Thailand-Burma Railway 2

Thailand - Burma Railway

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      Michael Hargreave Mawson -

      I am a newbie to the group, and a newbie to researching WWII/FE - my normal field is Victorian military history, and specifically the Crimean War. Please forgive me if I ask daft questions, or have yawning chasms in my knowledge.

      My first cousin (a couple of times removed), NX35842 L/Cpl. Herbert Frederick Dallas, 2/19th Bn., 8DIV, AIF, was wounded at Muar, but was obviously ambulatory, as he went into the bag with the rest of the battalion, rather than being shot out of hand by the Japanese. He was sent to the Railway from Changi as a member of "S" Battalion, "D" Force, in March, 1943. I would be most interested to learn where he would have worked as a member of this battalion. Can anyone help? My initial researches (via the National Archives of Australia, 2/19th Battalion Association, and so on) suggest that he would have worked on the section of line between Tarsao and Wampo, and also at Hintok ("Pack of Cards Bridge") and, possibly, Kanu ("Hellfire Pass"). Herbert died of amoebic dysentery, on 2nd November, 1943, at Tarsao, apparently on (or having dropped out from) the march back to Kanburi.

      In addition, if anyone has ever come across even the most fleeting mention of him in any book they may have read, I'd be delighted to learn more. If any memoirs of any member of "S" Battalion, "D" Force, have ever been published, I'd be grateful for details.

      Thanks in advance for any information that you may be able to offer.

      Best regards,
      Michael Hargreave Mawson, author of "Eyewitness in the Crimea"

      Ron - >Mike, Welcome to the fepow Group.

      I'll try to help with some details.

      "D" Force left Changi for Ban Pong in Thailand in nine train loads, there were 5,000 (2,780 British and 2,220 Australians) on 14th and 16-23rd March 1943.

      Lt-Col. G.G.Carpenter, 1 Camb. with Lt-Col. McEachern, A.I.F., i.c of A.I.F.
      were the commanders.The British were made up from 1,800 from the 18ths Division Area and 980 from the Southern Area.
      The fittest were chosen as it was known they were to be used in heavy manual work.

      The viaduct at Wampo (114km) was built between Oct 1942 and April 1943 by
      Group IV as "D" Force didn't leave till mid March 1943 he would not have had much time on the viaduct.

      Tarsao (130) was Group IV headquarters, if "D" Force was used to strengthern Group IV this would tie in as in April 1943 the end of the line was here in April 1943.

      Below are some dates and camps where Group IV were.

      Hintock (156km), May - Sep 1943

      Rintin (182), Mar - April 1943. was used as a staging post for men moving
      up the line.

      Krian Krai (252km) on the Aug - Nov 1943, this is the furthest I have Group

      Kon Kuta (262km) The meeting point for the lines was near here at 262.87km

      Group V, "F" and "H" Force went on further.

      Read the Death Railway at:
      I have included the dates and the work groups with the Camps section.

      Mike - >Ron, Interesting. I've just finished reading Russell Braddon's "The Naked Island", where he tells us that the weakest and most ill at Changi were encouraged to volunteer for the "Convalescent Camp" in Thailand! Braddon formed part of "H" Force.
      Am I right in thinking that the prisoners were taken by train to Ban Pong, and then marched up the line? How long would it have taken them to get to Wampo? Braddon talks about forced night marches of twenty miles (32km), so would three days be about right? If so, Herbert can only have spent a matter of weeks (at most) at Wampo, before moving on to Tarsao.

      Rod Beattie has confirmed that Herbert was at one point based at Hintok Mountain Camp, and worked specifically in the Hintok and Kannyu (Kanu) area - so, presumably, he helped dig Hellfire Pass, and build the Pack of Cards Bridge. What happened to the men at Hintok when this section of the Railway was completed? Were they sent back down the line to the staging camp at Tarsao, as suggested by Di Elliott of the 1/19th-2/19th Battalion Association? Or up the line for more work, as the data you provide below seems to indicate (and as seems more likely)?

      But this is *beyond* Hintok. Could this be a different batch of men?
      Or a later date? (Note, having just followed the link you provided, I see that these are the dates for VI Group's presence here, and that IV Group were there from Aug-Oct '43, which makes more sense, but still gives a two-month overlap with their time at Hintok.)

      Was IV Group split up?

      What I have so far for Herbert seems to be:

      March '43 - Changi to Ban Pong by train, then marched to Wampo
      March/April '43 - Wampo
      April '43 - Tarsao
      May-Sept '43 - Hintok Mountain Camp (but see below)
      Aug-Oct '43 - Rintin (but note overlap with Hintok and Krian Krai)
      Aug-Nov '43 - Krian Krai (but note overlap with Hintok and Rintin)
      2 Nov '43 - Tarsao

      Clearly, I still need to clarify where Herbert ("S" Battalion, "D" Force, IV Group) was from August to October, 1943. A man with terminal amoebic dysentery could not have marched far, and so I presume he must have contracted the disease at Tarsao, which implies that he marched in towards the end of October, shortly after the railway was completed. But did he come from Krain Krai or Rintin?

      Thanks for all your help with this. As ever with research, the more you learn, the more questions you have!

