Tour Program - The Thanbyuzayat Death Railway Plus Snapshot In Myanmar General Tour
The tour follows on from the Quiet Lion in 2020
Click here for the details of the Thanbyuzayat Tour.
Tour Program - The Thanbyuzayat Death Railway Plus Snapshot In Myanmar General Tour
The tour follows on from the Quiet Lion in 2020
Click here for the details of the Thanbyuzayat Tour.
2020 Quiet Lion Tour - accommodation
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association (Inc) is calling for application for passengers to join the Quiet Lion Tour for 2020. The 2020 tour is a 12-day, 11-night all-inclusive guided tour to Thailand to visit Hell Fire Pass dawn service and Kanchanaburi Cemetery wreath laying ceremony on ANZAC Day.
The tour also includes, air flights, transfers, meals, accommodation, a commentary on the experiences of the POWs on the railway during WWII and visits to the sites of many of the POW camps. Next year will see some improvements to the accommodation.
The tour has moved to the Royal River Hotel for the first two nights of the tour and then the Centre Point Central Hotel. Both hotels are better appointed; the rooms at the Royal River Hotel have river views and have improved the comfort of our passengers. The positioning of the hotels also improves the access for the tour bus to the airport and the day tour for its passengers.
The tour will spend a day in Bangkok and surrounding areas experiencing the Thai culture and then travel inland to areas where the railway was built. The experienced guides will give a running commentary on the struggle of the POWs during the railway construction. The historic part of the culminates in the Heritage work along part of the original railway and ending at the Hell Fire Pass Museum. The detailed itinerary, application form and terms and conditions of the tour are on the BTRMA’s website.
Vacancies remain for the QUIET LION TOUR 2020 which departs Perth on 17th April 2020 and returns on 27th April 2020.
The Tour is for 11 days (10 nights) and the focus is on the story of the Australia POWs, their hospitals and camps and the Australian doctors. The ANZAC Day Dawn Service in Hellfire Pass and the later Memorial Service in the War Cemetery at Kanchanaburi are highlights. The Bridge on the River Kwai, museums and other areas of interest are visited as part of the tour. Descendants of exPOWs and experts on the Thai Burma Railway travel on the tour and provide commentaries in addition to English speaking Thai Guides.
Deluxe class air-conditioned buses with video equipment are used. The Quiet Lion Tours commenced in 1985 and travel to Thailand to honour Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop, all the other Doctors and medical attendants who tended the sick but most of all the Prisoners of War who suffered on the Burma Thailand Railway. The tours are operated by the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the memory of those who toiled on the Death Railway as Prisoners of War of the Japanese.
There are opportunities in Bangkok for tourism and shopping. Accommodation comprises of 3 nights at top hotels in Bangkok, 1 night at a riverside resort in Kanchanaburi and 6 nights at the Home Phu Toey Resort (on the River Kwai near Hellfire Pass) which includes the Weary Dunlop Peace Park.
For the 2020 Quiet Lion Tour the hotels in Bangkok have been changed to provide an improved service to the travelers. The locations are better from quality, safety, accessibility and presentation purposes.
Another new feature is a cruise along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok as guests of Thai Airways and the Tourist Authority of Thailand seeing Bangkok at night on board a safe and comfortable cruiser. Take in views of both banks of the river from the open-air upper deck and feast on a gourmet buffet dinner of international dishes traveling along Bangkok’s main waterway enjoying the beauty of the city's monuments, temples and other historic sights, illuminated at night. Be entertained by a live band performance performing hits from different eras
A visit to the Erewan Falls at Kanchanaburi has also been added to the itinerary.
Arrangements can be made for travel from any State in Australia. Significant discounts are available for early fully paid bookings.
The full itinerary and other details are available on the BTRMA web site.
Interested people should contact Tour Organiser Ian Holding on M 0418832281 email:email@example.com Tour Leader David Piesse on Tel 9447 7505 email:firstname.lastname@example.org
On Monday, 11 November 2019 Senator Eric Abetz of Tasmania made the following speech in regard to the death of Tasmanian World War II veteran TX3754 Adye Glen Rockliff of C-Company 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion in World War Two:
“Today I had the privilege of laying a wreath on behalf of the Prime Minister and the people of Australia at the Hobart Cenotaph to commemorate the contribution of our service men and women on this Remembrance Day. As I did so I recalled that last month a simple death notice marking the passing of Tasmanian World War II veteran TX3754, Adye Glen Rockliff. The death notice read as follows: (the widows, children, grandchildren and friends of Adye's comrades from C-Company of 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion extend our deepest sympathy to his family.
A humble, able and much respected man; and—most poignantly—the last surviving prisoner of war of this unit. One of Dunlop's Thousand). He was 98 years old. Adye enlisted in the Second AIF, aged 18, and trained initially in Tasmania. The 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion was formed in June 1940 and served in Egypt, Syria, the Netherlands, the East Indies and New Guinea. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Blackburn, the battalion was primarily a South Australian unit, although it had subunits: B Company in Victoria, C Company in Tasmania and D Company in Western Australia.
In April 1941, the battalion embarked for the Middle East. In June and July it saw action against Vichy French forces in Syria with the 7th division. Following Japan's entry into the war, Australian troops from the Middle East were transferred to the Pacific region. In early 1942, the Japanese advanced through the Netherlands East Indies. Four days after the fall of Singapore, and on the day Darwin was bombed, Australian troops disembarked in Java from the troopship Orcades, having been diverted on their return journey to Australia.
Adye's unit was joined by the 2nd/2nd Pioneer Battalion and the 2nd/2nd Casualty Clearing Station, which had served at Tobruk. The clearing station included the much renowned surgeon Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, a man whom I had the privilege of meeting.
These units and others already on the island became known as Black Force.
On the night of 28 February, when the Japanese began landing, Tasmania C Company was at the forefront of the action. It resulted in the loss of seven members killed and 28 wounded, but afterwards they found that they had killed no fewer than 200 Japanese. However, Black Force was ordered to surrender on 9 March, following the Dutch capitulation the day before.
Members of Black Force unit spent captivity in a wide range of locations, including Thailand, Japan and Singapore. One hundred and thirty-nine from the 2nd/3rd MG Battalion died as prisoners. Adye and other Tasmanians moved to a prisoner-of-war camp and came under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Weary Dunlop. They were then transferred to Changi, in Singapore, and then the Burma-Thailand railway.
Nine thousand five hundred Australians worked on this railway, where 2,646 died from the deprivations, the effects of tropical diseases and malnutrition. This was despite the heroic efforts of doctors and officers like Weary Dunlop. After 18 months of this brutal existence, Adye and some of his unit were selected to work in Japan in undersea coalmines. His convoy of 14 transport ships suffered bad weather and attacks by allied submarines, meaning only four ships reached Japan. Twenty-seven members of his machine gun battalion died on one of those sunken ships.
Rockliff survived in the coalmine until the end of the war. He returned to Tasmania after six years at war and immediately found it difficult to reacclimatise to normal life, no longer fighting to survive each day or dealing with life-or-death issues. He found Australia had changed. His brothers and sisters had grown. And he felt the loss of being part of a large organisation such as the Army. Like his prisoner-of-war camp commander Weary Dunlop, after the war Adye became an advocate for his returned comrades, often battling the department for medical and social assistance for fellow mates.
In recent years, he took the opportunity to write to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and also to write a book on his wartime experience, entitled simply The War Time Memories of Adye Rockliff. Adye was the loving husband of his wife, Sheila (deceased); loving father of John (deceased), David, Kathy and Chris; father-in-law of Merril and Sue; and grandfather of Claire, Megan, Aaron and Luke.
Adye Glen Rockliff's sacrifice in war for his family and his country was typical of many Australians who served in World War II and those who continue to serve in the Australian Defence Force. His battles with the Department of Veterans' Affairs remind us of the importance of getting the right response by government to the recommendations of the Productivity Commission's review of veterans' entitlements. His life reminds us of the importance of Australian values mateship, loyalty and courage in the face of adversity and that there are virtues, values and principles which are worthy of sacrifice.
His sacrifice and that of his fellow veterans was acknowledged by the Prime Minister in his recent visit to Hellfire Pass and the memorial to our prisoners of war that were on the Burma Thailand Railway. The memorial, I had the honour of visiting—and, indeed, of hearing, as I walked around, the reminiscences of former Labor minister Tom Uren and former Liberal government Senate leader John Carrick, both of whom continued their service, after the war, in this parliament.
It is appropriate on days such as this to reflect that our privilege to serve in this place was bought with the blood and lives of our forebears and continues to be protected today by similarly minded individuals in our ADF. In my home state, we have seen the Headstone Project in Tasmania mark the final resting place of World War I veterans who previously lay in unmarked graves. It is right and proper to continue the tradition of acknowledging the sacrifices of our diggers on Remembrance Day and to offer our deep heartfelt thanks to all those who served in any war or conflict. "
"Lest we forget”.
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association extend their commiserations to the family of Adye Glen Rockliff and record their gratitude to Senator Eric Abetz for addressing the Senate.
The Association also acknowledges with thanks the source of the speech in the Senate as published in Hansard.
REMEMBRANCE DAY ON 11 NOVEMBER EACH YEAR PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY FOR AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE TO REMEMBER ALL AUSTRALIANS WHO SERVED IN ALL CONFLICTS. THE BURMA-THAILAND RAILWAY AND HELLFIRE PASS IS PART OF ONE SUCH CONFLICT.
REMEMBRANCE DAY SERVICES ARE HELD EACH YEAR IN ALL MAJOR CITIES AND MOST SUBURBS AND COUNTRY TOWNS AND PROVIDE AN OPPORTUNITY TO REMEMBER THOSE WHO SERVED OUR COUNTRY.
Excerpt from The Anzac Portal: Reference Here
“The Burma-Thailand railway was the common and dominant experience of Australian POWs. It distorted or ended the lives of over half of the Australian prisoners of the Japanese…” Hank Nelson, 'Measuring the railway' in Gavan McCormack and Hank Nelson (eds), The Burma–Thailand Railway, Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 1993, 17, 19.
But 'Hellfire Pass' was more than just a cutting. In its vicinity a sequence of bridges and embankments were needed to keep the railway route along the escarpment level. There were also many camps housing the thousands of workers, including Australians. These have now disappeared into the exquisitely beautiful landscape, but they have been reclaimed as witnesses to the POW story.
