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.
On completion of the Dawn Service in Kannyu Cutting those attending the service enjoy a complimentary gunfire breakfast in the car park at the Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre.
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tour Leader David Piesse on Tel 08 9447 7505 email:email@example.com
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.
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.
Mr Rick Wilson, Federal Member for O’Connor and the Hon Dan Tehan MP Minister of Veteran affairs recently hosted a reception at Mr Wilson’s Albany office for three survivors of World War II:
Mr Neil MacPherson, a survivor of the Burma Thailand Railway and a slave worker in Japan;
Mr Harold Martin, an ex-Prisoner of War of the Japanese and survivor of the sinking of the hellship Rakuyō Maru onthe morning of 12 September 1944;
and Mr Murray Maxton who flew in a Lancaster aircraft with the RAAF Bomber Command in 1944 over occupied Europe during World War II and was honoured by France for bravery with the Legion of Honour.
Photo L>R: The Hon Dan Tehan MP Minister of Veteran Affairs, Mr Harold Martin, Mr Rick Wilson Federal Member
for O’Connor and Mr Neil MacPherson.
Over 30 family and friends gathered in the RAAF Retirement Village Albany on Saturday 13 May to join Neil in the celebrating his 95th birthday. The guests present included centenarian Harold Martin, Local Member of Parliament Peter Watson and his wife Diane Wolfer, who wrote the books The Lighthouse Girl and The Light Horse Boy. Those people gathered were supplied with the usual Heineken and tasty finger food prepared by the local village residents.
Gypsy O’Dea, Neil’s granddaughter, spoke of Neil as a tremendous role model for the whole family and his great strength and endurance. A good time was had by all Neil with Harold Martin and Murray Maxon were also invited to a small afternoon tea at the Federal Member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson’s, office. Murray Maxon, is a 97-year-old veteran Fighter Pilot who flew over France with his brother in the same plane, both awarded The Croix de guerre by France.
The Minister for Veterans Affairs Dan Tehan was visiting Albany and they had afternoon tea together. Neil was very chuffed with this afternoon tea.
2017 ANZAC Day Wreath Laying Ceremony at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
Address by Neil MacPherson WX 16572 2/2nd Pioneer
On behalf of all Ex-POWs, I welcome you to this peaceful location at the Kanchanburi CemeteryThailand on this dayo f remembrance for the Australian dead of all wars in which our nation has been involved. The first Australians to rrive on the Burma Thailand railway in October 1942 were in Green Force led by Major Green, Commanding Officer of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion a West Australian unit. They were also the first Australian prisoners to arrive on the Burma end of the railway, followed later in the month by my group in Williams Force under Lt Colonel John Williams of the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion.
Camps had been cunningly established by the Japanese every 10 kilometres along he surveyed railway trace, this meant no time was wasted travelling from camps to work sites. The huts were well constructed to withstand the wild weather encountered during the wet season. Generally they were built with split bamboo platforms running the length of the huts with a central passageway, the roof was made of atap, a home for the rats that infested the huts. Mention should be made here that this type of accomodation was not universal along the length of the railway – for instance at Hintock in Thailand the prisoners were housed in tents that were soon damaged by the wild weather.
Our group of 800 was made up of mostly of Australians, a few Americans and Dutch captured with us in Java . The first Australians to start work on the Thailand side were captured in Java and formed Dunlop Force led by Colonel Dunlop, a surgeon from the 2nd second Casualty Clearing Station. In Burma the several groups under oveall charge of Australian Senior officer, Brigadier Varley, were known by the name of their leader. Our Force was known as Williams Force led by Lt Colonel John Williams Commanding Officer of the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion.
Anderson Force was led by Lt Colonel Anderson V.C. On the Thailand end of the railway, apart from Dunlop Force which came from Java, most Australians were part of the 8th Division and were known as D Force and F Force. In Burma we were initially used to build embankments and excavate small cuttings. There was no great pressure from the Japanese Engineers - however this soon changed as the work got behind schedule and by May 1943 the Speedo iniaitive started. Beatings were common place. Australian officers in charge of work parties were especially noted for their courageous actions to protect the men under their control, but they were beaten for their efforts .
Major Bruce Hunt of F.Force was an an outstanding surgeon. He was also one of the most able and efficient Camp Administrators on the railway. He did a lot to maintain discipline and lift sagging morale pf the sick prisoners. In the early months, despite long hours and insufficient food, we gradually accustomed ourselves to a diet of mainly rice. We lacked the essentials such as meat, vegetables & fruit so malnutrition soon set in and as the wet season arrived with all its pestilence and disease the work hours were extended. Within 12 months of us starting work, diseases such as Cholera, Dysentery, Malaria, Berri Berri and leg ulcers, worsened by malnutrition and long hours of labour, would decimate our force. The morning sick parades lengthened to the extent that the Japanese Engineers had to press many of these sick men into the under-manned work parties. At the end of long work shifts men would return to camp and their first destinaton was the sick ward to see their mates and cheer them up.
During the construction of the railway it contained along its length and beyond hundreds of labour camps - all were bad, some worse than others - not one could be called good. Japanese camp commandants in these camps and in the transit camps were mostly tyrants, meting out punishments for minor infringements.
In early 1943 we in Williams & Anderson Force were selected to lay the sleepers and rails from Thanbyuzayat through to Konkoita where the two ends of the railway were to be connected- a daunting task. It was heavy work carrying the heavy sleepers and long lengths of rail. By September 1943 Williams Force of 800 had been reduced to a work party of 300 skeletons of men. The Japanese started moving prisoners from Burma into camps in Thailand. These prisoners were concentrated in two camps - Tamuan and Tamarkan, as this camp here on the River next to the bridge and this cemetary was then known.
Some prisoners were left in isolated camps back in Burma to carry out maintenance work. On arrival in Tamarkan the prisoners who arrived from Burma were astonished to see the variety of food available here compared to the barren jungle in Burma. Thailand was always known as the food bowl of Asia, Despite this abundance the Japanese authorities refused to provide sufficient rations to meet the daily needs of the men who were mere mere shadows of their pre prisoner life. Thank you for your attention, may I wish you a safe return to your homes.
The memorial service conducted by the Mount Lawley Senior High School was held at the Ex-POW Memorial, May Drive, Kings Park on Friday 5th May 2017 at 1:00pm.
In 1997 the students of Mount Lawley Senior High School adopted the Ex-Prisoners of War Association's Memorial, Kings Park. This ceremony is held as an annual commemorative service. 2017 was the 21st year Mount Lawley Senior High School has been involved with the service.
As in previous years the Principal, staff and students from Mount Lawley Senior High School assisted to conduct the service and provide the band, choir, bugler and logistic support for the event. Many Ex-Prisoner of War Association members attended to pay their respects as well as a large group of invited guests including surviving veterans and representatives of kindred associations.
Afternoon tea was provided and the weather was fine, a beautiful sunny day. The Mount Lawley Senior High School band and choir entertained guests prior to the ceremony and in the course of the ceremony hymns and the Australian song were presented by the school. Surviving ex-prisoners of war present were Association President Arthur Leggett with John Gilmour and Syd Shaw.
Eric Wilson, David Piesse and Peter Winstanly of the BTRMA attended. The number of veterans left is rapidly thinning and it was stressed that we need to ensure we remember those no longer with us.
In this regard, the following is an abridged version of an article from The Australian newspaper:
"They're fading away before our eyes, these proud old men who gave so much for Australia. Fewer than 200 of them are left and one sad day soon there will be none at all.
Some still can't bring themselves to speak about what happened after they became prisoners of the Japanese or Germans in World War II to forge a very different Anzac legend to that of Gallipoli.
Their war turned into an elemental struggle against starvation, disease and brutality on the Burma railway and in slave labour camps under the Japanese, or to survive the death throes of a blood-soaked Nazi Reich.
But the underpinnings were the same: mateship, sacrifice, endurance. Time, though, waits for no one and new government figures show that only 195 of the 32,000 Australian military personnel taken prisoner in World War II - including 61 female army nurses - were living in January, with an average age of 94.
That number will have slipped further in the lead-up to ANZAC Day. The fade out of Australia's World War II paws points poignantly to how close we are to losing the last living links to the great generation that waged that seismic conflict. Veteran numbers are in freefall. Of the 990,000 Australians who joined up between 1939 and 1945, only 19,600 remain of those who saw active war service, according to the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
About 7500 died in the 12 months to June 30 last year, though this included spouses.With an average age of 93 for the surviving World War II vets, the DVA's demographic modelling assumes an annual attrition rate of 5000 through this decade.
By 2020, there will be achingly few still with us. The ex-POWs are generally older because most were captured early in the war in the disasters in Greece and Crete at the hands of the Germans, and in the dark days of 1942, after Japanese forces seized Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, the then Dutch East Indies, the Philippines and menaced Australia from New Guinea and at sea”.
Mount Lawley Senior High School have travelled on Quiet Lion Tours to Thailand for some years with generous support by the Ex-Prisoners of War Association, the school, parents and the Burma Thailand Memorial Association.
The following students have toured: Olivia Williams, Clancy Davidson, Cale Wilcox, Nicola Bower, Johanna Battista, Monroe Massa, Alex Scudder, Emma Bromham, Andrea Leonard, Nicolas Hortense, Kate Prast and Emma Giuffre.
Upcoming 2017 Commemoration Services
:(as advised by the office of The Hon Dan Tehan MP)
DVA Ex-POW Statistics as at 6 January 2017
||75th Anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay
||Australian War Memorial, Canberra
||Anniversary Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers
||Anzac Parade, Canberra
||Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood
||Passchendaele Zonnebeke, Belgium
||75th Anniversary of the start of El Alamein
||Australian War Memorial, Canberra
||Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba, Sinai Palestine Campaign
||Be'er Sheva, Israel
||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 |
2017 Quiet Lion Tour Report
The annual pilgrimage to the River Kwai took place from Monday the 17th of April to the 28th of April 2017 for Perth travelers. (Eastern States travelers returned late on the evening of the 27th of April). Day one was the travelling component.
After a 7:00am wake-up call followed by our first buffet breakfast in Thailand and a short briefing of the carers for our students on tour we headed for Bang Pa-in to visit the Royal Summer Palace. This is the site of a timber palacethat was built over four hundred years ago. The palace and its gardens create a magical wonderland of a bygone era
in the Kingdom of Thailand and to be able to step back into the history of Thailand.
After an hour at Bang Pa-In we traveled further north to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand prior to 1767AD when it was abandoned after wars with the invading armies from Burma. This area is now an historic park under the charter of the United Nations. A talk there from Ake (our Thai tour Guide) on the significance of the historic precinct and where it fitted into Thailand’s story.
Our next move for the afternoon was on to a pier closer back towards Bangkok where we boarded a ferry for the return trip down the Chayo Phraya River to the River City pier in the centre of Bangkok itself. This is a delightful trip for our travellers to relax and get to know each other after flights the previous day from different parts of Australia.
We arrived back at the Royal Benja Hotel around 5:30pm and after a clean-up we had our welcome dinner with all our travelers together as the Quiet Lion Tour 2017.
We laid a few ground rules while the group was together and handed out the shirts and caps. Those that needed their beauty sleep moved back to their rooms, Ian and I took a
group of students and their carers to Terminal 21, a themed shopping centre which caters for the younger shopper.
Six thirty wake up call, bags out, breakfast and on the bus at seven thirty and on our way to Nakom Pathom, the site of Phra Pathom Chedi, the tallest stupa in the world. The significance of Nakom Pathom is that before WWII there was a medical outpost here so the Japanese in their wisdom decided it would be a good place to put a hospital, which they did.
It had a capacity of 10,000 beds able to handle all the sick and injured returning from off the Railway and also from Burma. There was a lot of innovative surgery and treatments developed there that save a tremendouslot of lives and relieved a lot of suffering.
From here we move to Nong Pladuk, the place where the Railway to Burma left the main railway line that ran to Singapore. This was also known as the 0 kilometre point where all measurements were taken from on Thailand side of Three Pagodas Pass. There was a large prison camp in this area along with workshops, foundries, fuel refineries. Many British POWs were here as Britain had a big dependence on railways and the obvious choice was to collectexperienced railway workers.
A few kilometres away is the town of Ban Pong, the railway station where the POWs got off the train from Singapore on their journey north up the railway line to their various places of work. A few of the earlier work forces were lucky enough to have road transport up to Tarsao and beyond. The rest that arrived after the monsoons set in had no choice but to walk as the tracks became impassable and turned into mud. This was extremely difficult as the later forces were also suffering from malaria, dysentery, malnutrition and all the tropical diseases known apart from cholera which was yet to come.
We leave the main road and travel to the Mae Klong River east of Kanchanaburi to a camp site known as Tha Maung, this was the main transit camp for POWs travelling up River and for those returning down River. At some stage nearly every POW had contact with this camp, even those returning from Burma. The whole of the camp area is now market gardens for the produce of fresh fruit and vegetables for the Tha Muang and Kanchanaburi city area. This was one of the more pleasant camps to have spent some time in. Food was more plentiful and the pressure of work had eased considerably.
Next place to visit was the Bridge on the River Kwai and lunch at Tida Loa's River Kwai Restaurant. After lunch there was a chance to walk over the bridge.
The tour is starting to come together very well as we have seen some DVDs on our way out from Bangkok. We took an opportunity to visit TBRC (Rod Beattie’s Thailand Burma Railway Centre) to let them know we were in the area and then to Pung Waan Kanchanaburi Resort for a swim, welcome dinner and Karaoke.
Breakfast, bags out, group photo at the front of Pung Waan Resort then out to the Chungkai Cutting for an explanation of how cuttings were built
The visit to the Chungkai War Cemetery was well received with time for contemplation walking amongst the headstones. From here we went to TBRC to wait for the train to take us over the Wampo Viaduct and back to Tam Krasea for lunch and waiting to watch the train return across the viaduct on return to Bangkok. When lunch was finished it was back on the bus to head up to highway 323 with a monkey stop on the way. We headed to the Pung Waan River Kwai Resort which was the site of the Tarsao hospital camp and a large Japanese Railway headquarters camp.
This was the only prisoner of war camp that named their cemeteries, three cemeteries were associated with the Tarsao camp and hospital. Number one, St George's with 206 (19 Australian) graves. Number two, (St Luke's) with 558 graves (120 Australians) and Number three (cholera) with 52 graves (9 Australian). A fourth un-named cemetery had 23 graves.
Of the many atrocities which occurred on the Burma Thailand Railway one was at this camp and has been authenticated was the murder of Pte Eric Bernard Hilton of the Sherwood Foresters. From the site of the Tarsao camp and hospital our journey took us to the delightful town of Tarsao itself, situated on Highway 323 with the Sai Yok Noi waterfalls in the towns centre. Tarsao is also the terminus for the part of the Railway still in use with the station called Nam Tok. After a visit to the Seven 11 store and street markets to stock up on snacks and nibbles for our five-day stay at Home Phu Toey.
It is nice not to have to put your bags out and race for breakfast and the bus. Today we had the Buddhist Ceremony in the Weary Dunlop Park. This is an event that has taken place for a number of years and is to commemorate and remember the ex-prisoners of war that never returned home from the Railway and particularly to remember those that have passed in the year since our last visit. This year we remembered the members of the Quiet Lion group in Eric Roediger and Milton Fairclough ("Snow") who passed away in October 2016. This was followed by the obelisk ceremony and a memorial to Khun Kanit and Khun Oonjai without whom we would not have had Home Phu Toey.
We left HPT for the site of The Hintok Mountain camp, now an arboretum. This camp was the home of Dunlop Force and where Weary Dunlop performed his life saving medical skills with very little in the way of medicines and equipment. Fortunately, he had some very ingenious people in the camp with him that were able to build a water reticulation system that meant the cookhouse had running water and the men returning from work on the Railway could have a shower and get washed and feel a little like human beings again. This water system also allowed for the still to be built that provided distilled water with saline that was used to overcome the cholera epidemic that was rampant during the monsoon. This allowed 60 percent of cholera victims to survive the disease as compared to approximately 90 to 100 percent deaths at the start of the epidemic. It was from here that Jim Allpike carried the saline in glass demijohns to the Hintok River camp twice a day saving countless lives.
Next piece of the story is the visit to Sai Yok Yai waterfalls and National Park. A significant place in the Railway history, this is the site of a large camp which included a large contingent of indentured “romusha” which was credited with the construction of a huge embankment nearly two kilometres long to a substantial trestle bridge. This is still visible along with the concrete bridge abutments. There is the preserved remains of a Japanese cookhouse which is worth looking at.
Swimming in the waterfall is rather delightful as the streams are spring fed and the water is quite cool unlike the warm bath temperatures of most of the resort swimming pools. After everyone has had a chance to cool off we then boarded a houseboat for a leisurely trip down the Kwai Noi River accompanied by a long tailed boat for control. After an enjoyable lunch on the houseboat and the beautiful river scenery, we come to Hintok River camp. It was from Hintok River camp that the compressor cutting, the compressor embankment, the Hintok Cutting and the Three Tiered Bridge was completed.
Owing to the difficulty of building the Compressor embankment and the torrential monsoon rains that kept washing the base away, it was decided to build a trestle detour to the side of the embankment. This became known as the "Pack of Cards" bridge because it kept collapsing. This was the last section of the Railway to be completed to allow trains access to the full length of the Railway from Nong Pladuk to Thanbyuzayat. The last stop for today is the site of the Konyu River camp. This was the first camp that Dunlop Force was to call home on the Thailand Burma Railway. They were very fortunate that it was January 1943 and the weather was fine and dry, this enabled them to arrive here by motor transport. The next job was to erect a camp from attap and bamboo and on completion the group were moved to the Hintok Mountain (or Hintok Road camp) just as the wettest monsoon that Thailand experienced in the twentieth century, with sixteen thousand millimetres of rain recorded, set in. With that in mind we boarded our bus and returned to HPT for dinner and a good night’s sleep in air conditioned accommodation.
Slept in until 7:00am, breakfast and a visit to the Hellfire Pass Museum, an institution of the Australian Federal Government, opened in 1998 by the Australian Prime Minister the Rt Hon John Howard. From the museum we headed into Kanchanaburi for the Cadets and Students to have some drill practice for the Wreath Laying Ceremony on ANZAC Day at the War Cemetery.
Lunch at the football, Thailand Tigers versus Singapore, burgers and sausages in rolls went down rather well with a cold drink. Thailand overcame Singapore to win a rather hard fought match, the temperature was a mild 42 degrees. On the bus again to return to HPT for dinner and a quiet night.
Today we had to leave relatively early to travel Highway 323 to the Kao Laem Dam, an impressive structure built by the Snowy Mountain Authority from Australia under the Colombo Plan to help countries after the Second World War to build new infrastructure. This dam inundates the Railway line from the Takanun camps for a distance of ninety kilometres to the Songkurai camps near to Three Pagodas Pass. Today we have lunch at the EGAT staff Club which is a set menu and one of the nicest Thai meals you could wish to have, our thanks go to the club manager and staff for making us so welcome.
Back onto the bus and head back on Highway 323, we pass through the town of Brankassi, site of the Brankassi camp, and a few kilometres further on we pass the site of Hindato camp which has a hot spring on the bank of a small river. This was a favourite place for Japanese engineers and soldiers who had the PoWs build a concrete pool for the use of Japanese staff.
Near Hellfire Pass Museum we turn onto the Hintok Road which takes us to the rest station on the Heritage Walk from Hintok Road back to the Hellfire Pass Museum, a distance of approximately 4 kilometres by the time you have climbed up and down steps, clambered over rocks, walked across trestle bridge sites and bomb craters. One and a half to two hours later, if you have had a look at all the works that were carried out by the POWs to complete this section of the Railway, said to be the most difficult on the entire railway. We have made sure we used the plentiful drinking water available. The men working on the rail trace left their camp at 4:00 am with one-pint bottle (600mls) to last until they got back to camp up to eighteen hours later. Arriving back at HPT at 4:30 pm it was time for a visit
to the pool to relax, and prepare for our concert.
This evening after dinner we held our annual concert based on the 1943 Christmas Concert held at Hintok Mountain Camp called Fun With F.A.. The Railway was completed and the pressure had eased somewhat but there was work parties still required for maintenance work on the track and wood cutting for fuel for the engines. This concert was very well received not only by the prisoners but also by the Japanese and guards.
A guest in our midst this evening was a member of the New Zealand Navy, Commander Trevor Lesley, he was very well received by the Quiet Lions and it was nice to have an NZ component of ANZAC to join us.
We have a free day today, a chance to visit the Weary Dunlop Park incorporating the Weary Dunlop Pavilions and the Jack Chalker Gallery, both very worthwhile exhibits. There is also a display of a working prison camp hospital with an improvised orthopaedic bed with traction pulleys and a mechanism for raising and lowering sections of the bed independently. Various other exhibits were a dentist’s chair, an exercise bike along with pieces of equipment used for physiotherapy to recuperate injured limbs and bodies. These were made from bamboo.
There is also a working model of the still that was built at the Hintok Mountain camp along with other paraphernalia,intravenous drips made from sake bottles and stethoscope tubing and treatments for tropical ulcers. After the morning spent at Weary Dunlop Park, it was time for lunch and an afternoon at leisure taking in the delights of HPT and repacking bags for a very early morning departure to get to the Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass.
A small group travelled to Three Pagoda Pass to follow in the footsteps of F Force to the Songkurai camps accompanied by Ian Holding whose father, Wally Holding OAM was a member of the 2/4 Australian Machine Gun Battalion AIF and as a PoW was part of F Force. This intrepid group arrived back in time for the Welcome Reception at Weary Dunlop Park.
At 7:00pm we had the Light and Sound show followed by dinner with the Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors and the Quiet Lion Group. Dinner concluded at 10:00pm.
Early morning wake-up at 2:30am, bags dropped at the Lobby of HPT and on the bus for Hellfire Pass and the Dawn Service which is due to commence at 5:30am.
As the sky starts to lighten in the east, the dawn chorus of the birds starts, a call which breaks the silence in a beautiful way, as if there is more to come. At 5:30am, as the Catafalque Party mounts and the service begins, it is almost light enough to read the service books. Dawn Service in Hellfire Pass is a very moving and emotional Ceremony and everyone who attends finds themselves wiping a tear from heir eye. The haunting sounds of the Last Post and the Rouse echoing off the Cutting walls are something to behold. The lone Piper playing The Flowers of the Forest usually brings even the hardiest undone.
This year the Quiet Lion Students had a chance meeting with a group of Thai Military Cadets who were very keen to interact with our group, maybe something may eventuate in the future.
A quick Gunfire breakfast at the Hellfire Pass Museum and back to HPT,have breakfast and check bags onto the bus. This morning breakfast is served just inside the front entrance to HPT, as we have to go on to Kanchanaburi for the 11:00am Wreath Laying Ceremony. We say goodbye to the staff who have made us so welcome at Home Phu Toey over the last five days and with promises to be back again in 2018 with a newQuiet Lion Tour.
We arrived in Kanchanaburi at 9:45am and time for our Students to have one more drill practice before the main service where they will be presenting the Wreaths to be laid by visiting world dignitaries. It is a moving ceremony among the graves of those who perished on this cursed Railway, with a scrap of humanity and feeling for our fellow man, there really is no need for these graves to be here at all. We had come here to remember them and to honour them that they gave their lives sowe might be able to live in peace and harmony. Neil MacPherson gave a very moving address and received a standing ovation.
Thank you Neil.
Our Students excelled themselves with the Wreath Laying as usual, a job that has been given to the Quiet Lion Tour. This was formerly done by members of the Thai Military and they would like to do it again. Thanks to our remarkable group of Cadets and Students who participated in The Quiet Lion Tour of 2017.