      Janet - >Ron, Mike, I found following this very interesting as the jobs and Group 4 are things I think Dad may well have been involved with ( not sure about D Force )

      He was with D Bat, 53rd Inf Brig, RASC and they were with the 18th Div, it seems this may well tie in and definately in group 4.

      As you know Ron the old chap worked quite a long time on the viaduct at Wampo and also further up with a particular Jap engineer who had been conscrited to the Japnese army and didn't want to be there either !

      He described th Jap as " fair and NOT unkind and as a man who never was gratuitously cruel , he said " He looked after us best he could " ! ( this doesn't detract from the fact he despised others including " The Tiger" who was on board a ship to Japan that was sunk and lost his sword, a neighbour in the next village was on that ship, he was drowning as his foot was caught in a rope under the life raft and a big Aussie who was a good swimmer dived under and freed him and brought him to the top as Ted couldn't swim, sadly Ted died a few years ago and I don't know which ship it was ) .

      He told me he was once in a camp with alot of Aussies , I think this may be Hintock but he was moved on ( I am not sure if that was up or down country, but he ended up once near Three Pagoda Pass cos he mentions it in a letter written from Rangoon in Sep 45 ) but insisted he never worked on Hellfire Pass ( this is were he develpoed a deep respect and love of the Aussies and New Zealanders and would try to buy produce that was Aussie or NZ such as tinned fruit, Lamb and Aussie mutton etc in the 50's when I was a kid ) He described them to my Mum as " Good Soldiers " - not really sure what was meant , but he hated grumblers and he said they didn't ever really grumble they just got stuck in and really tried to look after their mates (which he REALLY respected )

      He always told me of another job that other boys including his own Sgt and best mate Herbert Lloyd had been sent " up " on, he said the job took 3 months and they came back " decimated " (his own words ). He always insisted that he was so lucky not to have been sent on that job as he feared his survival would have been seriously challenged if he had have been. The boys nearly all got dysentry and those who were still alive were sent back to Tarso. Dad had also got dysentry and ended up back there with Lloydy who died in the October ( my Dad kept all Lloydy's personal bits and his cap badge and in 1947 he made contact with his Mum who visited my parents in their pre-fab to collect his bits ( it took him a long time to trace her evidentally , and also he thought he might break down if she asked him the details and he waited till he felt able to deal with it.)

      I have heard about the 30 mile a night marches and I believe it was on the way up to Wampo that they had horrendous rains and that those who could not keep up or swim a bit, fell into the muddy torrents where they were and died or drowned.

      He also talked of a job where they got no rest periods for a couple of weeks at a time and that they were out working nights too to get a particular bit finished, cos it was there coming home every night he cut his feet by stubbing them on bits of jagged bamboo that had been cut down and he volunteered to carry the torch up at the front in a bid to try to see where he was going ! ( not sure if it was a better deal than following on, but he hated having to try to follow anyone - I wonder if this was a legacy ? ).

      He said that they got moved around such alot it was someimtes a job to know where you were exactly, but he seemed to remember all the important bits very accurately .

      Mike - >Janet,
      Thank you very much for posting your father's experiences.

      I have to say that this is the first instance I have come across of a genuinely good-natured and humane Japanese on the Railway. I have no doubt that there were many (no group of human beings is homogenous), but it is refreshing to know for sure that at least one existed, and was recognised as such by his prisoners. If your father worked under this chap with IV Group, "further up" from Wang Po, it seems likely that my cousin did too.

      Hintok seems to have been a base from where work parties were sent out up and down the line. Your father may not have worked at Hellfire Pass, but I gather that other Hintok inmates did (perhaps at the time when your father had moved on, or before he got there).

      A British soldier means something slightly different to an Australian soldier when using the phrase "good soldiers", but it usually boils down to "get the job done with minimum of fuss". A lack of grumbling is an important part of that, as is the esprit de corps which means that you look out for your mates. Intestinal fortitude is part of it, too, and so is stubbornness, and pride, and...

      This is interesting, and supports the idea that IV Group was split up to work on different parts of the railway.

      Sounds as though your father and my cousin could have been lying next to each other in the dysentery ward at Tarso. I don't suppose he ever mentioned an Aussie lance-jack, who was actually born in Norfolk, who was with him there?

      This sounds like the "speedo" period - ghastly.

      Janet - >Mike, You saying "Speedo" has just made my blood run cold, I remember he called it Speedo Worko and would say something like " what do you think they did to blokes who didn't pull their weight on Speedo Worko ? " to my brother if he wasn't really pulling his weight at their butchers shop ( well what the old chap considered pulling your weight was what most people calling working yourself into the ground, he was brought up on a farm which my Grandfather owned and they had to work as well as go to school, however my Grandfather went bust in 1921 recession but fortunately my Grandma was the Grandaughter of a preacher and they had bursaries paid for them at the famous "Bluecoat" school in Hampshire which he considered was luxury cos they didn't have to get up at unearthly hours to milk cows etc.). However he considered that if you didn't work to the VERY best of your ability it was almost a sin !

      He really loved the Aussie Capt Pitt, I believe he was a dentist or maybe a Dr., he took the old chaps tooth out while they were up country with him in early 45, and he often spoke of the Aussie who could catch snakes and as my Dad was a butcher and really good at skinning them, which they did between them whenever they got the chance.

