other: The first Red Cross and YMCA supplies were received early in 1944 on the Japanese ship Teia Maru. The items in the food parcels were doled out to the men sparingly provided he had a consistent work record in the coal mine and was not guilty of infractions of rules. In the aggregate each man was given the equivalent of about one complete parcel during the full period of the confinement. The favoritism shown the mine workers in the distribution of parcel items defeated the intention of the Red Cross because it tended to give protein foods to the more healthy rather than to the weak. The 1944 Red Cross shipment contained medicines, surgical instruments and other supplies which the Japanese refused to make available for the benefit of the invalid men, but helped themselves to them. The YMCA furnished several hundred books. (2) Japanese issue: The clothing (cotton) was issued by the coal mine company and was adequate. British overcoats were given out by the Japanese army. Each prisoner was given three heavy cotton blankets and a comforter made of tissue paper and scrap rags and scrap cotton. The canteen was practically bare. From it the men received regularly five cigarettes per day. Canned salmon could be bought about every two months, one can per man.
Goldy: I do not recall canned salmon, but I recall a round container containing dry fish powder, which we used as a condiment over our rice. At one time there was a beached whale, and we got left-overs.The whales was spoiled and some chose not to eat any. They were the fortunate men, as the whale made most of them very sick. The Red Cross parcel was a joke and not even worth mentioning.
OL: Rationing of cigarettes was based on one cigarette for one working-day; that is one pack of 10 cigarettes for one ten-days shift; I never have seen the mentioned can of salmon. Because of the scarceness of cigarettes they were priceless; two cigarettes for a half bowl of rice, or one and a half cigarette for the soup was a common daily deal in the mess hall. During my time I received one Red Cross parcel, that is to say that we only received the non-food articles; the cans of food were stored by the Japanese and occasionally we saw or tasted some in our soup and the market-value in cigarettes was accordingly double or triple! Unfortunately this storage-room (like my barrack) was also hit and burned down when our camp was hit during a bombardment.
(h) mail. (1) incoming: First incoming mail was received in March 1944, thereafter each 60 days. Some received mail, some received none at all. It as all at the “whim” of the Japanese. However, if there was bad news, the Japanese most always made sure a POW received that mail.
(2) outgoing: Prisoners were allowed to write a card about every six to eight weeks. Very few made them “home.”
(i) work. In coal mines and zinc smelters three shifts per day of approximately 100 men per shift. Conditions in the mines were pronounced dangerous although only three men were killed outright during the period of confinement of 22 months. Many men received painful injuries from falling rock and other causes. Fortunately for the prisoner there was among the group an experienced coal miner who gave the men safety talks and pointed out some of the dangers of coal mining, which were not apparent to the novice miners. The coal mines were operated largely by American prisoners, the smelters by the British and Australian prisoners. Coal mines were approximately 1 kilometer from camp. Hours of work: 12 hours per day, 30 minutes lunchtime. The men were given one day off every 10 days.
Goldy: My left hand was crushed in a mine cave-in and thanks to the expertise of Dr. Hewlett, it was able to be repaired when I returned to the US and entered a VA hospital.
OL: In the mine we were divided in working-shifts of about 15-20 men to work in one coal-galley supervised by a civilian hanchou who told you with arms and legs what you had to do and then find out for yourself. There were no instructors or something of the kind. The shifts were a 10-day shift and depending on the changing of the shifts you had a day (off) in between and that only occurred once in a month. Because of roll-calls and endless counting procedures in the Omuta Camp and on the mining compound you were about 12 hours ¨busy.¨ You had quite a rotten day when there also was one of the regular inspections on the camping ground. Work in the mines was done mostly by POW-s and also Korean contract-workers; unpleasant people.
(k) treatment. Often the men were beaten without cause with fists, clubs and sandals. Failure to salute or bow to the Japanese was an offense which usually was followed by compelling the prisoners to stand at attention in front of the guard house for hours at a time. Some men were beaten daily and other harassed by Omuta Camp guards while trying to sleep during their rest time.
OL: The worst cases I saw were an American NCO Johnsen or Jones (something like that) who got a beating in front of the guardhouse with a rod or something of the kind, because he wore his US Army cap. The beating (we saw it from our barrack) was so bad that he died the next day. In another case an Australian who took a nap in the coal mine and fell asleep, without warning his other companions; so at the roll call outside he was missing. After we were back in the camp again he had woken up and reported to the guards of the other shift. The Japs considered this as an effort to escape and was punished by kneeling in front of the guardhouse with a bamboo stick between his knees and calves on his legs during the whole night in wintertime. The result was quite evident: both legs to the knees amputated. But he survived anyway.
(l) pay. (1) Officers: were paid 20 yen per month until June 1944, when it was increased to 40 yen less 18 yen per month for mess. Each prisoner received 5 cigarettes per day regularly except for about one day per month. Postal savings accounts for officers were deposited with Protecting Power amounted to 7,688.26 yen. Prisoner of War headquarters ran its own destitute welfare. (2) Enlisted men: NCOs were paid 14 sen per day and privates 10 sen per day. No postal savings were deposited with Protecting Power.
OL: The payment was very unimportant to us as long as we received our cigarettes each 10 days a package of 10 and toothpowder and some soap.
morale. Was low because of inadequate food, long and hard working hours which left no time except for work and sleep. There was no laughter, no singing, nothing but depression which condition was made worse by beatings and the harassing activities of the Japanese guards during the sleeping hours.
The General Courts Martial of Lieutenant Commander Edward N. Little
Today’s post is written by William Green, Archives Technician in Textual Processing at the National Archives in Washington, DC
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Edward N. Little was a prisoner of war (POW) from April 1942 until August 1945, as one of the nearly 30,000 Americans interned by the Japanese during World War II. Having survived the Battle of Bataan and the Bataan Death March, Little arrived at the Fukuoka POW Camp 17 on August 10, 1943. Located 46 miles east of Nagasaki, Japan, Camp 17 was initially built by the Mitsui Mining Company, and most of the POWs were forced to work in the nearby Miike Coal Mine. As the highest ranking Navy officer, Little was assigned to be the Officer in Charge of the mess hall for Camp 17.