After the Ceremony was completed we adjourned to the Ban Rao Restaurant for a set menu lunch which is a really nice meal. Lunch completed it was time to start to relax as we had achieved what we had set out to do in telling the story of the Thailand- Burma Railway, the hardships and the atrocities and the mateship of fellow POWs.
The main object was to get the story of the selfless dedication of the Doctors and the medical staff, quite often with no training and just sheer determination to help the sick often ignoring the danger to their own health by just coming into contact with cholera and amoebic dysentery.
Next on the list was the swimming pool at Pung Waan Kanchanaburi Resort, a quiet dinner and retiring for the
evening after the shock of a 2:30am wake up.
Today we return to Bangkok via Sampran Riverside Resort and Cultural Show. A side trip to Damnoern Saduak Floating Market. We leave from the pier, visit the market and return back to the pier without leaving the long tailed boats. Most enjoyed this style of retail therapy coming back with their market goods.
Sampran Riverside, formerly known as The Rose Garden certainly did not disappoint with an enormous range of dishes to delight the palate, there was deserts just waiting to be tried and fresh fruit, surely a gourmand’s paradise. This was followed by the Cultural Show showing traditional Thai village lifestyle and dances. Next stage was the journey to the Royal Benja Hotel, approximately thirty to forty kilometres away. Nothing like a relaxing drive through peak hour Bangkok traffic, after several "are we there yets" we finally crossed the Suphan Taksin Bridge over the Chao Prayo River. With two kilometers to go, it still takes an hour or more to reach our goal.
Owing to our group breaking up the following day we hold our final day dinner to wrap the tour up and to thank all that travelled on the Quiet Lion Tour for 2017. A special note of thanks needs to go to Esperance Senior High School and their contingent of Students, Staff and Carers, to Melville Rotary Club and their sponsorship to Melville Senior High School, to Geraldton RSL and local sponsors for their contribution to send Students and Carers, the Three Springs District RSL and sponsors for the Students and Carers, the Peel Health Campus-Mandurah RSL-Holding family group for sponsoring cadets and the Lions Club of Wagin for their sponsorship. Every Student that attended the Quiet Lion Tour of 2017 had local sponsorships and we, the committee and members, thank everyone that helped make the QLT 2017 such a success.
A very special thank you must go to the family of Mr Neil MacPherson OAM for the care and attention given to Neil and enabling him to be available to give the PoW Address at the Wreath Laying Ceremony and to be able to relate his time on the Railway as a PoW to the younger members of our group, and a big thanks to Neil for being with us once again.
A free day for shopping and rounding up souvenirs and gifts to take to loved ones at home and to see some of the sights of Bangkok. The Students were looked after by their supervisors and had a successful day. Sydney travellers had to leave at 3:30pm for the airport and Melbourne and Brisbane travellers left at 8:00pm, which only left those going to Perth leaving at 4:30am the next morning.
Another successful tour completed and now we plan for 2018.
Tour Leader QLT 2017
Built in 1928, the SS Vyner Brooke was a British-registered cargo vessel of 1,670 tons. She was named after the Third Rajah of Sarawak - Sir Charles Vyner Brooke.
Up until the outbreak of war with the Japanese, Vyner Brooke plied the waters between Singapore and Kuching, under the flag of the Sarawak Steamship Company.
She was then requisitioned by Britain's Royal Navy as an armed trader.
On the evening of 12 February 1942, Vyner Brooke was one the last ships carrying evacuees to leave Singapore.
Although she usually only carried 12 passengers, in addition to her 47 crew, Vyner Brooke sailed south with 181 passengers embarked, most of them women and children. Among the passengers were the last 65 Australian nurses in Singapore. Throughout the daylight hours of 13 February Vyner Brooke laid up in the lee of a small jungle-covered island, but she was attacked late in the afternoon by a Japanese aircraft, fortunately with no serious casualties. At sunset she made a run for the Banka Strait, heading for Palembang in Sumatra. Prowling Japanese warships, however, impeded her progress and daylight the next day found her dangerously exposed on a flat sea just inside the strait.
Not long after 2:00pm, Vyner Brooke was attacked by several Japanese aircraft. Despite evasive action, she was crippled by several bombs and within half an hour rolled over and sunk bow first. Approximately 150 survivors eventually made it ashore at Banka Island, after periods of between eight and 65 hours in the water. The island had already been occupied by the Japanese and most of the survivors were taken captive.
However, an awful fate awaited many of those that landed on Radji beach.
There, survivors from the Vyner Brooke joined up with another party of civilians and up to 60 Commonwealth servicemen and merchant sailors, who had made it ashore after their own vessels were sunk. After an unsuccessful effort to gain food and assistance from local villagers, a deputation was sent to contact the Japanese, with the aim of
having the group taken prisoner. Anticipating this, all but one of the civilian women followed behind. A party of Japanese troops arrived at Radji Beach a few hours later. They shot and bayoneted the males and then forced the 22 Australian nurses and the one British civilian woman who had remained to wade into the sea, then shot them from behind.
There were only two survivors - Sister Vivian Bullwinkel, and Private Cecil Kinsley, a British soldier. After hiding in the jungle for several days the pair eventually gave themselves up to the Japanese. Kinsley died a few days later from his wounds, and Bullwinkel spent the rest of the war as an internee.
Of the 65 Australian nurses embarked upon the Vyner Brooke, 12 were killed during the air attack or drowned following the sinking, 21 were murdered on Radji Beach, and 32 became internees, 8 of whom subsequently died before the end of the war.
The stories of the Vyner Brooke and Vivian Bullwinkle are completely inter-connected.
Lieutenant-Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel (Mrs Statham) AO MBE ARRC ED FNM, 18.12.1915 – 3.7.2000, the sole survivor of the Bangka Island Massacre
Vivian Bullwinkel was born on 18 December 1915 in Kapunda, South Australia, to George Francis and Eva Bullwinkel (née Shegog). She had a brother, John. She trained as a nurse and midwife at Broken Hill, New South Wales, and began her nursing career in Hamilton, Victoria, before moving to the Jessie McPherson Hospital in Melbourne. In 1941, wanting to enlist, Bullwinkel volunteered as a nurse with the Royal Australian Air Force but was rejected for having flat feet. She was, however, able to join the Australian Army Nursing Service; assigned to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital (2/13th AGH), in September 1941 she sailed for Singapore. After a few weeks with the 2/10th AGH, Bullwinkel re-joined the 13th AGH in Johor Baharu. Japanese troops invaded Malaya in December 1941 and began to advance southwards, winning a series of victories. By late January 1942 they were advancing through Johore and the 13th AGH was to evacuate to Singapore.
A short-lived defence of the island ended in defeat, and, on 12 February, Bullwinkel and 65 other nurses boarded the SS Vyner Brooke to escape. Two days later, the ship was sunk by Japanese aircraft. Bullwinkel, 21 other nurses and a large group of men,
women, and children made it ashore at Radji Beach on Banka Island. Others on board either went down with the ship or were swept away and never seen again.
The group were joined the next day by others making a total of about 100 including about twenty English soldiers from another ship sunk earlier. They elected to surrender to the Japanese.
An officer from the Vyner Brooke walked to Muntok, a town on the north-west of the island, to contact the Japanese. While he was away Matron Irene Drummond, the most senior of the Australian nurses, suggested that the civilian women and children should start off walking towards Muntok. In an action that later became known as the Banka Island Massacre, Japanese soldiers came and killed the men, then motioned the nurses to wade into the sea. They then machine-gunned the nurses from behind. Bullwinkel was struck by a bullet which passed completely through her body, missing her internal organs, and feigned death until the Japanese soldiers left. She hid with British Army Private Cecil George Kingsley of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps for 12 days, tending to his severe wounds, only then realising the extent of her own wound, before being captured. They were taken into captivity, but Private Kingsley died soon after due to his having sustained such serious wounds, including a gunshot wound in his abdomen. Bullwinkel was reunited with survivors of the Vyner Brooke. She told them of the massacre, but none spoke of it again until after the war lest it put Bullwinkel, as witness to the massacre, in danger.
Bullwinkel spent three and half
years in captivity. Another surviving nurse, Pat Darling died in 2007. Vivian retired from the army in 1947 and became Director of Nursing at the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital. Also in 1947 she gave evidence of the massacre at a war crimes trial in Tokyo. She devoted herself to the nursing profession and to honouring those killed on Banka Island, raising funds for a nurses' memorial and serving on numerous committees, including a period as a member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, and later President of the Australian College of Nursing. Bullwinkel married Colonel Francis West Statham in September 1977, changing her name to Vivian Statham. She returned to Bangka Island in 1992 to unveil a shrine to the nurses who had not survived the war. She died of a heart attack on 3 July 2000, aged 84, in Perth, Western Australia.
Australian Ex POWs return to Japan
Over the years, the memories of the Burma Thailand Railway fade away with the passing of the survivors of the Railway. As part of the experience of coming to terms with the horrors of the Railway experience, a number of survivors returned over the years. The following is a description of one such visit.
Five Australian ex POWs and their family members (a total of ten people) visited Japan from 1st to 9th March 2011 at the invitation of the Japanese Government as part of the project "The Japanese/POW Friendship Programme". Few young Japanese know that Japan fought against Australia during the Second World War and fewer still knew of
the atrocities which occurred.
About 22,000 Australians became prisoners of war (POWs) under the Japanese army after the invasion of the Far East. Most of the POWs were sent to Japan and Southeast Asia and the latter included Thailand, particularly the Thai-Burma railway, so called the "Death Railway". About 8,000 of them died of the harsh labour, starvation and diseases. The death rate was as high as 36 per cent. The total number of Australian deaths in WW2 was about 19,000. The fact that 40 per cent of them died as POWs under the Japanese army has put a dark shadow on Australian national history. Many survivors suffered from the scars on their bodies and hearts, and anti-Japanese
feelings arose from time to time. With this historical background, the Japanese government invited personnel related to the Australian army to return
to Japan. During a one-week stay by the ex-POWs, a sincere apology by the then Foreign minister, Maehara, was a highlight. There were assemblies in Kyoto and Tokyo and escorted trips to internment camp sites. All ex POWs were warmly
welcomed in each region. Two days after the group left Japan (saying "It was a very fruitful trip"), an earthquake hit Japan.
Visiting members of the party were: Mr. Harold Ramsey, born 1921 (89 years old at the time) of Victoria. Joined the Australian army at the age of 18.
Involved in the action in the Middle East. Before being sent to Java, captured by the Japanese army and was interned in Changi. Forced to work at the Burma-Thai Railway. On his way to Japan on the “Hell Ship” Rakuyo Maru, his ship was torpedoed by a US submarine and sunk in the South China Sea on 12 September, 1944. Rescued by a Japanese ship, he was interned in the Tokyo No.11 dispatched camp (later No.14 Branch camp, in Tsurumi ward, Yokohama city). Forced to work at Toshiba Tsurumi factory. After the camp was destroyed by American air bombing on 15 April, 1945, he was transferred to the Tokyo No.15 Branch camp in Niigata and worked at Niigata iron factory. Accompanied on the trip by Mr. Stephen Ramsey (son).
Mr. Norman E. Anderton, born 1921 (89 years old at the time) of Queensland. Signalman of 8th Battalion. Injured before the fall of Singapore on 13 February 1942 and became a POW at the hospital. Was forced to work at the Thai- Burma railway. The war came to the end while he was in Tambaya hospital camp in Burma (Myanmar). Accompanied by Ms Nichole (Nikki) Wood (niece).
Mr. Alfred John Simmonds (Jack), born 1922 (88 years old at the time) of Queensland. Became a POW in Singapore, interned in Changi POW camp and transferred from Singapore to Moji, Japan, on the Kyokko Maru in May 1943. Interned in the Osaka No.10 Branch camp (Taisho Branch in Shinchitose-machi, Taisho ward, Osaka city) and forced to work at the Osaka iron factory Transferred to the Osaka No.7 Branch camp (2 Kitago, Takefu city, Fukui) in May 1945 and forced to work for Shin-Etsu Chemical in Takefu. He had earlier visited Japan in 2004 with Australian ex-
POWs, Mr. Neil MacPherson and Mr.Jack Boon courtesy of the Japan-Australia Society of Nara and visited the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Yokohama. Accompanied by Ms. Dawn June Steindl (partner).
Dr. Charles Rowland Bromley Richards, born in 1916 (94 years old at the time) of New South Wales. Became a POW in Singapore, was sent to the Thai-Burma railway and instrumental in saving the lives of fellow POWs as a medical
officer. Sent in Saigon and on the way to Japan on the Rakuyo Maru the ship was torpedoed by a US submarine and sunk. He was rescued by a Japanese naval frigate, interned in the Sendai No.9 Branch camp (Sakata city, Yamagata) forced to work at Sakata branch of Nippon Express. Accompanied by Dr. David Alexander Bromley Richards (the eldest son), Ms. Patricia Margaret Reed (partner), Ms. Maria Clare Richards (the wife of the eldest son). Ms. Lois Yvonne Richards (the wife of the second son). Published "A Doctor's War". Previously visited Japan in 1959 and had a reunion with two civilians who were kind to him in Sakata. Rowley had made a speech at a seminar held at th Australian National University in Canberra under the auspices of the University in 2006.
Mr. GF (Fred) Brett, born in 1925 (85 years old at the time) of Tasmania. Captured in Timor in 1942, interned in Changi POW camp and forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway. He was later transferred to Fukuoka No.13 camp (in Saganoseki, Oita) in September 1944, after a two-month journey on the Rashin Maru, the so called Byoki Maru (sick ship). He was forced to work at the Saganoseki refinery at Nihon Kogyo and later at the No.8 camp (later called No.5 Branch camp) in Kawasaki, Fukuoka. He was forced to work in the coal pit of Omine mine of Furukawa Kogyo. He was accompanied by Mr. Robert Bennett (registered nurse).
VALE - Sergeant John Roy (Jack) Thorpe
WX10477 105 Australian Transport Company and British Commonwealth Occupation Force
Enlisted 20/12/1940 and Discharged 17/9/1947
Jack Thorpe was born at Claremont WA on 9/11/1921 and died at Ellenvale, Busselton on 30/8/2016. Jack’s funeral
took place at Busselton Funeral Centre on 7/9/2016.
Jack was the eldest of four children and due to circumstances he played a large part in watching out for his younger siblings. He left school at fourteen years of age to work as an apprentice mechanic in his father’s bus service. After two years the apprenticeship was interrupted and he obtained a job as a “bowser boy” at a garage in North Fremantle. His father later arranged for him to recommence his apprenticeship as the bus service was sold to the Metro Bus Company and they needed an apprentice.
After the outbreak of World War Two, Jack wanted to enlist immediately with his mates Ron Gwynne and Gordon Page. There was a complication because of age and he put his age up by three years. He finally enlisted on 20th December 1940 and joined the Second Recruit Training Depot at Northam. He then volunteered for Mechanical Support Unit and after training at Puckapunyal in Victoria he left for the Middle East on 18th September 1941.
His unit travelled via Port Tufic to the Suez Canal and El-Kantara and then across the Sinai and on to Barbera. He then joined the 1st Australian Troop Carrying Column attached to the 7th Australian Division as part of the 105 General Transport Company. At Port Tufic, Jack joined the troopship Orcades which sailed on the 29th January 1942 en route to the Dutch East Indies where he became a Prisoner of War. After several months in Batavia he joined other Australians on a ship for Singapore and Changi Prisoner of War Camp and later on, a ship heading for Burma. He was part of A Force. Jack’s group commenced work on the Railway at the third camp, Kunknitway (the 25 Kilo Camp). He was later at the 105 Kilo, 75 Kilo and 55 kilo camps on the Burma end of the Burma Thailand Railway.
A feature of Jack’s POW experience occurred whilst in the 55 Camp. Jack met Basil Clark of the 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion from Cadoux who he had known previously. Basil had a bad ulcer on his leg. The bottom half of the leg below the knee was 75% eaten away with gangrene. Jack was talking to Basil when the Medical Officer (Lieutenant Colonel Albert Coates later Sir Albert Coates) said, “That leg will have to come off, Clark. If we leave it on you have got no chance, let me take it off and you have got better than 50% of getting home”. Basil said, “I’ll have it off”. The operation was done next morning when two orderlies arrived with the stretcher consisting of bamboo poles with two rice bags stretched over the two long poles. The operating theatre was nothing more than a lean to at the end of the hut, with a dirt floor. There was a 44-gallon drum outside with a fire blazing to burn the amputated limb. The Colonel explained that the anaesthetic would only last a few minutes and proceeded with the operation, Jack Thorpe holding the patient. One of Colonel Albert Coates’ students was Weary Dunlop. (Note: Basil Clark survived on
returning to Three Springs and built a successful farming venture).
When the two ends of the Railway joined on the Thailand side of the border at Konkoita, Jack’s unit travelled by train to Tamarkan. Later the group went to Saigon and later still back to Singapore. On Christmas Eve 1944, Jack left Singapore on the Awa Maru to go to Japan where he was lodged at Camp 22 Iisuka and working in underground coal mines.
In August 1945 he was freed after the Japanese capitulation. Jack travelled home to Australia via Manila, the last leg in the HMS Speaker, an aircraft carrier, which called at Guam and New Guinea en route to Sydney. He finally reached Perth. Jack went on to transfer to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. When he returned to Australia on an annual leave period he decided to take over his father’s hotel at Three Springs and was given a discharge from the BCOF. Post war, Jack was the President of the Three Springs Arrino RSL in WA for about 40 years and was awarded the OAM in 2002.
Over a period of 15 years he raised over $50,000 to assist with sending many young people (aged 14-16 years) from his District to the Burma Thailand Railway on Quiet Lion Tours.
Jack Thorpe was a bloody lucky man by his own statement. Surviving life as a POW on the Burma-Thai Railway, Jack lived a full life as a community leader in Three Springs. In 2006 he wrote a book on his life story called 'Bloody Lucky'.
VALE - Eric Herman Rosenberg Roediger WX10710, 24.04.1910 – 25.09.2016'
At 106 when he died, Eric was one of the oldest soldiers surviving from World War 2.
Eric was born in South Australia and the family moved to WA in 1924 taking up a farm near Northam-Goomalling.
After his father set up a butchering business in 1933, Eric decided to start his own milk round in Northam with a horse and cart. He later tried goldmining before going into share farming in Dowerin.
In 1941 Eric joined the Army and was shipped to the Middle East. His brother Claude followed later and they wer allocated to the 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion. After service in the Middle East the Battalion were transported on the RMS Orcades, ostensibly to return to defend Australia after the Japanese entered the war. However, orders were changed and and they disembarked in Java without their machine guns and equipment. They were given old Dutch rifles and only a few rounds of ammunition and it was not long before they were forced to surrender to the Japanese when the Dutch capitulated.
Eric and his brother Claude were POWs in Java and Thailand together. Eric cared for his brother when he became gravely ill and under the care of Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop. After completing the railway, the Japanese shipped the fittest POW’s on the “Hell-ship” ship Byoki Maru to Japan where Eric and Claude worked in coal mine at Ohama.
On returning from the war Eric bought a farm south of Cunderdin with another brother, Keith, and they ran a wheat and sheep property with Eric retiring at age 70. Faith was a major part of Eric’s life from an early age and he believed it to be a major factor in his survival as a POW.Both Eric and his brother Claude were Church of Christ elders for many years. Eric always attended the memorial services to represent his battalion.
He did not find his war experience as a defining part of life. To him his family came first, he was a devout Christian, and his great love was farming. These three segments of his life kept him mentally strong and tough as a POW.
A very large group attended the funeral at Fremantle Cemetery on 7th October 2016. The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association reveres the memory of Eric Roediger and our condolence and thoughts are with the family.
Milton (Snow) Thomas Fairclough OAM 28.08.1920 – 01.10.2016, died aged 96 years at Murdoch Hospital.
His funeral service was held at Karrakatta on 10.10.2016.
Snow was born at Perth on 28 August 1920, grew up on a farm in Moora and he was a “jack of all trades” working in rural areas of Western Australia prior to World War Two.
He was with a group of country boys who were members of the Militia in the 10th Light Horse and enlisted in the AIF on June 19, 1940, joining the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion which was mainly raised in Western Australian. In 1940 the battalion sailed from Fremantle on the Isle de France in a convoy with 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. In February 1942 the battalion traveled on the troop ship RMS Orcades via Durban, South Africa, to Oosthaven in South Sumatra. They disembarked at Batavia (Jakarta) before traveling by road to Bandung. On 9th March 1942 the Dutch surrendered, which inevitably included the Australians.
After nearly a year in Bandung, the battalion went to Makasura before being shipped to Changi Prison on Singapore with Dunlop Force under Lt Colonel 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. By the completion of the railway Milton Fairclough’s health was bad and when his group went to Tamuang where men were selected for virtual “slave” work in Japan he was unfit and was admitted to the Nakon Pathom Hospital. He was then on maintenance work and remained in Thailand until the Victory in the Pacific.
Snow Fairclough returned to Thailand on twelve occasions as a mentor to students sourced from High Schools and sponsored by the Burma Thailand Burma Railway Memorial Association, the Extremely Disabled War Veterans Association, various Community Service Clubs and the Retired Prisoners of War Association of Western Australia on Quiet Lion Tours.
Snow was the focus of the outstanding documentary titled “War, Hate and The Lizard” produced by the Town of Victoria Park to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Pacific Day in 1945. The ‘Lizard’ was the name given to the most brutal of all the prison-guards who received a 20-year gaol sentence by the War Crimes Tribunal that ironically was ultimately reduced to five years.
A significant occasion for Snow was being invested with the Order of Australia Medal (OAM). The presentation took place in April this year recognising his service to veterans and the community. This was a proud moment for Snow, his family and the Battalion. Another very significant event in Snow’s life was his visit to Japan with his son, Dennis, in October 2014.
Snow and three other POWs participated in the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Program aimed to: “deepen mutual understanding between the peoples of Japan and Australia by inviting former Australian POWs to Japan to foster reconciliation”.
Snow’s memoir written in 2002, “My Soldiering Days 13.11.39 – 14.1.46” shows classic Aussie defiance encompassing views of British and Dutch military attitudes.
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association reveres the memory of “Snow” Fairclough.
In the Queen’s Birthday Honors announced on June 13 2016, Gordon Maitland Roberts, a member of the 2/3rd
Machine Gun Battalion in World War 11 and captive of the Japanese on the Burma Thailand Railway, was appointed as a member of the Order of Australia (OAM).
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.
ADDRESS BY NEIL MacPHERSON WX 16572 2/2ND PIONEERS AT THE 2016 ANZAC DAY WREATH LAYING CEREMONY AT KANCHANABURI WAR CEMETERY
Good Morning all, my name is Neil MacPherson. I worked on the Burma Railway for two years in Williams Force and ended up in a Japanese coal mine. We are here today at the Kanchanburi War Cemetery in Thailand to commemorate Anzac Day and to remember and honour those young Australians who died while prisoners of the Japanese. We must also pay homage to those who survived and returned home broken in body but not in spirit. We especially thank the government and the people of Thailand for their generous hospitality over the years here in Kanchanaburi and in other war time historical areas.
In March 1942 with enemy control of both sea and air we Australians returning from the Middle East were diverted to Java. Outnumbered & overwhelmed, many were killed in the air defence of Java and in the battle at Llewiliang, a vital defence line for the city of Buitenzorg
On the 8th March the Dutch Governor of Java surrendered the island and all its Forces to the Japanese, in order to save the island from further devastation. We suddenly found ourselves prisoners of a brutal regime that treated war prisoners as slave labour.
