Anne -

      What escapes were there from camps in Southeast Asia ? Which camps had significant escapes at all ? What about Japanese prisoners of war, interned both during and post war ? My field is Hong Kong, where the current published material isn't that accurate. But for the purpose of perspective, what happened in other areas ? There were small scale breakouts from Singapore, and larger ones in the Phillipines. Japanese prisoners held in Australia organised protests but were suppressed. What about camps where Chinese prisoners were held, such as Malaya ? Even if escapes did not happen, what were people's views on the subject ? Did people favour loyalty to the group or to the individual ? Officers as opposed to rank and file ?

      It's not nearly as simplistic as we'd think from existing books. Sources outside camps may have excoriated prisoners for not escaping, but many who refused did so for far nobler and more courageous reasons than they are given credit for.

      Ron - >Anne, Welcome to the Fepow Group.
      Tony can help on Hong Kong, (corrected)

      The article I have just finished about Sandakan and the Reverend John Wanless
      has six men successful in escaping but this is very rare.
      There is some more on Sandakan at:

      At the fall of Singapore there were some attempts in boats of various sizes but most of these failed.
      On the Thailand - Burma railway there was nowhere to escape to, the jungle was the obstacle. The few that did were soon caught and put to death.

      A Fearful Freedom by Robert Hamond is a great book to realise the problems the escapee would face.

      Tony - >Ron, Anne and I go back years, and I have to admit that she has helped me far more than I have ever helped her!

      The URL you quote is for the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association in Canada. Well worth a look. In Hong Kong, my site is at

      Merry Christmas to all at FEPOW

      Ron - >Tony, Too much sherry and at just gone 8am, no hope for the day is there.

      My lad and I are off to Norwich this afternoon to watch the Canaries, so
      will have to sober up by then.

      Joking apart, sorry Tony.
      I'll repeat the address for Tony's Hong Kong site:

      Stuart - Interesting subject. One of the private diaries of a Kuching POW in the IWM records repeated 'escapes' into Kuching town to trade with local Chinese for medical supplies. But how do you then make it from Borneo across to Allied territory...

      And once Allied territory got closer, the problem was the Japanese 'final solution' as at Sandakan.

      Ron - >Stuart, The Allies were at the time of the escapes from Ranau and the death marches, bombarding Sandakan from the sea. The four escaped on 7th July 1945 from Ranau, they knew there was not much hope if they stayed, a guard had leaked to them they were to be disposed of.
      They were helped by a local man, Bariga. He hid them and cared for them until August when Bariga found out there was an Australian unit operating in the area behind Japanese lines. Bariga helped them find this unit.

      Gunner Owen Campbell escaped with four others from the second death march. He looked after Ted Skinner who was very ill and later died. It is believed Skinner cut his own throat, to give Campbell a chance to survive. When he caught up with the remaining four, they tried to get help from a canoe. A Japanese soldier shot and killed two more, Webber and Emmett, three days later Costin died, Campbell went on alone until he was helped by two men and they got him to a local guerrilla leader. In time he was taken to an Australian Service Reconnaissance Department unit behind enemy lines.

      Richard "Dick" Braithwaite had a lot of luck on his side. He was very ill and could not keep up on the second death march, so he hid until the column of prisoners had passed. He followed a river hoping it would come out at the sea, it eventually came out at the Lubak River, where he was helped by Abing, a local man. Braithwaite was carried downstream to Liberan Island where he was rescued by an American PT boat.

      As you can see there was a lot of luck and help from the locals. If they had tried this a year earlier they would have had no chance, they were fortunate to have allied units behind the Japanese lines.

      The feeling of despair in the prisoners ordeal must account for many just giving up the fight and dying, as in Sandakan there was not much hope left.

      Due to the six Australian's reports and letters left with the locals, after the war, the villages along the route of the death marches were rewarded for helping the prisoners.
      A touching end this horrific tale of misery.

      Capt. George Duffy - When I and my crew members were handed over by the Germans to the Japanese at Tandjoeng Priok in November 1942 we were befriended by a number of men from the Australian 2/40th Battalion who had been captured on Timor. We learned from these fellows of an attempted escape from Timor whereby a parked aircraft was to have been commandeered and flown to Australia. Unfortunately, the designated pilot could not start the engines and the plot failed.