There were 1,737 POWs imprisoned at Omuta Mine Camp Fukuoka Camp 17, including 730 Americans, 420 Australians, 332 Dutchmen, 250 Brits, and five of other nationalities. One hundred thirty-eight POWs died while imprisoned, including thirty-seven Americans. Four Americans were executed or murdered by the Japanese. One man was executed for attempting to escape and another for fraternizing with Korean mine workers. Two others were killed for infractions at the mess hall: one for stealing buns and another for trading his rice for cigarettes. These two men were allegedly reported to the Japanese by Lieutenant Commander Little.
Little’s Courts Martial resulted after the War Crimes Office received numerous complaints about his conduct. Following the camp’s liberation in August 1945, dozens of former POWs reported violations of Rules of Land Warfare and Human Decency at Camp 17. One former POW, U.S. Army Corporal Billy Alvin Ayers, stated: “I wish to place some of the blame of such treatment of the men on LCDR Little, who collaborated with the Japanese authorities by reporting infractions of the rules to the Japanese authorities rather than dealing with them in their own way.” Another POW, William D. Lee, U.S. Army, attested that “the Japanese would slap someone’s face for a minor infraction but never deprived an offender of a meal. Little would often punish men by depriving food, many of which were also suffering from fever, diarrhea or beriberi.”
Following an investigation of the allegations, a General Courts Martial was convened on January 15, 1947, at the U.S. Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C. Lieutenant Commander Little was charged with the following crimes:
Charge 1: Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman.
Charge 2: Maltreatment of a Person Subject to his Orders.
Charge 3: Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Discipline.
In addition to the three main charges, twenty-two additional specifications charged that Little:
1) Kept and consumed more than his share of food contents of Red Cross parcels, delivered to him for distribution to the POWs at Camp 17.
2) Beat U.S. Army Corporal Bertram Freedman corporal, by striking and throwing him to the floor, causing Freedman to fracture a rib.
3) Ordered the beating of U.S. Army Corporal Russell E. Beasley, resulting in multiple wounds and bruises.
4) Deprived meals to multiple POWs on numerous occasions, knowing that the daily ration furnished by the Japanese was grossly inadequate, thereby aggravating their undernourished conditions.
5) Discarded edible rice into the garbage or on the floor of his office as a form of punishment.
6) Reported his fellow POWs to the Japanese, knowing that the Japanese authorities at the camp caused infliction of unreasonable and cruel punishment upon American POWs who were reported to them. In particular, Little:
Reported U.S. Marine Corps Corporal James G. Pavlakos for selling a bowl of rice to James O. Wise for two packs of cigarettes. Pavlakos was punished and beaten for nearly 30 days by the Japanese until he died.
Reported U.S. Army Corporal Frank J. Savini for stealing one cup of flour from the mess hall, resulting in him being starved and beaten for eight days.
Reported U.S. Army private William N. Knight for stealing nine buns, resulting in him being starved and beaten for four days until he died.
Reported U.S. Navy Lt. Biagio H. Furnari for stealing one bun from the mess hall, resulting in him being stared and beaten for ten days.
Little denied all of the charges and specifications.
These photographs show the dangerous conditions for POWs working in the Omuta Mines – below Mikata Coal Mine taken Dec 1945
Above: All the support timber has been taken for general production anywhere across Japan leaving the mines vulnerable and dangerous.
Above: Mikata Coal Mine, Omuta – shows dangerous timber supports deteriorated because much of the timber has been removed. Imagine how terrifying it was for POWs to work every day/night in these conditions.
WHO WAS LT. COMMANDER LITTLE?
Little, age 39, had served in the U.S. Navy since 1924. He entered the service as an enlisted man and served for two years before being admitted to the Naval Academy in 1926. Due to that background, he believed he understood both the viewpoint of enlisted men as well as the officer’s leadership obligations to his men. Little, as one of the first 500 Americans to first arrive in Camp 17 from the Philippines, felt that it was his duty to get as many of the original 500 men home as possible. He testified that he believed the best way to do that was to maintain a fair and strict mess hall.
Violators of his rules in the mess hall at Omuta POW Camp often received punishment. Violations included trading food, skipping the line, stealing, and not sterilizing utensils. Punishment for infractions usually meant losing one’s daily ration. Private James Stacy, U.S. Army, testified that “Little often took away a man’s ration for some fancied wrong” and “took great delight in giving his orders in Japanese.” Little frequently gave orders to American POWs in Japanese, even when the Japanese authorities were not present.
Little said he didn’t know why he did it, only that it became a habit.
The most deliberated specification concerned the death of private William Knight, who was suspected of stealing nine buns from the mess hall. Knight had a reputation for theft in the camp and, according to Little, was “a habitual offender.” Knight even wore insignia on his jacket to signify that he was a known thief. Japanese guards took Knight to the camp prison and beat him with a pole that was two and a half feet long and six inches in diameter. When he lost consciousness, the Japanese revived Knight with cold water then continued beating him. Knight suffered fractures of his arms, legs, and skull, and died after four days of beatings.
Eighteen POWs testified that Little announced:
“I am the one who turned Knight into the Japanese this morning and I hope they beat him to death.”
The message was unmistakable: If you stole from the mess hall, Lieutenant Commander Little would tell the Japanese.
During the trial, Little claimed that he was shocked to learn of Knight’s death and denied reporting Knight for anything, at any time. Little also testified that he had tried to forget as much as he could from that time and didn’t remember many of the things he was accused of saying and doing.
The Japanese commander in charge of the camp was Captain Isao Fukuhara. During his own hearing in February of 1946, Fukuhara testified at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials that Little had requested punishment of a fellow prisoner (Knight) for stealing bread. Captain Fukuhara was later sentenced to death.
Little’s overall defense for his conduct relied on Article 8 of the Articles for the Government of the United States Navy.
Article 8 states that punishment, such as a General Courts Martial, may be inflicted on any person in the Navy who refuses or fails to use his utmost exertions to detect, apprehend, and bring to punishment all offenders, or to aid all persons appointed for that purpose.
Little’s defense claimed that because he was subject to the Articles for the Government of the Navy, he was under an obligation to report offenders. Essentially, his argument justified his right to report offenders to the Japanese authorities while denying ever doing so.
On June 17, 1947, after five months of trial, Little was found not guilty on all charges and specifications.
