2014 ANZAC DAY ADDRESS BY NEIL MACPHERSON

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,

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