The Anzac legend and Australian memory
Over the years this story of atrocity and suffering has become an affirmation of Australian courage and resilience. Although prisoners of war suffered the humiliation of being defeated and captured, they came to be portrayed as men who had triumphed over adversity. Displaying in captivity the qualities of humour, resourcefulness and mateship, they were able to integrate their experiences into the dominant national memory of war since the Gallipoli campaign of 1915, the Anzac 'legend'.
The POW experience is also remembered for the dedicated service of the medical personnel who, with little equipment or medicines, cared for desperately ill men in primitive hospitals. Most famous of these doctors is the POW surgeon Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop. His statue now stands outside the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, not so far from another iconic image of compassion, Simpson and his donkey. Although Dunlop was only one of 106 Australian POW medical officers, in recent years he has come to represent them all—and the values of courage and compassion that they and many Australians manifested in captivity.
Military units to which the Australians belonged were broken up into work forces to meet the Japanese need for labour. From late 1942 more than 13,000 Australians were sent from Singapore, Java and Timor to work on the Thai–Burma railway.
Around 12,000 Japanese and 800 Korean soldiers worked on the Thai–Burma railway as engineers or guards. They were some of over five million soldiers who served with the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.
Excerpt from The Anzac Portal: Reference here
The Building of Hellfire Pass
"It seems to run without much regard to the landscape as though someone had drawn a line on a map!" [E.E. Dunlop, The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop, Ringwood, Victoria, Penguin, 1989, 212.]
The Thai–Burma railway was built in 1942–43 to supply the Japanese forces in Burma, bypassing the sea routes that were made vulnerable when Japanese naval strength was reduced in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway in May and June 1942.
Once the railway was completed the Japanese planned to attack the British in India, and in particular the road and airfields used by the Allies to supply China over the Himalayan Mountains.
Begun in October 1942 and completed on 16 October 1943, the railway stretched 415 kilometres between Nong Pladuk in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Burma (now Myanmar).
A rail connection between Thailand and Burma had been proposed decades before World War II. In the 1880s the British had surveyed a possible route but abandoned the project because of the challenges posed by the thick jungle, endemic diseases and lack of adequate roads.
The Japanese also carried out a survey in the 1920s and, after completing a further survey in early 1942, decided in June to proceed, using the large workforce of Allied POWs now at their disposal. At this time Japanese engineers were assisted by small numbers of prisoners marking and roughly clearing the route of the railway.
Aiming to finish the railway as quickly as possible the Japanese decided to use a massive workforce of prisoners and Asian labourers or rōmusha. The railway was to be constructed by units working along its entire length rather than just from each end.
Since 1945 prisoners of war and the Burma-Thailand Railway have come to occupy a central place in Australia's national memory of World War II. There are good reasons for this. Over 22,000 Australians were captured by the Japanese when they conquered South East Asia in early 1942. More than a third of these men and women died in captivity. This was about 20 per cent of all Australian deaths in World War II. The shock and scale of these losses affected families and communities across the nation of only 7 million people.
This article focuses on Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting), the deepest and most dramatic of the many cuttings along the Burma-Thailand railway. Not all Australian POWs worked here in 1943. Nor was the workforce in this region exclusively Australian. However, in recent years Hellfire Pass has come to represent the suffering of all Australian prisoners across the Asia–Pacific region. The experiences of prisoners elsewhere were, in fact, very diverse but this article can only hint at these. The Burma-Thailand railway Since 1945 prisoners of war and the Burma-Thailand Railway have come to occupy a central place in Australia's national memory of World War II.
There are good reasons for this. Over 22,000 Australians were captured by the Japanese when they conquered South East Asia in early 1942. More than a third of these men and women died in captivity. This was about 20 per cent of all Australian deaths in World War II. The shock and scale of these losses affected families and communities across the nation of only 7 million people.
This article focuses on Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting), the deepest and most dramatic of the many cuttings along the Burma-Thailand railway. Not all Australian POWs worked here in 1943. Nor was the workforce in this region exclusively Australian. However, in recent years Hellfire Pass has come to represent the suffering of all Australian prisoners across the Asia–Pacific region. The experiences of prisoners elsewhere were, in fact, very diverse but this article can only hint at these.
The Burma-Thailand railway
The Burma-Thailand railway (known also as the Burma–Thailand or Burma–Siam railway) was built in 1942–43. Its purpose was to supply the Japanese forces in Burma, bypassing the sea routes which had become vulnerable when Japanese naval strength was reduced in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway in May and June 1942. Once the railway was completed the Japanese planned to attack the British in India, and in particular the road and airfields used by the Allies to supply China over the Himalayan Mountains.
Aiming to finish the railway as quickly as possible the Japanese decided to use the more than 60,000 Allied prisoners who had fallen into their hands in early 1942. These included troops of the British Empire, Dutch and colonial personnel from the Netherlands East Indies and a small number of US troops sunk on the USS Houston during the Battle of Java Sea. About 13,000 of the prisoners who worked on the railway were Australian.
To meet the tight deadlines the Japanese had set for completing the railway, a further 200,000 Asian labourers or rōmusha (the precise number is not known) were enticed or coerced into working for the Japanese. The 415km railway ran from Thanbyuzayat in Burma (now Myanmar) to Non Pladuk in Thailand. It was constructed by units working along its entire length rather than just from each end. This meant that the already difficult problems of supply became impossible during the monsoonal season of mid-1943.
Starved of food and medicines, and forced to work impossibly long hours in remote unhealthy locations, over 12,000 POWs, including more than 2,700 Australians, died. The number of rōmusha dead is not known but it was probably up to 90,000.
Remembering the railway
All memory is selective. Communities, like individuals, remember some stories of the past while forgetting others. For memories to survive at the collective or national level they need to be championed—not just once but over the decades. Many Australians performed that role for prisoners of the Japanese. World War II ex-prisoners published memoirs and eye-witness accounts. Many proved to be immensely popular. Russell Braddon's The Naked Island (1951), for example, sold well over a million copies and stayed in print for decades.
There were also memorable fictional accounts of captivity, some of which were adapted for commercial films and television series. The most famous of these was The Bridge on the River Kwai which, though bearing little resemblance to events in 1942-43, generated a popular interest in the railway which continues to this day. In the 1980s Australian ex-POWs returned to Thailand and reclaimed Hellfire Pass from the jungle which had swallowed it when the Burma-Thailand railway was demolished after World War II. The cutting soon became a site of memory for many Australians, particularly on Anzac Day. Its dramatic scale and its towering walls, scarred with drill incisions made by hand, spoke particularly vividly to the hardships endured by POWs.
The building of the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum by the Australian government in 1998 also made it a key site of memory, attracting tourists and 'pilgrims' of many nationalities.
The terrain the railway crossed made its construction very difficult. However, its route was not entirely the dense and inhospitable jungle of popular imagination. At either end, in Thailand and Burma, the rail track travelled through gentle landscape before entering the rugged and mountainous jungle on the border between the two countries. When the track reached Wampo, about 112km from the Thai terminus, it started to meet jagged limestone hills, interspersed with streams and gullies. During the monsoon season, the land became waterlogged and unstable. This posed problems for construction as well as for transport and supply.
As far as possible the railway track proceeded at a gentle gradient, as steam trains could only climb a slight incline. Where the railway met unavoidable hills, cuttings were dug to allow the line to proceed. Often the line emerged from a deep cutting onto a series of embankments, and bridges. In all, 688 bridges were built along the railway. In addition, over sixty stations were built to allow trains to pass one another, as well as refuelling and watering points.
More than 60,000 Allied prisoners of war were employed in the construction of the Thai–Burma railway, including British Empire troops, Dutch and colonial troops from the Netherlands East Indies and a smaller number of US troops. About 13,000 of the prisoners were Australian.
In addition, the Japanese enticed or coerced about 200,000 Asians labourers (rōmusha) to work on the railway. These included Burmese, Javanese, Malays, Tamils and Chinese. Over 12,000 Allied prisoners died during the construction of the railway, including more than 2,700 Australians. Around 1,000 Japanese died. It is difficult to determine precisely how many rōmusha died, as record keeping was poor. The number is estimated to be between 75,000 and 100,000.
Despite being repeatedly bombed by the Allies, the Thai–Burma railway did operate as a fully functioning railway after its completion. Between November 1943 and March 1944 over 50,000 tonnes of food and ammunition were carried to Burma as well as two complete divisions of troops for the Japanese offensive into India. This attack, one of their last, was defeated by British and Indian forces.
As the railway was used to support the Japanese in Burma until the end of the war, prisoners of war and rōmusha continued to work on maintenance and repair tasks after the railway construction was completed.
“We do not know this Australian's name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances – whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children, we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was. Yet he has always been among those whom we have honoured. The Unknown Soldier honours the memory of all those men and women who laid down their lives for Australia.”
Remembrance Day 1993: excerpt from commemorative address by PM Hon Paul Keating MP
Just a little reminder that the BTRMA Annual General Meeting will be held at 2:30pm this Sunday 14 July in the Lecture Theatre at the Hollywood Private Hospital. All are welcome. We will be addressing usual AGM business as well as reporting back about the 2019 Quiet Lion Tour. The meeting is usually completed within half an hour and everyone is invited to enjoy a cuppa, some afternoon tea and a yarn.
To register for updates via Facebook, click here.
If you aren't able to join us, we would be very appreciative if you could please complete a form to appoint a proxy on your behalf. Click here to download the agenda and required form.
For any other business, click here to send us an email.
We look forward to seeing you on Sunday. - The BTRMA Committee.
Chairman of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Eric Wilson OAM APM, Vice Chairman Ian Holding and Tour Leader David Piesse attended the 21st Memorial Service for ex Prisoners of War conducted by Mount Lawley Senior High School at Kings Park on 3rd May 2019.
A wreath was laid on behalf of the BTRMA by the Chairman and Vice Chairman.
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, the Ex-Prisoners of War Association and the Mount Lawler Senior High School have been associated with this function since 1997. Mount Lawley Senior High School has been regularly represented on the Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand for Anzac Day by students of the School
Again, it was a beautiful sunny day and a large contingent of people that included Arthur Leggett OAM ED, (President of the ex-POW Association), assembled at the Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Kings Park on 4th May, 2018. The service, now in its 22nd year, was co-ordinated and supported admirably by the Principal, Staff and Students from Mount Lawley Senior High School. This-included a wonderful choir, concert band and bugler Shannon Barrie.