Following the trial, Little continued to serve in the U.S. Navy, including during the Korean War, and later retired with the rank of Commander. Edward Little died on June 28, 1967, at age 59, and was buried with honors at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno California.
What is most surprising is that former Omuta POWs did not attempt to take his life or at least make serious threats!
Seven 2/4th men commenced work on Sumatran Railway. Richard Annear, Arthur Magill, Quinn & Squance who were joined by three 2/4th POWs from Java: Banks, Booth & McAskil. (Booth & McAskil died of illness 1945)
Ted Hopson died Atjeh Party.
Burgess, Semple and Harold Smith remained behind in Singapore with illness or injuries following sinking of POW Transport ship SS Harujkiju in 1944.
Total five 2/5th men survived working on Sumatran Railway & were recovered.
Repatriation of Australian POWs from South East Asia began 18 August 1945 and by 10 October 18,500 men had been evacuated from Thailand.
On 16 September 1945 Major Windsor AAMC from 2/14th Australian General Hospital was flown by a Douglas C47 to Pakan Baroe, to assess the situation of POWs in Sumatra. He immediately reported back that although morale was good, conditions under which the 169 Australian POWs were living were unbearable. The hospital was in poor condition and immediate evacuation by air was recommended.
It was thus decided to make Sumatra the No. 1 priority ahead of Thailand. It is worthwhile to remember the 220 kilometre railway project had just been completed. The POWs were emaciated and terribly ill.
At Pakan Baroe all motor transport, mostly in a state of disrepair was mustered to transport the worst cases from hospital to the airfield 5 kilometres away. By 16 September the equivalent of 3 planeloads of POWs were at the airfield awaiting evacuation to Singapore. When the rescue planes arrived at Pakan Baroe and saw the state of men who had been working on the Sumatra railway, they were reduced to tears.
Prior to Japan’s surrender, the POWs were forced to eat fungus and bark from trees just to keep themselves alive. At this time there was little to be had in the way of food supplies for anybody, including the Japanese.
The first aircraft returned to Singapore on the same day but did not return to Sumatra for the second evacuation flight. The RAAF had been directed that no further aircraft were to be sent to Pakan Baroe. Windsor immediately ordered a C47 aircraft return to Sumatra to at least evacuate one more load of sick men, who otherwise would have been forced to remain out in the open at night because they were too frail to return the 5 kilometres to the Hospital Camp.
Further enquiries and a conference about this event revealed the British DDMS cancelled all flights believing there was not sufficient accommodation on Singapore!
It was pointed out the fragile condition of not only Australian POWs, but the British too and it was imperative they be airlifted to Singapore as soon as possible. The pilots arrived 19 September with ‘Endeavour’ and took the WA survivors, leaving 7 others to fly in the Dakota. The mercy flights continued evacuating all the British and Australian POWs from Sumatra.
The Australians on arrival at Singapore were admitted to 2/14th Australian General Hospital for immediate care. Several men from 2/4th were flown directly from Singapore to Guildford Airport a week later on 24 September, 1945.
These men were Richard ‘Win’ Annear, Noel Banks and ‘Squasher’ Squance.
Right: Noel Banks
Below: Richard Annear
Alf Burgess was rescued from Harukiku sinking and remained Singapore from 28 June1944 – he was recovered from Singapore and returned onboard 1st Netherlands Military Hospital ship Oranje.
Arthur Magill worked on the Sumatra Railway from where he was recovered. Taken to Singapore after the war ended, he returned onboard Arawa.
Cecil Quinn worked on the Sumatra Rail. Was recovered and flown toSingapore to returned home on the Highland Chieftain.
There were two deaths in Sumatra – Robert McAskil died cardiac beri beri working on the railway at 106 km point on 28 March 1945, and Harold Vernon Booth died of beri beri on 15 April 1945 at No. 2 Hospital Camp, Tengkirang about 5 kilometres south of Pakan Baroe.
Ted Hopson had died earlier, during road construction.
Harold BoothRobert McAskil
Below: Press photo of Cliff Squance, emaciated and very ill as he landed at Guildford Airport – being greeted by then Premier, Sir James Mitchell.
Note: D A C Quinn WX5054 remained in Singapore throughout war – not to be confused with Cecil George Quinn WX9285 who was recovered from Sumatra, but sailed from Singapore to Sydney by ‘Highland Chieftan’, then Sydney-Melbourne-Perth by troop train.
Only three of the very sick men from Sumatra flew on this plane – Annear, Banks and Squance. Magill sailed from Singapore on ‘Arawa’ to Sydney, train to Melbourne, ‘Strathmore’ to WA.
Avro York (Serial No. MW140), “Endeavour”, flew to Australia in 1945 to become the personal aircraft of HRH The Duke of Gloucester, Australia’s Governor-General. It was operated by the Governor-General’s Flight from 1945 to 1947; it was the RAAF’s only York.
Major Saggers, Lt. O’Sullivan, Lt. Mentiplay and several other Changi resident 2/4th men managed to get on this flight – as Saggers wrote – he found there were several seats available and asked for officers who would like to fly back to Perth.
I wish to acknowledge and thank Lt Col (Ret’d) Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (JP) for his work in ‘Articles about prisoners of war of the Japanese 1941-1945.’ The following has been copied from this Book.
The following dates are from a diary of Robert Lewis (Bob) Miller an Australian serving with Royal navy who became POW near Banka Island 18 Feb 1942
13 Aug 1945 Men dying fast from starvation
14 Aug 1945 Last outside working parties
15 Aug 1945 Japs and Kempetai ‘big eats’ (I believe this means they feasted well)
16/17/18/19 Aug 1945 Lull – no work parties. We are still wondering about the finish
20 Aug 1945 12.30 rice increased to 550 grams. BIGGEST ration in camp for two years. Japs still quiet about truce.
21 Aug 1945 Yasme – still in dark – 4 ? arrived in camp.
22 Aug 1945 Official news of truce – had fish, beans, gula. Quiet celebration – all camp restless – could not sleep. Pilots amazed us with news of outside.
23 Aug 1945 – Guards kept to guardroom – own police on gate – clothing, shirt, shorts, socks, blanket issue by Japs. Remove dying men to hospital.
24 Aug 1945 – issue of boots, fondouche, towel, soap. Greens and meat increase and soya cake. Still working as blacksmith – feeling well – cannot realise war is over.