In late October 1942 under Colonel John Williams, our Force of 800 which included as well as 2/2nd Pioneers, hundreds of sailors off the Australian and American Cruisers Perth and Houston started work on the Burma end of the Railway. As a 19 year old, to coin a phrase – “still wet behind the ears”, I became a railway worker, unprepared for the beatings and deaths of many of my mates. Initially we were allocated the task of building embankments and digging cuttings through hills but in March 1943 along with Anderson Force under Colonel Anderson (who won a Victoria Cross in the fighting in Malaya); we started the demanding work of laying the sleepers and rails. During this work we moved along the railway over-nighting in filthy dilapidated camps previously occupied by Asian Labourers. These Asian labourers, with no organisation or medical support, died in their hundreds and were buried in collective unmarked graves. During the construction of the railway it contained along its length and beyond hundreds of labour camps - all were bad, some worse than others - not one could be called good.
Within 12 months of us starting work, diseases such as Cholera, Dysentery, Malaria, Berri Berri and leg ulcers, worsened by malnutrition and long hours of labour, would decimate our force. In September 1943 only 300 of Williams Force were still available for forced attendance at the Japanese organised celebrations to mark the joining of the two ends at Konkoita, 131 kilometres from our starting point at the base camp at Thanbyuzayat.
We had left behind us lonely graves lining the length of the railway where so many prisoners had died - their graves marked only with little wooden crosses.
Major Bruce Hunt, a noted West Australian surgeon and a most strict and efficient POW Camp Administrator in F. Force, had this to say about Australians on the railway:- I would say that….(The railway) was the most searching test of fundamental character and guts that I have ever known. That so many men…came through this test with their heads high and their records unblemished was something of which we…. may not be unreasonably proud.’
(Post war Major Hunt worked at Hollywood Repatriation Hospital in Western Australia and serviced Ex POWs).
On completion of the railway construction all prisoners were evacuated from their jungle camps and brought to Tamarkan & Tamuang in Thailand. After being evacuated from Burma in January 1944 I spent six months here in Kanchanaburi in the shadow of the Kwai River Bridge while waiting for transfer to Singapore and then on to Japan to spend the last year of the war working in a coal mine.
I would like to make a special mention of the High School Students and their teachers and carers who have made many sacrifices to travel on the Quiet Lion Tour with us, many worked hard to raise finance to pay their costs and supplement generous donations by a number of benefactors. These young people are honoured and privileged to play a part in the wreath laying ceremony today. Quiet Lion Tours have been bringing youngsters to Thailand since 1997.
In contrast with previous addresses, this one has been shortened, partly to spare you good people but mainly because it is about as much as I could rustle up and about my limit on my feet with my “wonky knees”
I do thank you for your attention and trust you will, after your experience here, return to your homes safely and there help keep alive the “Railway” story of mateship and courage.
On 13 May this year it was announced that Elizabeth Brennan, a valued member of the management Committee of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, had been presented with the WA Young Achiever Award for 2016.
Elizabeth has had a long association with the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association having first attended a Quiet Lion Tour as a junior in a group sponsored by the Wongan Hills RSL. Elizabeth maintained a strong interest in the work of the Association for some years and in 2015 became a member of the Management Committee.
A contributor to the West Australian newspaper on media strategic communications, Gemma Tognini, summed up some of Elizabeth’s attributes in an article titled “Unassuming young achievers put Gen-Y peers to shame” when she stated:
“Take 29-year old Elizabeth Brennan from Wongan Hills who was named WA’s Young Achiever of the Year. This articulate, passionate, intelligent young woman is, quite frankly, a force to be reckoned with. She is president of the Australian Women in Agriculture and a member of the World Farmers’ Organisation Committee. She volunteers with Meals on Wheels. She also lived in PNG for two years as a volunteer with AusAID”.
Gemma Tognini further commented at the conclusion of her article: “What I know (not from statistics) is that dozens of young men and women are bucking the Gen-Y trend and living courageous and generous lives. They understand the long game and are willing to play it.
They’re prepared to forgo short-term gratification for long-term reward. They are working hard to build businesses and careers, rolling up their sleeves, learning from those who have gone before them and doing so with boundless good humour and a thick skin. Many are doing volunteering, too.
These are the ones who aren’t demanding respect – they’re earning it. By doing real things, in the real world, with real outcomes. They’re fierce, and formidable and passionate about more than just themselves. They know that just because you shout about your passion and your drive does not prove anything other than you can shout. Talk, as they say, is so terribly cheap”.
It is as if Gemma Tognini was describing Elizabeth when penning those words.
Despite all of the interests Elizabeth pursues, she has found time to be actively involved in helping the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association achieve its objective in ensuring that the compelling story of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association is not forgotten.
Eric Wilson APM OAM
Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association
BURMA THAILAND RAILWAY AND THE QUIET LION TOUR
By David Piesse (Quiet Lion Tour Leader)
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.
Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand.
There have been many questions regarding American servicemen working on the Burma Thailand Railway whilst prisoners of the Japanese. In the main any such men were from the 2nd Battalion 131st Field Artillery and their story is one of the many on the Railway Story. (There are also the coincidences in regard to the 131st Field Artillery, the USS Houston and the HMAS PERTH survivors who became POWs).
The following illustrates the connection and coincidences between the three elements.
131ST FIELD ARTILLERY
The men of the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery swam ashore from the Cruiser USS Houston when it was sunk. Only some survived 42 months of “hell" as prisoners of the Japanese.
The 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, 36th Division (Texas National Guard), was mobilized in November 1940. This Battalion was detached from the Division and sent to the Philippine Islands.
The Unit sailed from the United States on November 21, 1941 aboard the Army Transport Ship, USS Republic and arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 28th of the same month. A day or two prior to reaching Hawaii a "black-out" and "radio silence" was announced and that an attack by the Japanese was expected at any time. After refuelling in Hawaii, the ship, accompanied by other ships, including the Chaumont, Hallmark, Holbrook, Admiral Halstead, Bloemfontein, Farmer and Gregg and the Cruiser USS Pensacola sailed south, and within a week Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese.
On December 7the Unit was informed of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Republic had four 3-inch guns and one 5-inch gun (on the "fan-tail") mounted on her.
The convoy made a short stop at Suva, Fiji Islands and then sailed on to Brisbane, Australia. This Unit was among the first American Troops ever to land on Australian soil. The Battalion spent Christmas 1941 in Brisbane but before New Year's Day it was again on the high seas, aboard the Dutch freighter Bloemfontein bound for the Island of Java in the Netherland East Indies, via Darwin, Australia. Coincidentally, the escort vessel for part of the journey was the Cruiser USS Houston.
On January 11, 1942, 35 days after the outbreak of War with Japan, the Battalion was on Java, the only U. S. ground combat Unit to reach the Netherland East Indies, before the Dutch capitulated to
the Japanese and the Battalion was captured by the Japanese. (They were considered “lost” because no one knew what happened to them until the war was nearly over. To the War Department they had simply disappeared).
Prior to the capitulation the Battalion (less E Battery), used its artillery and 50 calibre machine guns (salvaged from wrecked B-17s) in support of an Australian "Pioneer Infantry" group (the 2/2nd Pioneers) which had arrived in Java just prior to the Japanese landing. With what the Aussies called "top-hole" artillery fire, they helped hold up the Japanese advance at Leuwilleng, near the Central Java City of Bandoeng.
Of the 558 men and officers who landed on Java on January 11, 1942, 534 became prisoners of war of the Japanese.
Within a few weeks, the Japanese had all of the American prisoners from the USS Houston and the 131st (less "E" Battery) together in the 10th Battalion Bicycle Camp, a former Dutch installation in the Batavia (Jakarta) Java
Battery "E" remained in the Sourabaya area until moved to Nagasaki and other areas in Japan via Batavia and Singapore in November and December 1942. Thus, two Units of the American Armed Forces, consisting of 902 men, seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth, sacrificed in a clearly hopeless effort to save the Netherland East Indies from overwhelming numbers of the enemy. Now began an unbelievable string of events which, for some, would last three and one-half years and was to weld the "Phantoms" of the USS Houston (CA-30) and the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery together in a bond closer than blood. This Army and Navy group of POWs suffered together through 42 months of humiliation, degradation, physical and mental torture, starvation and horrible tropical diseases, with no medication. The hardest part was watching friends die slowly, day by day, with the survivors often thinking, fleetingly, that maybe they were the "lucky ones."
Of the 902 men taken Prisoner, 668 were sent to Burma and Thailand and worked on the "Death Railway" (of Bridge on the River Kwaii fame).
Of the total, 163 men who died in Prisoner of War Camps, 133 died working on the railroad. After completion of the railroad, 236 of the men were disbursed to Japan and other Southeast Asian Countries to work in coal mines, shipyards, docks, etc. and a few remained at the "Bicycle Camp" in Java.
Quite a few of the men were killed by American submarines while en-route to Singapore and Japan and more were killed by American bombers. When liberated, the men were scattered throughout locations in Southeast Asia: Java, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, French Indo China, Japan, China and Manchuria, to name most of them.
A new heavy Cruiser (CA-30) was launched from Newport News, Virginia, on September 7, 1929, christened as USS HOUSTON. In 1940, she was in the Philippine Islands and when the U. S. Navy Department expected an attack on the fleet at any time the USS Houston was ordered to move from the Cavite Navy Yard (across the bay from Manila) to the Port of Ilo Ilo on the Island of Panay where she arrived on the 4th of December, four full days prior to the first air attacks on the City of Manila and the complete destruction of the Cavite Naval Installation.
The ship left Ilo Ilo at 6:30 PM on Pearl Harbor day, just before a Japanese bomber attack on that Port. That same evening, the USS Houston was joined by the light cruiser, USS Boise, and on the following day by destroyers USS Stewart and USS Edwards, the seaplane tender, USS Langley and the fleet oilers, USS Pecos and USS Trinity. The convoy turned south, steamed toward Borneo and
arrived at Balikpapan on the 15th of December. The next day, the USS Houston was ordered to proceed directly to Sourabaya, Java, to prepare for convoy escort duty between the Netherlands East Indies and Australia. The ship had become part of an allied fleet operating out of Java.
On the 4th of February 1942, while searching for a Japanese force, consisting of three cruisers and 20 transports, they were attacked by 54 Japanese bombers. A direct hit knocked out the 8 inch gun turret, blew a 12 foot diameter hole in the main deck, killed 48 men and wounded 20 others.
Although the vessel had lost one-third of its major firepower, it participated next in the "Battle of the Java Sea", where 12 Allied ships were lost. These were, Dutch: light cruisers Java & De Ruyter; destroyers Kortenaer and Witte de With; British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter, (of Graf Spee fame); destroyers: HMS Jupiter, HMS Encounter and HMS Electra; American destroyers: USS John C.Ford, USS Alden, USS Paul Jones and USS John D. Edwards.
The only vessels to survive the "Battle of the Java Sea" were the Australian cruiser HMAS Perth and the USS Houston and on the night following the Java Sea Battle, the two ships attempted to sail to the south end of Java via the Sunda Strait.
A Japanese fleet, consisting of an aircraft carrier, five cruisers, 11 destroyers and several PT boats was in the Strait, covering the landing of Japanese troops from 40 transports.
When the HMAS Perth and the USS Houston reached the strait late that night (February 28, 1942) they found themselves surrounded by enemy ships. After putting up a tremendous battle, first the HMAS Perth and then the USS Houston were sent to the bottom.
Only 368 of the total complement of 1011 men of the USS Houston managed to reach shore. The remaining 643 shipmates, including their skipper, Captain Rooks, went down with the ship. Within a few days, all the survivors became prisoners of the Japanese.
The Lost Battalion remains the "Most Decorated Unit" in Texas of any War and USS Houston CA-30, is the "Most Decorated" vessel of its class in the U. S. Fleet.
Each year since 1945, the survivors of the POW "hell" along with their families, meet in August to keep their Bond of Brotherhood inviolate and to remember and pay honour to the 163 who died in Prison Camps and the 504 who have died since liberation and the 646 who died in action.
The loss of HMAS Perth, 1 March 1942
HMAS Perth, a light cruiser of 6,830 tons, was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Amphion on 15 June 1936 and later purchased by the Australian Government. She was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) on 29 June 1939. She carried a complement of 681.
Her early war service was in the Caribbean and the Pacific and she did not reach Australia until 31 March 1940. Until November 1940, the ship was engaged on patrol and escort duties in Australian waters. She then departed for the Mediterranean where she played a minor part in the battle of Matapan.
She was involved in the evacuations of Crete and Greece in April and May 1941, in the
course of which she was badly damaged by bombing. After repairs, the cruiser was engaged in operations off the coast of Syria before proceeding to Australia for an extended refit. She arrived in Sydney on 12 August.
While the ship was refitting, Captain H. M. L. Waller, DSO and bar, RAN, took command on 24 October 1941. After completion of her refit, Perth operated off eastern Australia on patrol and escort work, visiting New Caledonia and New Guinea.
On 14 February 1942 Perth sailed for the Netherlands East Indies, arriving at Batavia (now Jakarta) on 24 February, where she was attacked by Japanese aircraft that day and the next without sustaining any damage. The Perth sailed for Surabaya on 25 February, in company with four Royal Navy ships. On 26 February the ship departed Surabaya in company with the Dutch light cruisers De
Ruyter and Java, the heavy cruisers USS Houston and HMS Exeter, and two Dutch, three British and four US destroyers. The squadron, under the command of the Dutch Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, proceeded along the north coast of Madura Island, searching for a Japanese invasion convoy.
Admiral Doorman received information that the Japanese forces had been sighted to the north and he steamed to intercept. In the ensuing battle of the Java Sea, fought over the night of 27-28 February the Allied force was soundly defeated by a Japanese force which was able to exploit its
superiority over the four-nation Allied force in terms of long-range gunnery, torpedoes, night fighting, the freshness of its crews, and its homogeneity. The Dutch cruisers were sunk and Exeter badly damaged, while most of the destroyers were sunk or withdrew as their torpedoes were exhausted. Perth and Houston were able to break off the action with the Japanese and sailed to Tandjung Priok, where they refuelled.
Orders were received for the cruisers to sail through the Sunda Strait for Tjilitjap on Java's south coast. They sailed at 7.00 pm on 28 February and set a course to the west for the Strait, Perth leading, with Houston five cables astern. At 11.06 a vessel was sighted at about five miles range, close to St Nicholas Point. When challenged she proved to be a Japanese destroyer and was
immediately engaged. The two cruisers had met the Japanese invasion force assigned to western Java.
Shortly afterwards, other destroyers were sighted to the north and the armament shifted to divided control to allow more than one target to be engaged. Despite this, the enemy destroyers attacked from all directions during the action; it was impossible to engage all targets simultaneously, and so some were able to close to short range. Nevertheless, Perth was to suffer only superficial damage
in this phase of the action.
At about midnight it was reported that the cruiser had little ammunition left, so Captain Waller decided to attempt to force a passage through Sunda Strait. He ordered full speed and turned the ship south for Toppers Island. Perth had barely steadied on her new course when a torpedo struck her in the starboard side. The captain ordered the crew to prepare to abandon ship. A few moments later, another torpedo struck just forward of the first hit and Captain Waller gave the order to abandon ship. After five or ten minutes, a third hit torpedo struck well aft on the starboard side, followed shortly after by another on the port. Perth, which had been heeling to starboard, righted herself, then heeled to port and sank at about 12.25 am on 1 March.
Houston, still fighting but ablaze, was also hit by torpedoes and sank shortly afterwards.
Perth's crew abandoned ship between the second and third torpedoes, but it is doubtful if any boats were successfully launched, although many rafts and Carley floats were. During the abandon ship operation the Perth was under fire from many destroyers at close range and many hits were sustained and casualties caused. Many were killed or wounded in the water by the explosion of the last two torpedoes and by shells exploding in the water.
Of the Perth's company of 686, which included four civilian canteen staff and six RAAF personnel for operating and servicing her aircraft, only 218 (including one civilian and two RAAF) were eventually repatriated; the remainder were killed during, or soon after, the action, or died as prisoners of war. Captain Waller was lost with the ship.
Milton Thomas Fairclough, a survivor of the Burma Thailand Railway and a member of 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion was awarded an OAM in the Honours List announced on Australia Say this year.
It was recognized that Snow (as he is universally referred to), has served the Australian Community by his outstanding achievements and contributions as a soldier (in particular as a prisoner of the Japanese) in time of war and as a concerned citizen in time of peace. He has assisted significantly in perpetuating the memory of the privations and sacrifices of Australian Military personnel and the selfless dedication of the medical personnel during the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway in World War Two. He has also dedicated himself to service to the community since surviving World War Two and his incarceration with service and support of returned Australian prisoners of war of the Japanese, and participation in youth and community affairs.
Snow was born at Perth on August 28, 1920, and grew up on a farm in Moora; he was a “jack of all trades” working in rural areas of Western Australia prior to World War Two. He was with a group of country boys who were members of the Militia in the 10th Light Horse and enlisted in the AIF on June 19, 1940, joining the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion which was mainly raised in Western Australian.
In 1940 the battalion sailed from Fremantle on the Isle de France in a convoy with 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.
In February 1942 the battalion traveled on the troop ship RMS Orcades via Durban, South Africa, to Oosthaven in South Sumatra. They disembarked at Batavia (Jakarta) before traveling 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 Changi Prison on Singapore with Dunlop Force under Lt Colonel Edward Dunlop.
In January 1943 Dunlop Force went by train on a five day journey in cramped steal 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.
By the completion of the railway Milton Furlough’s health was bad and when his group went to Tamuang where men were selected for virtual “slave” work in Japan he was unfit and was admitted to the Nakon Pathom Hospital. He was then on maintenance work and remained in Thailand until the Victory in the Pacific.
After discharge on January 31, 1946 Milton Fairclough immediately commenced an active association with supporters of returned Australian Prisoners of War of the Japanese and participating in youth and community affairs.
Milton “Snow” Fairclough has returned to Thailand on twelve occasions as a mentor to students sourced from High Schools and sponsored by the Burma Thailand Burma Railway Memorial Association, the Extremely Disabled War Veterans Association, various Community Service Clubs and the Retired Prisoners of War Association of Western Australia on Quiet Lion Tours.
As with most ex Prisoners of War, Milton Fairclough confined any discussions and recollections of the Prison of War experience to fellow ex PoWs, usually in the confines of RSL clubs, but 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, he became an active member. 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. His Thailand visits had commenced prior to the formation of the Association.
Milton “Snow” Fairclough is 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.
In post war years he has regularly visited his mates when they are ill or close to death. He has played a large part in the activities of the 2/3rd Battalion Association.
“Snow” was invested with his medal by Governor Kerry Sanderson in a ceremony at Government House in March this year.
Cathy Bamblett, the Principal of Esperance High School wrote a hearfelt thank you to the tour organisers of this years Quiet Lion Tour
You can read the letter here
TOUR REPORT QUIET LION TOUR 2016
Friday April 15th 2016 saw a group of people congregating at the check-in desk at Perth International Airport, mostly strangers to each other. The same was happening at Brisbane International Airport, Melbourne International Airport and Sydney International Airport as well. We have become an organisation for the whole of Australia not just Western Australia as was in the past. We are doing all travel arrangements for travelers coming from all over Australia as well as flights being met to assemble our group together. This creates cohesion into the Quiet Lion Group rather than an "us and them". We also accommodate ”land content only" for those who join the tour whilst in Thailand or are arriving from other overseas destinations.
As take-off time was approaching it was noticed that our group was starting to intermingle and were helping each other with documents and getting through the different stages that go with international travel, a lot for the first time. Up and away, we left Perth with our full compliment as did the flights from the other airports on the eastern seaboard and later in the evening we had ourselves AT the Quiet Lion Tour for 2016, assembled and ready to get into the story of the Thai Burma Railway.
Day two had to get everyone into the habit of early wake up calls so we can leave on time. No wake up call, panic, are people still in bed, fortunately most had set an alarm. No Panic. Made us aware to check that wake up calls had been ordered before going to bed, not the next morning. Left around fifteen minutes late to go to the Summer Palace at Bang-Pa In, as per usual it was hot and gave our group a taste of Thailand weather. Next on to Ayutthaya to the United Nations declared world heritage area of the ancient capital of Thailand that was invaded in 1767ad (or 2559be) as we were told, being the Thai calendar year. Owing to a change in approach to hasten our visit, we lost time and had to curtail our next stop to a few minutes. Mental note to self, go back to previous arrangements.
Lunch proved to be a great success on a new ferry down the Chayo Phraya River into Bangkok which took approximately three hours and gave everyone a chance to get to know one another and to talk among them about what their expectations of the trip would be. Arrived back at Royal Benja Hotel in time for those that had missed the retail therapy component of the day. Unaccompanied students and the Geraldton group were taken to Terminal 21 shopping complex for an evening’s outing.
Day three started without a wakeup call as well, no problems, day went very well with a visit to the Teak Factory, an initiative by the Queen of Thailand to train Thai artisans in the art of wood carving and furniture making. From here we went to the Palm Sugar Factory to see the traditional way of making Coconut Palm Sugar and to stock up on palm sugar for the morning coffee. The Damnoen Saduak floating market was well received arriving after a tour of the klongs and a chance to make purchases from the long-tail boats in which we were traveling. A sumptuous lunch was put on at the Sampran Riverside Resort, formerly the Rose Garden Resort, followed by the Thai Elephant and cultural show. We arrived back in Bangkok around 5:30pm with time to get cleaned up for dinner with our guests, Khun Tang Sitipong and her parents, (they are the daughter and granddaughter of Khun Kanit and Khun Oonjai Wanachote). The Wanachote family are keen to keep contact with the Quiet Lion Group as we had a very long association with the Wanachote family through Home Phu Toey.
Day four saw wake up calls functioning with everyone eager to begin the official start of the Railway Story, we had been spoiled by the Bangkok traffic on the previous days as it was the end of the Thai New Year or Sonkran Festival. Today was the start of the working week and the traffic was horrendous, finally arrived at Nakom Pathom, the site of the big hospital camp that was constructed after the railway was completed. It was here that Weary Dunlop and Albert Coates along with other doctors from the railway and dedicated medical staff did so much work to assist the men that came down from the camps along the track to recover some of their health and get attention for a multitude of illnesses that plagued them during the construction period.
Most that came here were in very poor condition, food was just adequate but being closer to Bangkok they were able to get supplies from the "V" organization, a group of Thais and expat English and Dutch that had been interned for the duration of the war but still had contact to the outside. A main conduit for this activity was Boon Pong and his Daughter.
Next on the list was Nong Pladuk station on the railway line from Bangkok to the southern states of Thailand and eventually to Singapore, this is the 0 kilometre point of the railway to Thanbyuzayat on the Thailand side of the border. Thanbyuzayat is the 0 kilometre point for those that started in Burma. A large camp, mainly British, was at Nong Pladuk along with workshops, foundries and oil refineries.
Not far from Nong Pladuk is the town of Ban Pong. (The railway station where POWs alighted from the trains that had brought them up from Singapore). The "lucky few" which arrived here was taken by truck to their areas of work. The remainder was force marched at about twenty-five miles per day until they reached their destination up to three hundred kilometres away.
As we get closer to Kanchanaburi, we stop at Tamuang, a large camp area that is now mostly market gardens that supply fresh vegetables to the local market in Kanchanaburi. Most of the POWs that came to work on the railway travelled through here on the way up the line and most definitely on their return. Those returning to Singapore and some of the Japan Parties were selected from here. The camp was not a work camp and was mainly for administration, the discipline was strict but the rations were considerably better than up the line. Those suffering with amoebic dysentery, tropical ulcers, and most of the debilitating disease that were hard to treat were sent from here on to the hospital camp at Nakom Pathom.