The Australia Defence Force was well represented together with many veterans and their families. The Repatriation Commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Major General Mark Kelly AO DSC was present with other distinguished guests. At the 2019 Memorial Service the Master of Ceremonies, Head Boy Ronan McEwen, opened proceedings with an Acknowledgement of Country and an address of welcome.
Mount Lawley Senior High School Chaplain, Mr Andrew Paul, presented the Call to Worship and referred to the first two students to attend the tour in 1998, Erin St Duke and Katherine Cooper, quoting sections of Erin’s address to a school assembly on her return. Mr Paul also referred to the value of the relationship between the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association and the Mount Lawley Senior High School.
The school choir delivered a beautiful rendition of the hymn Abide With Me. School prefect Lucy Sutherland recited Psalm 121. School Principal Ms Lesley Street addressed the assembled guests with an excellent presentation during which reference was made to the passing of ex-POWs Sydney Shaw, John Gilmour and Professor Alex Kerr since the 2018 ceremony. Arthur Leggett OAM ED, addressed the ceremony with a moving speech during which he recited a poem, without missing a word, he had composed for the occasion. Year 9 student Amy Carter delivered an address. School Prefect Daniel Hall delivered The Lord’s Prayer.
Year 9 Councillors Ruby Molyneaux and Will Corbett laid the school wreath followed by many wreaths from individuals and kindred organisations. School prefect Sophia Profumo recited the Ode. Bugler, School Prefect Shannon Barrie rendered The Last Post and after one minute silence the Reveille.Flags were raised from half mast in perfect unison. The assembly sang the National Anthem before Mr Andrew Paul completed the ceremony with the Blessing.
The service concluded with tea, coffee and light refreshments supplied by the catering students at Mount Lawley Senior High School - including a packet of Anzac Cookies.
Once again, a wonderful effort by all concerned.
Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association.
The Quiet Lion Tour, conducted by the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, was again present on ANZAC Day, 25 April 2019, in Thailand when the event was commemorated with a Dawn Service and Gunfire Breakfast at Hellfire Pass and a Commemorative Service and Wreath Laying at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
The Dawn Service is in Hellfire Pass situated in Sai Yoke, commencing at 5.30 a.m. and lasting approximately 40 minutes. The site is actually Kannyu Cutting, below the Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre, Kanchanaburi Province.
Hellfire Pass is accessed through the Royal Thai Army camp at Sai Yok which is the site of the Kannyu 1 Prisoner of War Camp and burial grounds from the building of the Burma Thailand Railway. Walking into the site is via newly installed steps and ramps down the steep face of the cutting and then along the old railway line. The ceremonial area at the end of the cutting has limited seating arrangements in hard tiers cut from the rock wall on one side and a substantial temporary grandstand on the other.
There is a catafalque and wreath laying area in the centre of the ceremonial area. Approximately 1,500 people are accommodated in the ceremonial area and another 800 or so people in the adjacent pass.
ANZAC Day in Kanchanaburi, Thailand 25th April 2019–Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
The commemorative service commences at 1100 (11.00 a.m.) at Kanchanaburi (Don Rak) War Cemetery, Kanchanaburi and lasts approximately 50-60 minutes.
All service attendees are invited to attend a Post Service barbeque held directly after the service from 1200 – 1500 in a clearing to the east of the War Cemetery. Generous local sponsors have provided a limited amount of food free of charge, and refreshments are available for purchase with all proceeds to be directed towards service charities.
The 2019 Quiet Lion Tour again attended both services and in the case of Kanchanaburi assisted in the wreath-laying phase. It was significant that ex-POW Harold Martin again attended the services and recited the Ode on both occasions. With assistance, Harold laid a wreath at the Kanchanaburi catafalque and Quiet Lion Tour juniors acted as wreath laying assistants there.
At the Dawn Service, the Anzac Address was delivered by His Excellency Allan McKinnon PSM, the Australian Ambasador to Thailand, and the Statement of Remembrance was delivered by Wing Commander David Bryers, Royal New Zealand Air Force.
At the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery Commemorative Service the prologue was delivered by Air Marshall Leo Davies AO,CSC, Chief of Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, the Anzac Address was delivered by His Excellency Taha Macpherson, New Zealand Ambassador to Thailand.The ex-POW Address was delivered by Mr Eric Wilson APM OAM, Chairman of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association. on behalf of the late Neil MacPherson OAM.
A tribute of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk was delivered by the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, Her Excellency Ms Evren Dogdelan Akgun and the Ode of Remembrance by Mr Harold Martin.
In the evening preceding the Anzac Day services, an alfresco welcome reception was hosted in by Home Phu Toey Managing Director Suparerk Soorangoora in the Weary Dunlop Park outside the Dunlop Museum, followed by the traditional Light and Sound Show in the specially built arena, and a celebratory dinner with Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors, service chiefs, dignitaries and the Quiet Lion Group. Quiet Lion group tour leader David Piesse welcomed the guests and invited the two Ambassadors to address those in attendance.
The occasion marked a great prelude to the Anzac Day commemorations. All attending (that were in a position to compare) considered the newly rebuilt and fitted Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre (hitherto generally known as the Hellfire Pass Museum) was a magnificent effort.
The graphics, exhibits and displays, together with the flow of exhibits, artefacts and video displays make for a remarkable experience. If any features could be isolated from the rest it would be the remarkable full length photographs of the late Bill Haskell rounding a bend in Hellfire Pass with the aid of his walking stick and Harold Martin sitting in a typical pose (Photo by Samm Blake).
The new outside area at the top of stairways to the pass below really adds to the spectacle. All involved in the planning, conception and completion of this project are to be congratulated.
Chairman, Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association.
Neil Ormiston MacPherson WX16572 of 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion of Williams Force Burma Thailand Railway 1942-1944, Japan 1945.
Born 14th May 1922. Enlisted 22nd September 1941. Died 30th March 2019.
Trained with 11th Battalion Senior Cadets in 1938-39.
Trained at Northam Training Camp. November 1941 to the Middle East on HMT Queen Mary. To Palestine for training. Transferred from 24TH Infantry Training Battalion to 2/2 Pioneer Battalion. January 1942 left Middle East on HMT Orcades with 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion and others to Dutch East Indies. Full Pioneer Battalion landed at Tanjong Priok, Java and saw action against the Japanese before capture. Transferred to Singapore on Kendon Maru and to Rangoon, Burma, on Mayabashi Maru in October 1942. To Moulmein on Yamagata Maru. Joined Williams Force.
In February 1942, 3000 Australians, the vanguard of the 7th Division, returning to Australia from the Middle East on the SS Orcades, were diverted to Java to help stem the Japanese invasion sweeping towards Australia.
On the 8th March 1942 the Dutch authorities surrendered the island along with all allied forces. At age 19 years Neil MacPherson became a prisoner of a cruel and brutal regime and joined over 22,000 fellow Australians. Of those over 8,000 or 36% paid the supreme sacrifice, most were to suffer intolerably cruel and lingering deaths.
In September 1942 under the command of legendary C.O. Lt Colonel Williams, 1800 prisoners from Java were shipped to Burma in dreadful conditions in three separate Hell Ships.
In Burma, Williams Force of 800 men was made up of 450 of Pioneers from the Middle East, the rest mainly young sailors, survivors of HMAS Perth. The officers had been in action in Syria and Java so was held in high esteem by the Pioneers.
Arriving in Thanbyuzayat in October 1942, Williams Force joined Brigadier Varley’s A Force of 3000 Australians just arrived from the port of Tavoy. A Force was the first Australians to start work on the Burma Thailand Railway.
The next Australians, Dunlop Force No 5 Group, arrived in Burma in January 1943 from Java and was the first Australian group to commence work on the Thailand end of the Burma Thailand railway.
The following 15 months were to test the mettle, morale, and Anzac spirit of the Australian prisoners in Burma. A starvation diet of a hand full of rice and watery (usually meatless) stew. Work clearing the jungle, on embankments, on cuttings, on bridges in the heat of the dry, and the misery and slush of the wet.
Clothes and footwear, long destroyed in the foetid jungle the only protection from the burning heat and the rain, was a loincloth. Bed bugs and lice left by native workers made for harrowing and restless nights, deaths were continuous and the numbers dwindled as work hours grew.
No 1 force actually worked continually through the wet, from Thanbuzayat right through into Thailand where the two ends of the Railway were joined on 17th October 1943.
With no drugs whatsoever, malaria, dysentery, beri beri, pellagra, tropical ulcers smallpox and finally cholera took its toll. The dedicated Doctors and medical staff were supermen, working with make shift tools, without them losses would have doubled.
The survivors, wrecks of men in rags, staggered out of their jungle camps in January 1944 to be transported to the well organised, better-equipped camps in Tamarkan & Kanburi (Kanchanaburi and Tha Makan). Despite a continuing death rate from the results of the ordeal, after six months of improved food and lighter work survivors regained some semblance of health but this transpired to be a well designed plan by the captors.
Thousands of Railway workers, Australians in a majority, were selected for shipment to Japan as slave labor, to work in mines, factories and on the docks. Thousands of them died in Hell Ships from attacks by US submarines and aircraft. Neil Macpherson’s luck as a survivor continued. He was on the last ship, the Awa Maru (his fourth Hell Ship), to successfully make the journey. He arrived in Japan in January 1945, the coldest winter Japan experienced in 40 years, to spend the remaining months working in a coalmine.
An unknown author described conditions on board these Hell Ships thus:
“Crowded onto cramped platforms, with barely enough space to turn around, a mass of unwashed bodies struggling to survive in a sea of sweat and revolting smells, in the stifling heat of the holds. Initially in the tropical heat near the equator, but the ensuing month was to see us making our way across snow covered decks for our limited toilet functions”
Finally, the ordeal was over, the Japanese capitulated and the POWs were liberated.
On 16th August, 1945, the prisoners of Neil’s group were freed. Left Senryu on 14th September for Nagasaki where they boarded ships en route to Okinawa. They travelled by B24 Liberator bombers to Luzon Island and by C45 Transports to Manila. By aircraft carrier HMS Formidable to Sydney and train to Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Final discharge was on 11th February 1946.