25 Aug 1945 – coffee and gula 1st issue. Camp sick from overeating. Bad stomach cases. Pigs being killed. Camp improved. Mental cases.
26 Aug 1945 – Rumaweel convoys camp all afire. 1st issue of Senangat – 20 per man. One Chinese killed during night – one injured my MP.
27 Aug 1945 – Ben went to hospital – bad case. Gula issue 150 grams. Food still the same – 100 grams rice for breakfast, 200 nazi dinner and 250 rice with sauce for supper. Japs very cautious.
28 Aug 1945 12.30 – 3 planes over camp. The first planes we have seen since the war ceased for us. Issue of ? biscuits, toothbrush and soap. Takahashi (Commander of Camp) frightened of trouble – saying ‘Prisones should not walk about in fondouches’. A week ago we could not get clothes to cover our arse. He mentioned ‘we are a great military nation’ – absolute change of opinion.
30 Aug 1945 – ‘Pineapple’ (Jap guard) thumped on the nose.
1 Sep 1945 – still waiting – 12 noon Liberators over dropping stores by parachute – 28 containers consisting of cigarettes, towels, razors. Plane carrying the food crashed after dropping 2 lots. 9 killed. Party out, none survived. Camp very disheartened – 1 container just missing me – frying eggs.
2 Sep 1945 – Capt. Corry demanded military funeral. I am funeral party – grim ordeal. High Jap Officers. Corry made broadcast to world for food and medical gear. Men bartering cigarettes for food. All waiting to get away from this hell hole. Went ashore getting bits of pork and eggs. Bumper nazi for dinner. Awaiting Allied Commission.
3 Sep 1945 – nothing happened. Everybody chocker. Food no good – men swelling up with excess carbohydrate. Men ashore drunk – went around kampong – got one chicken, one duck eggs and fruit. Issue of towels and blankets.
4 Sep 1945 – news of Tokyo – occupation of Padang. Fed up waiting – Chinese contractor being in first lot of fruit and eggs – about time. Issue3 eggs, bananas, 1 pineapple. 4 men dropped with plane with radio, organising internees and POWs. Went ashore with mess – listen to first radio Sydney news and Singapore. Leave unofficial. Japanese very cautious.
6 Sep 1945 – Chinese and Malays very friendly. Issues eggs, meat, stews. Went ashore and listened to radio – very interesting. Jap Officer in cafe. Corry has car. Taken over Palembang radio. Stomach upset with food.
7/8/9 Sep 1945 – radios and cars in camp. First news and papers. Dutch Commission arrived by parachute. 1 Malay, 1 Dutch, 2 ? All men getting very impatient.
10 Sep 1945 – British Commission arrived. Royal Marine Major Jacob – 2 Aussies – great day. Roy Gillam from Mt. Barker. Aussies told us much news of home – all very strange. Had a fine meal – first European meal with Malay merchant (he wanted a favour).
11 Sep 1945 – Planes over dropped cigs and sweets – 20 each. Went ashore. Chinese very good to us. Very.
12 Sep 1945 – Liberators over. 54 containers dropped. Clothing, food and fags. Rackets in full swing. Bad cold – duty – stayed in camp – news of Sumatra – shore patrol armed.
13 Sep 1945 – nothing of interest taking it easy.
14-18 Sep 1945 – going up town – marvellous feeling.
29 Sep 1945 – pilots arrive in camp – take WA survivors – left with 7 others in Dakota for Singapore.
Arrived Changi – lousy – many Aussies made statements as to deaths to RAN.
Note: these are the WA survivors some of whom flew to Guildford on the ‘Endeavour’.
In 1942 and 1943, Australian and British POWs who had been captured at the Battle of Singapore in February 1942 were shipped to North Borneo to construct a military airstrip and prisoner-of-war camps at Sandakan, North Borneo (Sabah). 141 of these soldiers were from Western Australia including 71 from the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion (three did not remain at Sandakan and therefore survived). Additionally Thomas William Green was sent from Java to Singapore to work on Railway – he remained behind due to illness. He was later transported to Kutching and joined ‘E’ Force at Sandakan.
As on the Burma Railway the prisoners were forced to work at gunpoint, and were often beaten whilst also receiving very little food or medical attention. In August 1943, with the intention of controlling the enlisted men by removing any commanders, most officer prisoners were moved from Sandakan to the Batu Lintang camp at Kuching. Conditions for the remaining prisoners deteriorated sharply following the officers’ removal. Any rations given were further reduced, and sick prisoners were also forced to work on the airstrip. After construction was completed the prisoners initially remained at the camp.
In January 1945, with only 1,900 prisoners still alive, the advancing Allies managed to successfully bomb and destroy the airfield. It was at this time with Allied landings anticipated shortly that camp commandant Captain Hoshijima Susumi decided to move the remaining prisoners westward into the mountains to the town of Ranau, a distance of approximately 260 kilometres (160 mi). He claimed that this was an order of Lt Gen Baba Masao, commanding officer of the 37th Japanese Army. The former military airstrip is now known as Sandakan Airport, which serves Sandakan town.
By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, only six Australians survived.
Three soldiers from the 2/4th survived. WX 9384 Lt John Campbell Morrison and WX 10363 Lt Alexander Brian Walton, as officers, were sent from Sandakan to Batu Lintang Camp at Kuching. WX227 Pte Alfred Stevens was sentenced to 6 years solitary confinement at Outram Rd Prison Singapore for escaping.
It is widely considered to be the single worst atrocity suffered by Australian servicemen during the Second World War.
Showa-Denki was a graphite factory some distance from Kobe house. John Gilmour worked at this factory for nine months. John explained-
“We used to leave Kobe House at 7.00 am and marched about half a mile to the railway station. Here we caught an electric train which took us about fifteen miles towards the factory. Once we had all detrained it was about another three-mile march to “Showa-Denki factory”.
As well as John Gilmour, Evan Jones, Frank Hinnrichsen, Peter Omiridis and Wally Hutchinson all worked at Showa-Denki for a time. Having journeyed with the Yoshihara and Toyo worked to Koshen Station the Showa-Denki workforce would travel a few more stations before alighting from the train at Showa-Denki.