After Tamuang we travel through the city of Tamuang and Kanchanaburi to Tamarkan, the site of the Bridge over the River Kwai, and to lunch at Tida Loa's Restaurant overlooking the bridge, after lunch we had time to have a look over the bridge and for those who needed to change currency, after a quick look at the market it was time to go to the Thailand Burma Railway Centre and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. By this time the day had got into the low forties and was starting to get uncomfortable so after the TBRC it was by unanimous decision that we head for Pung-Waan Kanchanaburi Resort and the swimming pool. We would pick up the end of the day in the morning when it was not so hot. After the welcome dinner and karaoke we all retired for the night.
Day five saw us picking up where we had left off the previous evening after a group photo at the front of Pung-Waan Resort, onto the buses and visited Chungkai War Cemetery and landing on the Kwai Noi River after the cemetery we went to Chungkai Cutting and embankment which was built from the Chungkai Camp. Chungkai was also a "Base Hospital" that was used before the facility at Nakom Pathom was built, a lot of amputations took place in the Chungkai Hospital.
Skipped JEATH Museum and went straight to TBRC to wait for the train from Kanchanaburi over the Wampo Viaduct. The train was due at 10:40am, arrived Thai time around 11:00am. Quiet Lions had a carriage to themselves and the track has been re-laid, re-ballasted and new heavy gauge rails, it was a very pleasant ride, no bumps or square wheels. After crossing the Viaduct and alighting at Wampo Station we then went back to Tam Krasae Station where lunch was served at one of our favorite stops, the Jungle Training Centre, and watched the train return on its journey back to Bangkok. Everyone that participated in this exercise certainly had a good look at the bridge and all agreed that the construction was a great feat in engineering and allaying fears of precarious positions. It was a very positive manoeuvre.
From lunch we were back on the busses to the site of the Tarsao Hospital camps, another "base" hospital which the extremely sick and injured were sent from camps further north. The Pung-Waan River Kwai Resort now occupies this location and the different uses are incomparable, from death and disease and starvation to a luxury resort it was a place of desperation.
A short bus trip took us to the town of Tarsao, the terminus of the railway at the station of Nam Tok. Off the end of the railway stands a Mitsubishi C56 locomotive which ran on the railway during the war and after with the State Railways of Siam until 1956.
Above the engine is the site of the Tonchan South POW camp from which was built a long trestle bridge across the front of the Sai Yok Noi Waterfall. Owing to the lack of rain the stream and waterfall was not running. The next stop was across the road at the 7 Eleven store to buy supplies for our home for the next five days at Home Phu Toey Resort, what a relief to be able to stay here without having to check out.
Day six saw us on the road again to Takanun, and the Khao Laem Dam and Lake Vajalongkorn built by the Snowy Mountain Authority under the Columbo Plan in the 1980's. First stop is Wat Takanun and a chance to climb up to the Buddha Image at the top of a limestone Kaste to take in the lay of the Kwai Noi Valley and the Takanun POW camps. The position of the railway is visible from here until it passes under the dam wall. From here you also overlook the town of Thong Pha Phum, a regional centre in Kanchanaburi Province.
From the temple complex we went to the Khao Laem Dam. We have been informed that our group is the only ones that have access to the dam itself and we are guests of EGAT. A set menu lunch was served at the staff social club which was very well received; a chance was taken to be able to enjoy the cool breeze that comes off the dam.
Lunch finished we headed back past the camp sites of Brankassi and Hindato where there is a deviation to take the railway past the Hindat Hot Springs. We arrived at the rest station on the Hintok road at 2:00pm, gave everyone water and electrolyte and after a short briefing everyone headed to the Hintok Cutting and the site of the Three Tier Bridge. After an address at the bridge site we headed down the stairs to the bridge footings and up onto the “seven metre” bank and through to Hellfire Pass Museum. It was hot but the route of the heritage track meant the sun was nearly always behind the hill and we were in shade most of the way. Last ones got through between 4:00 and 4:15 pm which meant it was time to hit the pool.
Sleep-in on day seven, call at 6:45am, time for a leisurely breakfast and walk up to Weary Dunlop Park for the Buddhist Ceremony. This is a very pleasant and meaningful ceremony conducted by the monks from a nearby temple. The Ceremony that is performed is the ceremony to release the spirits of those who have passed away in the last twelve months.
The next item for the morning is the Obelisk to commemorate the Doctors and medical staff that did so much to keep up the spirits and health of the men working on the line and defending them from being sent out to work when they were incapable. This is followed by the Memorial to Khun Kanit and Khun Oonjai Wanachote, our dear friends who looked after us at Home Phu Toey all the years we have been staying here. We also tell of the first meeting of the ex-prisoners of war and Kanit and Oonjai Wanachote on the River Kwai Noi including Sir Edward Weary Dunlop and lasting connection with Home Phu Toey.
After the Buddhist Ceremony, the Obelisk Ceremony and the Kanit and Oonjai Memorial, we board the busses to visit the site of the Hintok Road Camp, now an arboretum. The attempt to place an obelisk here in memory of the doctors and medical staff was thwarted by Thai “red tape”. Hintok Mountain Camp is also known as Hintok Road camp, the road that runs through the camp was an elephant track to Burma which was open to vehicular traffic during the dry season. Dunlop Force walked to here from the Konyu River camp and started on the railway as soon as they arrived, the camp was built in spare time and after work on the railway, the accommodation was mainly defective R D Tents often with only a single fly, they were not water proof and when the monsoon set in it rained for one hundred and eight days straight, everything was wet and had no chance of drying out. Sickness and disease started to spread, any semblance of clothing soon disintegrated leaving only slouch hats and "g" strings, boots had rotted away before they had left Java.
During this big wet, the railway work went on for ninety-three days and with the wet came cholera, at first nearly everyone that got cholera died in a matter of hours until the medics came up with replacing the electrolytes by intravenous injection. Major Alan Woods had built a water reticulation system by damming the stream above the camp and using bamboo he had supplied running water to the cook house. He broached into this system near the kitchen and built a still capable of producing one hundred and twenty litres of saline a day thus saving the lives of more than sixty percent of cholera victims.
Back on the busses and we head for Sai Yok Yai National Park to see the POW camps and the Japanese camp area. There is a huge embankment and bridge footings that were built by the Romusha (forced labour). After a swim and a paddle in the coldest water we encounter in Thailand we then board Houseboats and travel down the Kwai Noi River with lunch provided. The houseboat trip was very well received and enjoyed by all, we alighted at the Hintok River camp and after a short talk we moved onto Konyu River camp and then returned to Home Phu Toey for dinner and bed.
Day eight after another sleep in and a photo we headed for Thadan where a road bridge was built after the completion of the railway, as the original structure had been washed away during the extreme monsoon. The site of the camp is now an Elephant Park where you can hire elephants for transportation. From here we travel to Lat Ya, which is the site of the Temple Camp also known as Rajah camp (a corruption of the words Lat Ya). This camp was a transit stop as the road to Burma followed this route. The Shinto Peace Park is funded from Japan as atonement for the atrocities that took place during World War 2, on behalf of the Japanese nation.
Lunch taken afloat on the two rivers - (Kwai Noi and the Kwai Yai). On the Kwai Noi we traveled as far as Khao Pun, the mountain which the Chungkai Cutting and embankment are built on and passed the landing of the Chungkai Hospital and cemetery. As we returned down the river and came into the Kwai Yai the two rivers can be seen running side by side, one brown the other blue. We were able to come up the Kwai Yai and travel under the "Bridge over the River Kwai " and see the abutment of the timber bridge that was built in conjunction with the steel bridge. On the way back down to the landing we pass e new style Buddhist Temple and Stupa which contains the Ashes of the last Head Abbot of Thailand that was born in Kanchanaburi. We left the lunch cruise at the JEATH landing for a visit before heading back to Home Phu Toey for our Concert Night. Concert Nights just seem to get better and better as time goes on. Every year is absolutely amazing, and becoming more professional. Thanks to all of those that participated and gave us all a night to remember.
Day nine and we visited Hellfire Pass Museum to give everybody a chance to go through the exhibition and have time to take in all they have to offer without being pushed for time. Next item on the itinerary was a session for the students to practice their marching and presentation of wreaths to be laid on ANZAC Day at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. Our students went reasonably well at this exercise with some more polish they will be good on the day. Discovered “After Dawn” Coffee Shop which served espresso coffee made with real milk a nice little bonus for the connoisseurs of good coffee.
The main reason for coming to Kanchanaburi was the ANZAC Cup AFL Football match played between the Thailand Tigers and the Malaysian Warriors. The Malaysian Warriors ran out winners after being the runners up in the home and away season. The afternoon was very enjoyable and particularly the hamburgers, fries, pizzas, hot dogs, steak sandwiches, pies and sausage rolls went very well thanks to Tenderloins Steakhouse from Bangkok and a sponsor of the Thailand Tigers AFLFC. We had a pleasant trip back to Home Phu Toey with a short stop at the Tarsao 7 Eleven who by this stage almost knew the Quiet Lions by name. Dinner was a quiet affair and all turned in for the night.
Day ten was our free day for most however those who took the optional trip to Three Pagodas Pass on the Thailand Burma border. Eighteen people took advantage of this option led by Ian Holding with his knowledge of F Force and the movements of those who worked on the northern part of the railway and the site of Dr Bruce Hunt's hospital at the Songkurai camps. Mention should also be made of Neil MacPherson OAM who served further north again over the border in Burma itself, starting at Thanbyuzayat and coming right to the border at Changaraya.
The rest remained at Home Phu Toey to have to visit the Weary Dunlop Park and Museum and the other exhibits in the park. They saw replicas of the equipment made from bamboo; a dentist chair, an orthopaedic bed with pulley system for raising and lowering limbs and for traction, various physiotherapy equipment that was used for the rehabilitation of patients suffering from tropical ulcers, amputations, broken limbs and various other ailments that required this treatment.
At 5:00pm in Weary Dunlop Park there was a press conference where Neil MacPherson OAM and Harold Martin, both ex-POWs on the Thailand Burma Railway were interviewed by press from SE Asia and Australia. This ended at 5:30pm. The Quiet Lions Group then joined other invited Guests for a reception followed by the light and sound show in which they managed to set the mountain side ablaze. A few anxious moments and all were back on track.
Dinner was served on the lawn in company of the invited guests but being ANZAC Eve most took the advantage of leaving early to get ready for an early start and pack bags for an early check out before we head to Hellfire Pass for the Dawn Service.
Day eleven, ANZAC Day, wakeup call at 2:15am, bags at the lobby and on the bus by 2:45am and leave for Hellfire Pass. The service started at 5:30am and was very well and ended at 6:15am. As daylight broke over the gathering the birds became very noticeable and the light spread through the pass, it was a moving experience. We then headed back to the car park at Hellfire Pass for a gunfire breakfast and back to Home Phu Toey for breakfast and place luggage onto busses. We said goodbye to Home Phu Toey as we headed to Kanchanaburi for the Wreath Laying Ceremony at 11:00am. Arrived in time for the students have some more practice at the wreath laying before the service began.
With the Service in full swing, it came to the wreath laying which started well but in no time gremlins stared to appear but the students laying wreaths stepped up and laid the wreaths as if nothing had happened, no-one noticed the programme change and the students are to be congratulated for their initiative.
After the Service, we left the Cemetery and walked to the Baan Rao Restaurant for a very enjoyable lunch and all you could eat ice cream which delayed our departure for Bangkok slightly. Our trip back to Bangkok and the Royal Benja Hotel was a rather quiet affair as everyone had had a big day and realised that this was nearly the end of the Quiet Lion Tour 2016.
Our final dinner was held in the dining room at the Royal Benja. It was time to thank our tour guides, Ake and Alex, our Thai agents at Pacific Horizon, Kaye and Vivatchai, and our drivers and crew.
Neil MacPherson received a very warm thank you for his part in the tour as did Alan MacPherson who helped Neil throughout the tour. Ian Holding had done a fantastic job organising the tour and Krishna Vanderweide for making sure there were no loose ends and for being mum to the unattached girls and boys. We must say a big thank you to allow those who stepped up during the tour and took on roles that were necessary for the smooth running, Vicky Vincent became the concert organizer and Michael Vincent was the "sheepdog" that made sure everyone was on the bus but also on the right bus.
We also need to thank our regular supporters from Esperance Senior High School, Miles Senior High School (Queensland), Christina and Kerry Ross with the Geraldton contingent, Carnamah and Three Springs RSL for their input, Melville Rotary Club for the sponsorship of the Melville Senior High School students, Mt Lawley Senior High School, the Lions Club of Wagin, Mandurah RSL and Ramsay Medical Group (Hollywood Hospital). All of the students had outside sponsorship and BTRMA support to help them attend the Quiet Lion Tour, thanks to all who helped in this way.
Day twelve was a day for pure retail therapy, lookout MBK we are coming, all unaccompanied students were supervised by appointed carers, lots of souvenirs and clothes were purchased and last minute gifts to take home were acquired and the tour slowly wound down. Back to the Benja for dinner and onto the busses to go to Suvanaphumi Airport to catch our respective planes to home.
Thank you everyone for your input into a wonderful QLT 2016.
The BTRMA wishes to acknowledge the support of RAMSAY MEDICAL GROUP, HOLLYWOOD PRIVATE HOSPITAL and PEEL HEALTH CAMPUS over a long period of time.
From the commencement of the Quiet Lion Tours in 1997 HOLLYWOOD PRIVATE HOSPITAL has assisted the Association with the provision of nurses on the tours and providing the use of meeting facilities at the hospital. Initially, CEO Kevin Cass Ryall and Director of Nursing Nola Cruikshank were very cooperative and latterly CEO Peter Mott and Director of Clinical Services Karen Gullick have maintained the valued relationship. Debra Taylor has been a constant help.
PEEL HEALTH CAMPUS has assisted in sponsorship of Service Cadets on Quiet Lion Tours after commencing an arrangement with ex Prisoner of War, the late Wally Holding OAM, and the Mandurah RSL. Peel Health Campus Chief Executive Officer Doctor Margaret Sturdy continued this arrangement after her appointment and the passing of Wally Holding.
The Association values such support in addition to other support from donors and organisations.
25 April 2015
On 25 April, Australians throughout the world commemorated ANZAC Day to remember those who have served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. ANZAC Day marks the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers – the ANZACs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, on 25 April 1915, a century ago.
This year in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women and Senator for Western Australia the Hon Michaelia Cash; Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown, AO; Australian Ambassador to Thailand HE Mr Paul Robilliard, and Defence Attaché Colonel Andrew Duff joined a gathering of around 2,200 at a dawn service at Hellfire Pass to pay tribute to the thousands of prisoners of war (POWs) who lost their lives in the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway in the Second World War.
Later in the day, over a thousand of people participated in a memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony held at Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery. Australian former-POWs and war veterans were present at the ceremonies. Governor of Kanchanaburi Mr Wanchai Osukonthip and New Zealand Ambassador to Thailand HE Mr Reuben Levermore also attended the wreath laying service.
“Gallipoli remains a place of great significance to Australians today because of the actions of those men both on that infamous first day as well as the eight month campaign that followed. More than 8,700 Australians lost their lives during the campaign, with over 2,000 killed or wounded on the first day of fighting”, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash said in her speech at the Wreath Laying service. “Let us never forget both the heroic feats and acts of mateship that created the legendary ANZAC spirit which we, as the sons and daughters of Australia and New Zealand, proudly honour and revere”, she added.
Australian former Prisoner of War Mr Neil MacPherson OAM who travelled with the Quiet Lion Tour and once worked on the Thai – Burma Railway, delivered the ex POW Address and laid a wreath in memory of the fallen soldiers at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery on ANZAC Day.
Gordon Maitland Roberts, WX 2625, of Dandaragan, Western Australia, died at Hollywood Hospital on November 1, 2015 having reached the age of 96 years on 3rd March last. He served the Australian community by his outstanding achievements and contributions as a soldier (in particular as a prisoner of the Japanese) in time of war, as a very successful primary producer and as a good citizen in time of peace.
He has assisted significantly in maintaining the morale of his fellow prisoners of war during World War 11 and in post war years in perpetuating the memory of the privations and sacrifices of Australian Military personnel and the selfless dedication of the medical personnel during the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway in World War II. He has also dedicated himself to service to the community since surviving World War !! and his incarceration by developing innovation and progressing primary industry in the Mid West of WA and with service and support of returned Australian prisoners of war of the Japanese.
Gordon Maitland Roberts 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.
In February 1942 the battalion traveled on the Orcades via Durban, South Africa, to Oosthaven in South Sumatra. They disembarked at Batavia (Jakarta) before traveling 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.
After discharge on January 31, 1946, Gordon Roberts, as with most ex Prisoners of War, confined any discussions and recollections of the Prisoner of War experience to meeting with fellow ex PoWs, usually in the confines of RSL clubs, but 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, he 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 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.
When Gordon Roberts volunteered for the Australian Army the Mid-West area in Western Australia was just being developed with country previously regarded as being unsuitable for most forms of agriculture being utilized. Gordon Roberts’ elder brother was allocated a section of virgin country and he gave Gordon one thousand acres of the grant to start a farm on his return from the War.
Gordon Roberts married on his return and with his new wife moved onto the grant of land. Together the cleared the land and established the nucleus of their farm. It is notable that the young wife operated a “General Grant” tank acquired from War Surplus auctions to clear the scrub. The property was named “Chelsea”.
Over the years the farming business grew from one thousand to twenty six thousand acres spread over five different farms. The properties range across an area from Three Springs to Dandaragan and Badgingarra. The area had been regarded as “Sand Plain” country and required particular skills to become viable. Gordon and his wife Yaxley developed a breed of sheep to specialize in fat lambs and became a dominant force in that field. They also specialized in Aberdeen Angus cattle and, again, became leaders in the field. Further, they were able to use large areas for wheat and other grain on the country which theretofore had not been considered suitable for cropping.
Gordon Roberts is a great example of those Australians who went through a terrible experience whilst serving their country. They not only survived the experience but returned home to make a success of their lives and contribute to their country.
It is of particular note that up until his death, Gordon Roberts and his friend Milton “Snow” Fairclough were the only remaining men of the seventeen from Moora who enlisted together and were all captured by the Japanese.
Gordon Roberts was a life member of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association and a strong supporter of the Second Third Machine Gun Battalion Association.
The Association is delighted to confirm the recent award of an Order of Australia Medal to our Chairman and long time tour leader of the Quiet Lion Tour. Congratulations Eric.
Eric Wilson first went to Thailand in 1999 at the request of an ex-prisoner of war friend, Mr. William Haskell, who had been returning regularly to Thailand from 1985 onwards with ex prisoners of war, including Sir Edward (Weary) Dunlop, identifying the location of many camps, cemeteries and other features of the Burma Thailand Railway, including Hellfire Pass.
Due to advancing age and reduction in numbers of surviving Prisoners of War, assistance was sought from capable volunteers to further the cause of perpetuating the memories of the Burma Thailand Railway.
After assisting with Quiet Lion Tours from 1999, in 2002 Eric Wilson played a role in creating the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association (Incorporated). He was the inaugural Secretary.
In 2004, he assumed the roles of sole organizer and leader of the Quiet Lion Tours to Thailand.
Eric was able to search out, process and systematically record details of much of what took place during the construction of the Burma Thailand (Death) Railway, organize and lead tours and help to establish an incorporated Association to provide a base for the cause.
During his career in the Western Australian Police Service, Eric had advanced to a prominent role in the senior administration of the Service with a substantive rank of Chief Superintendent and acting rank of Assistant Commissioner. He had completed tertiary studies as a mature aged student in Personnel Management and Public Administration. He retired in 1991 and was later awarded the Australian Police Medal for his distinguished service in the senior administration of the W.A. Police Force.
In the Australia Day Awards 2015 it was announced that Eric had been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to veterans and their families.
Good Morning all,
Once again I am honoured to represent the dwindling group of prisoners of war in addressing the dedicated people here today.
Today we gather here at this sacred site to honour those who sacrificed their lives so that we today may enjoy our freedom, especially do we pay a tribute to those who worked on the railway, who survived the horrors but today still carry the burden of those years of suffering.
Like many of my fellow POWs during those trying times we drew strength from the sure knowledge that the eventual result would see the enemy vanquished and our safe return to our families.
Burma had been a British colony, most of the people were anti-Japanese, and so the villagers had been moved from their homes along the route of the railway which eliminated the possibility of us being able to trade with the Burmese. Our food was mainly watery soup with melons being the main ingredient meat was almost non-existent the few scraggy yaks walked long distances from base camp to meet the needs of hundreds of workers.
The wet season arrived bringing with it all of the water borne diseases including Cholera, Malaria was rife with few preventative drugs available. The main source of Quinine was in Malaya and in the hands of the Japanese which they issued in small quantities. A side effect was temporary deafness. Lt Colonel Edie a Collins Street Ear Nose & Throat specialist was our only doctor in Williams Force. I probably owe him my life when he listed me as incapable of work due to continual bouts of malaria.
Lt Colonel Edie was just one of magnificent group of doctors and medics who helped to ensure that an already dreadful toll was not as bad as could have been.
They, more than anything else, are revered by surviving prisoners of war and appreciative Australians for their dedication and sacrifices.
When the work force moved on from the 60 kilo camp I was sent back to the 30 kilo base hospital, which was evacuated when subjected to several air raids by Allied planes. We were sent to the 105 kilo camp close to the border with Thailand. It was here that most workers on the Burma side were concentrated before being trucked here to Tamarkan.
We Burma workers were impressed by the variety if not the quantity of vegetables with some meat arriving in the camp.
Thailand had for a long time been known as the food bowl of Asia. Apart from camp duties we started to recover some of our heath and strength I regularly volunteered for a small party that carted water in drums to the lookout up the mountain to qualify for double rations.
Tamarkan along with Tamuan were staging camps from where the prisoners were dispersed to work sites throughout Asia. It was my fortune to move to Singapore before being shipped to Japan in the Awa Maru (torpedoed a few months later with the loss of over 2000 Japanese senior officials with families). It was fortunate that I was to leave a disease ridden South East Asia for a small Japanese coal mining village, strangely divorced from the war, never bombed and just 60 kilometres from Nagasaki, the target for the second atomic bomb
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association was formed in Western Australia to perpetuate the memory of the privations and sacrifices of Allied Prisoners of War and the selfless dedication of the medical personnel during the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway and conducts the Quiet Lion Tours to Thailand each year. Bringing students on the tours is central to our objective.
I and my fellow ex POW Milton Fairclough are accompanied on the Quiet Lion Tour by dedicated people wishing to honour the story of the Burma Thailand Railway including a number of High School Students who are assisting in the ceremony.
The first organised group of West Australian School Students to participate in an Anzac Pilgrimage to Thailand took place in 1997 on the Quiet Lion Tour, the first of my 15 personal pilgrimages.
Since 1997 more than three hundred students (mostly from Western Australia) and many more adults, have been sponsored on the tours and they, in addition to many more adults from other States and overseas, form a group of people who will ensure that the terrible ordeal of our prisoners of war of the Japanese is not forgotten.
On behalf of all present I acknowledge the generosity of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Kanchanaburi administration in hosting us.
Thank you all and God bless. Lest we forget.
Rhiannon Mackay attended the 2015 tour as a student and Army service cadet from Mandurah.
Her article is available for download here:
Quiet Lion Tour 2015-Rhiannon
Father Barry John May OAM JP Th.Dip. SSC.
Chaplain of the Btrma Thailand Railway Memorial Association
Former WA Police Chaplain
Father Barry May passed away on 20th
March 2015 aged 77. A Requiem Mass was held at St George's Cathedral, 38 St Georges Terrace, Perth at 9.00am on SATURDAY 28th
March 2015 and a Private Burial was held later.
Born in Adelaide, Father Barry May was an Anglican priest who began his working career as a police officer serving in South Australia and Papua New Guinea. He was ordained in 1963 in Adelaide and began his ministry in the parish of Mount Gambier, did missionary service in P.N.G., then served in the parishes of Waikerie and Burra, in South Australia, then on to Dongara, Albany and Dalkeith in Western Australia. In 1976 he was appointed the Archdeacon of the Great Southern in W.A., before his appointment as the first full time chaplain to the Western Australian Police force in 1992.