The exPOWs took up life where they left off, brought up families, helped build a great nation, most drew a curtain on the horrors through which they had lived.
Maturing quickly, they adapted, found a maturity far above their age, learned self discipline - most importantly they discovered “mate-ship”. Neil MacPherson was fond of quoting Duncan Butler of the 2/12th Field Ambulance who wrote the poem Mates with the theme.
“No prisoner on the railway survived who did not have a mate”.
Vale Neil Ormiston MacPherson OAM
The Australian Thai Chamber of Commerce coordinated arrangements for the design, construction and maintenance of a memorial along an abandoned section of the route of the railway line constructed by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942 43 between Burma and Thailand. These arrangements were conducted with the kind cooperation of the Government of Thailand, particularly the Armed Forces Development Command. The memorial complex is intended to honour the Allied Prisoners of War and conscripted people from India, Burma, Malaya and other countries who died during the construction of the railway, as well as all who suffered as a consequence of the hardships endured during the railway's construction.
The original aim of the Project was to provide access pathways to Konyu Cutting at Hellfire Pass on the abandoned portion of the Thai Burma Railway. A Thai team conducted a detailed survey of the proposed route of the access pathways in October 1986, from which site plans were produced and approved in November 1986. Actual construction of the pathways commenced in early January 1987 and this was completed in mid March 1987. In April 1987 the Hellfire Pass Memorial Dedication Ceremony occurred with Sir Edward Dunlop making the dedication. To assist in the compiling of the wartime history of the area, a request for air photo coverage was made to the UK Ministry of Defence. Photos of excellent quality taken in December 1944 clearly show details of the railway together with roads and the remains of a camp at Konyu. A map was produced with sufficient detail to illustrate the important features of the area. Ken Bradley was the main contributor with advice from Bill Haskell.
The Hellfire Pass Memorial Project was coordinated by the "Hellfire Pass Sub Committee" of the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce and it was the Chamber's main contribution to the Australian Bicentennial 1988 Programme in Thailand. The initial phase of the project was funded by a grant of A$31,000 from the Australian Government.
The memorial concept became a reality under the leadership and guidance of Ken Bradley, who, through considerable devotion of time and energy, had been the mainstay of the project from inception to reality. Former PoW, Tom Morris, who originated the project concept, provided much essential background information, enthusiasm and encouragement during the establishment of the Memorial. Numerous other ex PoWs have made helpful contributions to documenting the history of the Hellfire Pass area. Special mention is due to Jim Appleby (Snowy Mountains Electricity Corporation) for initiating the Project and to his successors, notably Mike Power, for continuing to make outstanding contributions.
Other important contributors were Colonel Lachie Thomson, former Defense Attaché at the Australian Embassy, and his counterpart at the British Embassy, Colonel Mike Allen, who succeeded in locating air photo coverage of the area. The Hellfire Pass Sub Committee received encouragement and support from a number of government officials. Early visitors to the site included H.E. Ambassador Richard Smith; Foreign Minister Bill Hayden; the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment Barry Cohen; and the Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs Tim Fischer. Following his visit, Tim Fischer drew attention to the Hellfire Pass Project in a speech to the Australian House of Representatives on 27 February 1987.
Over the years the Australian armed forces have had exchange programs with the Thailand military. During some of these exchange visits Australian service personnel have visited Hellfire Pass to carry out work projects. One such visit took place in April 1989 when 33 members of 'C' Company 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, spent three days carrying out maintenance work at the memorial site. Their toil culminated in the re laying of a single section of original rail and sleepers in Konyu Cutting. These rails were laid on 22nd April, almost 46 years to the day since excavation work began at Hellfire Pass. In June 1990, 26 sailors from HMAS Perth and HMAS Swan carried out further maintenance work. As with the other groups of Australian servicemen, the sentiments of this group were that it was indeed an honour to assist with the upkeep of the memorial.
Exercise "Clear Trek" took a working party of some of the ship's company of HMAS Tobruk and some of the attached army personnel to Hellfire Pass in November 1990. Their aim was to clear the walking tracks of the ever-encroaching jungle and to make essential repairs to the timber stairways. October 1991 saw the demolition of the wooden stairway by members of the Western Australian based SAS Regiment and the start of work to replace them with concrete. This work was completed during December. At a service held on 4 February 1992 a monument featuring a bronze relief map of the area traversed by the railway and containing a time capsule was dedicated in the presence of a large gathering.
The start of the wet season in 1993 again saw major army involvement at Hellfire Pass with troops of Base Squadron, SAS Regiment involved in Exercise Burma Rail 1993 carrying out a major clearing exercise in the cutting. In February of 1994 the entire length of Hellfire Pass and the access pathway were given a major cleaning prior to the visit by Mr Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia on 9th April. Later the same month a plaque honouring the medical personnel, who saved so many lives during the construction of the railway, was erected and dedicated during the service to inter the ashes of Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop (12 Jul 1907 - 2 Jul 1993, age 85) on ANZAC Day 1994. Since that time the memorial has been kept clean by regular maintenance by Chamber of Commerce personnel on a voluntary basis. Also, during this time preliminary clearing and survey work was carried out northwards from Konyu Cutting along the route of the abandoned railway towards Hintok as a precursor to the establishment of a safe walking trail from Hellfire Pass to Compressor Cutting.
As donated funds have become available, further major work has been carried out. In late 1994 to early 1995 the "Bamboo" trail which winds around the back of the mountain above Hellfire Pass was upgraded to a concrete walking path and stairways. Rod Beattie of the Thailand Burma Railway Centre and curator of the Kanchanaburi and Chunkai Cemeteries has been heavily involved over the years and the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce is extremely grateful for his tireless efforts.
Major upgrading and improvements to the site have been funded by private and corporate donations, proceeds of sales of the Memorial booklet and the sale of slices of original rail bearing a small plaque. More recently funds have been raised by the sale of original rail "dog" spikes set in a piece of original sleeper carrying a small plaque. Additional funds have been raised by a Melbourne based group headed by Mr Bill Toon, a former prisoner of war and veteran of the Thailand Burma Railway.
DEVELOPMENT AS AN OFFICIAL WAR MEMORIAL
In May 1995, the Australian Government announced that it would provide funding (A$1.6 million) for the development of a substantial memorial complex at Hellfire Pass. This development was to be done over a period of two years and include development and construction of a museum/visitor information centre, construction of concrete stairways to provide a safe walking trail along the cleared section of abandoned railway northwards from Hellfire Pass construction of rest stations and information displays along the walking trail, improved road access and the construction of a car park adjacent to the museum/information centre. During 1995 and early 1996 more than four kilometres of the abandoned rail bed, from Hellfire Pass to Compressor Cutting was cleared of fifty years of jungle re-growth. Most of this work was done as a voluntary personal tribute by Rod Beattie and his wife Thuy to those men who worked and died building the Thailand Burma Railway.
Subsequently a further four kilometres was also cleared. This length is probably the longest continuous section of wartime railway still in existence in Thailand and contains probably the greatest concentration of major works of the railway. During the clearing of the railway many wartime relics were uncovered. Small items, such as rock drills used for drilling blast holes, steelwork from trestle bridges, items from the telephone line and debris from the air raids may eventually be displayed in the museum. More substantial features such as the narrow-gauge rail track, used to carry spoil away from some of the larger cuttings, have been or may be reconstructed in their original positions.
Early in 1996, when the government funding became available, construction of the permanent improvements began. Initially this was the work involved in making the walking trail safe and fairly easily negotiable for visitors. Concrete stairways were built over all difficult sections and a series of small covered rest stations were erected along the trail at significant locations. Information panels have subsequently been erected in each of these rest stations. A substantial rest station complete with toilets has been built at the junction of the abandoned railway and a local gravel road, close to the site of the former Hintok Railway Station. This rest station can be reached by vehicles, and provides a convenient pick up point for those walking the trail. The memorial walking trail was officially opened on ANZAC Day in 1996.
The major element of the Hellfire Pass Memorial Project is undoubtedly the museum/visitor information centre. A structure of this nature is of two major components, the building itself, and the display within the building. A renowned firm of museum designers, Hewitt Design Associates, was commissioned to design the display element of the museum and the visitor information panels of the walking trail. A Bangkok based Australian firm of architects, Woods Bagot (Thailand), designed the building and prepared all of the necessary documents leading to the selection of a local contractor to build the museum. The memorial museum/information centre was opened by the Australian Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, on 24th April 1998.
|SUMMARY OF HIGHLIGHTS|
|Early 1985||Initial reconnaissance of line by Jim Appleby, Engineer with the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation based at Khao Laem Dam, River Kwai|
|May - July 1986||Detailed survey of area by Ken Bradley, Jeff Thompson and Thai contractors||Dec 1986 - Feb 1987||Construction of access pathways, stairway and steps|
|April 1987||Hellfire Pass Memorial Dedication Ceremony|
|April 1989||Rails relaid by 'C' Company 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment|
|April 1990||ANZAC Day Dawn Service and Dedication for relaid rails.|
|June 1990||Maintenance visit by Australian Navy HMAS Perth and HMAS Swan|
|November 1990||Maintenance visit by Australian Navy and attached Australian Army service personnel HMAS Tobruk|
|October 1991||Demolition of wooden stairways by SAS Regiment|
|Nov - Dec 1991||Construction of concrete stairways|
|February 1992||Dedication of Monument with time capsule|
|July 1993||Exercise Burma Rail '93 by SAS Regiment|
|April 1994||Visit by Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating|
|April 1994||Interment of the ashes of Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop|
|May - Aug 1994||Investigation of railway from Konyu to Compressor cutting and preparation of proposal for major development|
|Dec 1994 Feb 1995||Reconstruction of "Bamboo Trail"|
|May 1995||Australian Government announces the grant of funding to develop the site into a significant memorial|
|May 1995 - April 1996||Clearing of 4.5km of the abandoned railway and establishment of a walking trail|
|April 1996||Official opening of memorial walking trail|
|Aug 1996 - Feb 1997||Construction of way stations and rest areas along the walking trail|
|Aug 1996 - April 1997||Clearing of a further 4km of abandoned railway|
|Aug 1996 - April 1997||Construction of memorial museum|
|April 1998||Official opening of memorial museum by Australian Prime Minister John Howard|
|2007||New access stairs and landings erected by Hewitt Pender Design Associates|
Born 8 July 1934. Died 22 February 2019. Funeral - Karrakatta 7 March 2019.
