The five survivors were picked up by a Japanese cruiser, and the doctor in the sick bay, Metzler said, was the 'soul of kindliness and courtesy', and through the next years he never met another Japanese like the good doctor. Almost as soon as it was finished, the Allies began to advance in Burma and the railway came under attack from Allied aircraft. Many of the newly captured prisoners of war resented the fact that they had volunteered in mid 1940, trained for well over a year, and had had slight chance to demonstrate what they could do as soldiers. Other units and reinforcements followed. The Japanese allowed the prisoners to erect a smaller wooden cross nearby for the Allied dead. As the prisoners of war were to say, being an ex-prisoner was a life sentence. AWM 157859, Two working men, Konyu River Camp; verso: Study for 'Two working men', by Jack Chalker, 1942: pen and black ink, brush and wash on paper, verso pencil, 13.9 x 8.1 cm. On 12 February 1942 the last sixty-five nurses went on board the Vyner Brooke. (State Library of Victoria Argus newspaper collection image an002442, The grave of a victim of the Sandakan death marches: a man shot near the 16-mile peg near Sandakan. When the Australians returned to Rabaul, out of a hundred or so who had been held in Rabaul, Captain John Murphy was the only Australian prisoner of war, and with him were six Americans. The prisoners thought of their years in captivity as their stolen years, and they were eager to make up time. In Port Moresby there were another 3000 men and through the arc of New Guinea's outer islands of Bougainville, New Ireland and Manus were a few hundred men from the 1st Independent Company. Many prisoners were brought here from Burma after the Burma–Thailand railway was completed, and chopping wood for the cooking fires was a daily chore. After two days in the water, 136 prisoners were taken on board Japanese ships, others were probably shot in their life boats, and more died of thirst and exposure. Sergeant Walter Wallace was helped by the Sandakan 'underground' to reach Berhala Island, and there he joined six other prisoners in another escape bid, and the seven managed to join the guerrillas. More civilians, particularly missionaries, were gathered up by the Japanese as they occupied the other New Guinea islands, Bougainville and the north coast of mainland New Guinea. With the Japanese crowding between twenty-five and thirty men into each cattle or goods wagon, about 600 prisoners packed each train, but it still took over ten trains to carry the largest forces. It was 29 August before the prisoners from Zentsuji were found in Hokkaido, and it was a month after the end of the war before they were on their way home by train, then by air to Okinawa and the Philippines, and from there most men came home by ship. As American air raids increased, the prisoners close to the main ports and industrial centres witnessed the intensity of the bombing, and several Australians were close enough to the point of impact of the Nagasaki atomic bomb to feel the blast. This list may not reflect recent changes (). They had fought in hope—hope that re-enforcements would arrive, and hope that in a peculiarly British way they might escape as at Gallipoli or Dunkirk, and defeat would then look like victory. Later, this expanded to include: 1. naturalised British subjects originally from enemy nations 2. The 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion docked at Keppel Harbour on 25 January 1942 and were fascinated by stately junks and small canoes with brown-skinned Malay boys 'shouting to us and cockily giving the V sign'; but already the gunners could see the impact of Japanese bombing on the wharves, godowns and city. Then, in the 1980s, there was an unexpected resurgence in interest in the history of war. From 1 September the Australian newspapers were full of stories of 'atrocities': 'appalling cruelty'; 'horror after horror'; 'Australians flogged, died in Borneo horror camp' and 'hell camp'. Alderton had been held for thirty days and subjected to torture by the Kenpeitai—Japanese Military Police—in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain military information. Then it became a matter of obtaining the necessary vegetables and meat to add to the rice. But by the 1960s there was a general decline in enthusiasm for remembering war, crowds at Anzac parades declined, and the prisoners of war, too, faded from national consciousness. Three Australians survived with the guerrillas to emerge at the end of the war: Bill McCure, HR 'Bluey' Ryan and Arthur Shephard. AWM 030261/19, Sister Jess Doyle, 2/10th Australian General Hospital, soon after her release with other nurses from a POW camp on Sumatra. On 24 January his luck ran out. (AWM P01180.001), RAAF Flying Officer Gerrard Alderton, soon after his release into the 'Bicycle Camp', Batavia, Netherlands East Indies, in June 1942. AWM P01344.001, Twenty-four members of the 2/10th Field Ambulance detachment, Rabaul, July 1941. In the last weeks in September and October even many 'light' sick suffering from malaria, tropical ulcers and