He had previously served as an Army Reserve Chaplain from 1978 to 1992.
Fr. Barry was awarded the Centenary Medal, the Police Commissioner’s Medal of Excellence, and in 2008 the Order of Australia medal.
He retired from full-time Ministry in August 2007, and then served as a Justice of the Peace and Honorary Chaplain to three organizations.
Barry was married to Kath who pre-deceased him. They had four adult children and there were nine grand-children at the time of his death (with another due).
He was a much loved father and father-in-law of Leanne and Tony, Craig and Melita, Michael and Natalie and Tim and Kristen. Devoted Grandfather of Declan, Ciara, Aidan, Owen, Louise, Bronwyn, Josh, Ben, Cameron and Bailee.
Father Barry first travelled on the Quiet Lion Tour in 2006 and from then travelled each year until the untimely death of Kath.
On the tours he conducted the religious component of the Dawn Services at Hellfire Pass and the Wreath Laying Services at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, either alone or with a padre from the armed services or minister from Bangkok.
On a number of occasions Father Barry was quite ill but still managed to conduct the services, with the assistance of Kath.
Father Barry was elected to the Committee of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association where his wise counsel was highly valued. Up until his death he was active with the Association.
Father Barry John May will be sorely missed by his many friends in many fields.
Father Barry May and Kathleen. Final Concert Quiet Lion Tour 2006
In keeping with the true Ramsay Health Care spirit, the team at Peel Health Campus have made a community contribution which has had a big impact on the lives of some local service cadets.
Peel Health Campus’ sponsorship of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association (BTRMA) has contributed to a total of 37 young Australian Defence Force cadets aged between 15 and 17 taking part in ten -day tours across Thailand over the years. The Quiet Lion Tour aims 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.
As part of the tour the cadets attend a Anzac Day Dawn Service at the notorious Hellfire Pass in Thailand, the deepest and longest cutting along the entire length of the railway
. This area now symbolises the suffering and maltreatment of Australian prisoners
of war, who were forced to cut through the rock terrain often suffering from illness and malnutrition. The Dawn Service is followed by a Wreath Laying Service at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
Rhiannon Mackay, a local army cadet who attended the 2015 Tour said the walk through Hellfire Pass was breathtaking. “You could sense the mixed emotions as you walked through; hurt, sadness, fear and hope. The torture the prisoners experienced can never be forgotten. Now that I have been on this tour the memory of this place will never leave me,” said Rhiannon.
The cadets visited many historical sites including the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery where an estimated 6,980 Allied prisoners of war (1,362 Australians) who died building the railway are buried. They also visited the Chunkai Cemetery where 1,740 non-Australian prisoners are buried. In total 2,710 Australians died of the 13,000 who were captured.
Hospital CEO Dr Margaret Sturdy said it’s been wonderful to be able to help these young cadets to experience the Quiet Lion Tour and enable them to visit historical sites creating life long memories.
The tour is named after Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop, who was an Australian army surgeon, a prisoner of war and who, with his men, was forced to work on the Thai Burma Railway. He earned the title of the “Quiet Lion” through his selfless devotion to his men and courage in the face of his captors. The aim of the BTRMA is to educate current and future generations about the self-sacrifice, courage and compassion that was displayed during the construction of the Thai-Burma railway.
“I hope that through supporting our local cadets to participate in these tours we have helped them with this insight,” said Margaret Sturdy.
TOM UREN 1921–2015
The Hon. Tom Uren AC has died at age 93.
Tom Uren left school at 13, became a boxer, was fighting World War II in Timor on his 21st birthday, spent his next three birthdays as a prisoner of the Japanese in Timor, Singapore, on the infamous Burma-Thailand railway and at a copper smelting works Saganoseki in Japan. He saw the sky change colour over Nagasaki after the atom bomb was dropped.
Tom was born in Balmain on May 25, 1921 to Tom Uren Sen. and his wife, formerly Agnes Miller. He carried Cornish and Celtic blood from his father's family, and Jewish and English from his paternal grandmother. After the family moved to Harbord when he was five, Tom walked barefooted to the local primary school, before being made to wear shoes to Manly Intermediate High.
He left school during the Depression, because his father, a former jockey and jack-of-all trades, was out of work. Young Tom helped classify rabbit and kangaroo skins, sold newspapers and caddied on golf courses. He gave all his earnings to his mother, a former barmaid, because they were poor.
He became a surf lifesaver, rugby league forward and learnt to box at Jack Dunleavy's gymnasium, perhaps driven by the fact that one of his father's cousins, Tommy Uren, was anotable boxer.
Tom had applied to join the army in May 1939 and was accepted soon after World War II broke out in September, but took leave to fight for the Australian heavyweight title in 1940, aged 19. (He had been suffering from the flu and, although he knocked Billy Britt down inthe sixth round, was beaten in the seventh).
Tom went to Darwin, then to Timor in December 1941 with the 2/1 Heavy Battery. He had heard the stories of Australian courage at Gallipoli and in France in World War I, but what he saw in Timor was confusion.
As the Australian force was being over-run in February 1942, Tom volunteered to go forward in a vehicle armed with a single Bren gun to support a Tasmanian battalion, the 2/40th, which was making what has been described as the last bayonet charge in Australian military history.
Witnessing the Australian advance up Oesaoe ridge under machine-gun fire marked the 20- year-old for life. Forced to surrender, the prisoners were in prison camps in Timor for some time before being taken early in 1943 to Singapore, from where Tom was loaded into a railway goods truck and ended up at Konyu River camp, where the surgeon Lieutenant Colonel Edward "Weary" Dunlop was commanding officer of the men slaving to build the Burma-Thailand railway for the Japanese. Tom moved later to the Hintok camps. He worked on the Hammer and Tap cutting among other sites.
One man is said to have died for every sleeper laid on the railway. Tom prayed every day, frightened that cholera would take him, as it had so many others. Yet he rejoiced in the Australian egalitarianism. He believed that the British officers cared above all for themselves, while Dunlop and other officers funded what passed for a hospital. At completion of the railway work, Tom was transported on a Hell Ship in 1944 to work in a copper smelting plant at Saganoseki, Japan, owned by the Nippon Steel Company.
Conditions were terrible with the basic huts located on the slag heaps of the smelting works. ”Beds” were mats full of lice. Toilets were pits which had to be cleaned out every ten days. Food was very scarce for both prisoners and the local population. Despite the conditions and strict discipline there was little of the brutality that characterised the Burma- Thailand railway and earlier camps. The prisoners were eventually moved to a POW camp at Omuta in the Fukuoka group of prison camps to work in coal mines.
With the dropping of the Nagasaki bomb a form of freedom came. Tom never forgot the colour of the sky over Nagasaki after the atom bomb was dropped: "We didn't hear any noise, just witnessed that vivid crimson sky."
Tom had an American friend in the camp who was part of a group appointed to set up an authority to administer and run the city of Omuta, looking after courts, police and administration building.
After a period Tom joined a group of Americans travelling by train to Kagoshima and by plane to Okinawa and then to Manila in the Phillipines. From there he travelled on the HMS Formidable to Sydney.
Tom met Patricia Palmer (her brother had shown him her photograph when they were prisoners) and they married in 1947. (Patricia died of breast cancer in 1981). They moved to Port Kembla where Tom worked at the steel works.
He later attempted to resurrect his boxing career including a trip England, working his passage by ship as a stoker. After limited success (wartime malaria had left effects) he returned to Sydney by sea working as a donkey-greaser.
He came home, worked as a labourer, then as a trainee executive at Woolworths. He decided to join the Labor Party in 1951 on the way from Lithgow, where he managed the Woolworths store, to Bathurst for the funeral of Ben Chifley, the former Labor Prime Minister.
His political views were founded on his mother's sense of social justice, Weary Dunlop's example of leadership and F.D. Roosevelt's New Deal. He was to add Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Ho Chi Minh and Nelson Mandela to his list of influences.
Living in Guildford, he won the western Sydney seat of Reid in 1958. When he retired from Parliament in 1990, he had been father of the House for eight years.
Tom quietly married Christine Logan, a singer in the Australian Opera, in 1992.
They lived in Balmain, with Christine's daughter, Ruby, in a house designed by Richard Le Plastrier. The house cost so much in the end, with timber from Western Australia, that Tom lived for some years in the basement, with lodgers upstairs.
Tom Uren was made an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1993, then a Commander in 2013. On Anzac Day 2011, near his 90th birthday, he returned to Hellfire Pass, on the Burma Thailand railway, with the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce and her party of exPOWs.
Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced at that time that the government would meet Uren's long campaign for a supplementary payment to Australia's 900 surviving prisoners from World War II and the Korean war.
Tom Uren, a Life Member of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, is survived by Christine and Ruby, and his adopted children, Michael and Heather.
For those of you I haven’t met personally my name is Meg Pearce and I was the Wagin Lions 2014 representative for The Quiet Lions tour.
I would like to begin by acknowledging and saying a huge thank you to the Wagin Lions Club for giving me the opportunity to go on this journey to Thailand.
With the exception of my little brother Jack, all my immediate and extended family have been on this trip and I had heard many moving and wonderful stories of courage, humor and mate ship and I was very excited to go and experience it for myself.
My Grandad, Joe Pearce (now deceased) survived the Railway and only passed away two years ago.
Growing up, I was taught of the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women who fought for their country in wartime and the hardships that they endured.
As I got older, I learnt about the huge impact wars had on globalization and our world economy.
However, it’s quite evident in today’s youth that the knowledge of wars and the impact they have, still does not go beyond the basics taught in History class.
It is in the understanding and hearing of the stories of war heroes that truly helps to develop an even greater appreciation for those men and women who fought and continue to fight in all wars.
I do see it as my responsibility to pass on what I have learnt and the stories I have heard, so that we will never forget.
When reflecting back, I tried to think about key moments of the tour that really resonated with me.
Each place told a different story and taught me something new.
The dawn service itself was haunting and beautiful. It produced such mixed feelings. I had feelings of overwhelming pride for our country, a great sadness for man, yet also great joy that we can come together to share those stories and to remember.
But, for me, the highlight would have definitely been the walk along the remnants of the Railway line to Hellfire Pass.
I don’t know what surprised me more; ex POW from the line Snowy Fairclough, power walking straight past us through that first cutting (putting us all to shame) or, how beautiful the scenery was.
Seeing it made it hard to picture or imagine the haunting stories about what the men working on the railway endured. I found walking through those cuttings and embankments on your own very moving.
It gave me a better understanding and perspective.
I mean, I was sweating just strolling along with my 1.5L bottle of water and damp towelettes.
It’s truly remarkable that these men were working 12 to 18 hours every day in those conditions. The bravery, ingenuity and resilience the men showed in dealing with their circumstances and the mate-ship between the prisoners must truly have been a bond that is beyond our imagination.
A huge mention must go to ex POWs Snow Fairclough and Neil MacPherson. Meeting and having them on this trip made it very special and I was honored to meet them both. You can hear the stories and the facts about the war, from a third party, but being able to talk to them and hear direct recounts, was truly incredible and will always be with me.
They teach us all a great life lesson. They faced and witnessed unimaginable horrors yet their love of life and kind and caring natures are so evident.
With some being a little cheekier than others – Snow, his diet of Singha and Ice cream at any time of the day still amuses me - but I say let the man do what he wants, he definitely deserves it.
It truly is the people that made this trip the remarkable experience it was. I absolutely loved getting to know everyone, and the different stories that they had to share about their families and friends.
Anzac Day and this trip, means something different to everyone, but we were all united by the desire to learn and experience.
We were a smaller group this year, which really gave us the opportunity to get to know each other and to create new friendships. I have a natural tendency to just talk at people most of the time, so a small group meant everyone had to put up with me. My only regret was getting sick just before the talent show, but then again I heard everyone singing the national anthem every morning, so perhaps it was my body’s way of saying “enough”.
I would especially like to thank David Piesse. From my first conversation with him, it was obvious that he had so much knowledge and passion to share on this trip. He sparked everyone’s interests with his facts and stories, and passed on that passion to anyone he spoke to. You were such an integral part of my learning, so for that I would sincerely like to thank you. Granddad was always so fond of you, and I can see why.
As a child, you see your grandparents as people who love you, spoil you and feed you all the things you aren’t allowed at home and in my case that was a never ending supply of shortbread creams and ice-cream.
But as you grow, you begin to see them differently and to understand them more.
My Grandfather, Joe Pearce is very special to me and has been integral in my growing up. His values and outlook on life were simple and admirable.
My brothers and I could not be more proud of the person we got to know.
It is such a credit to him and other POWS like Snow and Neil that they experienced such an unforgiveable part of humanity, but still managed to be the kind and caring people we all love.
It was always Granddad’s wish for all his family to go to Thailand on this trip and to learn more of Australia’s history, and of his own. He would have loved to hear about everything I experienced, and all the cheeky stories; and I’m just sorry that I didn’t have to opportunity to share it with him.
It was fantastic having my Dad on this trip as well. Having already gone back to Thailand with Granddad, what he could share with me was invaluable, especially when walking through the Hintok cutting where Granddad had worked.
So, thank you Tombo for coming, and supplying the Pringles when we were no longer able to eat anything sweet and sour.
This 2014 Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand was such a meaningful and special trip.
I would like to again say thank you to the Wagin Lions Club for the opportunity and to everyone who helped organize the tour.
I learnt so much and met so many wonderful people; this experience was a memory for life.
Kenneth Walter Wood, WX 7433 passed away on 26th August 2014.
Ken enlisted on 6th August 1940 and became a member of the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion.
After initial training he went with his Division to the Middle East. When the Japanese invasion of South East Asia commenced, Australian forces were ordered back to defend Australia but their ship was diverted to Java where the Australian troops became Prisoners of War with the Dutch capitulation. It was here that Ken and his group had their first experiences with “Weary” Dunlop.
After a period of detention in Java the Dunlop Force were returned to Singapore and almost immediately on to Thailand to work on the Burma Thailand Railway.
Following discharge Ken Wood forged a successful career in rural commerce, married and raised a family. A bond was forged with the other members of the 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion, particularly with those in captivity from Don Company, and Ken was an active member of the 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion Association until his passing.
Probably one of the most notable post-war achievements of Ken was his involvement with the formation of the Weary Dunlop Boon Pong Exchange Fellowship.
The following is the description of the Association in the records of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons:-
“The establishment of the Weary Dunlop Boon Pong Exchange Fellowship was a collaborative effort between the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (the College) and the Royal College of Surgeons of Thailand (RCST). This scheme started from the initiative of Keith Flanagan, Bill Haskell and Ken Wood (returned prisoners-of-war on the Burma Thailand Railway) in Western Australia. Forty years after their return from prison camps in and around the Thai-Burma railway, they wished to create a memorial for those of their colleagues who did not return. An exchange scheme for surgical training was decided upon. As money became available, young Thai surgeons were brought to Australia for further experience in surgical fields in which they had a special interest. The Fellowships are intended to provide valuable training experiences and increase the cordiality of Thai-Australian relationships. The first surgeons were appointed in 1987.
The Fellowship provides opportunities for Thai surgeons to undertake clinical attachments in Australian hospitals, in their nominated field of interest. The goal is to develop the expertise and improve the capacity of Thai specialists to provide specialist surgery in Thailand.
The specific objectives of the Fellowship are to provide opportunities for promising young Thai surgeons to:
• obtain further exposure in general or specialist surgery
• gain experience in clinical research and the applications of modern surgical technology
• develop management skills in a multi-disciplinary environment.
The program also aims to establish, increase and nurture the linkages and interactions between Australian and Thai health personnel to promote relationship building and regional collaboration at the levels of leadership, health structure, administration, surgical practice and research.
The College recognises that there is a shortage of trained and skilled local specialists in many developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. This shortage severely reduces the country's capacity to deliver surgical care to their populations. The overarching goal of the International Scholarship Program is to improve the health outcomes for disadvantaged communities in the region, by providing appropriate training opportunity to promising individuals who will contribute to the development of the long-term surgical and medical capacity in their country”.
The Fellowship has now put over ninety Thai surgeons through the program.
Ken Wood passed away on 26th August 2014 and his funeral took place on 3rd September 2014. With the passing of Ken Wood the three ex prisoners of war are all now deceased.
Vale Ken Wood.
The late Khun Kanit Wanachote OAM died in Bangkok, Thailand, on 1st April 2014 at the age of 86. After a memorial service immediately following his death a series of Buddhist ceremonies were held at Wat Makutkasattiyaram in Bangkok and at Home Phu Toey, Thailand, between the 19th and 21st July 2014.
Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Chairman Eric Wilson and Quiet Lion Tour Leader David Piesse travelled to Thailand for all the ceremonies. Australian Ambassador to Thailand James Wise attended the cremation service which featured an honour guard of 40 Boy Scouts. ‘Weary” Dunlop’s son John and Senator John Williams sent apologies.
This venerable gentleman was born on 15th February 1928 in Surajthanee Province, Thailand. He married Oonjai Wanachote in 1951 (she pre-deceased him) and they had children (Mrs Oonnirun Wanachote, Mr Kanate Wanachote,Mr Kunakone Wanachote, Mrs Aunirun Sittipon and Mrs Araya Wanachote) followed by a number of grand children.
Khun Kanit Wanachote’s association with Australian Prisoners of War and Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop and the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association commenced when ex POWs Keith Flanagan OAM and Bill Haskell OAM decided in 1985 to organize the 'Weary Dunlop Tour" to retrace the course of Surgeon and Commander Colonel (Later Sir) Edward Dunlop and his Force from Java through to Thailand (in World War Two) and having his exploits recognized.
Khun Kanit was prominent in the scouting movement in Thailand (a Baden Powell Fellow presented by The King of Sweden) and a member of the Senior Counci1 of the National Scout Assembly of Thailand. He was readily receptive to the concept of youth perpetuating the story of Weary Dunlop and the Burma Thailand Railway and he always insisted the Quiet Lion Tour stayed as his guests at Home Phu Toey Resort, a 190-hectare estate set in beautiful tropical gardens, eighty kilometers upriver from Kanchanaburi and four kilometers from Hellfire Pass.
All this is possible due to the generosity of a great man whose attributes were instantly recognized by a great Australian, Sir Edward (Weary) Dunlop.
Khun Kanit Wanachote was considered eminently suitable for conferral of the Order of Australia Medal under the Australian Honours and Award system. The award was presented to him by His Excellency Paul Grigson, Australian Ambassador to Thailand, on Australia Day 2010 at the Australian Embassy, Bangkok. The late Bill Haskell and Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Chairman Eric Wilson attended the award ceremony.
CREMATORIUM AT WAT MAKUTKASATTIYARAM IN BANGKOK, THAILAND
2014 ANZAC DAY ADDRESS BY NEIL MACPHERSON
WX 16572 AT THE WREATH LAYING CEREMONY, KANCHANABURI WAR CEMETERY, THAILAND.
Good Morning all,
In the early months of 1942 Japanese forces advanced right to the northern doorstep of Australia and in the process overran many islands to our north where heavily outnumbered ill equipped Australian troops were stationed.
This resulted in some 22,000 Australians being captured over a period of 6 weeks. They were to face 3 ½ years of brutality, torture, malnutrition, diseases and long hours of work and 8,000 were to die, their deaths were as heroic as those who died in battle.
Many of these prisoners were transported to the Burma and Thailand to construct a railway joining Thanbyuzayat in Burma with Non Pladuc in Thailand
In June 1942 British prisoners based at Ban Pong camp started work on preparing the rail trace at Non Pladuc for the start of the railway construction. In October 1942 Australian prisoners started work on the Burma end of the railway. Green Force under Major Green came from Tavoy and Colonel Williams & Black Force came from Java, the first Australians to work on the railway. We were not to know what lay in store for us, many of us were still young and care free, at 19 years of age one lives from day to day. The pressure of the Speedo period had not yet started, our physical condition was generally good despite our poor diet. The horrors of deaths from malnutrition, tropical diseases, ulcers and extended work hours lay ahead of us. Initially Williams Force were camped at Tanyin known as the 35 Kilo camp and Black Force were camped the 40 Kilo camp.
We were given a set allocation of work, so we hurriedly finished this work to return to camp little knowing that our cunning captors were setting a trap for us, the daily tasks were gradually increased until we were toiling well into the night to achieve our quota. Initially we worked on building embankments and digging cuttings, when this work was completed we built bridges over streams and gullies. In March 1943 the Japanese formed a Mobile Force to lay the sleepers and the rails, as the railway was behind schedule it was a desperate group of Japanese Engineers that decided to sacrifice prisoners to ensure that the work was done. Long hours on minimum food soon reduced the work force numbers. Of the 800 prisoners in Williams Force that commenced work at Tanyin only 300 skeleton like-wrecks remained on the railway when it was joined in October 1943. Our doctor Captain Rowley Richards was successful in obtaining anti cholera vaccine and our entire group received the injection which reduced the deaths from cholera considerably. Strict hygiene rules were enforced, before lining up for our meagre rice ration we were made to dip our eating utensils in a drum of boiling water.
The first organised group of West Australian School Students to participate in an Anzac Pilgrimage to Thailand took place in 1997 on the Quiet Lion Tour. They were from the Carnamah Three Springs District, Jack Thorpe an ex POW living in the area helped organise and sponsor the students. It was also my first Quiet Lion Tour of the railway, I had however made personal pilgrimages with family members in 1994 and 1996. In 1997 nine ex POWs were in attendance including the originators of the tour Bill Haskell and Keith Flannigan. Weary Dunlop’s son Dr John Dunlop his wife and daughter were on that tour. Construction of the railway commenced in June 1942,
ANZAC DAY INTERNATIONAL – THAILAND TIGERS V ISLAMABAD MAKHORS
For nine years the Quiet Lion Tours have attended the ANZAC Day International football match arranged by the Australian ex-pats in Thailand. Each year a visiting team from a variety of far-eastern countries provides the other side.
The emphasis each year is on the memory of the prisoners of war who worked on the Burma Thailand Railway and the guests of honour are surviving prisoners of war.
On Saturday 26 April 2014, players, support staff and helpers of the Thailand Tigers Football Club, converged on for the greatest weekend on the Tiger calendar. Starting with the ANZAC commemorative activities at Hellfire Pass and Kanchanaburi War Cemetery on the Friday Saturday featured two great games watched by former POWs Milton ‘Snow’ Fairclough and Neil MacPherson together with 37 other members of the Quiet LionTour. These two gentlemen had been to a number of previous ANZAC Day games, and it was once again an honour for all the teams to play in front of them as a way to show their support and appreciation.
The Austraian Charg’e d’affeires Mr Jonathon Kenna represented the Australian Embassy and Mr Steven Reid the Military Attache.
The curtain raiser saw a 9-a-side domestic match between reserve players and included some of the visiting Quiet Lion Tour party..
The main game pitted the Tigers against the Islamabad Makhors from Pakistan in their first international. Led by the irrepressible Marzio ‘Muzza’ Da Re, the Makhors were always going to struggle against the stronger Tigers. In true spirit, Tigers players helped out with numbers by slipping on the black and green guernsey – but when both sides stood in a line for the anthems in front of ex POWs Snow and Neil, they all felt like they were on the same team.
Final scores – Tigers 18.15 (117) Makhors 3.0 (18).
In the post-match activities Tiger’s Chairman Brendan Cunningham acknowledged the continued support from the Quiet Lion Tour groups over a period of nine years. BTRMA Chairman Eric Wilson acknowledged the welcome and introduced BTRMA Vice Chairman Ian Holding who proceeded to present the ‘Chicken Smallhorn’ Award (see the separate story on this award) to “best on ground” Aggotts (selected by Snow Fairclough).