It was here carbon electrodes were manufactured in a process in which graphite was used. The graphite dust settled onto every surface, into every corner of the factory and in every nook and cranny on the men’s bodies. With the added negative that there was nothing of marketable value worth looting from Showa-Denki – this job was the least popular of all those at Kobe House.
PERMANENT WORK-IN PARTY AT SHOWA DENKI THEN TOYAMA
On 15th February 1945, 20 Australians from Kobe House including Arthur Draper, accompanied Lt. K.W. Goddard to Showa-Denki. This group was to eventually number about 100 men at Showa Denki – a mixture of Australians, British and Americans. Also included in this later group would be Alf Jones, Norm Harris and Ron Lynn.
The Japanese required this Party to live-in instead of supplying a daily party from Kobe House to Showa Denki.
They were told the previous evening to be ready to move out at 0630 hours. They would remain here for about three months.
ANDERSON M.W. (Mervyn) Pte.
BROWN A.D. (Doug) Cpl.
BROWN A.M. (Arthur) Cpl.
DRAPER A.M. (Arthur) Cpl.
DUNN W.T. (Bill) Pte.
EDWARDS J.J. (Stan) Pte.
GILES F.W. (Frank) Pte.
GILES T.J. (Tommy) Pte.
GODDARD K.W. (Keith) Lieut.
GREY J.E. (John) Pte.
HARRIS N.J. (Norm) Sgt.
JONES A.J. (Alf) Sgt.
LUCAS R.G. (Bob) Pte.
LUTZ E.H. (Ted) L/Cpl.
LYNN R.R. (Bob) Gnr.
McCLYMONT W.J. (Jim) Cpl.
McCOLL A. (Alan) Pte.
McFARLANE C.K. (Keith) Pte.
WINEPRESS F.O.C. (Tibby) Pte.
YEATES C.J. (Charlie) Pte.
There was an aircraft factory next door to Showa-Denki which soon attracted American bombing raids. Three months later the group was moved onto the north coast to Toyama. There were at least two known exceptions – Arthur Draper and Norm Harris who were both moved to Nagoya camp for 3 months before moving on again to Toyama in May 1945.
Nacompaton was set up from December 1943 as a large hospital and convalescing camp which would hold as many as 10,000 men. It is believed Japan embarked on the construction of this hospital due to increasing international pressure. It would be a hospital camp for the chronic sick and heavy sick from the railway and was meant to impress the outside world and the International Red Cross. The Japanese also constructed a hospital camp for their own patients separating the two camps by a high bamboo fence.
The huge Phra Pathom Chedi, the most sacred place in Thailand was visible from the camp. This was where the Indian missionaries first taught Buddhism.
The Japanese Commander was Lieutenant-Colonel Ishii. Lt. Col Sainter the POW administrative officer and Lt-Col Albert Coates, A.I.F., chief medical Officer. Coates gathered many of the best British, Australian, and Dutch surgical and medical officers in Thailand. Lt-Col Weary Dunlop arrived from Chungkai on 14 June 1944.
Several 2/4th men involved in the construction of this camp included Eric Fraser and Frank ‘Blue’ Evans.
Initially POWs from Non Pladuk Camp began construction at Nacompaton.
2/4th amputees who remained at Nacompaton until the end of the war included Syd Gorringe, Eric Ryan, Tom Barbour and Allan Bamford. Nacompaton was located about 30 miles west of Bangkok. Besides many amputees, POWs were sent to this camp to build up their strength following completion of the Railway. As their health improved (slightly) POWs were called out of Nacompaton in work parties.
When Japan surrendered in August 1945, Nacompaton became an Allied Forces collection centre for ex-POWs who were either moved out via Bangkok to Singapore direct or via Rangoon to Singapore.
POWs (could be any nationality) working at unnamed location Java. Photograph was taken by Japanese soldier.
8th March 1942, Java – The POW Camp locations on Java
Following surrender on 8th March 1942 of all Allied forces fighting on Java Alf Sing, ‘Bluey’ Walsh, Tom Wayman, Doug Hampson and Jack Cocking met Lieutenant Colin Blakeway with a group at the tea plantation outside Arinem from where they decided to head for the coast in the hope of flagging down a passing ship or boat. This group remained on the south coast of Java for a few days and as Tom Wayman remembers, all they had to eat was bully beef and chocolate. Small parties were sent out travelling up to 60 miles in either direction in an attempt to find a means of escape.
Eventually dysentery and malaria began to take its toll on the men. Options changed when an officer arrived on the beach advising they would be machine-gunned by the Japanese unless they returned to the POW camp at Leles. The group returned to Leles.
‘Blackforce’ mostly remained in the vicinity of the tea plantation at Arinem whilst various medical staff remained the whole time at Bandoeng.
By the beginning of 1943 many Australian POWs would relocate to either Burma or Thailand as Java Parties to work on the Burma-Thailand rail link. Several would transit through Singapore to work on the Sumatran Pakan Baroe-Moearo Railway.
An extraordinary coincidence occurred in 1944 when Alf Sing, Doug Hampson and Jack Cocking became three of the 11 POWs who survived the sinking of ‘Rakuyo Maru’ in the South China Sea and were miraculously rescued by one of the American submarines which had earlier torpedoed their ship.
Amongst the POWs captured on Java were the men who survived the sinking of Australian light cruiser HMAS ‘Perth – many of these survivors in later life remained firm friends of 2/4th. There were also the survivors of the sinking of the American warship ‘Houston’.
The following are the main areas where POWs were imprisoned on Java.
The POW Camp at Leles was occupied from 14th March 1945.
The site was originally the square where the Javanese held their markets. The area had several buildings about 12 feet wide with just enough covering overhead to shade the vendor’s stalls. Most of the POWs were moved to the Bicycle Camp at Batavia between 30th March and 14th April 1942. The first group of about 50 prisoners left late March as the advance party with the intention they would build a camp prior to the main group arriving.
This never eventuated as they were billeted at Koan School at Glodok, a suburb in Batavia when they were moved to the Bicycle camp at Batavia in May 1942.
On 14th April 1942 a group of mostly 2/3rd machine gunners left Leles for Garoet where they remained until 22nd June. The camp was located in the High School buildings that were serviced with light, water and sewerage. In June the POWs were moved to Bandoeng to Camp No. 12, the 15th Depot Battalion Barracks Camp where they met up with other Australians from 2/2nd Casualty Clearing Station.