malnutrition were forced to work long shifts through the night. On May 22, 1938, 792 or 795 prisoners of war and political prisoners escaped from Fort San Cristóbal, near Pamplona, Spain. The last units and re-enforcements to arrive on Singapore had gone into a battle already lost. Use this login for Shop items, and image, film, sound reproductions, Stolen Years: Australian prisoners of war - Prisoners of the Japanese, Stolen Years: Australian prisoners of war. In Japan, most prisoners learnt quickly that the war had ended, their guards disappeared and the men cautiously left camp, venturing a little further each day. This sketch survived by chance when Chalker was caught by a guard, forced to tear up his sketches and beaten for two days. AWM 118879, The amputation ward of 'Bamboo Hut Hospital' at a prisoner of war camp on the Burma–Thailand railway. There they were paraded through town—what the men called a 'gloat parade'—and were installed in houses previously occupied by Dutch families. Some were able to get word to the officers that they thought they were on their way to Hainan. No Allied forces were ready to occupy Japan, but as the camps were identified with painted signs on their roofs, the 'biscuit bombs' found them, and stores floated down swinging from coloured parachutes. The camp and all possessions were lost, ten men were killed and many injured. Others were given long prison sentences. Over 500 Australians were killed within a fortnight of capture. They tried to make up time—at work and by marrying and buying a house. After tough fighting in the battle of the Java Sea, the cruiser HMAS Perth, in company with the American cruiser Houston, attempted to leave Java by passing south of Sumatra through Sunda Strait, but ran into the Japanese invasion fleet. When the Australians on Java surrendered on 12 March, the succession of disasters that followed the Japanese southward advance had ended. The piers for timber bridges were sunk by teams of men who hauled on ropes to raise a weight on a primitive scaffold and then let it crash down on the top of the pier. As a prisoner, Griffin was able to document the three and a half years of Changi, and he met and talked with the men who had been away on the Burma–Thailand railway. Feigning death, he later crawled into the jungle. By mid-December the Lark Force commander was told to expect an attack in strength, and that Australia had little chance of providing re-enforcements or any means of evacuation. The discipline was strict; slapping and sometimes more brutal punishment was imposed. Within a year, over 15,000 Australians were on the move. The men in the background wearing crossed white webbing are members of the Royal Papuan Constabulary band. This is a part of the series, Australians in the Pacific War. Most of the units suffering high casualties as a result of imprisonment by the Japanese have published histories. Most became victims of their captors’ indifference and brutality. Most became victims of their captors’ indifference and brutality. AWM P02338.001, photographer: George Aspinall, Troops de-bugging their beds, Changi, by Murray Griffin, 1942–43: oil over pencil on softboard, 63 x 81.2 cm. They walked round and round, pushing the handles on the augurs to dig the deep bore holes that became the latrines. Aspinall disregarded the dangers and overcame technical difficulties to take photographs around Changi and film something of the horrors endured by 'F' Force on the Burma–Thailand railway. On Hainan, the Chinese maintained resistance to Japanese occupation, and at the same time the Chinese nationalists, communists and independent warlords fought each other. Relief that they had survived their first battles was tinged by the humiliation of defeat, regret that they could no longer defend their homeland when it was under threat, and some apprehension about how they might be received at the end of the war. Gull Force surrendered on Ambon on 3 February—the Japanese had not waited for the fall of Singapore but were taking key points in the islands. The artists have partly compensated for the lack of photographs of the prisoners of war. Of the few civilians who remained in Rabaul and the prisoners later captured in the New Guinea area—most being American, Australian and New Zealand aircrew—few survived. Of the men deployed to the north, only those in Port Moresby, a few in the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles on mainland New Guinea who withdrew towards Wau, coastwatchers, guerrilla forces on Bougainville and Timor, some RAAF personnel ordered out just ahead of the ground fighting and a few evaders and escapers (including General Gordon Bennett of the 8th Division) were still free. Ben Hackey, who survived, was in Pudu gaol by 20 March 1942. Their involvement has strengthened the celebrated Anzac legend in Australian culture. But his three mates decided 'one in all in'. The prisoner of war dead were reburied in selected sites, designed and tended by the Imperial, later Commonwealth, War Graves Commission. The group includes seven nurses massacred on Banka Island, Sister Vivian Bullwinkel (back row, sixth from left), one presumed dead following the sinking of SS Vyner Brook and one who died as a prisoner of war in Sumatra in 1945. At great personal risk some Thais were prepared to sell medicines and food on credit, and even provide cash. Minister for Defence Personnel* Darren Chester announced that the soldiers, who were all prisoners of war, died while escaping prisoner-of-war camps or … By the war’s end more than one in three of these prisoners – about 8,000 – had died. The first of the 'A' Force prisoners to arrive in Burma worked on airfield construction at Victoria Point, Mergui and Tavoy. All prisoners then knew that as individuals their lives were of little value to their captives, and there was no obvious safety in numbers. Australians of the 22nd Brigade, 8th Division, on the deck of the troopship SS Queen Mary, 4 February 1941, the day they sailed from Sydney for Singapore. Two were Australians, Corporal RE Breavington and Private VL Gale. In the end, the men were dying at the rate of six or seven a day. In the immediate post-war period, the prisoners of war remained in public consciousness as the trials of Japanese accused of war crimes continued into the early 1950s. In the main ulcer ward the patients were packed three deep, head to foot ... From 4851 Australians in 'A' Force, 771 died, a death rate of 15.8%. Les Cody, Ghosts in Khaki: The history of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion 8th Australian Division AIF (1997); Peter Henning, Doomed Battalion: Mateship and Leadership in War and Captivity, the Australian 2/40 Battalion 1940–45 (1995); A. W. Penfold, WC Bayliss and KE Crispin, Galleghan's Greyhounds: the story of the 2/30th Australian Infantry Battalion 22nd November, 1940 – 10th October, 1945 (1979); and Don Wall, Singapore and Beyond: The story of the men of the 2/20 battalion told by the survivors (1980) have been quoted here. With increasing fears of invasion, the Japanese ordered another march west. The hammer and tap men, one wielding a heavy hammer and the other holding the drill and giving it a slight turn between strikes, drilled holes in rock to take explosives. But Australians of the 1940s knew rice more as a dessert, as rice pudding, than as a staple food, and at first the army cooks turned out a glutinous sludge. Four died en route. Within days the men imprisoned in Rabaul knew what had happened at Tol. In total, there were over 27,000 Australians deployed to the north. Ken Harrison said that: ... smaller groups met on the grassy slopes under the casuarina trees. But the Perth had already fought a long war, and some of the units engaged on the Malay Peninsula and on Singapore had borne the brunt of the Japanese attack. But all the prisoners of war were to find that their experiences as prisoners overwhelmed all that had gone before. A Japanese float-plane strafed and bombed the Patricia Cam, sinking it. Zentsuji was one of the few camps inspected by the International Red Cross and supplied with Red Cross food parcels, and where letters arrived with reasonable frequency. The 2/40th Battalion captured on Timor were Tasmanians; the 2/21st on Ambon were Victorians; the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion that arrived in Singapore in January were Western Australians; the 2/18th and 2/19th Battalions were from New South Wales, many of the 2/18th from the north and many of the 2/19th from the Riverina; the 2/26th Battalion, another unit captured on Singapore, was from Queensland; and the 2/3rd Machine Gunners, who fought in Syria and surrendered on Java, had been formed and did much of their training in South Australia, but included companies from Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. The first 110 prisoners arrived in Sydney on flying boats on 17 September, and were greeted with cheering crowds and showers of torn paper and confetti. The men at the middle and lower camps had the advantage of being able to trade with Thai food sellers, sometimes buying life-saving duck eggs. When David Selby on the east coast of New Britain appealed to some of his men to keep travelling ahead of the Japanese, only three agreed: most chose surrender, believing that gave them a better chance of survival and getting word of their fate to relatives. Captain Lionel Matthews, two local members of the police and four civilians were sentenced to death. Few memorable Japanese photographs seem to have survived—or become known to Australians—and most of the post-war photographs by Allied cameramen were taken around Changi, leaving a limited visual record of many of the smaller, isolated camps. Guarded news bulletins, at first written and then spread by word of mouth, were circulated, and many prisoners' diaries refer to major international events, such as the battle of the Coral Sea or the defeat of Germany. In his drawings of the cooks, trailer parties collecting wood, theatre, and men listening to music, Murray Griffin documented the range of activities in Changi. The imprisonment of more than 22,000 from a population of 7 million meant that nearly one in 300 Australians was missing. The