      Ultimately, these Timor prisoners were moved to Java. The Tandjoeng Priok camp was a very short distance from the beach and adjacent to a waterway where numerous praus were tied up. Thus, a new escape plan was hatched: Steal a boat and sail to Australia or India. Trouble was, no one knew anything about sailing.

      Then, we arrived.

      After several weeks of becoming closely acquainted with us, Capt. Russell Piggott, the head of the escape group selected Bernard J. Hickey, the AMERICAN LEADER's Chief Officer, Stanley E. Gorski, the ship's bosun, and me, the Third Officer, to join them. An exit was cut through the barbed wire, reconnaissance of the areas outside the camp was conducted, and our supplies smuggled out and buried in the beach. In all, ten people were involved. In my journal, on January 17, I wrote, "Yesterday at this time we were planning an escape for last night. At eight o'clock there was a bright moon and a cloudless sky." So, the excursion was cancelled and never resurrected.

      As the Japanese had promulgated an order which stated that if one prisoner escaped, ten would be executed, it has always been my feeling that the British hierarchy in the camp learned of our plans and ordered Piggott to cease and desist. What we were up to was no secret, and the colonels couldn't take the chance that we would succeed. In hindsight, it was a foolhardy venture, but we were young, cocky, and confident.

      Looking at the general escape picture, beyond the ten for one ruling, there was also a bounty on each escapee, we stood head and shoulders above the brown-skinned population and couldn't "melt into the crowd", and Australia and India were many, many ocean miles away.

      Anne - >Capt Duffy,

      What an amazing account - thank you so much !

      Many of the veterans I've spoken to have said much the same thing - that, when you are young, everything seems possible ! One man told me how he'd been planted to give false information to the Japanese and coolly walked into their offices to do his spiel. He was an escaped prisoner himself, but mixed race, so they weren't bothered - they just wanted to know what he knew about US airbases. He was 23 at the time and thought it was a great adventure - only later did he realise it was mad ! When they realised what he'd given was counter information, they were out to get him, and he had to spend the rest of the war in hiding. Recently, I discovered corroboration of his story. How he would have loved to have known ! Unfortunately he passed away earlier this year.

      Anne - I'll second the recommendation for Tony's again - an exhaustive piece of research, going back to the sources, compiled through years of meticulous hard work - hundreds of reports, diaries etc. Many of these hand written in camp on whatever paper happened to be available. When the book comes out, it will be worth getting.

      On completely the opposite scale I was hoping for a short cut, to save me all that work. There were two types of escapes : those in the wake of defeat and those towards the end such as the Sandakan ones. The two types are quite different. In the former case, people taking advantage of chaos managed to slip off into the main population and get away. In Hong Kong, escape in the first few months wasn't impossible if you were Chinese or mixed race, or had some way of proving you were neutral. Suddenly. people were claiming to be Irish, German or Swiss for the most spurious reasons, but the Japanese went along with it. With senior officers, however, there was an ethic that their duty was to remain with their men and place their welfare above all other personal considerations. Thus the case of the officer who escaped from Singapore is interesting. It must be written up in Peter Elphick or other accounts of the Fall of Singapore which I don't have to hand and was wondering if anyone could check ? I think his name was Gordon Bennett (of all things).

      The later escapes are more straightforward - those men had no choice ! There was a fairly large group of Bataan survivors who made a trek across northern Luzon to link up with approaching American forces in 1945. Also, amazingly, anecdotal evidence that some Japanese escaped from Australia but I've never seen proof. Germans who escaped from camps in the US were mostly recaptured. One of these, I think, was a U boat captain but it shouldn't be hard to check..

      Ron - Please click on Gordon Bennett to follow this line of thought, as it has grown as a separate topic.

      Denis Hudson - >Anne Ozorio,
      Are you aware of the escape of 5 prisoners from the Lungwha camp in Shanghai? The diary of Roy Scott, one of them, is in the Imp. War Museum in Lambeth. If you can't find it let me know, and I'll try to get you a copy.

      Anne - >Denis, Thank you so much Mr Hudson for the information about Lunghwa. I know that diary. You raise a good issue about Shanghai - no one seems to realise much about all the camps in China. For various reasons the documentataion is scattered and hard to find. If I had time and money I'd track the details down - there are sources no one has ever checked out.