      Re the engineer, he re-met up with him sometime later on another job and the guy used to come and look for Dad if he had a job to go out on and I gather alot of times Dad would go with him and other blokes, he was with this Jap at the time of the Japanese surrender.

      He said food was always better in a big camp but he prefered being out on a smaller job as you generally had a Jap in charge and a few Korean guards and he said that the chances of getting beaten half to death was less out in a small working party for one cos the Nips didn't have so much access to booze outside as in the camps. This bloke showed my Dad photos of his family and my Dad carried a photo of my Mother which had been proffessionally taken to celebrate their engagement, my Mum was a gorgeous looking young girl only just 18, she had natural blonde hair and looked like Marilyn Munroe ( God knows what went wrong with me ! ), this Jap used to say " She Fill-em Star", and Dad could
      mimick him untill his dying day the way he pronounced Film Star !

      Once the Nips had capitulated he said the Japs all went over to one end of the camp as far away from the POW's as poss, and they had very little food so came cadging round the cookhouse for some ( where I gather the old chap was working making Do-For's ( do for anything ) rissoles !, my Dad gave this particular Nip some grub cos he said " he wasn't unfair or cruel and I felt I owed it to him " but he got ALOT of sh*t from his mates over it I can tell you.

      Re the Aussie , the one story he always told me was that when he was staring to recover from the dysentry he was talking to some chaps in the hut, they were talking about height and growing ! ( don't ask me why ) my Dad said to them that he grew after he was 21 cos his suit he had made for his 21st bithday was too short ( please bear in mind now, my Dad was only 5ft 2ins ) when an Aussie piped up something like " strewth, I didn't realise you ever grew at all " , he said it was SO funny and his guts hurt from laughing .

      Mike - >Janet, This seems to have been a common point of view amongst that generation. My father always made similar comments, although he was never a POW.

      What a fascinating tale! Were his mates annoyed because he had fed the "decent" engineer, or because some of that food would go to the other Japanese officers, or because it meant that there would be less food for them?

      Given that my cousin was six foot three, this could well have been him!

      Anne Uhr - >Michael: A small note; your cousin Herbert Dallas was B coy, 2/19; you'll find him in the coy photo. fourth row, in the unit history. And forgive me if you've read it already, but perhaps to remind you that the 2/19 unit history has a very extensive account of the 2/19 experience of on “D” force pp 571-636, written, in part at least I think by Reg Newton himself,(but Di Elliott could confirm that).

      Mike - >Janet Uhr, I have yet to track down a copy of the 2/19th history (although I have heard rumours that it is soon to be reprinted). Is the picture you
      mention the one of the company in front of the Cricket Club? If so, I have a copy of that from the AWM; if not, I look forward to the day when I can finally obtain a copy of this book!

      Thanks very much for the information.

      Ron - >Mike, The Japs did tell the prisoners that the camps in Thailand were rest camps, with plenty of food, making many pleased to go, as by the end of 1942 food was getting sparse at Changi.
      The prisoners feeding the Thailand end of the line travelled overland in cattle trucks, about 30-35 per truck. These metal trucks did not help the men's health on the five day journey, they got very hot during the day and very cold at night.
      Ban Pong was the end of the line for the incoming prisoners from Changi, where they had to march to the start of the Thailand - Burma starting point at Nong Pladuk. Nong Pladuk was the base camp and had the Japanese Engineers supply sheds. My father was on the first supply of prisoners to this end of the railway and when they got here there was nothing. The prisoners had to clear the ground and build the sidings and workshops, there was also a large camp for the Japanese Engineers here.
      Jimmy O'Conner, another Yarmouth lad and company cook, managed to get my father a job in the Japanese bakery with him. There was a Japanese Forces Cook whom befriended my father and when things got tougher later on, helped him with food, his name was Otto.
      When Nong Pladuk was ready the prisoners started arriving and were marched up the line.
      An advance working party cleared the jungle, the next party building the embankments and the next party laying the track, these would be from the same Group. As can be seen the work was spread over a working area, different camps were then built to house these working parties although they were from the same group and this situation was enforced up the line.
      As the line increased in length the Groups arriving had more walking to do these progressed into forced marches which caused many deaths.
      "F" and "H" Force, who were ill and weak before they started, lost a large proportion of their men on these marches.
      I've written below all the camps and dates I have for Group IV. Tonomang being next to Tarsao and this was Group IV's headquarters:

      Wampo (114km) October 1942 - April 1943
      Wanyai (129km)
      Tonomang (137km) October 1942 - July 1943
      Kanu (150km) November 1942 - July 1943
      Hintok (156km) May 1943 - September 1943
      Kinsayok (172km) December 1943 - February 1944
      Tonomang (137km) November 1943 - March 1944

      Rintin (182km) August 1943 - October 1943
      Krian Krai (244km) August 1943 - November 1943

      Kaorin (42km) September 1944 - May 1945
      Tamuang (34km) August 1944 - June 1945

      This leaves some questions unanswered, the Group started working its way up the line in October 1942 and carried on with the progression of camps until Kinsayok (172km) where it seems a large proportion stayed, some were taken back to Tonomang (137km) November 1943 - March 1944 and some advanced further up country through Rintin (182km) August 1943 - October 1943 to Krian Krai (244km) August 1943 - November 1943.
      The line from Thailand was joined to the Burma line on 17th October 1943 at the 262.87km mark.
      Were the fittest men sent up the line to help finish the line.
      In one way or another they then slowly withdrew back down the line back to Tarsao (Group Headquarters).
      The Hintok stretch was one of the hardest on the workforce, therefore there must have been many casualties and very sick.
      Kanchanburi (50km) was a large hospital and it looks as though the Group had a long stay near here on the way back down the line.