Past Chairman and Life Member of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Inc.
Beloved husband of Stephanie and loving father of Louise, Penny (dec) and Emma; father-in- law to John and Cameron, passed away peacefully at Hollywood Hospital 22nd February. “Duty First”. Ken was a graduate of the OCS class of June 1954 and served with 1 RAR and 2 RAR in Malaya 1961 – 1963 and 7 RAR in SVN from April to November 1967.
Kenneth John Bladen was born in Western Australia and educated at Guildford Grammar School. He later graduated as a Second Lieutenant from the Australian Army Officer Cadet School as a career Infantry Officer and for the next 21 years served in various regimental, instructional and staff appointments in Australia and overseas.
His service as a junior officer included anti-terrorist operations in Malaya as a platoon commander, and as a foundation officer of the Special Air Service (SAS) Company in Perth. He served overseas with the lst, 2nd, and 7th Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment, and in 1967 he saw active service in Vietnam as an Infantry Company commander with the 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment.
Ken was a graduate of the Australian Staff College 1968 course and won the Queen's Medal for Champion Shots in 1969, as the Army Champion Shot for that year. As a Lieutenant Colonel he commanded the Third Cadet Brigade in 1973-1974, and later served in the Australian Army Reserve retiring in 1984 after 30 years service.
An RSL member since 1968, he was elected State President of the Western Australian Branch of the Returned and Services League in 1998, serving in that capacity until 2001. He was appointed Honorary National RSL Vice President for Life and awarded RSL Life Membership in November 2001. In January 2003 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for voluntary services to veterans and their families. Later that year Ken was awarded the Centenary Medal for similar services to veterans and their families.
Ken was an inaugural member of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Inc in 2002 and elected Chairman in May 2004, more than competently filling the role until May 2007.
He was made a life member at that time and continued to support the Association for the balance of his life.
The strength of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Inc was helped in every way by Ken Bladen and he will be sorely missed.
Konju Cutting 1983
Former prisoner of war Tom Morris revisited Thailand in 1983 as a member of the "Bamboo" tour to the Thailand-Burma railway. The visit to the Hellfire Pass area reminded Tom of his war-time experiences on the railway and he resolved to convince the Australian Government that the area could be presented as an historical site. In 1984, the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment requested the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) to make a reconnaissance of the railway to select a suitable site.
Jim Appleby, an engineer with SMEC at the Khao Laem dam site on the upper Kwai Noi River, devoted much of his spare time investigating the more accessible parts of the abandoned railway. Jim compiled sketch maps and notes of his observations and passed these to the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce when SMEC staff left Thailand in early 1985.
Tom Morris and Jim Appleby
Tom Morris continued his interest in the project through his work with the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. He unearthed many interesting documents relating to the railway and in particular to the Hellfire Pass area.
Extract from the address at dedication of HELLFIRE PASS MEMORIAL on the Thailand-Burma Railway by Colonel Sir Edward Dunlop AC, CMG, OBE, KStJ, 25 April 1987:
“Every imagined gesture arises from some initial creative thought followed by tangible support. The idea of this Hellfire Pass Memorial was that of Corporal T.J. (Tom) Morris following return visits to the railway. His enthusiasm took the matter through his Local Member of Parliament, Mr Ken Fry to the Minister of Arts, Heritage and Environment, Mr Barry Cohen, who later announced an Australian Government grant of $25,000. I have no doubt this was strongly backed by the Hon Tom Uren. Australian and Thai authorities agreed upon the project. The work has involved the co operation of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation and the Australia Thai Chamber of Commerce headed by the dynamic Ken Bradley. Also much is owed to Mr Jim Appleby senior resident Engineer at the Khao Laem Dam project. More money and effort will be required to maintain the project. Ian Gollings, RSL Australia, sent with me a cheque for $1000. Appropriately the memorial is not only in memory of those prisoners of war who died on railway construction but also to those Thais who risked their lives to supply money, food and medicines to those in such dire need. Very notable amongst them was the heroic Boon Pong Sirivijaphan, who, in his guise of a river trader saved a great many lives. I am deeply honoured that my name is associated with his in the ‘Weary’ Dunlop/Boon Pong Fellowship for Thailand Australia Medical Exchange. The fellowship honours all medical workers whose efforts saved many lives, as well as Thai helpers”.
The request by Tom Morris to the Australian Government concluded: "Would it be possible to have Hellfire Pass preserved as an historic site, dedicated to the memory of all our fellow PoWs and civilian slaves, of whom so much had been demanded in the construction of the Thailand-Burma railway?"
J.G. (Tom) Morris
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT TO 2018 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
2018 QUIET LION TOUR. Senior Vice Chairman Ian Holding, Secretary Krishna Vanderweide and Tour Leader David Piesse managed the 2018 Tour. Neil MacPherson was the travelling ex POW. Harry Martin travelled privately. Alan MacPherson assisted where required. Ian and David will provide this meeting with reports on the tour. Subsidizing juniors remains an objective.
2019 QUIET LION TOUR. Planning for the 2019 Tour is well under way with the tour team working to ensure another successful tour. Ian Holding will inform this meeting of the details.
MEETINGS. Committee meetings have been held as required and Ian Holding has been kind enough to host the meetings at his residence. WEB SITE. Roland Lockhart continues to carry out the technical side of managing the website. We owe him a debt of gratitude. The web site assists in generating and maintaining interest in the BTRMA and we now have regular queries which we answer or refer to a source of information. NEWSLETTER. Elizabeth Brennan collates the newsletter and Ian Holding continues to do a great job in printing and distribution. The newsletter has played a very important part in maintaining interest in the Association and the Tours.
The newsletter distribution is becoming increasingly wider.
SUCCESSION PLANNING. Our objective to constant rejuvenation and succession planning is proving effective and the long term success of our Association is assured, particularly the popularity of the Quiet Lion Tours. Nominations have been called for membership of the Committee and will be dealt with by this meeting.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. To all committee members, office bearers and former POW’s, thank you for your ongoing dedication and support. A thank you for the ongoing support of:- the management and staff at Hollywood Hospital in providing us with these facilities to conduct our meetings and functions, particularly CEO Peter Mott, Director of Clinical Services Karen Gullick and Debra Taylor, Peel Health Campus CEO Doctor Margaret Sturdy and Mandurah RSL for sponsorship of Service Cadets, the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre (TBRC) founder Rod Beattie, Centre general manager Terry Manttan and Researcher Andrew Snow, Roland Lockhart for managing our Web Site and Flight World for flight booking services on tours.
Our Association remains committed to the objectives which were enunciated at our very first Annual Meeting and have been at the forefront of our every endeavour since. Our concentration on our objectives and our adherence to their scope has stood us in good stead. We have constantly developed and improved the Quiet Lion Tours to the point where they are recognised by all as historically accurate military tours with the addition of a measure of cultural and tourist experience. The extensive knowledge gathered by our tour team and our Thai guides, plus the presence of ex POWs provides a level of authenticity not generally available.
COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP AND OFFICE BEARERS. The current office bearers have all worked tirelessly for our cause. I continue to review my participation and find it satisfying to look after inquiries generated from the Web Site and carry out the Chairman’s role as required. Again, at Ian Holding’s request, I will continue as Chairman (subject to the agreement of this meeting). Ian remains very busy in his private vocation and in the primary organisation of the Quiet Lion Tour. He is happy to remain as Senior Vice Chairman with Neil MacPherson Vice Chairman, Krishna Vanderweide Secretary/Treasurer, David Piesse Tour Leader/co-tour organiser/Country Liaison, Elizabeth Brennan Newsletter collator, past Chairman Hugh Warden remains a good supporter and provider of wise counsel and it is pleasing to note that Hugh was recently made a member of the Order of Australia (OAM), mainly for his work in the Primary Industry area but also for a number of worthy activities in serving the community (including the BTRMA) and Peter Winstanley as Special Researcher. Allen MacPherson remains on the Committee and is an asset on the Tours. Arthur Anstis has now retired and we are grateful for his help over the years as Treasurer. It is recommended that Arthur be appointed a Life Member of the BTRMA.
The formal election of the Committee will take place later in the meeting. I look forward to remaining as Chairman for a further year should that be in the interests of the organisation. Thanks to all Committee members for their contribution to another successful year. It is pleasing that all current members have indicated their willingness to remain in the team for another year. I wish all members and their family’s good health for the coming year and another successful Quiet Lion Tour in 2018 and thank you all for your continued support.
Places are still available on the QUIET LION TOUR 2019 which departs Perth on 19th April 2019 and returns on 30th April 2019. If you are considering taking part in this most interesting and informative tour you are advised to make a booking now.
The political situation is stable, the new King settled in and the Military control accepted. No demonstrations are occurring nor are any expected.
There are no health threats current and this is likely to remain over the period of the tour.
The Quiet Lion Tours have always featured High School students from around Australia who are sponsored by various charitable and service organisations. The focus on students is to celebrate the work done by the Doctors on the railway and to perpetuate the message that “we may forgive but we will never forget” the horrific story of the Burma Thailand Railway. The tour normally includes survivors of the railway construction, but this is subject to the health of the POW’s and is not guaranteed.
The Tour is for 11 days (10 nights) and the focus is on the story of the Australia PoWs, their camps and the Australian doctors culminating in the ANZAC Day Dawn Service in Hellfire Pass and the Memorial Service in the Cemetery at Kanchanaburi. Many sites of Prisoner of War camps, the Bridge on the River Kwai, hospital sites and other areas of interest are visited as part of the tour.
Descendants of ex-POWs who have become authorities on the Thai Burma Railway travel on the tour and provide commentaries in addition to English speaking Thai Guides.
The Quiet Lion Tours commenced in 1985 and travel to Thailand to honour Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop, all other Doctors who tended the sick and all the Prisoners of War who were on the Burma Thailand Railway. The tours are operated by the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the memory of those who toiled on the Death Railway as Prisoners of War of the Japanese.