      My grandmother was in Stanley and her sister in Ash Camp, Shanghai. They rarely talked about their war years. One day when they were in their eighties, they got together and ther floodgates burst !
      Stanley was easy compared to Shanghai. Then, later I asked their younger sister who had remained in Hong Kong. Her story was the worst of all. She said, "elder sister was upset we sent no parcels : but we couldn't, we were starving". To my amazement she told me about the Red Cross project to help destitute dependents of POWs which I had previously written about. I hadn't even known she and their elderly grandmother had been part of it. I thought I had a good angle on it but oh boy, I didn't know the half of it. Outsiders would have had no chance.

      That's why a forum like this is so useful - how else can we pool all this information that people don't realise is important ?

      Janet - >Anne, Your " BITS" re Hong Kong and also China etc have made very intersting reading..

      My Dad was " Up the Railway " but he always told me to be mindfull of the Proganda that the Chinese spread ( to be honest I wondered if he was kidding. )
      Quite obviously not, and what he said was gospel ( a funny bloke.& great sense off humour ) I stand here red faced ! !

      He always made me aware that the Chinese had suffered under the Japs and also the Russians - Can anyone shed any light on this please.

      The Jap engineer he was with was the much younger brother of a Dr tortured by the Russians in "Manchuria " - ( spelling - sorry ) does that make sense

      Anne - How many members of the AIF were captured in Singapore and Malaya ?
      What happened to them ? Who looked after them as POWs ?

      Japan modernised exceptionally quickly after it allowed contact with the west in the 1850's. By 1894 it was modernised enough to defeat China in battle like the British had done 50 years before. By 1905 they easily wiped out the Russian Navy which in those days was a major ocean power. Within two generations, Japan had gone from being a feudal state to a state of the art modern. In contrast Chinese modernisation was slower, but then it's just so much bigger a country and so ancient. Japanese industrialisation was also growing at an unprecedented rate but they had few natural resources, so looked at North China. Western powers had subjugated China for a hundred years, carving it up into spheres of influence where they were above Chinese law and could exploit at will. They also held most of Asia as colonies. The Japanese, who had helped the west against the Chinese in 1901and in the First World War, felt affronted that they were denied a place at the table and also felt humiliated on racial grounds. So the poor troops sent to defend Empire were innocently up against an extremely deep well of resentment, and the POWs bore the brunt of it, unfortunately.

      The basic textbook I used at school, and still reliable, is "China" by Fairbanks and Teng. A more sensational account is Iris Chang's "Rape of Nanking" describing 300,000 deaths in a few short months when Nanking, the Chinese capital was destroyed to prove an almost medieval point. Also very important reading is Ienaga Saburo's "Japan's Last War". This is an analytical, well researched book that seeks to understand the causes of war and how to prevent them for the future. It also analyses the way the army, like the Germans brutalised their own men and turned them into what some of them became. Not all, of course.

      Tony - >Anne, As you know, there are many people around who know Malaya/Singapore better than me.

      However, 18,490 is the number usually quoted for Australians captured in Singapore.

      If you have Brian Cull's book "Bloody Shambles" there is an interesting footnote on page 384 Vol I. It says:

      "Following many weeks of captivity Sgt McCormac and others broke out of their prison compound. Although the other escapees were killed or died, McCormac and an Australian eventually escaped from Japanese territory and reached safety, The only two non-Asians to escape successfully from Singapore. Their story is told in McCormac's excellent book: You'll die in Singapore."

      Charles McCormac was in 205 Squadron. I don't know who the Australian was, and I'm afraid I don't know anything about Gordon Bennet's escape either.

      Janet - Re China, I thought I ought to add this bit cos I forgot last night ( my poor brain ). Dad was told about the Japanese engineers brother being torured by the Russians in Manchuria by someone after the war at a get together he went to. My brother has always questioned wether it's actually the same engineer - which thinking of it, is a real point and how the hell did the bloke find out who told Dad ? But some of those guys had been back to Japan in peace initiation trips and met their old capturers , so it is possible that they found out there. But it is only hear say and not something the old chap had been told himself. by th Jap.

      BUT in the old chaps heart he always beleived that was why he was kind to them, I think it's more likely a case that he was a good bloke and missed his family very much, he was an engineer, he had obviously studied and the last place he wanted to be practicing was up the railway in a foreign land .




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