      The above is constructed by putting dates and camps together, any help to assist this could give a clearer picture.

      Mike - >Ron, Ah, now I see. Thanks very much.

      I think this might be more clearly shown in tabular form, so here goes (I have omitted Wanyai, as there were no dates attached to that location; I have also omitted Tarsao, on the assumption that, as IV Group HQ, there would have been a permanent presence there throughout this period):

IV Group Camps: October, 1942 to June, 1945








































































































Krian Krai








Krian Krai








Krian Krai

Railway completed, 17th October, 1943.
















Krian Krai

































There is then a gap of four months, where we have no data, but the Group
was clearly working its way back down the line during this period.

































































































      This does make things clearer (to my poor befuddled brain, at least!).
      The only hard information I have, specific to Herbert Dallas, is that (a) he arrived in Thailand in the latter half of March, 1943, (b) that he was at one point based at Hintok Mountain Camp, (c) that he worked at both Kanu and Hintok, and (d) that he died at Tarsao on 2/11/1943. Applying Occam's Razor to the list of camps you have provided, it would appear that he went straight up the line as far as Kanu (150km) on his arrival in Thailand, went from there to Hintok (156km) at some point between May and July, 1943, remained at Hintok until after the completion of the Railway, when he marched back to Tonomang (137km), was transferred to the adjacent camp at Tarsao (130km), and subsequently died. Do you agree that this is the most likely scenario? If so, the only questions outstanding are minor: "In which month, precisely, did he move from Kanu to Hintok?" and, "Why did he move from Tonomang to Tarsao?" The former is somewhat irrelevant. As for the latter, was there perhaps a major medical facility at Tarsao, which took in the sick
      from nearby camps?

      There seem to be two options. The first is that those who were based at Hintok (and Rintin and, the following month, Krian Krai) were split into two groups on the completion of the Railway; the fitter men being concentrated at Kinsayok (perhaps to be sent out in small work parties to nearby stretches of the line which required maintenance), and the weaker returning to Tonomang. Alternatively, all those at Hintok and Rintin were marched down the line to Tonomang, and all those at Krian Krai were marched down the line to Kinsayok. Whichever option is correct, it seems clear that IV Group did not work on the construction of the Kinsayok section, and only arrived there after its completion.

      My gut feeling is that the Japanese probably intended to withdraw all the POWs back to Singapore, leaving maintenance concerns to their Railway Regiments. If so, the presence of members of IV Group at Tonomang and Kinsayok for several months from the end of 1943 would signify nothing more than that these camps were being used for incarceration of POWs, pending their return to Singapore (or their transfer to work camps elsewhere, such as Japan itself). What do contemporary records say about the tasks required of POWs in Burma and Thailand after the Railway was completed? Were POWs involved in track maintenance, or were they no longer required to work?

      Once again, I must thank you for all your help, and for your generosity in sharing your considerable expertise. I am deeply in your debt. If you ever need to know anything about British military history of the Victorian era, please do not hesitate to ask!

      Janet - >Mike, I find this really hard to believe and take in but my Dad was obessed about peoples height or his lack of it, and he was always on about the 6ft 2 ins Aussie ! ( though you say your cousin was 6ft 3ins I guess when your'e only just 5ft 2, and with years passing he might have shrunk him to 6ft 2 ! )
      Even my husband knows that story, as my Dad was taken with the fact when he first met my now husband that he was 6ft 2ins tall, and evidentally used to say to my brother " If I had lost my legs like a couple of the guys did with ulcers I was gonna make sure when I got back that they made me new ones so I was 6ft 2ins"
      In my old chaps eyes no one was ever bigger than the 6ft 2 Aussie and he spoke alot about him, but it seems so unreal !
      He also told me that this bloke was the smartest soldier he had ever seen - not sure wether he meant stature or brain power, and this bloke was quite a handsome devil !

      My I think his mates were just p*ssed off big time that he was seen to be collaborating with the enemy.
      Dad always said that once the Japanese surrendered food was fine and albeit the same stuff ( Rice and Marrow type veg ) but he always insisted there was plenty to go around and they could eat as much as the wanted ?- now wether that's strictly true or if it's a case that the Japs had been stricter in portion control ( pardon that expression it sounds irreverant but it's not meant to be ) which was suddenly lifted I don't really know.