Several days are spent in Bangkok for tourist, shopping opportunities and to acclimatise to the local weather conditions. Accommodation comprises of 3 nights at a top hotel in Bangkok, 1 night at a riverside resort in Kanchanaburi and 6 nights at the Home Phu Toey Resort (on the River Kwai near Hellfire Pass) which includes the Weary Dunlop Peace Park.
Arrangements can be made for travel from any State in Australia. In the Case of Brisbane, the flights are via Sydney.
Itinerary and associated information details are available on the BTRMA web site.
Interested people should contact:
Tour Organiser Ian Holding on M 0418832281 email: email@example.com
Tour Leader David Piesse on Tel 08 9447 7505 email:firstname.lastname@example.org
See Booking Conditions on the BTRMA web site.
MEDAL (OAM) OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA IN THE GENERAL DIVISION awarded to Mr Hugh Wynter WARDEN, Fremantle WA 6160
For service to primary industry, particularly to livestock management, and to the community.
Managing Director, Australian Livestock Management Services, since 1995. Consultant, Stud Merino Breeders' Association WA. Inductee, Australian Sheep and Lamb Industry Roll of Honour, LambEx (Annual Lamb Industry Conference), 2010. Royal Agricultural Society WA: Member, Wool and Shearing Committee, 1995-1997, Member, Cattle Committee 199. Former Board Member Meat Program Partnership with Agriculture WA, Councillor 1995-2009. Councillor-in-Charge of History, Strategic Planning, Trade Cattle and Led Cattle. Member since 1973. Wesfarmers: Board Member Wesfarmers Rural 1985-1994,Stud Livestock Marketing and Export Development Manager 1989-1994 Livestock Manager 1976-1989. Stock Manager 1973-1976. Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association: Co-founder 2002. Chair and Vice-Chair. Counsellor, Salvation Army Care Line until 2015.
FRIDAY, 4TH MAY 2018 AT THE EX-POW MEMORIAL IN KINGS PARK.
Chairman of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, Eric Wilson OAM APM, attended the Memorial Service for ex Prisoners of War conducted by Mount Lawley Senior High School at Kings Park on 4th May 2018. A wreath was laid on behalf of the BTRMA.
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, the Ex-Prisoners of War Association and the Mount Lawley Senior High School have been associated with this function for two decades,commencing in 1998. Mount Lawley Senior High School has been regularly represented on the Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand for Anzac Day by students of the School.
At the 2018 Memorial Service, Mount Lawley S.H.S. Chaplain Mr Andrew Paul referred to the first two students to attend the tour in 1998, Erin St Duke and Katherine Cooper, and he quoted sections of Erin’s address to a school assembly on her return. The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association value the relationship between the Association and the Mount Lawley Senior High School.
On a beautiful, sunny day, a large contingent of people that included veterans Arthur Leggett (President) along with Syd Shaw, John Gilmour, Norm Eaton (who traveled with family up from Bunbury) and Professor Alex Kerr assembled at the Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Kings Park on 4th May, 2018. The service (the 21st year) was coordinated and supported admirably by the Principal, Staff and Students from Mount Lawley Senior High School.
The Commanding Officer of 11/28 Battalion LT COL R. Colligan and RSM, Warrant Officer Class One Guy Kesby plus MAJ J Kurtz, (standing in for the Commanding Officer of 16th Battalion RWAR, LTCOL C Watennan) and RSM, Warrant Officer Class One Carl Hemberg, represented the Australian Defence Forces.
The ceremony included a wonderful choir, concert band and bugler, Gemma Sabbadini. NCOs and Soldiers from 11/28 RWAR mounted the catafalque party and were resplendent in their new Service Dress.
School Principal, Lesley Street, addressed the assembled guests with an excellent presentation opening the proceedings by stating, "It is a privilege to be part of this important ceremony here today. We come together to pay tribute to the almost 40,000 Australians who have been held as prisoners of war over the years from the Boer War to Korea. Here in the peaceful surroundings of Kings Park reflect and commemorate our exPOWs whose members, through time are fading. We especially welcome those POWs who I know are here with us this afternoon – our own Arthur Leggett, Norm Eaton, John Gilmour, Syd Shaw and Professor Alex Kerr”. “This ceremony is dedicated to all who became prisoners of war while fighting for our freedom whether at Gallipoli, on the Western front, Crete, Italy, North Africa, Singapore, New Guinea, Borneo, Japan, on the Thai – Burma Railway and Hellfire Pass, or Korea to name just some of the 58 countries where Australians have been held over the years.
Today we reflect and honour not only on their courage but also the other attributes displayed by these fine Australians their heroism, sacrifice and mateship which were the defining characteristics of the prisoners of war. John Howard when Prime Minster said of the POW's - "These men turned the reality of atrocity and suffering into an affirmation of Australian courage and resilience”. “They are ANZACS who in captivity triumphed over adversity, displaying humour, resourcefulness and mateship in profoundly difficult circumstances”.
Peter Cosgrove said of every POW – "You hold a special place in the heart of this nation. And that is true of all of us here today who gather to honour our Prisoners of War -they do hold a special place in our hearts”.
“To the POWs, both those present today and those who are not well enough to attend the ceremony, I say to you that I am confident that in the years to come the Australian people will remember and honour you as will the youth of Australia but I know without a doubt that today's students and staff from MLSHS and future students and staff will remember and honour all those who have been held prisoner. We will remember the sacrifices you made, the things that you endured and the mates that you lost. Rest assured we will never forget you"
The service concluded with Tea, Coffee and light refreshments supplied by the catering students at MLSHS - including a packet of Anzac Cookies.
Western Australia's 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion was raised at the end of 1940 as one of the support units for the ill-fated 8th Division. Formed with men from across the state, they all came together at Northam military camp, east of Perth, where they carried out their initial training. In July 1941 the 2/4th moved to Adelaide and as more of the 8th Division was deployed "up north", by October it was in Darwin with the 23rd Brigade. The division's other two brigades were in Malaya and Singapore and the 2/4th was to follow.
Told of their move just before Christmas, the battalion left Darwin on 30 December, sailing via Port Moresby. Following a Japanese attack on Rabaul, New Britain, the convey turned around and sailed to Sydney and then Fremantle. Sailing under escort the convoy finally reached Singapore at the end of January 1942. It was not long before the 2/4th was in action. By this time the Japanese had captured Malaya and were preparing to attack Singapore. Similarly, the British were desperately preparing their defences and the battalion's companies were sent where they were needed: B Company was sent to the British Manchester Fusiliers, constructing weapons pits around the Naval Base; C Company went to support the 44th Indian Brigade on the west and south-west coast of the island; D Company supported the 22nd Brigade on the north-west coast; and A Company was in the 8th Division's reserve, close to the island centre.
After days of air raids, the Japanese attacked Singapore on 8 February - crossing the Johore Strait and attacking along the 22nd Brigade's front and the 27th Brigade near the Causeway. Deployed to different units, the 2/4th's companies were quickly in action but by 10 February the Japanese had captured the island's west coast. Five days later the British forces were pushed back to a defensive line protecting the city. However, the battle was virtually over and on 15 February Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival surrendered Singapore. The machine-gunners suffered heavily. Between 8 and 15 February the 2/4th had 137 men killed or missing, 106 men wounded, and 24 described as having "shell shock". These casualties constituted almost one-third of the battalion. Worse was to follow, with the battalion held in Japanese prisoner of war camps for the next three years.
Following the surrender, the 2/4th was concentrated in Changi gaol. From Changi the Japanese took drafts of men to work throughout their Greater South East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. Some of the battalion were sent to Borneo, while others worked on the Burma-Thai Railway or in Japan. By the war's end, another 263 men from the battalion had died as prisoners. The 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion was an Australian Army unit raised for service with the all volunteer Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF) during the Second World War. Formed in late 1940 as part of the 8th Division, the battalion was established to provide direct fire support to the division's infantry brigades. It was the fourth, and last, such unit raised within the 2nd AIF. The unit's personnel were largely drawn from the state of Western Australia and after formation, the battalion concentrated near Perth for basic individual training before moving to the Adelaide Hills to complete more advance manouevres.
In late 1941, amidst concerns of war in the Pacific, the unit was deployed north to Darwin in the Northern Territory, where they undertook garrison duties in the weeks following Japan's entry into the war. Following Japanese landings in Malaya, the 2/4th embarked from Darwin and were transferred to Malaya, arriving in Singapore in the final days of the fighting on the peninsula. In the wake of the withdrawal of British and Commonwealth forces to the island, the battalion was hastily deployed in support of the two Australian brigades—the 22nd and 27th Brigades—in the north-western sector of the island.
During the initial Japanese landing, elements of the battalion were heavily engaged around the landing beaches but they were outnumbered and over the course of the week the defenders were pushed back towards the centre of the island, towards the city of Singapore. They suffered heavy casualties during this time, before subsequently becoming prisoners of war after the fall of Singapore. Meanwhile, a detachment of about 100 men from the battalion, who had been left behind in Australia when it deployed to Singapore, also took part in the fighting on Java. After a brief campaign, the majority of these personnel were taken into captivity when the Allied forces were overwhelmed around Buitenzorg in mid-March 1942, although some attempted to fight on as guerillas.
Eventually these men were either killed or captured; prisoners remained in Japanese captivity until the end of the war in August 1945. During the three-and-a-half years they were held by the Japanese, members of the 2/4th were sent to prison camps around the Pacific, where they were used as slave labour and subjected to harsh conditions and extreme brutality. After the war, the surviving members of the battalion were returned to Australia but the 2/4th was not re-raised.
Ex Prisoner of War of the Japanese and survivor of the sinking of the “hellship” Rakuyō Maru, Harold David Martin again attended the Anzac service services at Hellfire Pass and Kanchanaburi in 2018. The following is his story:
Harold David Martin Service Number WX204 of 2/10 Ordnance Work Shops was one of the Prisoners of War who survived the sinking of the “hellship” Rakuyō Maru on the morning of 12 September 1944. Harold was born at Kanowna, Western Australia on January 1, 1917. Enlisted 11 Dec 1940 enlistment depot 164 Bourke Street, Kalgoorlie, WA. Address at enlistment Claremont WA. Next of kin Emma Martin. Date of discharge 17 May 1945. Rank Private. Post at discharge Second 10th Ordnance Workshop Company. After training the unit embarked Sydney 10 Jan1942. The unit was landed from transports at Borneo and taken from there to Singapore in “pig-boats”* (see below). Disembarked Singapore 26 Jan 1942.