Captain Paddy accepted the ANZAC Cup from Eric Wilson.
Snow and Neil used eloquent words in summing up the feelings from both sides – it was much more than just a game of ‘footy’, and all should be commended for the spirit shown both on and off the field. It was a true club effort with everybody making a contribution – from the patience shown by the many Tigers who were only on the field for a quarter, to the many helpers off the field who made the day a memorable one for all.
The tradition will continue in 2015 when the ANZAC Day International football match will be held in the afternoon of ANZAC Day following the commemorative activities at Hellfire Pass and Kanchanaburi Cemetery and the post-match barbecue hosted by the Australian and New Zealand Governments.
When discussing the place of recreation, sport, entertainment and study as part of the Prisoner of War experience there has been comment on how these activities were possible in a time of war and particularly for prisoners of war.
The question is often posed in the context of prisoners of the Japanese in Asia.
The reality is that circumstances vary quite widely depending on the phase of the conflict. In the case of the Burma Thailand Railway it was not possible during the railway construction phase but prior to that and to some degree, after, after, it was.
The playing of Australian Rules was significant regardless of location. Australian Rules football, a uniquely Australian sport, and more significantly, a Victorian state sport, identified players in terms of locality as well as class and nationality. Australian POWs from other states who identified themselves as rugby union and/or league players put aside former prejudices to the sport, reflecting that they too wanted to be part of the one game that linked them integrally to nationhood.
Evidence suggests that wherever Victorians were held as POWs, in either Europe or South East Asia, Australian Rules football was played. In the absence of suitable equipment they often had to use rugby balls to play and records indicate that 'Aussie Rules' became well known as the Australian sport in Europe and in particular one of 'the leading body and character building sports of Stalag 383'.
In Stalag 383, Australian POWs were particularly keen to get a competition going and it was up and running just one month after the first Australians had entered the camp on 15 September 1942. Corporal Ryan recorded the early beginnings of these matches in One Year: ‘When, in 1878, a Victorian, H. C. A. Harrison, formulated the rules of a new code of football to be known as Australian Rules, he doubtless nourished hopes that the game might spread beyond Australia, but I'll lay a shade of odds that Bavaria did not enter into his calculations. It did not enter into ours either, but after events unforeseen had landed us secure behind the barbed wire boundaries of Stalag 383, the possibilities of a game dawned in more minds than one. There did not appear to be much stopping us.
These first games in Stalag 383 were twelve-a-side matches, and played on a soccer pitch of 100 x 50 yards. By the following year, in March 1943, when the weather once again made football possible and numbers of Australians in the camps had swelled, a larger and more official body was set up. A committee was formed and a general meeting called to select the four sides that would form a competitive football league. They were named 'Kangaroos', 'Emus', 'Kookaburras' and 'Wallabies', and a further two teams known as 'Snakes' and 'Crows' were formed to look after the less familiar players of the game and to provide opportunities to any man in the camp 'wishing to know his capabilities'.
Australian POWs started what would become a yearly event, a game between 'Eastralia' and 'Westralia'. Jerseys were screen-printed and manufactured from old Army singlets, black swans for Westralia, and a marked V for Eastralia.
Betting began on the sidelines at the ever-present totalisator, and the first game kicked off on 29 March 1943. According to One Year, 'All but three of the"Sandgropers" were members of the 2/11 Bn., and of the opposition, fifteen were Victorians. Westralia won with 10 goals 8 behinds (68 pts) to Eastralia, 8 goals and 19 behinds (67 pts)’.
R. L. Hoffman summed up what this game and quite possibly what most sports meant to Australian POWs in Stalag 383: The game was dedicated to 'Bluey' Truscott, whose brilliant star, with tragic splendour, flared across the sky as a symbol of sportsmanship in its best traditions.
There are others like Wing-Commander Truscott, of whom we involuntary exiles have not yet heard, but we salute them all in this reproduction of the national game played in
these alien surroundings.
It was an Australian occasion — flashback to sunnier days of the past, a pre-view of sunnier days to come: and for the brief exciting while of a football game Australians here in Stalag 383 existed between the warm familiar parallels of latitude south of the equator.
Australian POWs in Changi were also keen followers of Australian Rules football and despite the lack of food, and the increasing incidence of ill health, were determined to play and to follow all the rules and traditions of the game, forming a league in late 1942.
They adopted the names of their favourite teams and inter-club rivalries extended to buying and selling players who could be traded for the sum of four ounces of rice. Footballs were obtained from the Chinese and POWs also made some themselves 'using old boot leather and bladders from wild pigs some of the blokes sneaked into the jungle and killed'.
Les Green, a former POW interviewed for Football Life in 1969, told the story of 'Football Behind Bamboo': ‘For the first six months we were more or less confined to barracks in Changi. Then the Japanese allowed us to play sport. By that time the football season in Melbourne was underway so we decided to run our own. Names chosen for the teams were Melbourne, Collingwood, Geelong, St. Kilda, Essendon and Richmond ... There were three matches every week - sometimes two on Saturday and one on Wednesday ... Believe me, they weren't picnic matches. It was very serious football. And the standard wasn't bad considering the difficult conditions we had to play under. Occasionally there were fights on the field. The umpires had the power to report players and an independent tribunal heard any reports of misconduct, on or off the field, just as it would in the VFL. The Japanese guards would watch our games. They would laugh at us, and think we were silly to be bashing ourselves. For each match the umpires cast three votes for the best and fairest player award, which we called The Changi Brownlow Medal’.
These six teams ran a hard-fought competition that culminated in an end of- season final — Australia versus the Rest in January 1943, when a Victorian eighteen played a team representative of the rest of the Commonwealth.
Les Green also mentions the thrill for Australian players and spectators alike when champion footballer, and 1933 Brownlow medallist for Fitzroy, Wilfred 'Chicken' Smallhorn, ran on to the field to umpire this memorable game. Even though Smallhorn did not actually play football, his presence certainly inspired other POWs to achieve their best by getting involved in the organisation of their games.
At the end of this match, team captain Peter Chitty, a former St Kilda player and captain of the Changi Victorian team, was awarded the 'Changi Brownlow Medal'.
Back in Australia, the award of the Brownlow Medal was suspended between 1942 and 1945 so this medal has special significance for Australian sporting history as well as for the Australian Rules followers in Changi in 1943. The medal was, and remains, a symbol for Australian footballers, representing fair play and good sportsmanship. The medal and its recipient represented an ideal that went beyond sport and was played out in the wider POW experience. Chitty carried his Brownlow with him throughout his fifteen months on the Thai-Burma railway, where his leadership and bravery resulted in his also being awarded the British Empire Medal for carrying a dying mate some 50 kilometres on his back through the jungle. In an interview in 1994 before his death, Chitty stated, 'It was a great honour to lead that side ... A lot of great careers were cut short by the war. They were good sides that played that match in Changi'.
This final match of the season would be the last formal football game that POWs in Changi would play and indeed that some would ever play or see again, for work parties were already beginning to be taken to the Thai-Burma railway.
The Quiet Lion Tour 2014 tour group outside Home Phu Toey after the Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass. Ex POWs Milton Fairclough, Neil MacPherson OAM and Harold Martin seated at the front with Thai Agent Vivatchai Wongusthat.
On 17th April a complement of thirty four travellers assembled at Perth International Airport for the 2014 Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand and arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 3:30pm. The group then proceeded to the Royal Benja Hotel where the party met the other five members.
On tour were ex POW s Neil MacPherson (accompanied by his son Alan MacPherson, granddaughters Krishna Vanderwiede and Gypsy O'Dea and three great grandchildren) and Ex POW Milton (Snow) Fairclough (accompanied by his niece Sue Sheridan). Committee members on tour included Eric Wilson, chairman BTRMA, Neil MacPherson, Alan MacPherson, Krishna Vanderviede, Ian Holding and David Piesse.
Owing to the media reports of the Thailand political situation the Western Australian Department of Education withdrew their approval for school groups travelling on the tour. Some junior members were able to come accompanied by parents.
This gave us a small group of twelve juniors which were able to participate in the Wreath Laying Service at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, accompanied by students from Kings College, Auckland, New Zealand.
Esperance was represented by Olivia Morris and her father Steve, Jamie Shaw and his father Jason. Mingenew was represented by Hannah Poultney and Wagin was represented by Meg Pearce accompanied by father Tom Pearce.
On Day Two, we travelled to the Summer Palace at Bang-Pa In, then on to Ayuthaya, an ancient Thai capital before cruising back into Bangkok on the Chayo Praya River with lunch served aboard. It was a good chance for all to get to know one another. This was followed by a short foray by some to try retail therapy in Bangkok City before dinner.
Day Three, with fun and niceties done we headed to Nakhon Pathom , Nong Pladuk, Ban Pong, Tha Muang and Kanchanaburi, learning the Railway Story as we progressed into western Thailand. After lunch we visited the Thai-Burma Railway Centre and had a brief visit to the War Cemetery. We arrived at Pung Waan Resort for an enjoyable swim, dinner and an overnight stay.
Day Four saw our group back at Kanchanaburi Cemetery and the Railway Centre before catching the train to travel over the Bridge over the River Kwai and later over the remaining "Death Railway" to Wampo, including crossing the infamous Wampo Viaduct. After lunch we visited the site of the Tarsao prison camp and hospital (Now a resort). Returned to Home Phu Toey at 5:00pm.
The next five nights were spent at the Home Phu Toey and everyone had a chance to get comfortable and not have to get bags out to move on for the next phase of the tour. It is a very convenient base from which to visit the Kanyu- Hintok section of the railway.
Day Five, we went to the site of the Takanun camps with particular reference to F Force. From there we went to Khao Laem Dam, an irrigation and hydro-electric supply built by the Snowy Mountain Authority under the Colombo Plan and completed in 1985. Lunch at the Dam staff club, courtesy of EGAT.
Visited Wat Takanun overlooking the site of the Australian POW camp, Returned via Brankassi and Hindato camps. Walked the Railway Heritage Memorial Trail through Hintok Cutting, the Three Tier Bridge site, the Seven Metre Embankment, the Hammer and Tap Cuttings, several trestle bridge sites, over shelving into Kanyu Cutting and on to Hellfire Pass Museum.
Day Six we had the Buddhist Ceremony in Weary Dunlop Park followed by a ceremony to mark the passing of Khun Kanit Wanachote, a long term friend and creator of Home Phu Toey. Visited the site of the Hintok Mountain Camp, Kinsayok Camp area and Sai Yok Yai Waterfalls followed by lunch served on a houseboat whilst travelling down the River Kwai Noi, terminating at Konyu River Camp. Returned to Home Phu Toey via the Hintok River Camp which is now an “eco” camp.
On day seven visited Tarsau (Nam Tok) town area, the Sai Yok Noi Waterfalls and the site of Tonchan South Campsite, and Thadan Bridge and the Elephant Park (also a POW camp site). From there we travelled to Lat Ya Shinto Peace Park and on to lunch on a raft on the Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai rivers. Back to Home Phu Toey via Chungkai Cemetery and Chungkai Cutting. We had our farewell dinner and concert night as guests of Khun Suparerk.
Day Eight, free day with passive activities, a chance to visit Weary Dunlop Park, Jack Chalker Gallery and other displays. A small group travelled to the camp sites of Shimo Songkurai, Songkurai and Kami Songkurai (the main camps of F Force) and on to Three Pagodas Pass. Returning to Home Phu Toey at 3:30pm in time for a run through with the juniors for the Wreath Laying Service, Media interviews for ex POWs and dinner for special guests and the Quiet Lion Tour group.
Day Nine, ANZAC Day, early morning call for the Dawn Service, bags to the lobby and on the bus by 3:15am, arrived at Hellfire Pass in good time to find good positions around the cenotaph. The service began at 5:30am with dawn breaking and birds starting to chatter in the trees making for a memorable and emotional time. After a gunfire breakfast at Hellfire Pass Museum we returned to Home Phu Toey for breakfast then off to Kanchanaburi for the Wreath Laying Service at 10:00am. This is also an emotional service among the nearly seven thousand graves with our Quiet Lion traveller ex PoW Neil MacPherson giving the address for the POWs. The Junior Members of the Quiet Lion Tour joined with the student members of the Kings College Auckland, New Zealand, to carry the wreaths and present them for laying by the dignitaries from the various embassies stationed in Bangkok. It was great to see the NZ component of ANZAC take part in the ceremony. We enjoyed a couple of drinks courtesy of the NZ Embassy and departed to Tida Loa Riverside Restaurant for lunch at the Bridge over the River Kwai then back to Pung-Waan Resort for swimming and dinner and an early night.
Day Ten, to Kanchanaburi Stadium for the ANZAC Cup, an AFL football match, hosted by the Thailand Tigers AFL Football Club versus the Pakistan Markhors. The match was won by the Tigers.
Back on the bus again, this time for a lunch appointment at Sampran Riverside, formerly known as the Rose Garden. Lunch was followed by an Elephant show and a Thai cultural show.
Back into Bangkok for our last night.
Day Eleven, breakfast and a free day in Bangkok for sightseeing, shopping, riding trains and lunch out. Final dinner and wrap up of Quiet Lion Tour 2014. Left for Suvarnabhumi Airport at 8:30pm.
A very successful tour completed despite the smaller than usual number that travelled with us. The plane left at midnight and the Perth contingent arrived home safely at 8:00am on Monday morning.
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association regrets to advise the death of a good friend and supporter of the association.
Khun Kanit Wanachote (Centre) with exPOWs Neil Macpherson and Milton (Snow) Fairclough at Home Phu Toey.
Khun Kanit Wanachote’s association with Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop commenced when ex POWs and Thailand Burma Railway survivors Keith Flanagan OAM and Bill Haskell OAM decided in 1985 to organize the 'Weary Dunlop Tour", a tour retracing the course of Surgeon and Force Commander, Colonel (Later Sir) Edward Dunlop and his Force from Java through to Thailand (in World War Two) and having his exploits recognized.
A chance meeting occurred between Sir Edward Dunlop and Khun Kanit Wanachote when the touring party met Khun Kanit whilst traveling up the Kwai Noi River hoping to locate the Kannyu and Hintok River Camps, which were in the region of Hellfire Pass.
Khun Kanit was developing his Home Phu Toey Resort down river from the camps.
With the proximity of Hellfire Pass to his development, Khun Kanit had constantly thought of there being some association between the Burma Thailand Railway and his project and here were a group of Australian ex POWs who had actually been in the area, including the revered Doctor/Surgeon, Sir Edward (Weary) Dunlop, who was already well known. Weary Dunlop and Khun Kanit struck a chord, which was the genesis of an enduring association.
Khun Kanit dedicated a large section of his resort into a Weary Dunlop Park which includes the Weary Dunlop Pavilion.
Khun Kanit Wanachote of Home Phu Toey Resort, Tarsau, Thailand, was nominated for an honorary OAM (General Division) in the Honors and Awards system of Australia.
The nomination submission suggested that Khun Kanit Wanachote, a had served the Australian Community by his contribution to the preservation of Australian/Thailand history. In particular, he had assisted significantly in perpetuating the memory of the privations and sacrifices of Australian Military personnel and the selfless dedication of the medical personnel during the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway in World War 11.
Further, that at the same time he had assisted in reinforcing the establishment of the repute of Australian of the Year, Sir Edward Dunlop.
Khun Kanit had been prominent in the scouting movement in Thailand. He was a Baden Powell Fellow (presented by The King of Sweden) and a member of the Senior Counci1 of the National Scout Assembly of Thailand. Accordingly, he was readily receptive to the concept of youth perpetuating the story of Weary Dunlop and the Burma Thailand Railway and he has always insisted the Quiet Lion Tour stay as his guests at Home Phu Toey Resort, a 190-hectare estate set in beautiful tropical gardens, eighty kilometers upriver from Kanchanaburi and four kilometers from Hellfire Pass.
In excess of 1100 people have been on Quiet Lion Tours and stayed at Home Phu Toey. The number includes 400 juniors as of the 2013 Tour.
Home Phu Toey Resort has become the focus of the Quiet Lion Tours and is central to the annual Anzac Day Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass.
Following are some examples of the contributions of Khun Kanit Wanachote to the success of the Quiet Lion Tours.
After Weary’s death some of his ashes were taken back to Thailand during a tour. A part of the ashes were spread in Hellfire Pass. The balance was floated down the Kwai Noi from Home Phu Toey Resort in a ceremony devised and overseen by Khun Kanit Wanachote.
First the ashes were blessed as those of an “enlightened soul” in a Buddhist ceremony organized by Weary’s medical friends. As they floated down the river on a candle-lit boat at dusk, ten others followed, five launched by Thais and five by Australians. The night finished with fireworks and Weary’s name spelt out in letters of fire on the hillside.
The dominant feature of Home Phu Toey is the Peace Park where Sir Edward’s statue has pride of place. Perched on rails on a ledge on the side of the hill and floodlit, an old locomotive and wagon overlook the scene. There is also the replica of a POW camp.
The Weary Dunlop museum, dedicated by Khun Kanit to his friend “Weary”, overlooks the park guarded by a huge carved wooden statue of “Weary” Dunlop. Sir Edward’s son and other relatives formally opened the Dunlop Museum on 24 April 1997.
The Jack Chalker Gallery is an integral part of Home Phu Toey Peace Park. It was opened on 20 October 2000 by Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana.On the eve of each Anzac Day, Khun Kanit caters for the large crowd of visitors and provides the Sound and Light Show where a model "Bridge on the River Kwai" crosses a small stream.
The story of the bombing of the bridge on 24 June 1945 is narrated, combined with the music of the times, sound effects and a miniature train, ending in shattering explosions, gunpowder flashes and the collapse of the central spans of the model bridge. The show sets the tone for the Hellfire Pass Dawn Service and Wreath Laying Ceremony. Sir Edward later referred to "the remarkable" and "rather mysterious" Kanit who was something, he said, of a modern Kublai Khan.When the Quiet Lion Tour party arrived for a five-night stay, Khun Kanit (and before her passing, his wife Khun Oonjai) hosted a welcome dinner and the sound and light show. The tour party dines variously in the Peace Park, the main dining room, on the lawns outside the dining room and on the “Green Beach” by the river and the swimming pool. Khun Kanit provides a farewell dinner in the Weary Dunlop Park and hosts the now famous talent quest concert where Quiet Lion juniors entertain their friend and benefactor. Due to Khun Kanit’s good offices, a Buddhist ceremony is held each year during the Quiet Lion Tour. This ceremony pays homage to those who died in WW11 but in particular to the POWs who died during the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway.On a recent tour where an extra large number of persons were on the tour, Khun Kanit temporarily converted a Conference Centre to a dormitory to accommodate sixteen schoolboys and two housemasters. Without the generosity of Khun Kanit Wanachote it would have been difficult to achieve the objective of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association.
It is not only the history of the Burma Thailand Railway that can be taught to Australian youth by the generosity of Khun Kanit Wanachote. Ex POWs are able to revisit areas where they were incarcerated and thus obtain some closure. The relatives of the POWs are able to also achieve closure by visiting graves and participating in the ceremonies. Being able to visit and experience the Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass and the Wreath Laying Ceremony at Kanchanaburi is a most moving experience. All this is possible due to the generosity of a great man whose attributes were instantly recognized by a great Australian, Sir Edward (Weary) Dunlop.
It was proposed that Khun Kanit was eminently suitable for recognition by the Australian Honors and Award system, notwithstanding by an honorary award. He was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (OAM) medal in 2010.
The decree stated that Khun Kanit Wanachote, had served the Australian Community by his contribution to the preservation of Australian/Thailand history generally. In particular, he had assisted significantly in perpetuating the memory of the privations and sacrifices of Australian Military personnel and the selfless dedication of the medical personnel during the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway in World War 11. At the same time he had assisted in reinforcing the establishment of the repute of Australian of the Year, Sir Edward Dunlop.
Khun Kanit’s award was presented to him by His Excellency Paul Grigson, Australian Ambassador to Thailand on Australia Day, 2010 at the Australian Embassy, Bangkok. The late Bill Haskell and Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Chairman Eric Wilson attended the ceremony.
Without the generosity of Khun Kanit Wanachote it would have been difficult to achieve the objective of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association.
He was born on 15th February 1928 in Surajthanee Province, Thailand. He married Oonjai Wanachote in 1951 and they had three daughters and two sons followed by a number of grand children..
He was educated through external studies at institutions in Thailand England and the United States. He became a teacher, book reviewer and translator and later established a chain of English language schools under the name Home of English.
This venerable gentleman passed away in Bangkok on 1st April 2014 after a lingering illness. Khun Oonjai pre-deceased him.
On the 19th, 20th and 21st July 2014 a series of funereal functions will be held in Thailand concluding with a Loy Unkarn Ceremony where his ashes will be floated down the Kwai Noi River from Home Phu Toey.
Some of the experiences of Australian Prisoners of War (POWs) at Hellfire Pass during the Second World War are featured in a new website that will help commemorate their plight and raise public awareness.
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association has played a part in ensuring that Hellfire Pass in Thailand on the Thai-Burma Railway has become synonymous with the Australian POW experience in Asia.
The experience of Australian prisoners at Hellfire Pass and at other locations on the railway was horrendous. More than 13,000 Australian prisoners of war were forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway.
Work commenced on Hellfire Pass in April 1943, with prisoners working grueling 18 hour shifts, day after day, removing large amounts of earth from the cutting.
They were forced to live in terrible conditions, often starving, with no medical supplies resulting in a very high death rate with more than 2,800 Australians perishing...
Working in partnership with the Australian National University, the Australian Government through the Department of Veterans Affairs have develop a unique website to take visitors on a ‘virtual tour’ through the Hellfire Pass area today and as it was during the Second World War.
In 2011 The Chairman of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Eric Wilson accompanied Professor Joan Beaumont and photographer/graphics specialist Kim McKenzie of the Australian National University on a tour to identify significant sites and places of interest along the Burma Thailand Railway.
The completed website gives all Australians the opportunity to explore and learn about the Australian experience at Hellfire Pass. It will allow them to compare what it is like today to how the prisoners experienced it almost 70 years ago.
The website uses modern footage as well as historical photographs and GPS referencing to form a ‘virtual tour’ that will include the current walking trail and old camp sites located within the vicinity of Hellfire Pass.
Historian, Professor Joan Beaumont of the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences
has said, “The site will provide a wealth of information about the prisoners who lived and died on the pass, with oral histories, eye witness accounts and personal profiles including that of renowned doctor Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop.”
The Australian Government supported this initiative with $91,000 in funding. The website will become the first in a series of websites highlighting significant places for Australians along the Thai-Burma Railway.
The ‘virtual tour’ complements the already available Hellfire Pass online audio guide. developed by the Office of Australian War Graves and available on the DVA website www.dva.gov.au/audioguides.htm. It also complements the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association website BTRMA.org.au..
It is recommended that interested people, particularly those intending to embark on Quiet Lion Tours, to look at The Hellfire Pass Commemoration Site
There are many links on the site.
The Australian Government, through the Australian War Memorial has published a feature on Hell-Fire Pass and the Death Railway HERE
ADDRESS BY HER EXCELLENCY MS QUENTIN BRYCE AC GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA.
ON THE OCCASION OF ANZAC Day COMMEMORATIVE SERVICE KANCHANABURI WAR CEMETERY, THAILAND 25 APRIL 2011.
Friends, I am honoured to join you at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
Here we commemorate the lives of those men who gave their today for our tomorrow 1 .
Our hearts break as we remember their courage, in the face of extreme torture.
Our brave heroes – many so young.
Their sacrifices enshrined in these graves; in this serene place that echoes with their suffering.
“Speedo! Speedo! Speedo! 2 ”
Frenzied beatings followed barked orders.