      I know he was accused of helping the enemy and he did say that his justification was that the engineer was never really the enemy just a bloke much like themselves who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but however I do know he wouldn't have given b*ggar all to most of them !
      As a matter of interest that engineer was the one who having worked with them on the sheer face at Wampo, had a remit to be at such and such a point on a particular date and a party who were working from the other direction , had to meet up with them.
      I am not sure where exactly this was but I have always imagined it to be where the sheer face bends around and you cannot see one side from the other.
      Dads lot had finished their remit a couple of days early and the engineer found a place where they could not be seen from and rested them up for nearly the whole couple of days as they were truely exhauted. I am not sure what time of year this was but Dad said it was hot .
      He respected that man alot.

      He also told the story of the Cholera outbreak , where the Japs would do their rounds and see who was dead and alive, an Indian as he described him ( maybe a Tamil perhaps ) was VERY ill but as the Japs walked up to him he tried to sit up and said " No Cholera SAAB ", my Dad always grieved for that man cos the Korean guard clubbed him about the head and killed him, he was in the next bed in the hut to the old chap and dispite all the things they all saw that used to upset him to the last.

      Well Mike I must go, I have just got in from work and have to go out and do some of my own Christmas food shopping, I see people buying so much and think of the years that they all went without so much, it makes me emmotional so I try not to do so much that I waste any , but there we are, my Dad always said " I didn't mind doing what I did one bit, just so long as your kids never have to do it, I will be satisfied ", he was a good man bless him, he had a parculiar sense of humour, which I myself have got and if people asked him what he did in the war he used to say " I was involved in the construction industry " which really used to annoy my Mother - perhaps that's why he did it even more !!

      Mike - >Janet, I have Herbert's enlistment papers, which come complete with a
      photograph showing him up against a height scale. On careful
      re-measuring, I see that the very top of his spiked hair checks in at
      just under six feet, two and a half inches. Six foot two is spot on!
      I wonder whether your Dad's Aussie really could have been my cousin?
      If your Dad singled this one man out particularly, then we must assume
      that there can't have been numerous six-foot-two-inch Aussies with him.

      Did he ever mention his name? Or that he was born in Norfolk? Or that he drove a tractor for a living before the war? Or whether he died at Tarsao?

      A "smart soldier" is normally one who is well turned-out, who holds himself well ("head back, stomach in, chest out, thumbs in line with the seams of your trousers, you 'orrible little man!"), and who is highly competent at drill - but I can't see that these qualities would have been particularly apparent on the Railway! I can imagine that Herbert might have made a good soldier, though. The vast majority of the men
      in my family over the past 400 years have been in the forces, many being decorated for bravery, and some achieving General rank. Genetics will out...

      Well, I wouldn't say that 'Erbert was 'andsome. His face was pleasant
      enough, but he had ears like jug handles! I don't know whether this
      list accepts attachments, but if it does, you can see what I mean below:

      (On second thoughts, I'll copy this message to your e-mail addy, then you'll be sure to see the pic).

      I have certainly read that immediately after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, vast quantities of food were made available by the Japanese to their prisoners, as were medical supplies.

      That I can understand.

      Why a Tamil? More likely a Sikh of the Indian Army, I would have thought. There were almost as many Indian troops in Malaya/Singapore when they fell as there were British.

      "Sahib" - Urdu for "Sir" or "Master".


      Mike - >Janet Uhr, I've just realised why your name looked familiar - a correspondent on the OMRS mailing list recommended your 1998 book, "The AIF in Malaya, 1941-42" as the best possible secondary source on the subject. Is this still in print, and can I order a new copy from my local bookshop in UK, or will I need to find a second-hand copy in Australia?

      Janet Uhr - Yes, that's the one: in front of the club. Re the reprinting, Di Elliott is handling that and would be the best person to ask: occasionally you find a copy s/hand; but not often: perhaps you could kangaroo through abebooks listings?

      Janet Uhr - >Mike: Thank you for what you write about Against the Sun; the AIF in Malaya, 1941-1942. I think it may be out of print, but the publishers Allen and Unwin should know; and Select Books in Singapore had a copy listed the other day: their web page is - or abebooks again - there were a few s/hand copies around a little while ago.
      Go well, Janet

      Mike - >Janet Uhr, I ordered the copy from Select Books, but they have just e-mailed to tell me that their website is out-of-date and that they have no further copies. I can't find one on ABE either. :-( If you happen across a spare copy anywhere, please let me know.

      Ron - >Mike, Although Tarsao is not mentioned, it was Group IV headquarters at 130km.
      The prisoners never saw the place names written down and spelt the names as they pronounced them. My father being a Norfolk man had some peculiar spellings of the names, there were many different dialects so the places had many different spellings. Tonchan is also Tonomang or Tongnang at 137km, which as you can see is very close to the headquarters at Tarsao (130km).
      I have altered the table to Tonchan as that is the name wildly used, this will helpfully make it easier.
      There was a hospital at Kanchanburi (50km) which are very close to Tamuang (34km) & Kaorin (42km) this points towards the group receiving medical attention and treatment there.
      Tarsau also had a large hospital so the stay at Tonchan could also be for medical attention.

      Railway of Death by John Coast covers a party that left in October 1942, but mentions most of the camps used by "D" Force and Group IV.
      Be careful though as Coast did not use the original names of the prisoners, his reason for this was to give them peace when they arrived home, the book was written in 1947. Many wished he had now but you can understand his thoughts.
      It is a book that I have warn out, will have to get it recovered, it is also the only book my father said was true to real life on the railway.
      If you get the book look from Page 94 onwards.
      This is parts taken from this part.