The main POW Camp at Bandoeng was Camp No. 12 in the former 15th Depot Battalion Barracks at Kampenment Street Bandoeng. POWs from 2/3rd MG Battalion moved to this camp on 22nd June 1942. Any of those who had remained at large were, when captured, imprisoned in a concentration camp at Soekaboemi, (Doug Carter was one of these) and in June they were transferred to Tjimahi. This was presumably to concentrate all POWs on Western Java into one area. The Soekamiskin Prison (Maurice Caldwell was at this prison from 15th January 1942 to 5th February 1944) was for Dutch British, American, Ambonese and Mendaonese POWs and Indonesian convicts.
Once the 1st Allied General Hospital was closed down the patients and staff were marched 6 miles from Bandoeng to a native prison, being the Landsop Camp at Tjimah. From here they were moved to No. 4 Camp which was possibly the 4th Battalion Barracks at Tjimahi, before again being moved back to Camp No. 12, the former Dutch 15th Depot Battalion Barracks at Bandoeng.
BICYCLE CAMP BATAVIA
The bicycle Camp at Batavia was located at a place called Senen in the older part of the city at Weltevreden. It was the former barracks to the 10th Battalion Bicycle Unit, Netherlands East Indies Army. In May 1942 the camp was almost completely filled with British and Australian POWs. Work parties would leave the camp to do labouring jobs around the environs of Batavia or on the wharves at Tanjong Priok. Tasks included roadwork, rolling steel drums, or sorting out motor vehicle parts, as there was a General Motors assembly plant at Tanjong Priok. On 14th May British and Dutch troops were moved to another camp and the Australians from Glodok Prison and the advance party from Leles, were transferred to the Bicycle Camp.
There were two 2/4th deaths at this camp:
WX7453 Edgar Cheetham Jones who died 6 July 1942 of bacillary dysentery aged 40 years
and WX7465 William James Nicholls became sick 30
Sep 1942 and died of bacillary dysentery 13 Oct 1942 aged 32 years
GLODOCK PRISON BATAVIA
Glodock Prison with its high walls and cramped cells was a gaol built by the Dutch and was located close to the port area of Batavia. Reports state that conditions at this camp were very bad with living spaces so crowded that men were forced to sleep in passageways. Australians were still there in May 1943.
This camp was just to the south of Meester Cornelis on the Meester Cornelis-Tjilititan Road.
In May 1943 there were still about 500 British, Dutch and Australians POWs here working the vegetable market garden. It was from this camp that men who were included in Java Party No. 6 (Dunlop Force) departed for Singapore and Thailand on 4th January 1943.They had been transferred to Makasura from Bandoeng on 6th November 1942. This might then tell us that those members from 2/4th that were on Java No. 6 Party were likely at Bandoeng for most their stay on Java.
Desmond Jackson tells us that this camp at Makasura was located in a kapok plantation and describes the camp.
“A pleasant, heavily populated locality, abundant with tropical growth. High barbed-wire fences divided the camp into three small sections comprising a barracks area, a parade ground and an exercise yard. We spent most of our time in the barracks area where our living quarters were particularly crude bamboo huts”.
The five 2/4th men recovered from Java at end of war
WX10365 CALDWELL, Maurice William
WX9551 CARROLL, Frank Vincent
WX5132 FISHER, George
WX10761 WATTERS, Tom Murray
WX5073 WOOD, Thomas Ashton
The five 2/4th who died Java were:
WX7453 JONES, Edgar Cheetham – d. bacillary dysentery Bicycle Camp Batavia 6 July 1942.
WX4949 KINGSWELL, Ronald James – d. 23 March 1942 acute bacillary dysentery & appendicitis. A former Fairbridge Farm School boy, Ron Kingswell was engaged to be married.
WX7645 NICHOLLS, William James – d. 13 Oct 1942 bacillary dysentery Bicycle Camp, Batavia.
WX79939 SAWYER, Clarence John – d. 1 Apr 1942 dysentery No. 1 Allied General Hospital, Bandeong.
WX15614 WALKER, Robert Joseph – d. 5 May 1842 Bicycle Camp Batavia, dysentery aged 36 years.
Bob Walker left his wife widowed living at Midland with two young boys.
During 1944 the following three 2/4th men were sent from Java to Singapore and onwards to Sumatra:
WX10343 BANKS, Noel Edwin – sent 1944 to Sumatra via Singapore to work on Railway – survived and recovered Sumatra.
WX8766 BOOTH, Harold Vernon – Java Party 22 to Singapore with Banks, then to Sumatra d. 15 Apr 1945 Pakan Baroe Railway, Sumatra.
WX8261 McASKIL, Robert Ramsay – departed with Java Party No. 20 to work Japan. However remained behind due illness, then sent Sumatra with Banks and Booth. d. March 1945 Sumatran Railway.
Other POW Camps in Java include:
Tandjong Priok: This was the primary Port of Java and were shipments of POWs departed from for Japan or the Thai-Burma Railway.
This camp was primarily for British POWs, with many senior officers and a complement of about 3000 men. It was a strictly disciplined camp with much saluting. The Senior Medical Officer was Lieutenant Colonel C W “Pete” Maisey, who had been Assistant Director of Medical Services (ADMS) Singapore. The Japanese guards were less visible, because of the size of the camp, but the British officers kept the men in order.
There was something like 27 Fukuoka sub-Camps in total, each one may have been owned and operated by different Japanese companies. Coal resources on Kyushu Island were extensive. The estimated deposits on this island alone represented 49% of Japan’s reserves. In 1936 Kyushu produced 29,600,000 metric tons of coal most of which went to the Kobe-Osaka industrial district.
Fukuoka with its own seaport is the largest city on Kyushu. The actual Fukuoka coal mining camps were spread out through the northern part of Kyushu with the locations of individual company mines identified by the nearby village. It proved difficult to pin point the exact locations of some camps and in some cases an approximation only of a camp or mine could be achieved.
FUKUOKA SUB-CAMP NO. 9 HAKENSHO
Following the arrival of Wales Maru at Moji the POWs of ‘J’ Force were divided into three parties.
No. 1 Party was made up of approx. 150 sick and invalid. The Japanese claimed this Party was being sent to a ‘rest camp’ near Mojo. There were two machine gunners included in the 50 Australians and 150 British POWs – Roy Deveson and William ‘Pop’ Davey.
