A BROADCAST TO LONDON
Padre J. N. DUCKWORTH.
Major Cyril Wild was in command of this group
THE Japanese told us we were going to a health resort. We were delighted. They told us to take pianos and gramophone records. They would supply the gramophones. We were overjoyed and we took them. Dwindling rations and a heavy toll of sickness were beginning to play on our fraying nerves and emaciated bodies. It all seemed like a bolt from the tedium of life behind barbed wire in Changi, Singapore. They said: “Send the sick, It will do them good.” And we believed them, and so we took them all.
The first stage of the journey to this new found Japanese Paradise was not quite so promising. Yes, they took our kit and they took our bodies, — the whole lot — in metal goods wagons, 35 men per truck through Malaya’s beating, relentless sun for 5 days and 5 nights to Thailand, the land of the free. For food, we had a small amount of rice and some “hogwash” called stew. We sat and sweated, fainted and hoped. Then at Bampong station in Thailand they said: “All men go.” “Marchee, marchee” they said:
“What! We’re coming for a holiday.” They just laughed and in that spiteful, derisive, scornful laugh which only a prisoner of war in Japanese hands can understand, we knew that here was another piece of Japanese bushido — deceit.
Our party marched, or rather dragged themselves for 17 weary nights, 220 miles through the jungles of Thailand. Sodden to the skin, up to our middles in mud, broken in body, helping each other as best we could, we were still undefeated in spirit. Night after night, each man nursed in his heart the bitter anger of resentment. As we Lay down in the open camps — clearings in the jungle, nothing more — we slept, dreaming of home and better things. As we eat boiled rice and drank onion water, we thou9ht of -eggs and bacon.
We arrived, 1680 strong at No.2 Camp, Songkurai, Thailand, which will stand out as the horror hell of Prison Camps. From this 1680 less than 250 survive today to tell its tale. Our accommodation consisted of bamboo huts without roofs. The monsoon had begun and the rain beat down. Work — slave work — piling earth and stones in little skips on to a railway embankment began immediately. It began at 5 o’clock in the morning and finished at 9 o’clock at night and even later than that. Exhausted, starved and benumbed in spirit we toiled because if we did not, we and our sick would starve. As it was the sick had half rations because the Japanese said ‘No work, no food.”
Then came cholera. This turns a full-grown man into an emaciated skeleton overnight. 20, 30, 40, and 50 deaths were the order of the day. The medical ‘kit we had brought could not come with us. We were told it would come on. It never did. We improvised bamboo holders for saline transfusions, and used boiled river water and common salt