      "Tarsau was now full of new arrivals from our Division, ....... Tarsau camp was an enormous place built under a collection of huge trees and intersected by rutted roads full of Nip transport. The atapi huts were of the low type, but divided into cubicles."

      He goes on to say that the low doors of about 5ft 4inch suggesting they were built by the Japanese or under their instructions. Above Tarsau was jungle, this was about the end of April 1943.

      They then marched onto Kanu, a journey of 16km. An area of Tents in a field of Lalang grass, two Div. H.Q Majors had been left here to build a hospital.

      On the 9th May they arrived at Hintok, known as the "Mountain Camp", this was purely an Australian Camp, surrounded by a bamboo palisade as protection as against wild animals. Several things were unusual about Hintok, the latrines had been made of wood, very clean and about 16ft deep. There was a complete water system made out of hollow bamboo pipes with showers all entirely from bamboo, all was all built by the Australians.

      The next port of call was Kinsayok which was a big camp, the journey was very mountainous and dangerous, this was near the boundary of Group IV. Barges traded on the river near the camp. The worst thing was the stinking old huts with big bed bugs.
      They then travelled to Rintin, the last camp in Group IV, this had been a plague spot and was now used only as a staging post.
      Enclosed entirely by huge trees with some Dutch cooks there only living in one hut, there were three huts there. A tale of 231 dying in ten weeks made us want to move on quickly.

      End of parts from John Coast.

      Food was sparse in Singapore by the time the railway was finished, it would not be in the Japs interest not to get them back quickly to Singapore unless they were shipping them out quickly. Also the Allies were bombing the railway, stopping supplies reaching Burma, alot of maintenance work was required and the prisoners would be used for this.

      Hope this helps, will get back to it after Christmas, please feel free to add anything to this.

      Mike - >Ron, I think this must be the case. Janet Jacobs mentions that her father and my cousin were at Tarsao on 4th October, 1943, when another friend of her father, "Lloydy" by name, died. This implies that some serious medical cases, at least, were evacuated to Tarsao for treatment, rather than arriving there on their way back to Singapore. I haven't come across the concept of the Japanese evacuating sick POWs from work camps to hospital camps before. Is this known to have happened?

      Indeed. I wonder if anyone will ever be able to work out the real names of those he mentions? Co-incidentally, I have just completed such an exercise with a memoir of the Crimean War written by a young naval officer. He even changed the name of his ship (from "Albion" to "Anglia"), but in many cases, the pseudonyms he chose to use were punning versions of the real names ("Lt. Race" for "Lt. Chase" and so on), and it has proven possible to identify others by, for example, their dates of arrival or departure on board, using the original ship's musters.

      It seems, from Braddon's book, that the POWs in his group were sent back down the line by *train*, stopping from time to time to bury the dead, and eventually ending up back in Singapore. As far as food and drugs in Singapore are concerned, he wrote, "[on 18th August, 1945]... The food which they [the Japanese] had recently declared to be non-existent, they now produced in vast quantities so that we might eat our fill. Likewise drugs appeared from everywhere, and in profusion."

      Janet - >Ron, Re the local dialects and different spellings I can confirm that my Dad
      called Kanchanaburi " Kan-Bury ", he called the Japanese police the " Kam-Pie " but I believe it's more like Kam-pu-tie or simialr,. pronounced Tarsoa " Tar-So", I definately know he called Pratchia " Pratchy " and Chungkai = Chun-key.

      He used to describe one job when they were in Burma ( I gather it was a long way away from the railway ) as "over the other side of the second river " - God only knows where he was or what he meant by that.

      Can anyone shed any light on what they would have been working on at near the Three Pagodas Pass ? I never did think to ask him, but he does describe it as spectacular to my Mum in a letter written on his way home.

      Nearly all his stories were from the railway, I guess this is where most of his mates were lost but alot of stories from Singapore, he went to Sumatra but never said a great deal about that , I seem to think they were laying more railway or airfields but I can't remember now what he said. I'm not sure which way round he told this so it's either " the job was easier than the Burma-Siam Railway but the weather was AWFULL or the other way around, and I think it was on that boat during that trip that he saw the flying fish and electic storms. I will ask my aunt when I next email her and see if she can remember, as she was his beloved baby sister and he told her many things.

      Ron - >Janet, The electric storms were on the way home, my dad sat for ages watching "great lights in the sky" on the way home aboard the "Chitral", on deck, alone, writing his dairy, funny how stories fall into place isn't it. My dad went to French Indo China after the railway, he told me about the troubles after the Japanese surrender, the French were being tracked down by the natives, Vietnamese, and being killed. He hated talking about it because it wasn't just the men being killed.

      On a lighter note he did say about the races, with a prisoner as the jockey and a larger one as the horse, Jack from "Hell in Five" confirmed this. They bet rations on the outcome.

      Janet - >Ron, So the electric storms were on the way home, I wonder if they're to do with the time of year perhaps do you think ?