This ‘rest camp’ proved to be a coalmine! The Japanese designation for this camp was Fukuoka, Mizumaki-Cho and the mine was in fact owned by Nippon Mining Company (Nippon Kogyo).
Located on the island of Kyushu southwest of Moji, east of Nagasaki between Omuta and Kumamoto the mine was located about a quarter of a mile to the west of the Camp.
The train journey to Camp on 7th June 1943 took about two hours. The Camp was already established with a work force of Dutch, Netherlands East Indians (Indonesians) and Americans.
The British and Australians kept themselves separate from the Dutch by way of both administration and accommodation. The group moved into three barracks on the northeast corner of the camp.
Discipline at this camp was strict with limited food. There were no means to scrounge for ‘extras’. No writing material was permitted. The only good news was there was only 2 ½ remaining until the end of the war!
This mine was not considered safe to work in. The shafts had not been properly timbered causing several falls of rock. Cave-ins were commonplace and injuries and deaths a regular occurrence thanks to the unsafe state of the mine and Japanese incompetence.
1944 gave way to 1945 and it was soon obvious the Japanese were preparing themselves for an invasion on Kyushu. The camp sat beneath the flight path of American B29’s from Okinawa as they few over on their twice-daily raids. It became an every day occurrence to see searchlights pointing skywards followed by puffs of smoke from Japanese AA bursts which were usually to low to hit the B29’s.
From this camp it was possible to see bursts of light in the distance, particularly over Moji as the American planes pulverized their daily targets.
Finally as at every other POW camp in Japan, men were informed they were now free men! The Japanese commandants at Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 9, at a loss to fully comprehend/or accept Japan’s surrender, assembled the POWs and made the following announcement.
‘Japanese Government have discussed the war with America and Great Britain and all countries have agreed to say war is finished. We know all men have enjoyed working in beautiful Japan. When you go home to your own country you will tell all your families how beautiful Japan is’.
The Kyushu skies were now free of American bombers until the morning of 28th August when a lone B29 flew over the camp dropping leaflets stating a food supply drop would be made in two hours.
The period from cessation of hostilities had not been made any easier by the Japanese guard’s belligerence either as a consequence of Japan’s defeat or by the critical shortage of food or both. The planned food drop eventuated relieving a desperate situation.
The POWs remained in camp for about a month before recovery teams reached them. They were then transported to Nagasaki by train where they witnessed the devastation caused by the atomic bomb. They boarded a U.S. Navy destroyer to Okinawa and were then flown to Manila.
In Manila Roy and ‘Pop’ embarked on HMS Formidable, happy to be with other members of 2/4th bound for Sydney, no doubt somewhat bewildered they had lived through and survived the last 3 ½ years! Both men then returned home to WA by aircraft.
It is highly probable Roy Deveson and ‘Pop’ Davey may have been included in work parties to Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 6 Hajenjo and Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 15. Both men had stated in their interrogation reports they had been at these camps, however, unfortunately there is insufficient information to substantiate their claims or pin point the exact locations of these two camps.
The following is taken from the Affidavit made by Roy Deveson, whose address at the time was given as 49 Oakover Street, East Fremantle who spent approximately 2 ½ years at Hashenko.
Hashenko Fukuoka No. 9 – By Roy Alfred Deveson WX6362
Their accommodation was about 200 yards from the coalmine. The POWs lived in barracks, which Deveson described as being of fair construction but infested with bugs, lice and other insects
There were regular beatings of POWs by Japanese NCOs and guards under the directions of Camp Commander Lieutenant Suematsu and Camp Sergeant Major Iwonuma. These beatings were always severe and carried out with pieces of wood or rubber hosing and bare hands were carried out daily. If the POW being beaten fell to the ground then several Japanese guards would kick him.
He personally witnessed on two occasions Suemastsu strike an English Sgt Major with his sheathed sword until he fell to the ground. In the winter of 1944 three Dutchmen were made to kneel in the snow, completely naked whilst Japanese guards poured buckets of cold water over them for approximately one hour.
On other occasions he personally witnessed Sgt. Major Iwonoma, under instructions from Camp Commandant, take active part in beatings. He saw him severely beat two English POWS with sticks until they fell to the ground and then kick them. After this he threw each prisoner into the fishpond at the camp. It was winter and very cold. He described Iwonuma as being about 25 years of age, well educated and able to speak some English.
Rations were poor and mostly consisted of three issues of raw rice per day, each issue being less than a cupful.
The mine was administered by Japanese civilians and POWs worked under their orders. Two of these civilians were nicknamed ‘The Pig’ and ‘The Bull’. ‘The Pig’ was about 6 feet tall, well built, about 13 stone and aged about 30 years. ‘The Bull’ was about 6’1” tall, sturdy build, about 14 stone and aged about 32 years. The civilian guards administered beatings with sticks and sometimes bare hands.
The mine conditions were not safe. The tunnels were not properly timbered and in certain parts there was not sufficient timber and in other areas the timber was rotten with decay. After blasting operations no inspection was made to ensure the tunnels were safe before POWs were sent back to work where blasting had taken place.
During those 2 ½ years there were five serious falls in the tunnels. An English POW received injuries resulting in a leg amputation; during another fall a Dutch POW sustained injuries requiring an arm amputation and several POWs sustained broken legs, arms and ribs during other falls.
12 months after arriving Deveson saw Red Cross supplies arrive for the first time. The Japanese regularly purloined them and he regularly saw the Camp Commandant Lt. Suematsu and NCOs eating contents of Red Cross parcels.
When Red Cross parcels were distributed, it was not one for each POW; instead they would receive one parcel for 6 to 8 POWs. POWs were going to work barefoot when Red Cross boots were in the camp store.
Amongst the POWs Deveson wrote of an Australian named Pte IRWIN (Christian names possibly George Arthur) who was ill on several occasions and unable to work. Deveson thought him to be mentally unbalanced and afraid of working in the mines.
During summer 1944 as the men returned from working night shift Irwin was found absent when counted by the NCO and the POWs confirmed he had not been with the work party.
The following day during afternoon parade the men were informed by the Camp Commandant that Irwin had escaped, been re-captured and then again attempted to escape and was shot by the Japanese.