talented Ray Parkin had joined the navy at the age of eighteen, and fourteen years later he was a Petty Officer on the Perth. Of over 500 who set out, 142 Australians and 61 Englishmen reached Ranau. It was, for Australians, an acceptance that their fate was to be determined in their own region. Just 123 of the 528 Australians from Ambon were then alive. This presentation is based upon a chapter from Grant's forthcoming book, Australian Soldiers in Asia-Pacific in World War II to be published by NewSouth in November 2014. Prisoners who were captured in Timor, Malaya or Singapore, then passed through several work camps, went to the Burma–Thailand railway, recovered in Thailand, and were later shipped to Japan, could claim they had done the 'full tour'. But on Ambon much of the work was pointless: on the 'long carry' the weakened men lugged bombs and bags of cement over hills for no practical reason and when they could have been shifted easily by other means. AWM OG3516, photographer: John Thomas Harrison, Sisters and priests board an army barge, New Britain, 16 September 1945. The doctors, encountering what for them were new diseases and with few resources, were under extreme pressure. In May the first of the major Australian work parties left, not just Changi, but Singapore. Nearly 15 000 were captured in Singapore; over 2700 on Java and the remainder in smaller groups on Ambon, Timor and New Britain. The smaller 'H' Force also arrived late, was thrust into similar appalling conditions, and suffered a high death rate: 179 from a total of 670. The conditions were worse and the deaths more frequent on the Thai end of the railway. It was there, Betty Jeffery wrote, that 'we learnt to sleep on unadulterated concrete and eat filthy rice ... the lavatory ... was just a gutter, no protection, no privacy, and used by both the Japanese and us'. Many of the deaths occurred because of events elsewhere; men died because they had been wounded in the fighting on the Malayan Peninsula and Singapore Island, or they returned debilitated from harsh labour camps. Shot down in a raid over Salamaua on 18 March 1943, Newton and one of his crew, John Lyon, swam ashore from their sinking Boston, were captured, shifted to Lae and there executed. Beginning in January 1943, the men were being trucked to Singapore station to board trains for Thailand. American, British, Dutch, Australian, Canadian, Indian and other allied military and civilian Men who stood up quickly 'blacked out', their eye-sight deteriorated, rashes flourished—'Changi balls'—, and men developed a tingling in their feet—'happy feet'— that prevented sleep, and forced them into aimless night-time wandering. Stan Arneil wrote, 'Modesty we now have none and the sight of crowds of men bogging all over the station yard was sickening'. It was not 17,500 who came home—it was just 14,000. But the new camp was in an intensely malarious area and the weakened women were vulnerable. 10 am to 5 pm daily (except Christmas Day), Get your ticket to visit: awm.gov.au/visit, Copyright Of the dispersed Australian troops, Lark Force on Rabaul was the first to be attacked on 23 January. Twelve nurses died in the attack or were drowned. The 'Selarang Barracks incident' was a more dramatic disruption to life in Changi. The first of the ex-prisoner of war memoirs (Rohan Rivett, Behind Bamboo, 1946, and Russell Braddon, The Naked Island, 1952) were published and sold well. In March 1943, sixty civilians on the destroyer Akikase, again mostly men and women from the Catholic and Lutheran missions, were shot and their bodies thrown overboard. Pilot Officer Maxwell Gilbert, flying out of Tarakan on 7 July 1945, baled out of his Kittyhawk, was captured, and is thought to have died on 24 July, aged twenty, just three weeks before the end of the war. The pilot of a Hudson, he escaped Japanese fighters by disappearing into cloud, but when he emerged a Zero was waiting and the opening burst killed the wireless operator. A fortnight before the surrender, he arrived in Singapore as a gunner in the Royal Artillery. The Australians also built a transmitter, held for an emergency, although it was used briefly to report the movement of a Japanese convoy. The eighth and last nurse to die in captivity, one of their great workers, was buried on 18 August 1945, three days after the war had ended, but the nurses were yet to learn of victory. In the monsoon rains that lashed the tents, the medical assistants attempted to keep the makeshift saline drips operating. Little food was provided, some men going thirty-six hours between meals, and there were no toilet facilities. The group included members of the Australian Army Nursing Service, mission and civilian nurses and Kathleen Bignell, a planter, all of whom were captured in Rabaul. The revelations of the soldiers, and 24 surviving nursing sisters, also prisoners of war, are now part of Australian history. Later in the war, some coastwatchers were captured, but only John Murphy, after extreme deprivation, survived in Rabaul. Australian prisoners of war: Second World War prisoners of the Japanese Over 22,000 