      Ron did your Dad ever say about the Flying Fish ?, also do you remember on that first letter from Pratchia he said he had seen sunsets to " Out - Turner" Turner, I believe they were at sea.
      I know he thought that the Indian Ocean islands were very beautifull ( I think I have read it was the Maldives, but they did call in at Columbo on the way home too so it could be there - he had a soft spot for Ceylon as he said the natives were so lovely as the ship went into port and docked they were met by lovely workers and their families all waving ) but he said the most beautifull place he had ever seen since leaving home were the " Green Islands " of Trinidad in S. America, people often refer to Trinidad and Toabago as the West Indies, but he was actually correct that they are a long way off the West Indies and actually just in the Atlantic Ocean not in the Carribean Sea.

      He also had a very, very soft spot for the city of Liverpool as the reception the Orduna got there was very good, a flotilla of little boats and some bigger boats ( I imagine may be the Mersey ferries during their course of crossings - I don't know that they would have been allowed to make a special trip or anything ) out to meet them and escorting them home ,sounding their horns and people on the decks waving and on the quay side the dockers and the little local kids were there, I'm not sure if there were hundreds but I guess it seemed like it to him, he was very impressed by it and touched, there were also guys from the forces there helping them carry their kit, I think my Dad refused any help when a bloke then said words to the effect "Don't be silly short ar*e, the kit bag's as big as you" ! Dad always thought that was funny and I think he then accepted his help, I think alot of those chaps had been POW's in Europe or something.

      Well Ron another Christmas is upon us, another year gone, what more can I say ? I must count my blessings for sure, just like Dad always did.

      Ron - >Janet, Dad did say he sat watching the fish dance in the water, it could have been flying fish or dolphins.
      The picture you have painted of Liverpool and the greeting they received is brilliant.
      For the 18th Division it was their first view of "Blighty" in about four years to the day, it was alot longer for others.
      My father landed at Southampton and he said there were not many dry eyes, the first thing he did was go down on his knees to kiss the ground, vowing he would not leave the shores of "Blighty" again and he never did.

      God bless them and the mates they left behind

      Janet - >Ron, like your Dad kissing the ground my Dad vowed as he left the gangplank at Liverpool he wouldn't go abroad again, but at you know he broke that promise aged 78 to go and try to find his mates graves at Kanchanaburi and Chunkai.

      He did say that he would have liked to have gone to Oz and he and a mate at Tarso ( a 6ft 2" Aussie " Digger" ) had a notion of getting together after the war and buying a farm between them, now wether that was real intension or a bit of pipe dreams, I'm not 100% sure, but my Dad would have liked to have gone farming for sure seeing as he came from a farming family, but the guy died so nothing came of that.

      He also told my Mum had he have been single he would have stayed in the Army and tried to go back to Burma/India/Malaysia I think he thought they had good postings out there or something.

      Mike had a cousin Herbert who he is trying to find out about, it's rather uncanny but my Dad always said " Digger" was 6ft 2", Mike thought his cousin was 6' 3" but after carefull checking he was actually 6' 2" - Digger died just after Lloydy at Tarso of dysentry, Herbert, Mike's cousin died too at the same time and it seems that it could be the same Aussie, but I find it almost too remarkable to think about, it's rather awesome !

      Janet - >Ron, just reading your email again, My dad had heard that there was trouble in French Indo China, sounds horrible poor devils, I guess perhaps he heard that en-route to L'Pool.
      Have just put on a years worth of calories, how lucky I am to be able to do thateh, I hope it makes trying to loose it next year a pleasure !

      Ron - >Janet, Yes, in French Indo China the Vietnamese didn't want the French back. After the Japanese surrender the prisoners were allowed out of camp until the Vietnamese went looking for the French, whole families of French were being attacked, the Vietnamese used sharpened bamboo as weapons .
      The prisoners were then confined to the camp.
      The Far East in general had a very unsettled time after the war, they didn't want the old rule back and who can blame them.

      Mike - >Janet, The coincidences (if such they are - which I doubt) are:

      Janet's "Digger”

      My cousin

      Australian Soldier

      L/Cpl, 2/19 Bn., AIF

      6' 2" tall

      6' 2" tall


      "Tractor Driver" on enlistment papers

      Dysentery sufferer at Tarsao

      Dysentery sufferer at Tarsao

      Died at Tarsao Oct/Nov '43

      Died at Tarsao, 2nd November, 1943

      I don't know how many Australians died of dysentery at Tarsao during October and November, 1943, but even if the number is in the hundreds, Janet's father apparently always spoke of his particular "Digger" as being extraordinarily tall at 6' 2", and so I suspect that there can only have been one man who fits the bill - my cousin, Herbert Dallas.

      Please find enclosed the photograph, taken on enlistment, of my cousin, NX35842 Lance Corporal Herbert Frederick Dallas, 2/19th Bn., AIF:




      Australian Army

      Service Number


      Date of Birth

      12 Nov 1910

      Place of Birth


      Date of Enlistment

      27 Jun 1940

      Place of Enlistment


      Next of Kin


      Date of Death

      2 Nov 1943


      Lance Corporal

      Posting on Death

      2/19 Australian Infantry Battalion

      Prisoner of War


      Roll of Honour


      Information from: AMF Prisoners of War and Missing in the Far East and South West Pacific Islands Database -

      Mike - >Janet Uhr. The last time I checked ABE there was nothing, but I'll keep trying. I'll also drop Di a line, and ask her about any plans for reprinting this.