They toiled in misery: drilling, blasting and digging through solid rock, in disease ridden and formidable terrain, shivering uncontrollably with malaria, dysentery, cholera, beriberi.
Ugly ulcers wept through filthy rag bandages . 3
In the huts, bedridden patients languished three deep, head to foot on unforgiving bamboo slats.
There was no medical equipment.
No drugs, no bedpans, no soap, no disinfectants.
But wonderful dedicated care by Australian doctors, skilled and ingenious.
The best known was ‘Weary’ Dunlop.
“His simple, gentle, tenacious leadership still dominates my life today,”
Tom Uren told me yesterday.
Dr Mike Kelly, who sits in our Federal Parliament and whose grandfather, Gunner Joseph Kelly, was at Hellfire Pass, says: “All that kept them alive was the mutual support they gave each other…their enduring bonds of mateship ”4; a smile, a laconic laugh, a gentle whisper. They clung to those special bonds of brotherly love.
Affection, that made the unbearable bearable.
They risked their lives: fleecing guard’s vehicles for tubing to use as cannulas, scrounging for scraps of cloth, leather, rubber, string, wire, nails, screws, tins, to build artificial limbs 5
By October 1943, more than 12,300 soldiers had died from illness, overwork, beatings or accidents.
I am privileged to have travelled with four of our countrymen: Mr Alexander Arthurson, Mr Cyril Gilbert, Mr William Schmitt, The Hon. Tom Uren.
And I know others who may also be here today.
All fine, courageous veterans who carry the physical and emotional scars of their own time on the railway.
They join us to honour the 1,362 Australians who rest in peace, in this place; to remember our British, Dutch and other allies, and the labourers from China, India, Malaya, Indonesia and Burma who suffered alongside them.
In the words of Pericles: The whole earth is the tomb of heroic men.
Neither is their name graven only in stone which covers their clay, but abideth everywhere wrought in the stuff of other men’s lives 6.
For many who survived, their recollections are “so clear they almost frighten 2 ” –
“It was a blur of continuous work, mates dying, guards bellowing, heavy loads carried, fever in tides of heat and cold, dysentery and hunger.”
A debt of gratitude, respect and love is owed.
Lest we forget.
Inscription on the memorial at the War Graves Cemetery at Thanbyuzayat, Burma.
Savage, R. A guest of the Emperor. 2004
Australians on the Burma-Thailand Railway 1942-43. P. 49. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. 2003.
Dr Mike Kelly. Personal diaries.
Walker, Allan S. Middle East and Far East ‘Clinical problems of war’. 1962.
Pericles honouring the Athenian dead 430 BC
ADDRESS BY HER EXCELLENCY MS QUENTIN BRYCE AC GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
ON THE OCCASION OF ANZAC DAY DAWN SERVICE HELLFIRE PASS, THAILAND 25 APRIL 2011
Friends, thank you for travelling to Hellfire Pass to see in this Anzac dawn.
Today is a pilgrimage. Alongside one another here, and with countless others throughout the world, we journey to the places that war has etched and scarred.
The theatres of conflict.
The graves and cenotaphs.
The shrines and memorials.
Our minds and memories.
Here, in the Thai jungle, standing on the bones of the “Death Railway” at the withered heart of darkness 1 .
Our silence begs the relentless hammer and tap of our soldiers’ tools; the Last Post’s haunting final wail as another succumbs to the brutal toil.
Our torchlight recalls the long-lit, gruelling nights of work, the days that never gave way to nourishment and sleep.
Our soldiers’ strange and gruesome battlefield.
Not the sort they’d imagined: bullets, bayonets, mortar blasts; hand-to-hand combat on the front line; courage under fire.
The fire here was from hell, they said.
It needed a different kind of courage 2 .
Exiled from the Allied war effort, and held captive to advancing its defeat our soldiers braved a battle fought in the shadows.
In the shadows of the hell fires. In the shadows of their captors’ torture and menace.
In the shadows of their ravaged frames and private anguish.
It was in this impenetrable, malarial jungle of monsoon deluges, saw-toothed mountainous rock, crocodiles, scorpions, snakes and mosquitoes,that our soldiers built a railway with a few crude pulleys, derricks and mixers, and their mighty bare hands.
In ten months: four million cubic metres of rock was shifted, 14 kilometres of bridgework constructed.
Our soldiers, prisoners-of-war, among an extraordinary slave-labour force: 30,000 British; 18,000 Dutch; 13,000 Australians; 700 Americans; and with them, 250,000 Asians 3 .
As the aggressors grew anxious to expand their offensive, so the toll grew, on our soldiers’ lives and wellbeing.
Abject cruelty and neglect, increasingly signified their treatment.
Inevitably crippling fatigue, starvation, horrific sickness, disease and death gouged their ranks.
Just about everything was filthy: the miserable rations, the water, the men’s bodies, their loin cloths, their rotten wounds and ulcers, the brazen inhumanity.
But there were some things that transcended the filth.
The feisty dictum that the path home is an empty mess bowl, no matter what was dished up 4 .
The miracle workers in the makeshift hospitals.
The men’s spirits: somehow impossibly sustained by faith and hopes and dreams; the poetry of Keats and Arnold; their own quiet lullabies; a budding Plumbago flower; a decent, gutsy laugh.
Their deep, generous, tender friendships.
The fires that burned in their starving bellies.
The home fires they burned for one another.
Long after the war, when Chilla Goodchap nursed his wife before her death, he thought of his dead mates:
In Burma we would link up in a group of say four or five, and work as a family.
You’d know every mortal thing about them.
They’ve told you every one of their stories of home, and their upsets and their pleasures. With those five fellows, no matter what you get you’d share, and if one bloke is crook, you stand with a bloke, in his dying moments, his bloody awful bloody death, and you’re holding his bloody hand 5 .
Friends, let this new day, this Anzac sunrise, blaze in the deeds and memories of the tens of thousands of soldiers who suffered and died and rest here now.
In those who survived the filth and rallied to rebuild their bodies and lives, find their families, and hold onto their mates. In those who are with us today to affirm the injustice, the pain and the torment, and the long, slow road back to healing and living well.
I sincerely thank my fellow countrymen, my companions, for showing me the way today.
Mr Lex Arthurson
Mr Cyril Gilbert
Mr Bill Schmitt
The Hon Tom Uren
And with us, Mr Neil McPherson.
Fine, courageous, knowing veterans of this place, who join all of us here to honour the wartime sacrifice of those we love and respect.
In the aftermath of such atrocity, let us be thankful for the lessons of war; for what Anzac Day offers every year in growing our wisdom; and for the mutual sense and compassion of our governments in preserving this memorial to honesty, peace and understanding.
The fires will always burn here, as they should, in rightful remembrance of all they destroyed and all they nurtured.
The fires from hell.
The fires in the bellies.
The home fires of mates who made their terrible way together here, who built a railway in the jungle by hand – our soldiers of the Hellfire battle. Friends of Australia and Thailand.
Lest we forget.
Cameron Forbes used this metaphor in his book, Hellfire, Pan Macmillam Australia, 2005, Chapter 17 “Hearts of Darkness”, p 279
Ibid, Chapter 1 “A Different Courage”, p 1
Ibid, p 263
Ibid, p 299
Ibid, p 289
Bill Haskell was born at Fremantle on 9th May 1920 and died just short of his 91 st birthday on the first of May 2011. Bill was one of nine children. His father Bernie came with his parents to the Eastern Goldfields and later to Fremantle. Bill’s dad Bernie married Vera Sullivan in 1910 and the family home was established in Gill Street, East Fremantle.
Bill had his formative years in the pre-depression and depression period. He attended the Richmond Primary School and Fremantle Boys High School where completed his Junior Certificate.
His first job was as a lowly paid messenger boy in Fremantle followed by general and junior clerical work at the Robbs Jetty Meatworks. He commenced part time studies in accountancy.
When World War 11 broke out he tried without success to join the Navy. At 19yrs he joined the 16th Battalion Cameron Highlanders and completed a three month camp at Northam.
In November of 1940, after enlisting in the AIF, he went to the Woodside Camp in South Australia until in April 1941 he sailed away the 2/3 rd Machine Gun Battalion after pre-embarkation leave.
Bill was the first of his family to enlist but before the end of the war his Mum had seven of her nine children overseas.
He was on the Isle de France in a convoy with the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth 11, Aquitania, Mauritania and the Andes which called at Colombo and terminated at Port Tewfik on the Suez Canal. They later served in Palestine and in Tel Aviv.
The 2/3 rd Machine Gun Battalion then saw action in Syria and later were in Mrouj, near Beirut in Lebanon.
In February 1942 they traveled on the RMS Orcades via Durban, South Africa, to Oosthaven in South Sumatra. They disembarked for a short time before returning aboard and sailed to Batavia. (Jakarta) and then by road to Bandoeng.
On 9 th March 1942 the Dutch surrendered (including the Australians).
Life in the Bandoeng prison camp was not good but better than what was experienced later on in Thailand. Food, clothing and medical supplies were between non-existent and very short.
After nearly a year in Bandoeng, Dunlop Force went to Makasura before being shipped to Changi Prison on Singapore for a short time.
In January 1943 they went by train to Thailand and to the Konyu River Camp, the Hintok River Camp and the Hintok Road Camp. Bill later worked on the Thadan Bridge over the Maeklong River before transferring to a river transit camp at Tamuang.
Conditions in the camps on the Railway were dreadful; starvation, ill-treatment, brutality, disease and no clothing, medical supplies or even the most basic of personal requirements. Only mateship and valiant Doctors and medical staff got some of them through. In the “speedo” period when the Japanese tried to accelerate the building of the railway it got worse. Every disease known to man was prevalent with cholera, dysentery, malaria, beri-beri, vitaminosis and lethal ulcerated legs rife.
Their work was moving dirt, timber, rock and other materials by hand and carving through solid rock with only hand-tools. Terrible accidents were frequent.
All this time they had no news of home and very little knowledge of the outside world.
After the construction phase of the railway, Bill travelled from Tamuang Camp to Singapore in the primitive rail-cars before sailing, on 4 th July 1944, with 3,000 other prisoners, to Japan in one of the “Hell” ships, the Byoki Maru. The voyage lasted ten weeks.
Bill spent almost 12 months at the Ohama Coal Mine under the Sea of Japan.
Conditions there were again dreadful with the heat replaced by the cold and having to work in narrow tunnels under the sea. Food was as scarce, as it had been in Thailand, due to the overall conditions in Japan.
After the atomic bombs were dropped the POWs were liberated.
Bill always remembered the parachuted supply drops in 44 gallon drums, some of which burst.
In the drums were many supplies but Bill remembered most of all the Hershey’s Tropical Chocolate and the Campbell’s Pea Soup because he sat next to the broken drums and ladled soup into his mouth at the same time having bites of chocolate.
The Prisoners of War were then able to also assist the local Japanese, particularly the kids. The locals had had a pretty tough time and were as deprived of food and clothing as the prisoners.
Liberation was wonderful but it took Bill and his mates a long time to get home by various ships. They travelled via Osaka to the port at Wakayama where Bill was overawed by the number of naval ships at anchor. As with the soup and chocolate, Bill always remembered the hot showers and the Lifebuoy soap. The next joy was being kitted out with “T” shirts, trousers and boots. (His first experience of denim jeans). Then there was the next piece of heaven. Ice cream, fresh bread and plenty of butter.
It was at Wakayama that Bill first heard of the Atomic bomb.
From Wakayama, Bill’s group boarded the hospital ship “USS Consolation. Another new experience; white linen sheets and pillow cases…. and nurses.
From the USS Consolation, Bill and his group were transferred to a Liberty Ship, the USS Haskell and taken to Okinawa and then Manila where they boarded the escort carrier the Speaker and travelled to Sydney. After a short stay at Ingleburn Army Camp Bill then travelled on the Dominion Monarch to Fremantle.
It had not been until Bill arrived in Manila that he that he was officially acknowledged as being recovered. His Mum had been very ill in hospital. The war had just about caught up with her, all her children were overseas, one had been killed in New Guinea and Bill had not been heard of for three and a half years.
Bill’s sister Emily was a nurse serving in New Guinea and returned home on compassionate leave. She and Bill’s dad were the only people at home the day a telegram boy arrived on his bike at the house. The worst was feared. Bill’s dad opened the telegram and on getting the great news gave the telegram boy ten bob (a fortune in those days) and ran down the street yelling “it’s Bill, its Bill”.
Emily was unaware of what was happening because she had been in the shower when Dad answered the door and she was the last in the street the last to know. Bill’s mum received the news at the Mount Hospital and recovered to be at the wharf for the family welcome to the homecoming POWs.
After a period in the Point Walter Camp through to Christmas 1945, Bill resumed his pre-war work at Robbs Jetty as quick as possible and re-established his life. An opportunity arose to obtain a position in the Commonwealth Public Service and although it would mean a drop in income, the prospect of security was inviting as he had met his future wife Dulcie Neave. He accepted a position as a base range clerk with the Taxation Department and then found out that his military service entitled him to tax free status for two years. All the tax paid on the overtime at Robbs Jetty was thus returned.
Through long hours of part time study Bill qualified as an accountant and had a life-long career with the Taxation Department.
Bill married, built a home and raised a family. He also resumed his pre-war sport of lacrosse (representing his State) and later commenced his early morning swimming.
Bill always mentioned his delightful wife Dulcie and how she was able to cope with his post-war problems, particularly stomach ulcers and the effect on his diet.
Bill returned to Hellfire Pass with Weary Dunlop on a special tour via Jakarta and Singapore in 1985 and again in1987. He has returned to the area many times since with Quiet Lion Tours and other special visits such as Keith Flanagan’s Loi Kratong and Khun Kanit Wanachote’s OAM award. One special visit was after our “Grand Tour” in 2009 when we visited Jack Chalker and many other friends in England. Bill’s joy at meeting his friends and touring Somerset, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Hampshire was palpable.
Bill Haskell joined with Keith Flanagan in convincing Weary Dunlop to publish his war diaries and they then worked together to keep the story of Weary Dunlop and the Burma Thailand Railway alive. They commenced the Quiet Lion Tours to Thailand for Anzac Day and were later co-founders of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association.
The BTRMA has now conducted 18 Quiet Lion Tours. There have been in excess of 1,300 people taken on Quiet Lion Tours including over 300 High School Students and other juniors.
Bill, together with Keith Flanagan and Ken Wood, played a major part in establishing the Boon Pong-Weary Dunlop Medical Foundation which has been responsible for training in excess of 60 young Thai Doctors in specialist surgical fields under a mentoring scheme.
In the Australia Day Honours List for 2004 Bill Haskell, together with his long-time friend Keith Flanagan, was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for “Service to the community, particularly through establishing public educational tours to the Burma Thailand Railway”.
Bill died at home of 1 st May 2011. His wife Dulcie, with whom he shared a deep devotion, pre-deceased him by a number of years.
Bill Haskell was a man of many interests and amassed a large group of good friends from all over the world, particularly Thailand. Bill was a devout Christian, a life-long early morning swimmer with the Port Beach Polar Bears, had an abiding interest in history, particularly military history, was an active participant in Probus and was a life-long supporter of the East Fremantle Football Club.
More than any of this, Bill Haskell was a great family man and his principal legacy is a fine group of children, grand-children and great grand children who have an exemplar beyond comparison on whom they can model their own lives.
He was a loved father of June, Douglas and Errol, father in law of Steve, Maureen and Barbara, “Pop” of Christabel and Matthew, Andrew, Mark and Leah, Marcia and Nathan, Carla and Nicco and Great Grand Poppy of Zane, Casey, Cody, Noah and Oliver.
AS THE SUN SLOWLY SETS……………… DAWN WILL SEE IT ARISE
FOR SERVICE ABOVE SELF……………… DEMANDS ITS OWN PRIZE
YOU HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT… LIFES RACE HAS BEEN RUN
AND PEACE YOUR REWARD…………….. FOR ETERNITY BEGUN
AND WE ARE THAT LEFT ………………… WILL NEVER FORGET
REST IN PEACE FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE…….. FOR THE SUN HAS NOW SET.
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, a group of veterans and supporters who have resolved to perpetuate the memory of the Burma Thailand Railway and the ordeal of Prisoners of War of the Japanese, once again took a tour to Thailand for the 2011 Anzac Day Dawn Services at Hellfire Pass and the Wreath Laying ceremony at Kanchanaburi.
The Association has conducted annual pilgrimages to Thailand in the form of Quiet Lion Tours (named for Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop regularly since 1997. High School students have always been a priority in order to perpetuate the story. The numbers of juniors have increased each year, partly due to a number of generous sponsors and contributing groups.
The 2011 Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand was significant due the attendance of the Governor General Australia, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, who was accompanied by a group of survivors of the Burma Thailand Railway; the Hon. Tom Uren, Lex Arthurson, Cyril Gilbert and Bill Schmitt. Another survivor present was Neil MacPherson who traveled with the Quiet Lion Tour. Regular ex POW travelers Bill Haskell and Milton Fairclough were unable to travel due to illness.
Over the years a host of people who had kin on the Railway have achieved closure on the tours.
This was the case in 2011 when the following traveled:-
Richard and Sally Steel of Toowoomba Queensland . Richard's father was John Hart Steel VX24121 of 2/2 Pioneers who died at Tamarkan;
Ron and Bronwen Walker of Mildura Victoria . Ron's father was Harry Walker VX 22708 of 2/2nd Pioneers. Harry went to coal mines in Japan after the railway was finished and survived).
Jenny and Peter Caddy of Port Pirie, South Australia . Jenny’s uncle was Edward Thomas Sorrell, 2/3MGB Dunlop Force. Ted died at Tarsau Hospital on 11/11/43 after time at Hintok. (Bill Haskell knew him well from Java on);
Jan and Phillip Burbury of Woodbury, Tasmania . Phillip’s kin was Claude Samuel Iles, TX4214 CCS.
John and Francis Kennedy of Arcadia, Victoria and their daughter Bronwen Stewart and grandson Matt of Sebastopol, Victoria . John Kennedy’s uncle (Crocodile Kennedy) was a padre and prisoner captured in Java. and later sent to Mukden (Manchuria).
Max and Sue Cunnington . Max’s father was Sandy Cunnington of the 2/3MGB.
David Piesse . His father was Ron Piesse of the 2/3 MGB.
Susan Harrington was part of a large contingent from the Harrington family. Her father was Frank Thaxter. Frank Thaxter was also a member of the 2/3 rd Machine Gun Battalion. Frank Thaxter and Susan returned on an earlier occasion to the Railway on a Quiet Lion Tour before Frank passed away.
Jan and Phillip Hawkins and Jan’s brother, Terry Cant, of Melville . Jan and Terry’s father was Albert Ronald Cant 2/7th Field Battery.
Neil MacPherson of the 2/2 Pioneers has been a member of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association and travels each year. His son Alan and grand-daughters Gypsy O’Dea, Krishna Vanderweide, Shannon Pearce and Jemima Butterworth toured.
Emma Egerton-Warburton . Her Grand Father is Wally Holding of the 2/4MGB who is a member of the Burma Thailand Memorial Association management committee.
At the traditional Concert held on the final night of the stay at the Home Phu Resort all of the above performed a joint item as direct descendants of prisoners on the Railway.
On 17 th April 2012 the Quiet Lion Tour will again take many such travelers to the Railway.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN POW REMEMBERED
The 2011 Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand for the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass and the Wreath Laying ceremony at Kanchanaburi (both attended by the Governor General Quinton Brice) was significant to a South Australian couple from Port Pirie; Jenny and Peter Caddy.
Jenny’s uncle was Edward Thomas Sorrell, SX8795 of the Second Third Machine Gun Battalion and Dunlop Force on the Burma Thailand Railway. For many years the family only knew the basic details of Eddie’s service and the manner of his death on the Railway. They knew he died at Tarsau Hospital on 11/11/43. It was a source of much pain that they though he may have died from cholera as the date of death coincided with the latter end of the cholera epidemic.
The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association from Western Australia has for many years conducted their Quiet Lion tours to Thailand and has also assembled an extensive data base on prisoners of war of the Japanese. They also have a strong working relationship with the Thai Burma Railway Centre in Kanchanaburi which has become an authority on the Railway under the management of Australian ex-pat Rod Beattie.
Jenny contacted the Association regarding Eddie Sorrell and within days had comprehensive details of Eddie’s service and the manner of his death. Not only that but one of the founders of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association and an originator of the Quiet Lions Tours, the late Bill Haskell, personally knew Eddie. They became friends from the early days of the formation of the 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion and their course was parallel through to the Hintok Mountain Camp near Hellfire Pass.
Eddie was much older than most of the rest and became critically ill at Hintok. He was transferred to Tarsau Hospital camp where he died of dysentery. (This news afforded some relief to the family because of the fear that he died of cholera). Eddie was buried at Tarsau but his remains were recovered after the war and interred at Kanchanaburi Hospital.
Jenny and Peter then decided to travel with the Quiet Lion Tour and were able to visit the camps where Eddie had worked, travel the majority of the remaining railway and lay a wreath on Eddie’s grave after the ceremony at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. They were able to spend time at the sites of both the Hintok Mountain Camp, the Kinsayok Camp and the Tarsau Hospital camp as well as walking the Heritage Trail from Hintok Cutting to Hellfire Pass (Konyu) Cutting.
Unfortunately Bill Haskell had to pull out of the tour due to illness and he died as the tour finished. Jenny and Peter did get the chance to speak with Bill by telephone before the tour.
Jenny and Peter Caddy have expressed their deep gratitude for the help of the BTRMA and for the experience of the Quiet Lion Tour. Excerpts from their summary of the tour and their observations follow.
“THOUGHTS ON THE QUIET LION TOUR 2011
We were first time participants in a Quiet Lion Tour and returned home from the 2011 tour enriched, extended and satisfied. Eric Wilson’s summary of the tour in a BTRMA newsletter reignited these feelings. Through our initial contact with Eric Wilson and the BTRMA, we learned of the mission of the Association, “to perpetuate the memory of privations and sacrifices of 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 Quiet Lion Tours” ... idealistic and admirable aims.
These aims were achieved with excellence on the Quiet Lion Tour 2011. From our first enquiry of Eric Wilson regarding the tour, it was obvious that we were dealing with both a person and an association possessing exceptional passion for their cause. Then, as soon as we met Eric Wilson, David Piesse, ex POW Neil McPherson and all the group members we knew we had made the best decision of our lives and that we were in for a memorable time. These wonderful people gave their all to make our tour worthwhile, well organised, enjoyable and unforgettable.
We marveled at the knowledge of Eric and David and their success in ensuring that all group members gained the utmost from each session. Neil MacPherson supported Eric and David as they told the story of the Railway.
Bill Haskell and ex POW Snow Fairclough was referred to frequently. We heard of Bill’s death at the end of the tour and we mourned with those who knew him personally. We rejoiced for the remarkable person that Bill was. There were so many truly memorable moments for us on the tour, not the least of which was unraveling so much of the story, with Eric’s help, of an uncle who died on The Line and whom we discovered was not only in Dunlop Force, but who was also a good friend of Bill Haskell. Finding Ted Sorrell’s grave at Kanchanaburi Cemetery was a particularly poignant moment. So very memorable, too, were the Anzac Day services, the Heritage Walk, the train journey along The Line, the Hellfire Pass Museum, beautiful and serene Home Phu Toey, Chungkai Cemetery and the gradual piecing together of the puzzle through sites at Nakom Patom, Non Pladuk, Banpong, Tamuan, Kanchanburi, Tamarkan, Chungkai, Wampo, Tarsau, Konyu, Hellfire Pass, Hintok, Kinsayok and Takanun.
