2015 ANZAC DAY ADDRESS BY NEIL MACPHERSON WX 16572 AT THE WREATH LAYING CEREMONY, KANCHANABURI WAR CEMETERY, THAILAND.

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. Neil MacPherson

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