      Ron - >Mike, Did try to catch up with sleep but nigh impossible with my youngest arround, he's twelve and got some warhammers for Christmas, wants them assembled and painted now.

      Yes please to the picture of your cousin, although the Fepow Group does have a picture input folder, send it to me direct at and I'll add it to the site.

      With limited food at the camps and "Speedo", the Japanese seemed to think food was fuel for a machine and they wanted an end result so they worked the sick as well, but the Japanese did also move sick about. My father did talk about train loads arriving back from up-country in a bad state passing through the camp he was in, on route for the hospital camps. The Japs were also really scared of cholera and the epademic of 1943, a commander in one camp had such a thing about the flies, he put a bounty on their heads, the men caught them in reward for their food. My father did say that not all the men they put on the cholera fires were dead, but he could have mistaken this for the tendens tightening in the heat, as many have said the corpses sat up in the flames.

      John Coast writes much about the brutality in camp 206 during 'Speedo', but also says:

      "We started off at changkuling out of the sodden ground next to a party of medical Nips who were out for a couple of hours; and we went on till lunch time, came out again afterwards, and worked till seven o'clock. The old 'gunso' used to blink his eyes occassionally, and we sometimes left earlier, In the bad days that particular gunso was known as Father Christmas, because he used to go up and down the line every few days with a sack and distribute "Tojo Presentos" to the working troops - packets of cigarettes. One of the Nip guards, though, said that the gunso paid for the
      cigarettes himself."

      He goes on:

      "Also after weeks and weeks of delay, they were at last to evacuate the heavy sick by barge to Chungkai. Scores of men unable to stand, naked and dirty were dragged in the drizzle down the river and put in barges. The very fact that they were going DOWN put life into those weakly beating hearts. The journey took about three days. In the course of the next few weeks thousands of them went down."

      Hope this helps

      Mike - >Ron, I don't know what a warhammer is (my eldest is six, which probably goes some way towards explaining that), but you should tell him that, at the age of twelve, he should be doing his own assembly and painting of models, and letting you get some sleep!

      Fascinating - I genuinely had no idea that this happened.

      But, but, flies don't transmit cholera! Ah, well...

      Another decent Japanese. How comforting.

      Very much - it makes sense of what had appeared to be conflicting data. Many thanks, once again.

      Janet - >Arthur, I had to " smile " to myself at this note to Lillian, my old man reckoned Chungkai was a very good camp, although I think it may be here he had cholera ( ? ) , but he reckoned the grub was the best up the " whole of the Railway".
      I guess I ought to say " his compliments to the cook " eh ?

      I think it's maybe here he had a spell in the cookhouse. cooking DO-FORS ( do-for-anything - rice rissoles sorta things ) he reckoned there were about half a dozen Jacks in the cookhouse , he definately got a job slaughtering bullocks ( he was a butcher but moreover a class 1 slaughterman ), when they brought the first camp meat up after Col Lilly complained that they were malnourished.

      The old chap always said " Col Lilly said to the Japaneseman BIGWIG on the horse, that the men were dying needlesly through malnutrition, the Japanese told him that wasn't his problem that his remit was to get the railway finished and he ( Col. Lilly ) replied that it was his problem cos if they all died their railway would never get finished at all !

      He always attributed this period to aiding his survival, less physical work, the fact that you could get hold of more grub I suspect, although he never said that, but his big bit was to reduce the lumps of fat by simmering for ages in water and mix it in with the DO-FORS, he was quite well up on feeding farm stock and therefore realised that if you were short on nutrition that the high caloriic value of fat was really usefull, however even then many bokes hated the bits of fat & grissel they got, and didn't want to know !

      Arthur - >Janet, Tell your old man. I was a Head night cook in the hospital ccokhouse at Chungkai during 1942 and up to June 1943. I was shunted out of the camp after I killed a guard, The Jap was buried down the latrine outside the dysentry ward. (This is gospel) when the war was over, colonel Strauss, who had been the senior doctor at the time. handed me the Japs dog tags and a couple of photographs which presumably were of the Japs wife or girl friend. I sent the dog tags to the Jap Army intelligence department Tokyo along with one of the photographs and a description where the Jap was buried I did not receive a reply.
      The above is all recorded at IWM.
      I was said to be suffering from the pressure of having watched as the three lads from the Northumberland fusiliers were executed.
      I knew why, but allowed the quacks to think what they wanted. 
      I slept in G Hut, and was one of those who played shoeless football for
      England against Scotland on Chungkai football ground in May 43 which was situated at the time between the hospital and G hut.
      To possibly jog his memory I was the one with two large entwined snakes tatttoo'd on my back. Also in the cookhouse was Georgie Walker (York's lad) Taffy Hall (2 Norfolks Ex professional boxer) (Darkie Knights Norfolks) (Ken Neal Army catering corps) Danny Pine Army catering corps) both from London. Freddie Turner (118 Field regiment)
      The Jap hated snakes and tattoo's/

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