Australians became prisoners of war of the Japanese in south-east Asia. The Japanese had said that while they had not ratified the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, they would respect its authority. Caught in the open sea on 14 February by Japanese aircraft, the Vyner Brooke was soon sinking. Use the 'help' tab for questions. Cuttings, embankments and bridges were frequent. The thirty-two Australian nurses who had survived bombing, drowning and the beach firing squad were first housed in the Muntok gaol that had previously held Asian prisoners. With that grim warning, on reduced rations and with water scarce, the prisoners struggled to make the best of their conditions. In spite of the wounds that they carried, the ex-prisoners were significant in public life after the war; several entering the federal parliament, and Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane all had ex-prisoners of war as lords mayor. Included with the troops were 131 women of the Australian Army Nursing Service in Malaya and Singapore, another six in Rabaul and others in Port Moresby. At Tol plantation on New Britain, the Japanese gathered about 160 surrendered men, bound their hands, led them into the bush and killed them. The concert party put on variety acts, plays and musicals of high quality, and with so many men to call upon it was possible to arrange talks on everything from polar exploration to tram driving. Few Australians have been able to visit the Thanbyuzayat cemetery, where more than 1300 Australians reinterred from burial sites along the Burma–Thailand railway are buried. Before dawn on 22 June 1942 the civilians and the prisoners, except for the officers, were paraded, searched and marched away. By the strange ways that news moved among prisoners, men captured on Sumatra and shifted to Changi brought news of the nurses. Sometimes prisoners recognised that these civilians were in the same boat as they were €“ as victims of Japanese militarism. AWM P00348.001, Lieutenant Ben Hackney, 2/29th Battalion, was one of only two men to survive the Japanese massacre of Australian wounded at Parit Sulong in January 1942. In spite of Olle's suspicions, a Thai pilot flew him to north Thailand, where he was transferred to an RAF aircraft and was in Calcutta by mid-June. The prisoners continued to die at Ranau and at Paginatan, where some had been delayed. It has been difficult to create a site of mourning for an incident that took place at sea, and the shores that they left at Rabaul are distant and have been covered in volcanic ash. Harried into another shift in April, the women went to Lubuklingau, an isolated rubber plantation in western Sumatra. One party of 1400 Australians from Java, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel EE 'Weary' Dunlop, arriving in Changi on 7 January 1943, were astonished at the organisation of the vast camp, resented their designation as the 'Java rabble' and were largely unsuccessful in their attempts to persuade what they saw as fitter and wealthier prisoners to share with them. Within weeks, men were being taken from Changi to work around Singapore—cleaning up the debris of war, on the wharfs, and to build a shrine on Bukit Timah hill, the 'light of the south cenotaph', to commemorate the Japanese victory. Soon they shifted again to Irenelaan Street, where they stayed, over twenty to a house, for a year and a half. The Japanese themselves invested heavily in the railway, allocating over 25,000 men to the task; but they were vastly outnumbered by the 60,000 Allied prisoners of war and romusha, conscripted Asian labourers—Malays (including men from Java and other islands), Indians, Chinese, Burmese, and smaller numbers of Thais and Vietnamese. In the heat and with some men suffering from diarrhea and dysentery, they had a tough initiation into travelling as prisoners. Roy Mills, the only doctor with Pond's party at Takunun, lamented the lack of sulphur. Even after his experiences in battle and as a prisoner on the Burma–Thailand Railway, Don Wall of the 2/20th battalion said: 'this was to be one of the most memorable events of our overseas experience'. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, Attorney-General's Department, Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600 or posted at http://www.ag.gov.au/cca, Community engagement team Additives, such as cooking oil, sugar (or gula malacca), chillies and salt, which in small amounts could change the flavour and nutritional value of rice, became important. None survived. The Nationalists recaptured or killed the rest. On 6 April 1945 while working south of Bampong on the Singapore line, he escaped. They and about 160 other Australians captured on the Malay Peninsula were imprisoned in Pudu, the civilian gaol in Kuala Lumpur, then transferred to Changi in November 1942. The Australians were uncertain how they would be treated as prisoners. In the immediate post-war period, Griffin travelled beyond Singapore to enable him to paint and sketch battle scenes and prisoner experiences 'upcountry'. 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