An expanded version of the travel to Singapore is mentioned in DonWall’s book. He stated ‘In all likelihood he (Private Martin sailed for Singapore with many others on the Aquatania. That ship sailed initially from Port Moresby 4 January then to Sydney. Left Sydney 10 January direct to Fremantle arriving 15 January. Left Fremantle 16 January bound for Singapore. Short of Singapore, probably in the Sunda Straits on 20/21 January transhipped to Dutch small vessels (6)* and moved into Singapore. Soon after landing the group was sent up country in Johore but shortly after returned to Singapore and set up their workshop at the Hume Pipe Works. They remained there till Feb 8th when the works were shelled and they were in Singapore until the capitulation of Feb 15th.
They were sent by the Japanese to the Changi P.O.W. camp and were there for three months. They were employed in the building of a Japanese memorial in Raffles Square in place of the Raffles monument which was pulled down. While at Changi they were fairly well treated by the Japanese regular troops who were the guards but were warned by them that when they were sent up country the treatment would not be good as there were Koreans in charge of prisoners. They were eventually sent to the Thailand Burma railway. Martin was said to be driving a truck at Singapore.
According to the Australian War Memorial, Private Harold David Martin was a POW in Thailand who was returned to Australia after the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru and was discharged on 17 May 1945 as a recovered casualty. He was in A Force. Note:‘The men on the Rakuyo Maru were all ex-Burma men (that is A Force plus Williams and Black Forces)”. They were at Changi POW camp for ‘three months’. A Force left Singapore in May 1942 and worked along the Railway from the Burma end (Kilo 0 Thanbyuzayat).
Martin was at Kilo 118 (Kami (Upper) Songkurai) at one stage. All survivors of the Railway, including A Force (that had started from Burma), were evacuated from the Thailand end of the Railway some time after the Railway was completed on 17 October 1943. A Force men working on the Railway were passing through the area of the F Force camp of Kami (Upper) Songkurai at Kilo 118. (It is noted in DonWall’s book that A Force’s Commander, Brigadier Varley, had himself gone beyond this point, to Kilo 133 Camp (Neike), by October 1943.)
Harold Martin was among POWs who had returned from the Burma Railway and were on the Japanese transport ship Rakuyo Maru headed for Japan when it was torpedoed by the USS Sealion II on 12 September 1944. He was picked up three days later by another submarine, the USS Pampanito, and subsequently returned to Australia. The highest-ranking Australian POW on the Railway, Brigadier Arthur Varley was apparently machine-gunned in the water by the Japanese. Some POWs including Doctor Rowley Richards, were rescued by the Japanese and taken to Japan, whilst others including Martin, were rescued by US submarines. In November 1944—more than one year after the Railway had been completed—the Australian public learnt through the rescued POWs of many details of the capture, ordeals and fate of the men on the Burma Thailand Railway.
Harold returned home to his wife, Molly, and young son, Ray, in late 1944, and their family was blessed with four more children. Background to the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru. In May 1942 the Japanese began transferring POWs by sea. Similar to treatment on the Bataan Death March, prisoners were crammed into cargo holds with little air. Many died due to asphyxia, starvation or dysentery, some POWs became delirious and unresponsive in their environment of heat, humidity and lack of oxygen, food, and water. These unmarked prisoner transports were targeted as enemy ships by Allied submarines, more than 20,000 Allied POWs died at sea when the transport ships carrying them were attacked by Allied submarines and aircraft. A force of 2,300 prisoners commanded by Brigadier A. L. Varley left Singapore on 6th September 1944. These men had previously worked on the Burma-Thailand Railway. In the group were 649 Australians who embarked on the Rakuyo Maru. Off East Hainan Island the Rakuyo Maru was torpedoed and sunk at around 5:00am on 12/09/1944 by US submarine Sealion and 503 AIF, 33 RAN and 7 RAAF personnel were lost. 80 survivors were rescued by USS Pampanito SS 38.
The log of the USS Pampanito recorded: "1605. A bridge lookout sighted some men on a raft, so stood by small arms, and closed to investigate. 1634. The men were covered with oil and filth and we could not make them out.... They were shouting but we couldn't understand what they were saying, except made out words "Pick us up please." Called rescue party on deck and took them off the raft. There were about fifteen (15) British and Australian Prisoner of War survivors on this raft from a ship sunk the night of 11-12 September 1944. We learned they were en-route from Singapore to Formosa and that there were over thirteen hundred on the sunken ship. After four days of drifting on makeshift rafts they were in extremely bad shape. Most were covered with oil from the sunken tanker, and had long since used up what little food and water they had with them. Slowly, the story of what had occurred was unveiled by the survivors brought aboard Pampanito.
* “Hell ship” – A hell ship is a ship with extremely unpleasant living conditions or with a reputation for cruelty among the crew”. The crew of Pampanito spent four hours rescuing as many survivors as could be found. Volunteer teams were formed to get the almost helpless men aboard. Some of Pampanito's crew dived into the water with lines to attach to the rafts so they could be brought in close enough for others, on deck and on the saddle tanks, to carefully lift the men aboard. Crew members swam out to rescue the POWs, leaving the relative safety of the sub and risking being left behind if the boat had to dive. It was a tense and emotional period as the shocked crew worked to save as many of the oil soaked survivors as possible. During the rescue many of the crew came topside to help. If an Imperial Japanese plane attacked at that time they would have been left on deck as Pampanito dived to avoid attack.
During the five-day trip to Saipan, the nearest Allied port, the survivors were berthed in the crew's quarters amidships and on the empty torpedo skids and bunks in the after torpedo room where they were cared for by the crew. Some of the survivors were critically ill and in need of medical attention. Submarines carried no doctor on board, so the monumental task of treating these men became the responsibility of the only man on board with training in medicine, Pharmacist's Mate First Class Maurice L. Demers who, worked around the clock. dangerously close to total exhaustion.
A message was sent to Pearl Harbor relaying what had happened with a request that more submarines be called in to continue the rescue. The only other boats in the area were Queenfish and Barb; they were ordered in as soon as possible. Both boats were 450 miles west in pursuit of a convoy, but when they received the new orders they dropped the track and headed full speed to the rescue area. Queenfish and Barb arrived at 0530 on the 17th to begin their search for rafts among the floating debris. Just after 1300 they located several rafts and began to pick up the few men still alive. They only had a few hours to search before a typhoon moved in, sealing the fate of those survivors not picked up in time. Before the storm hit, Queenfish found 18 men, and Barb found 14 men. The boats headed on to Saipan after a final search following the storm revealed no further survivors.
Of the 1,318 POWs on the Rakuyo Maru sunk by Sealion, 159 had been rescued by the four submarines: 73 on Pampanito, 54 on Sealion and the 32 found by Queenfish and Barb. It was later learned that the Imperial Japanese had rescued 136 for a total of 295 survivors. Those picked up by the Japanese were sent to the Kawasaki group of factories, and Moji and Sakata prison camps. The story of the sinking of the HMAS Perth, the Burma Thailand Railway, the “Hell” Ships’, the sinking of the Rakuro Maru and the ordeal of the Prisoners of War of the Japanese is one of the more horrific of the World War11 events.
Official Japanese records tell a grim story: of 55,279 Allied POWs transported by sea, 10,853 drowned, including 3,632 Americans. At least 500 perished at sea from disease and thirst. The destination of 90 percent of those vessels was Japan. 106 members of HMAS Perth crew died as POWs. Of a crew of 681 only 214 returned to Australia.
Cranston Albury McEachern (1905-1983), army officer and solicitor, born September 9, 1905 at Dongara, Western Australia, Educated at Brisbane Grammar School, Commissioned in the Australian Field Artillery, Militia, in 1924; and in 1936 he was commanding the 11th Field Brigade as a major (1929).
In February 1937 McEachern was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Following the outbreak of World War II, he gave up his law practice and on 1 May 1940 joined the Australian Imperial Force as a major. He regained his lieutenant colonelcy in October on being appointed to command the 2/4th Anti-Tank Regiment, which deployed to Malaya (Malaysia) with the 8th Division. The unit saw action against the Japanese from 27 December 1941 until the surrender on 15 February 1942. McEachern’s superior, Brigadier C. A. Callaghan, reported that, throughout the operations, he was ‘an inspiration to his Regiment owing to his outstanding ability, command and control which were exercised without regard for personal safety’. From 6 February he commanded the divisional artillery in Callaghan’s absence. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (1947).
In captivity McEachern was assigned to command the Australian part (2220 men) of ‘D’ Force, sent in March 1943 to work on the Burma-Thailand Railway. At the Hintok Road camp, Thailand, he commanded the whole formation plus Dunlop Force (when Lt Colonel Dunlop agreed to concentrate on medical administration), some 5000 Australian and British troops. His men worked on the ‘Pack of Cards Bridge’ and ‘Hell Fire Pass’. He was promoted to colonel and temporary brigadier with effect from April 1942. When Japan surrendered in August 1945, he was the senior Allied officer in Thailand. He took charge of repatriating approximately 30 000 troops.
Claiming to the Japanese an authority he did not hold, he persuaded Japanese officers not to comply with Allied orders to concentrate their former prisoners in the Bangkok area. He knew that the already emaciated and malnourished soldiers would have been marched long distances, sometimes more than one hundred miles (161 km), and hundreds might have died. In November 1945 he returned to Australia. For his services while a prisoner of war he was mentioned in despatches.
He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 19 February 1946 as an honorary brigadier. McEachern resumed his legal practice; Cranston McEachern & Co. Honorary colonel (1966-70) of the Australian Cadet Corps, Northern Command.
He continued in full-time legal practice until his death on 15 October 1983 at Bridgeman Downs, Brisbane and was survived by his wife and their daughter and two sons, and the son of his first marriage.
NOTE TO ARTICLE.