The following day Roy Deveson was informed by an English officer, Lt. Humber that the two British orderlies working in the camp hospital informed him they had seen Pte Irwin’s body which had numerous bayonet wounds and that his death had resulted from such wounds.
Below: POWs photographed at the Camp at the end of the war.
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 three 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 of rice plus a dessert spoon of fish or cabbage. The men cannot last 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 the 10th August forty of the heavy sick including Capt. John Hill were evacuated. On 30th August 1943 Major Cough was ordered to take 150 of his fittest men to the next camp, Kuii. The remainder of this group returned to Brankassi Camp.
During less than two months a total of 28 men died at Hindaine Camp including several 2/4th Machine Gunners including Mick Geary WX8000, John Mostyn Clare WX6976, Lawrance Roy Nybo WX14327.
May 1943 saw the departure from Singapore of 900 prisoners, 600 British and 300 Australians on Wales Maru forming ‘J’ Force. June 7th the Wales Maru arrived Moji and the POWs entrained to one of several POW Camps. 250 Australians including 20 2/4th Machine gunners were destined for Kobe.
Kobe began its life as a tiny fishing village but over time became part of the most highly industrialised area in the Japanese Empire. The Osaka – Kobe – Kyoto area produced 25% of all Japan’s rolled iron and steel products approximately 30% of her naval and merchant ships and 30% of her marine engines.
Kobe House Camp was in two warehouses converted into barracks, about half a mile from the harbour with its wharves and factories. Buildings were dark, dirty and venomous, ill ventilated and crowded. Each man lived, ate and slept in his twenty seven inches of sleeping space.
The POWs soon found themselves contracted out to work in some of the many industries of Kobe Port such as factories, iron foundries, shipbuilding yards, stevedoring companies and various warehouses. Owned by well-known companies in today’s business/manufacturing world.
Above: Bombs falling on Mitsubishi Steel Works, Kobe, Japan 1945. We wish to acknowledge this photo from ‘The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum’. New Orleans, USA.
‘Japanese steel plant hit–Bombs rain on the Mitsubishi Steel Works at Kobe and on shipping in the harbor during an attack by U.S. Navy carrier-based aircraft. Fleets of American B-29 Superfortresses and carrier aircraft are raking the Japanese home islands’
Plan as per John Lane’s book Summer Will Come Again, the photograph below is the one he refers to in his plan
Above: The ruins of Kobe House which was bombed on 5 June 1945. This was the home of J Force Prisoners of War (POWs) before it was destroyed by 500 lb incendiary oil bombs dropped by Americans. The rubble in the foreground is all that remains of the Australian quarters.
Kobe House POW Camp survivors on the way home from Japan on HMS Formidable.
Names of Kobe House survivors.
Norman Joseph Harris WX4985 – not identified in the above photo.
Harris left 14/2/1945 with a work party under Lt K.W. Goddard to Toyo.
The men in this party led by Lt Goddard travelled 12 miles to Toyama steel foundry in a special electric train. Other 2/4th in this party included Jim Dore, Edwin Clark, Gerry Arthur and Arthur Draper. The work here was similar to that at Showa-Denki in that small small rail carts were brought to the furnaces from scrap heaps and from the furnaces to slag heaps. Known as a dirty job and on a scale was about as popular as Showa-Denki.
Kobe was then the sixth largest city with a population of one million. 84 air raids over the city occurred between 18 April 1942 through to 15 August 1945. 1200 bombers dropped 8,000 tons bombs. On 24 July 1945, a B-29 dropped 4 ‘pumpkin bombs’ – experimental ‘mock’ atomic bombs with the same weight and scale as ‘little boy’.
Just after midnight, on 6 Aug 1945, 261 B-29s bombed Kobe.
8 hours later, ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on Hiroshima.
It is said the death rate of civilians per sq. mile in Kobe’s urban area was more severe than any other Japanese city, including Hiroshima and Tokyo.
Following the capitulation of Singapore those men of the 8th Division that were able to walk, were marched the 17 miles to Selarang Barracks Changi. This Barracks was situated on the north-eastern tip of Singapore on the Changi Peninsula.
At first the Japanese were reasonably lax with their treatment of their new wards and preferred, in the AIF’s case, for the Austalian’s to be autonomous and operate under their own administration. It wasn’t until August that the Japanese began to organize Changi as a POW Camp proper.
The 2/4th Machine Gun battalion arrived at Roberts Artillery Barracks at 0300 hours on the 18th February 1942. Later that day they were billeted out in three bungalows attached to Selarang. There were approximately 192 men from HQ’s Coy 2/4th in house No.38 under command of Capt. “Bob” Phelps, 255 men from ‘A’ and ‘B’ Coy’s in house No.35 under Capt. Tom Bunning and 235 men from ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies in house No. 34 under the command of the newly appointed Major Colin Cameron.
There doesn’t appear to have been too many complaints at this stage of captivity and as the working parties, the likes of Adam Park group moved out, more space became available. By the time ‘A’ Force moved out all remaining 2/4th had been concentrated in house No. 35.
Singapore Camp Locations
On 4th April 1942 2800 men of the AIF moved out of Selarang Barracks Changi to Bukit Timah area a vicinity of the MacRitchie Reservoir. The 2/4th had been ordered to supply 300 men for the occasion, under the command of Major Alf Cough. There were five sub-camps in this area being Adam Park, Sime Road, Thompson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate, Mount Pleasant Estate and Lornie Road. Three of the camps were former housing estates and the other two were atap style native hutted camps.
Corporal Stan Currie led a party of twenty-seven men from the 2/4th to River Valley Road Camp on 30th October 1942. River Valley Road would later become one of several transit camps where men who had returned to Singapore would mark time whilst they waited for available shipping before being forwarded to Japan and Saigon. Havelock Road Camp was another camp close by separated from River Valley Camp by a footbridge. There were fifty-nine members from the 2/4th at Havelock Road who would, like the rest of the work parties around Singapore , return to Selarang Barracks in December 1942.
Major Bert Saggers took a party of 278 AIF to Serangoon Road Camp on 25th May 1942. This camp had been an internment camp for the Chinese and consisted of atap huts even less palatial than the Sime Road Camp. This group shared their accommodation with a number of British Prisoners of War employed at the Ford Motor Works.