The whole tour was a highlight for us. We feel greatly privileged to have been given this opportunity to learn at first hand the rigours and hardships of the POWs and medical teams on The Line, the beauty yet the challenges of the Thai jungle, the selfless contributions of wonderful local people such as Kun Kanit Wanachote and Boon Pong Sirivejaphan, and, last but not least, the inspiring life of Weary Dunlop and his fellow medicos such as Arthur Moon and Ewen Corlette.”
Jenny and Peter Caddy Port Pirie SA
After the location of the original rail trace and the creation of the Heritage (Walking) Trail along the section of the Burma Thailand Railway between Konnyu Cutting (Hellfire Pass) and Compressor Cutting, the above museum and interpretive facility was established.
The Australian Thai Chamber of Commerce played a significant part in the early work and the Museum was built by the Australian Government with the cooperation of the Thai Government and the Thai Military Development Command.
An information booklet was inaugurated by Ken Bradley of AustCham and over the years many editions have been revised and issued.
In 2010 Rod Beattie, Bill Haskell and Eric Wilson combined to bring the publication up to date with new photographs, revised articles and a brighter appearance.
The new issue has now been printed and will be officially launched to coincide with Anzac Day 2011. Genuine copies are available through the Hellfire Pass Museum, the Thailand Burma Railway Centre and the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association.
This Japanese issue unbleached calico undershirt belonged to POW NX48180 Private Stanley Herron. It was on display at the POW gallery at the Australian War Memorial Canberra for many years.
The entire body of the shirt and part of the sleeves are covered in indelible pencil signatures and addresses, most of which have been over embroidered in red, blue, green, yellow and mauve stem stitch. Those signatures on the sleeves which have not been embroidered are now illegible. The name of the owner of the shirt has been machine embroidered on the left sleeve in the 1970s, 'STAN HERRON 2/20 Bn'.
There is a brown and green embroidered cartoon on the back of the shirt with the caption '"Who called the cook a b_?" "Who called the b_ a cook!". The drawing was made by Leon Leon Leleux a very gifted artist.
NX48180 Private Stanley Herron was born in England in 1914, later emigrating to Australia. He enlisted for service in World War 2 in Sydney on 24 September 1941 and served first with 2/19 Battalion. The battalion was posted to Malaya with the 8th Division and Herron later transferred to 2/20 Battalion.
He escaped from Singapore on a Chinese boat shortly before the surrender to the Japanese and reached Java, where he joined an Australian-bound ship. It was bombed by the Japanese and Herron ended up in a lifeboat. After drifting for five days he landed on Java again, escaped to the hills and joined a guerrilla group but was forced to surrender to the Japanese when they threatened to kill local villagers.
He was taken to Singapore and then sent to work on the Burma-Thailand railway. He avoided a double amputation of his feet due to tropical ulcers, after doctors applied maggots to clean them out and eventually returned to Singapore Changi - River Valley Road Camp.
From here he was sent by sea on the Hell Ship Awa Maru to work in the coal mines at Senryu in the mountains of Japan and it was there that he was issued with the calico undershirt. Herron did not wear the shirt but kept it under the floorboards taking it out for fellow prisoners to sign in indelible pencil, after the Japanese surender. The shirt eventually had about 200 names on it, some of them added immediately after his release, before he was repatriated to Australia.
The signatures include those of fellow 8th Division prisoners of war and those of survivors from HMAS Perth and USS Houston who were sunk in Sunda Strait in 1942. The cartoon about the cook refers to Herron's experience as a cook in the mines.
Herron was evacuated through Nagasaki 5 weeks after the atomic bombing, by US Carrier Chenango to Okinawa, B24 Bomber to Manilla and HMS Formidable to Sydney, was discharged from the army on 3 December 1945.
His wife Betty embroidered over the names after the war when she noticed that the pencilled signatures and addresses were fading. Before she donated the shirt to the Australian War Memorial she realised that her husband, who had died in 1967, has never signed the shirt, so she had his name machine embroidered on the left sleeve.
The names of the following Australians have been identified on the shirt:
After pains taking work by fellow prisoner Neil MacPherson
VX45260 Corporal Ian James Cameron, 2/29 Battalion
QX14696 W O Class Two John Michael Collins, 2/10 Field Regiment
NX72294 Sapper Robert Davis, 2/12 Field Company
B3093 Able Seaman Charles Arthur Goodchap, HMAS PERTH
QX13325 Gunner Charles Edward Helmhold, 2/10 Field Regiment
NX49013 Sergeant Colville Duffy, 2/20 Battalion
NX26885 Driver Vincent Joseph Augustine Leonard, 2/30 Battalion
VX56830 Private William Douglas Rhook, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
WX7355 Sapper Harry Roy Ribbins, 2/6 RAE
NX25602 Driver James Hynd Richardson, AASC
QX14246 Signalman Robert Francis Rolfe, 8 Corps of Signals
VX47141 Private Harry Victor Rooke, 2/29 Battalion
NX42406 Sapper Thomas Sisson, 2/12 Field Company
NX37543 Lance Sergeant Oswald Victor Skinner, 2/30 Battalion
VX56184 Private Kenneth James Swanson, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
VX24166 Private Kenneth Cicil Tingate, 2/29 Battalion
VX34519 Corporal Richard Lloyd Trewin, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
NX58037 Sergeant Ronald Lawrence Tulloch, Headquarters 8 Division
NX49365 Private Donald Leo Walker, 2/18 Battalion
NX28436 Gunner Kenneth William Wills, 2/15 Battalion
NX33605 Signalman Noel Frederick Adamson, 8 Corps of Signals
NX72557 Private Frederick James Asser, 2/19 INF
NX67807 Sapper Noel Robert Baker, 2/12 Field Company
VX55245 Private Frederick James Barnstable, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
VX61315 Private George Gregory Beavis, 4 Australian RES MT
NX65921 Corporal Frederick Joseph Bentley, 2/6 Field Company
NX59568 Sapper Stanley Charles Booth, 2/6 Field Company
NX35494 Driver Stanley Brodie Cannon, 2/19 Battalion
S5930 Able Seaman Francis Charles Chattaway, HMAS PERTH
VX47817 Corporal Charles Edward Clark, 2/29 Battalion
NX45053 Private John Arthur Cooper, 2/19 Battalion
22886 Able Seaman Ronald Frederick Crick, HMAS PERTH
NX35317 Private Robert Henry Darling, 2/19 Battalion
QX15584 Gunner Victor Robert James Drane HMAS PERTH
NX35317 Private Robert Henry Darling, 2/19 Battalion
QX15584 Gunner Victor Robert James Draney, 2/10 Field Regiment
NX66461 Sapper Duncan Campbell Ferguson, 2/6 Field Company
VX19538 Corporal William Finch, 2/2 Australian Pioneer Battalion
NX23295 Private Fred Gilbert, 2/18 Battalion
VX56017 Private Richard Gill, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
QX10431 Lance Corporal Robert Leslie Gourley, 2/26 Battalion
NX48180 Private Stanley Heron, 2/20 Battalion
NX54516 Sapper Arthur George Holloman, 2/12 Field Company
NX4734 Driver William Thomas Hudson, 105 General Transport Company
NX29972 Corporal John Robert Israel, 2/18 Battalion
NX26566 Gunner Eric John Jenner, 2/15 Field Regiment
NX69341 Driver William Killian, 2/3 Reserve M T Company
NX30981 Gunner Timothy Bayton Lee, 2/15 Field Regiment
WX16572 Private Neil Ormiston MacPherson, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
VX45047 Corporal Ernest Marson, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
WX13285 Private Jack Maude, 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion
NX71593 Driver James Patrick McCraw, 2/3 MT
VX38580 Gunner Keith Ross McKenzie, 4 Anti Tank Regiment
NX31833 Lance Corporal John Harold McQuire, 2/12 Field Company
NX52577 Private John Stevenson Meek, 2/20 Battalion
VX22505 Private Michael Norton, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
X19734 Corporal William George Nutt, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
NX16288 Sapper Thomas Victor Phillips, 2/6 Field Company
QX12254 Private George Albert Pill, 2/26 Battalion
VX23691 Lance Sergeant William John Reilly, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
VX8241 Private William Alfred Simpkins, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion.
At a function in Kanchanaburi on 15th Jan 2010 the Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (via her Ambassador in Thailand) bestowed an honour on Rod Beattie for his years of work in researching and helping all families connected with the Thai-Burma Railway, including the 17,000 Dutch PoWs involved, 2,700 of whom died.
Rod has been made a "Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau". (The "Order of Orange-Nassau" can be considered approximately equivalent to the "Order of the British Empire" in the UK)
This award is a Royal Honour in the Netherlands, conferred on people who deserve recognition and high appreciation from society for the special way in which they have carried out their particular activities.
We feel this is a very fitting personal tribute to Rod who has devoted a significant number of years of his life to this work and it is also wonderful recognition of the role of TBRC and its team.
This is great celebration coming after the end of a highly successful research year for TBRC and on the eve of the 7th Anniversary of our opening (20th January 2003).
By decree of the Governor General of Australia, Khun Kanit Wanachote of Home Phu Toey Resort, Tarsau, Thailand, was recently awarded an honorary Order Of Australia Medal (OAM) in the Honors and Awards system of Australia.
Khun Kanit Wanachote, a citizen of the Kingdom of Thailand, has served the Australian Community by his contribution to the preservation of Australian/Thailand history generally. In particular, he has assisted significantly in perpetuating the memory of the privations and sacrifices of Australian Military personnel and the selfless dedication of the medical personnel during the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway in World War 11. At the same time he has assisted in reinforcing the establishment of the repute of Australian of the Year, Sir Edward Dunlop.
Khun Kanit Wanachote’s association with Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop commenced fortuitously when exPOWs and Thailand Burma Railway survivors, the late Keith Flanagan OAM and Bill Haskell OAM, decided in 1985 to organize the 'Weary Dunlop Tour", a tour retracing the course of Surgeon and Commander Colonel (Later Sir) Edward Dunlop and his Force from Java through to Thailand (in World War Two) and having his exploits recognized.
A chance meeting occurred between Sir Edward Dunlop and Khun Kanit Wanachote when the touring party met Khun Kanit whilst traveling up the Kwai Noi River hoping to locate the Kannyu and Hintok River Camps, which were in the region of Hellfire Pass.
Khun Kanit was developing his Home Phu Toey Resort down river from the camps.
With the proximity of Hellfire Pass to his development, Khun Kanit had constantly thought of there being some association between the Burma Thailand Railway and his project and here were a group of Australian exPOWs who had actually been in the area. Weary Dunlop and Khun Kanit struck a chord, which was the genesis of an enduring association.
In 1987 there was a further tour of Thailand when the touring party visited the scene of Hellfire Pass where Sir Edward dedicated a memorial in the pass, predicting that the area would become as well known as Gallipoli.
Messrs Flanagan and Haskell laid the foundations for the annual Quiet Lion Tours, which continue to this day. In 2003 the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association (Inc) was formed to conduct the tours. From 1997 a concerted effort was made to include (and later concentrate on) High School students on the tours in achieving the Association’s objective.
Khun Kanit has been prominent in scouting. He is a Baden Powell Fellow and a member of the Senior Counci1 of the National Scout Assembly of Thailand. Accordingly, he was readily receptive to the concept of youth perpetuating the story of Weary Dunlop and the Burma Thailand Railway and he has always insisted the Quiet Lion Tour stay as his guests at Home Phu Toey Resort, a 190-hectare estate set in beautiful tropical gardens, eighty kilometers upriver from Kanchanaburi and four kilometers from Hellfire Pass.
Since 1997 in excess of 1100 people have been on Quiet Lion Tours and stayed at Home Phu Toey. The number includes in excess of 430 juniors as of the 2009 Tour.
Home Phu Toey Resort has become the focus of the Quiet Lion Tours and is central to the annual Anzac Day Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass.
Following are some examples of the contributions of Khun Kanit Wanachote to the success of the Quiet Lion Tours:
After Weary’s death some of his ashes were taken back to Thailand during a tour. A part of the ashes were spread in Hellfire Pass. The balance was floated down the Kwai Noi from Home Phu Toey Resort in a Loy Krathong ceremony overseen by Khun Kanit Wanachote. First the ashes were blessed as those of an “enlightened soul” in a Buddhist ceremony organized by Weary’s medical friends. As they floated down the river on a candle-lit miniature boat at dusk, ten others followed, five launched by Thais and five by Australians. The night finished with fireworks and Weary’s name spelt out in letters of fire on the hillside.
The dominant feature of Home Phu Toey is the Peace Park where Sir Edward’s statue has pride of place. Perched on rails on a ledge on the side of the hill and floodlit, an old locomotive and wagon overlook the scene. There is also the replica of a POW camp.
The Weary Dunlop museum, dedicated by Khun Kanit to his friend “Weary”, overlooks the park guarded by a huge carved wooden statue of “Weary” Dunlop. Sir Edward’s son and other relatives formally opened the Dunlop Museum on 24 April 1997.
The Jack Chalker Gallery, opened 2000 is an integral part of Home Phu Toey Peace Park.
On the eve of each Anzac Day, Khun Kanit caters for the large crowd of visitors and provides the Sound and Light Show where a model "Bridge on the River Kwai" crosses a small stream. The story of the bombing of the bridge on 24 June 1945 is narrated in English, combined with the music of the times, sound effects and an operating miniature train, ending in shattering explosions, gunpowder flashes and the collapse of the central spans of the model bridge. The show sets the tone for the Hellfire Pass Dawn Service and Wreath Laying Ceremony. Sir Edward later referred to "the remarkable" and "rather mysterious" Kanit who was something, he said, of a modern Kublai Khan.
When the Quiet Lion Tour party arrives for a five-night stay, Khun Kanit hosts a welcome dinner and the sound and light show and introduces guests to aspects of Thai culture. The tour party dines variously in the Peace Park, the main dining room, on the lawns outside the dining room and on the “ Green Beach” by the river and the swimming pool.
Khun Kanit provides a farewell dinner in the Weary Dunlop Park and hosts the now famous talent quest concert where the Quiet Lion tour party, particularly the juniors, entertain their host. The experience encourages self-confidence for the young Australians and provides an opportunity for them to display those new attributes they have adopted, the values they have experienced and the examples of dealing with adversity - during the Tour.
Due to Khun Kanit’s good offices, a Buddhist ceremony is held each year during the Quiet Lion Tour. This ceremony pays homage to those who died in WW11 but in particular to the POWs who died during the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway.
Khun Kanit accommodates the Quiet Lion Tour party at a huge discount and the juniors are his guests with no charge levied for their accommodation and food.
On two recent tours, where an extra large number of persons were on the tour, Khun Kanit temporarily converted a Conference Centre to a fully equipped dormitory to accommodate sixteen schoolboys and two housemasters, all at no charge.
Without the generosity of Khun Kanit Wanachote it would be difficult to achieve the objective of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association.
It is not only the history of the Burma Thailand Railway that can be taught to Australian youth by the generosity of Khun Kanit Wanachote. Ex POWs are able to revisit areas where they were incarcerated and thus obtain some closure. The relatives of the POWs are able to also achieve closure by visiting graves and participating in the ceremonies. Being able to visit and experience the Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass and the Wreath Laying Ceremony at Kanchanaburi is a most moving experience.
All this is possible due to the generosity of a great man whose attributes were instantly recognized by a great Australian, Sir Edward (Weary) Dunlop.
This man was eminently suitable for recognition by the Australian Honors and Award system, notwithstanding by an honorary award due his non-Australian nationality..
For the Governor General's web site published record click here
Bill Haskell and Khun Kanit Wanachote
Veterans, Families of Veterans, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
On ANZAC day we honour all New Zealand and Australian men and women serving in the armed forces today, and we remember with thanksgiving those who served their country in time of war, and those who died.
These are familiar words. Too familiar, perhaps. I have said them before. You have heard them before. It is a hot day, too hot for speeches. And what could I, who have never experienced war, really know of the suffering and the anguish we are commemorating here.
So let us cut to the heart of things. In this cemetery there are just under 7000 headstones. 7000 lives lost. 7000 loves lost. 7000 men, young and old, sons and fathers, artists and poets and plumbers and farmers, dead. 7000 futures gone, rubbed out. And of those who died toiling on the Thai-Burma railway, perhaps as many as 100,000. Malay. Burmese. British. Javanese. Australian.Dutch. American. And that cruellest of words: “others”, including a small handful of New Zealanders.
More than 230 deaths for each day the railway was under construction. More than 240 deaths for every kilometre of track laid. And how many lives back home, how many hearts back home, were broken by the deaths of these men? A million? More, surely. Many more. A human tragedy beyond counting.
We are not here to listen to speeches. We are here to call to mind, to call to heart, the suffering of those who died and those who mourn. We are here to be counted amongst those who believe that the values of courage and loyalty and service and grit and mate-ship and honour continue to be true, continue to matter. We are here because it is the least we can do for those who sacrificed so much. We are here to remember. On this day we remember ordinary people from many different lands, united by a most extraordinary thing: they gave up their lives, they were robbed of their promise, so that we who came after them might live in peace.
Their sacrifice stands as a silent witness to the enduring values of faith and hope and love, and to the desolation of war. It is right indeed that we should remember them.
ADDRESS BY DR BROOK BARRINGTON, NEW ZEALAND AMBASSADOR TO THAILAND AT HELLFIRE PASS DAWN SERVICE ANZAC DAY 2009..
Author: DR BROOK BARRINGTON
Veterans, Families of Veterans, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
ANZAC Day is a day when trans-Tasman cousins stand shoulder to shoulder, just as they did ninety-four years ago. That is true enough, and important. But in the midst of that ANZAC solidarity I want to acknowledge that this is hallowed ground for Australia.
The far off echoes you hear when you sit here quietly in the dark come from Australian pain. The distant cries you hear come from Australian hearts.
Whether you are religious or not, this cutting represents something which goes beyond our ordinary lives. Men – many of them no more than boys – lived and suffered and fell and died here.
Where we stand.
Memories of home – of shimmering heat and cicadas and cold beer – sustained life here, and were lost here.
Where we stand.
The best of what it is to be an Australian – tough, generous, laconic, quick to laugh, to lend a helping hand, decent, unflinching – these values were tested here.
Where we stand. And they were not found wanting.
Australian and Dutch POWs from the Thai Burma Railway
The victims of the Burma-Thailand Railway came from many lands. They, and all those others who have served their country in time of war, remind us that the peace we now enjoy has been paid for in blood, and in sorrow.
As dawn breaks, full of hope and renewal, we especially remember all of those Australians who sacrificed their lives for their friends, and for peace. There can be no greater gift. This New Zealander, honoured to be in this place, thanks them for it.
Bill Haskell Ex WX3279 2/3RD Machine Gun Battalion.
In Australia and New Zealand the 25th April is known as Anzac Day. It is a day on which the two Nations pay tribute to our Servicemen and Servicewomen who lost their lives in defence of freedom.
We are therefore grateful to the Governments of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Union of Myanmar and their people for permitting us to honour those who died in their countries and have their remains interred in this cemetery and that at Thanbuyazat.
These men died as Prisoners of War of the Japanese in World War 11 during or as a result of working on the Burma Siam Railway.
They died, in the main, through the sheer negligence of the Japanese in not supplying the basic food and medical supplies, in their inhumane and brutal treatment and in subjecting the prisoners to the absolute extreme of forced labour.
The prisoners were starved, overworked, exposed to diseases, harassed and brutally assaulted at the work place.
The established rules of warfare in relation to prisoners of war were abandoned completely in the frenzy to push the railway through.
We remember these men with great affection and deepest respect. The sole purpose of locating Prisoners of War in Thailand and Burma was to work on the railway and the Japanese made it abundantly clear from the outset that there would be no respite until the task was accomplished.
During the monsoonal months of July and August 1943 the country was deluged with continuous downpours of rain. At the same time Cholera and Ameobic Dysentery reached plague proportions and the Japanese engineers introduced their dreaded “Speedo” tactics. The combination of these factors resulted in deaths and disablement
thereby cutting the workforce considerably and placing a huge burden on the remaining workers.
The engineers showed no compassion, on the contrary, continually increasing the working hours. Despite the enormous pressure many prisoners survived the ordeal until the rail link was completed. They received wonderful support from the Doctors, medical orderlies and camp staff who supported them admirably. All of these people deserve to be acknowledged for playing their part in a triumph over adversity.
Upon completion of the rail link the war was till twenty-two months from finishing and the POWs were moved around a great deal. Some men were retained on the railway doing maintenance work and cutting wood for locomotive fuel whilst others were spread around the country working on roads, railways, and bridges damaged by Allied bombing and monsoonal rains.
The men of “F” Force, whose introduction to Thailand was a 260-kilometer march to the disease-ridden camps at and around Sonkurai were eventually returned to Singapore, missing over a thousand of their number who had perished. The fittest of the Prisoners of War survivors were sent to other areas of Asia as forced labour. A large number of the Australians went to Japan to work in coalmines and other industrial areas. They sailed in decrepit unmarked ships and unfortunately some of the
ships in the convoys were sunk by Allied submarines resulting in a further heavy loss of life.
The inhumane treatment meted to the Prisoners of War had reduced a third of the “railway” survivors to a state where they were incapable of further manual labour. They were transferred to (so called) hospital camps in Tarsao and Chungkai. They were later consolidated in a vast hospital camp at Nakon Pathom.
After the Japanese surrender, much to the relief of the Prisoners of War who were well into their fourth year of captivity, thousands of them were repatriated to Australia to be nurtured back to health by their loved ones. Many, of course, were beyond complete recovery. After a period of convalescence and retraining, those who had recovered sufficiently were returned to society and assisted in rebuilding a country that had been on a full wartime footing for over six years.
Notwithstanding the dreadful conditions in Thailand and Burma, the subsequent ordeals in “hell-ships” and coalmines and the inhumane treatment, many of the Australian POWs displayed a resilience, a fortitude and a will to survive which allowed them to re-establish themselves after the war.
Many moving accounts of the fortitude displayed by the Australian prisoners in enduring great adversity have emerged. I would like to refer to just one which gives some idea of this magnificent trait.
Basil Clark was a member of A Force in Burma and had his right leg amputated at the mid section of his thigh in September 1943. The amputation was carried out at the 55 Kilo Hospital Camp by the renowned surgeon, Lieut. Colonel Albert Coates, whose skill and expertise surely assisted Basil Clark’s recovery.
In due course Basil was transferred to the Base Hospital at Nakon Pathom in Thailand and repatriated after the war to Perth, Western Australia, where he very quickly resumed civilian life. In June 1946 Basil married the young lady he was courting when he enlisted.
They were blessed with a son in 1947 and a daughter in 1948. Basil was fitted with an artificial leg that had an articulated knee and a rigid ankle. The leg was supported by a waistband and strapping which enabled comparative freedom of movement. The Department of Postwar Reconstruction interviewed Basil and suggested that because of his handicap he should take up a sedentary occupation. Basil rejected this proposal out of hand and stated he was returning to his pre war occupation of farming. In 1949 he moved onto a medium sized wheat and sheep farm at Wongan Hills in Western Australia and single-handedly carried out all the normal farming operations such as ploughing, cropping, harvesting and sheep husbandry. At the same time he took a lively interest in community affairs such as Rotary, Freemasonry, Parents and Citizens Clubs and general sporting activities.
In due course his son Noel continued farming the property and his daughter Lois qualified as a nurse in which capacity she accompanied the Quiet Lion Pilgrimage in 2007 This is the story of a survivor who triumphed over enormous difficulties as a Prisoner of War and on return to Australia distinguished himself as a family man and in farming and community affairs. Truly the type of person who inspires a nation.
Basil was representative of a host of Australian ex Prisoners of War who displayed those great traits of resilience, fortitude and an enduring will to survive. He and the rest of the Prisoners of War were truly representative of their predecessors who collectively led to the coining of the description “Anzac” and the perpetuation of
We, those who are left, salute those who are no longer with us.
God bless them and God bless you all.