D Force. Under joint command of British Lt Col G.G. Carpenter and Australian Lt Col Mc Eachern, 5000 POWs, 2780 British and 2220 Australian departed Changi 14th to 23rd March 1943 for Ban Pong. The Australians were organised into three battalions, "S' "T' "U", commanded by Lt Col McEachern, Major E.J Quick and Capt Reg Newton. This mixed force were spread over an area including Tarsao, Hintock, Konyu and Kinsayok and some worked on the notorious Hellfire Pass cutting.
|25 August||75th Anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay||Australian War Memorial, Canberra|
|14 September||Anniversary Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers||Anzac Parade, Canberra|
|26 September||Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood||Passchendaele Zonnebeke, Belgium|
|23 October||75th Anniversary of the start of El Alamein||Australian War Memorial, Canberra|
|31 October||Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba, Sinai Palestine Campaign||Be'er Sheva, Israel|
|2 November||75th Anniversary of Kokoda and the beachheads||Australian War Memorial, Canberra|
|Current Residential Location||Ex-POW Europe||Ex-POW Japan||Ex-POW Korea|
|Total WW2 Ex-POWs remaining:||194|
|WW2 deaths since Sept 2016 report:||23|
|Total Korean Ex-POWs remaining:||6|
|Korean deaths since Sept 2016 report:||0|
|Average Age of remaining Ex-POWs:|
|Europe 94.9 years old|
|Japan 95.6 years old|
|Korea 88.5 years old|
Gordon was born at Moora, Western Australia to a farming family on March 3, 1919 and was a “jack of all trades” working in rural areas of Western Australia prior to World War Two. He was one of a group of seventeen country boys from the town of Moora in WA who were members of the Militia in the 10th Light Horse and enlisted in the AIF on January 21, 1940, joining the all-Western Australian 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion. The Battalion sailed from Fremantle in a convoy including the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth 11, Aquitania, Mauritania, Isle de France and the Andes. The convoy called at Colombo and the battalion disembarked at Port Tewfik on the Suez Canal and later trained at Palestine and in Tel Aviv.
The battalion saw action in Syria and later at Mrouj, near Beirut in Lebanon.
Gordon Roberts was considered a leader of men and was promoted to Lance Corporal.
In February 1942 the battalion travelled on the Orcades via Durban, South Africa, to Oosthaven in South Sumatra. They disembarked at Batavia (Jakarta) before travelling by road to Bandoeng.
On 9th March 1942 the Dutch surrendered (including the Australians).
After nearly a year in Bandoeng the battalion went to Makasura before being shipped to Singapore with Dunlop Force under Lt Colonel Sir Edward Dunlop. In January 1943 Dunlop Force went by train on a five day journey in cramped steel rice wagons from Singapore to Non Pladuk in Thailand and then to the Konyu River Camp, the Hintok River Camp and the Hintok Road Camp.
Dunlop Force worked on the section of the Burma Thailand Railway between Konyu (Hellfire Pass) and Compressor Cuttings. Members of Dunlop Force suffered similarly to all prisoners on the Burma Thailand Railway with diseases, inhumane and brutal treatment, starvation, overwork, lack of basic needs and terrible conditions. At the completion of the railway Gordon Roberts went with his group to Tamuang in Thailand, followed by movements to various other areas on maintenance work and he remained in Thailand until the Victory in the Pacific.
When it was decided in 2002 to form the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, dedicated to ensure that the story of the “Railway” would not be forgotten, Gordon became an active supporter. The Association arranges an annual pilgrimage to Thailand for Anzac Day, the Quiet Lion Tour, which is named for Sir Edward (Weary) Dunlop. A feature of the tours is that a large group of High School children and service cadets are taken to Thailand.
During his war service and following his discharge from the Australian Army on January 31, 1946, Gordon Roberts was renowned for his “mateship”, resourcefulness and his compassion for his fellow prisoners. During captivity he spent countless hours foraging for little extras for his mates who were ill, on light rations and unpaid. He would stay with men in their dying hours maintaining the tradition of “nobody must die alone”. Even when the dreaded cholera epidemic raged he still nursed cholera patients without any regard for his own health.
He was a very robust man, raised in the country, and withstood the ravages of the prisoner of war experience to the point he often stood in for his mates who were too sick to work. A very notable aspect of the resourcefulness shown by Gordon Roberts was his ability to scrounge, barter and acquire by any dubious means food and medicine to help his mates. This ability may not be recognized generally but in the circumstances prevailing on the Burma Thailand Railway it was most important. One illustration of this is provided in the authenticated story involving close friend and POW “Snow Fairclough. “Snow” made his way most nights from the Hintok River prison camp to the nearby Kwai Noi River to set improvised fishing lines and on one occasion snared a large fish. He took it to Gordon Roberts with a view to them sharing the extra rations with his mates. Gordon instead went to the adjacent English officer’s camp where he was able to sell the fish to an English officer and received what was regarded as a fortune. He in turn used the proceeds to acquire salt and fresh vegetables from Thai villagers and various medicines from Thai River Traders. An interesting sidelight is that the English Officer was a Major named Swanton who transpired to be E.W. Swanton, the noted English cricket commentator. “Snow” Fairclough met Swanton post-war during a Test Match in Perth and Swanton recalled the exchange, adding that he got the fish for a “song” and out-bargained the Aussie POW.
After discharge on January 31, 1946 Gordon Roberts immediately returned to farming and agriculture and with many years of hard work and good business practice he created a thriving business breeding cattle and sheep.
It is of particular note that with Gordon Roberts’ passing, his friend Milton “Snow” Fairclough is the only remaining man of the seventeen from Moora who enlisted together and were all captured by the Japanese.
Gordon Roberts was deemed eminently suitable for recognition by the Australian Honors and Award system due to his Military service, his service to the ex Prisoner of War movement, his success in business, his community service and his encouragement and mentoring of youth.
Gordon’s medal is awarded posthumously.
I have been involved with the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Inc since 1997, when my daughter, Amy, attended the Quiet Lion Tour that year as a sixteen year old. The trip was partly funded by my mother, a widow of an ex-PoW of the Japanese who was determined to send all of her grandchildren on the tour in memory of their grandfather WX4123 Pte C.R. Piesse, 2/3rd Australian Machine Gun Battalion, AIF, who was captured in Java when the Dutch surrendered on the 9th of March 1942. The members of Blackforce under the command of Brigadier Arthur Blackburn VC also were ordered to lay down their arms and became prisoners of war. This group included the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, the 2/2nd Casualty Clearing Station under the command of Lt Col Edward Dunlop ( later Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop) and the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, Texas National Guard (the Lost Battalion).
The 131st Field Artillery group sailed on the USS Republic on the 21st of November 1941 and was diverted from the Philippines when Pearl Harbour was bombed on the 7th of November 1941 and landed on Java in the Dutch East Indies to reinforce the Australian and British troops already there. The Australians had come from the Middle East on the ship HMT Orcades heading for Australia but they were diverted to Java to reinforce the Allied troops already in the Netherlands East Indies.
After the battle of the Sunda Straight where the USS Houston and the HMAS Perth were sunk, most of the survivors came ashore on the local islands and Java, only to be rounded up by the Japanese or handed over to the Japanese by the Javanese for rewards and placed into captivity in prisoner of war camps. Some went to the Bicycle Camp near Batavia (including the 131st Field Artillery) and some went to Bandoeng in the Javanese Highlands (Including the 2/2 Casualty Clearing Station).
Those that were in Bicycle Camp were put into work parties, Anderson Force and Williams Force, and were sent in cargo ships as hold cargo to Burma via Singapore. These work parties were named after the officers commanding them. They arrived in Burma in July of 1942. The Allied prisoners of war interned at Bandoeng were placed into Dunlop Force, a work party sent to Thailand via Singapore in January, 1943, under the command of Lt Col Edward Dunlop. Lt Col Edward Dunlop had been the officer in charge of the 2/2 Casualty Clearing Station and on the arrival of a larger force at Bandoeng including Wing Commander Nichols (Royal Air Force) and Lieut. Colonel Van der Post (British Army), (both senior combatant officers) it was agreed that Dunlop would continue as camp commander. This was unusual as Dunlop was a surgeon, not a combatant officer. From Singapore Dunlop Force travelled for five days by train north to Ban Pong, Thailand. Fortunately there was road transport to take them on to Kanyu, the site of their first labour camp on the railway. Subsequently they occupied Hintok Mountain Camp and Hintok River Camps until the railway was completed in September 1943.
In 1985 a small group of Western Australian ex POWs conceived the idea of taking a trip to follow the route that the World War 11 Prisoners of the Japanese had taken, starting in Jakarta, Indonesia, then on to Bandeong in the Javanese highlands where most Dunlop Force were interned for approximately nine months. They then went on to Singapore and then to Bangkok Thailand. From here the plan was to find the railway by travelling up the Kwai Noi River until they recognised the bluff overlooking the river at Hintok River Camp, which they did. Sir Edward " Weary" Dunlop accompanied this tour. This was the beginning of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association and the Quiet Lion Tours to Thailand commemorating ANZAC Day.
The tour format that we use for our current tours began in 1997 which has incorporated school groups from all over Australia. To date we have taken approximately five hundred students and in excess of two thousand people on tour to Thailand. These groups are made up of people who have had relatives involved with the railway or who have an interest in Military History, some are visiting graves of relatives at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery others attend to pay respects and to learn the history of the railway. For many it is the opportunity to attend the moving occasion of the Dawn Service in Hellfire Pass before the memorial service at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
The objectives of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Inc. are: To perpetuate the memory of the privations and sacrifices of Australian and Allied prisoners of war and the selfless dedication of the medical personnel during the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway by informing current and future generations through all forms of education and particularly with the Annual Quiet Lion Tours to the Burma Thai Railway; the River Kwai; the Three Pagoda Pass; ANZAC Day at Hellfire Pass and Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
The name of our tour comes from the Ambonese soldiers that stayed loyal to the Netherlands East Indies, many of whom were treated in the Allied General Hospital set up by Lt.Col Dunlop in Bandeong Java after the action they saw against the Japanese. They called Lt.Col Dunlop “Singa yang Diam” which in English translates to The Quiet Lion. This is the name chosen for our tours in honour of Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop who was selected to command Dunlop Force onto the construction of the railway between Konyu and Hintok in Thailand.
Any person with an interest in the history of events that took place during this period is welcome to apply to come on the tour. Our emphasis is to tell the story and keep it as a piece history that can be passed on and not forgotten, school groups are particularly welcomed. As history fades from living memory and is forgotten is a sure way of repeating it.
David Piesse. Tour Leader, Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand.