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Fate of prisoners.

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thomas oliver 108/04/2018 16:07:02
96 forum posts
23 photos

You will all probably have seen the film- Bridge over the River Kwai, but very few know of the fate of half of the prisoners, which I personally think was one of the greatest tragedies of World War11. When the railway finally was finished the Japs separated the prisoners into 2 groups - the fittest and the unfit. The unfit were sent overland to a prisoner of war camp on the borders of Vietnam. The fit were put on board 3 ships on the Burmese coast and were to be taken to Japan as slave labourers. The ships discovered that they were being tracked by a submarine so hastily returned to port. The prisoners were then taken overland and were shipped off across the China sea, but were set upon by an American submarine which torpedoed the lot, not knowing their cargo. So these poor souls who had endured starvation, dysentery, cholera and so on finally met their doom by drowning. Near t he end of the war the Japs abandoned the prisoner camps without food and medical supplies. The RAF South East Asia mounted a supply dropping operation to relieve this situation In which I took part, and I flew with 159 Squadron to Ubon - the very camp which housed the survivors of the a Burma Railway. The aircraft went into a circuit and dropped their parachute supplies, then I had to precariously move along the exposed catwalk to grab a bomb rack and kick out the bales of clothing, boots and other supplies, fed out to me by a mate which took a few more circuits. Down below the prisoners were waving and cheering, and I have always had deep satisfaction at taking part in such an operation. Tom Oliver.

TJ Alexander08/04/2018 16:09:55
105 forum posts

Thanks for sharing your story, Tom. Fascinating.

TJ Alexander08/04/2018 16:10:58
105 forum posts

I note from the internet that 159, rather appropriately, flew Liberators.

Cuban808/04/2018 19:16:21
2905 forum posts
1 photos
My late father was captured in Singapore after the capitulation and worked on the Bangkok to Rangoon death railway.
He could never abide the smell of garden creosote as it reminded him of the stuff they used to paint the railway sleepers with.
When I was a kid, for some reason, I asked him why he didn't put Marmite on his toast for breakfast - I loved it and would slap it on thickly. Eventually, he told me that when the POWs were so ill in the camp hospital (such as it was) and simply waiting for death, the camp MO would only then give the men a ration of very scarce Marmite. A wonder that any of them got through it at all. My dad made it back, but his health failed far too soon because of what he went through and I feel robbed of the lost years.
I have seen the film Bridge on the river Kwai, but it doesn't remotely give an idea of the terrible and unnecessary cruelty of the Japanese and Korean guards - I won't watch it now.

Edited By Cuban8 on 08/04/2018 19:18:39

Don Fry08/04/2018 19:29:47
4557 forum posts
54 photos

And we answer the drum when called to war. I sometimes feel, every platoon should be issued with a politician. To lead any assault, or last out in withdrawal.

Respect to them, not for me, God willing.

kc09/04/2018 12:50:30
6418 forum posts
173 photos

Tom that is a facinating bit of history - for it is history now- and such stories need recording for posterity. Please consider putting as much onto paper or onto audio recordings as you can.

Nigel R09/04/2018 14:13:52
3730 forum posts
583 photos

Thanks for sharing Tom, as a (long) post war generation I always feel we hold a very different outlook on life from those involved in the conflict that I have met.

More power to you.

Don, if we forced the politicians to be on the front line, world peace would happen tomorrow.

Pete B - Moderator09/04/2018 14:14:52
7639 forum posts
733 photos

Thanks, Tom - most of us can only be grateful that it wasn't our lot to be part of...

A book worth reading is 'The Railway Man' by Eric Lomax, the story of his experiences on the Burma Railway. ISBN 0-09-958231-7


thomas oliver 109/04/2018 19:10:55
96 forum posts
23 photos

It never occurred to me - "Liberators" !!! A book has already been written about the what occurred - I have a copy somewhere. T.O

ken anderson.10/04/2018 09:39:43
8632 forum posts
779 photos

well done from me tom. I attended a night talk about the Burma railway and river Kwai.The lad telling us about it,said his father had been one of the unfortunate ones captured by the Japanese, and spent his days getting badly abused by them.he told us that they had to carry the sick lads to the railway and their job was to break the rocks into smaller stones for the ballast...getting beatings was the norm as well as starvation and disease.....he had gone back to visit the place which now has a new bridge and museum...brave young lads.....lives wrecked forever..

ken river kwai dept.

zz10/04/2018 10:09:25
98 forum posts
1 photos

That generation is not referred to as , The greatest generation, for no reason.

Straight out of the depression and then confront the Nazis and the Japanese.

Abominable treatment of man by man.

Lest we forget.

Cuban810/04/2018 10:28:15
2905 forum posts
1 photos

Ken. "lives wrecked forever" is really a bit too strong. The overwhelming majority of FEPOWs who made it back, managed to pick up the pieces of their lives and with the help of their families (mainly the families, it has to be said) along with the pretty sparse official assistance available, went on to fulfill reasonably normal lives, depending on the state of injuries or sickness that they might have endured.

I remember clearly, going with my mum and dad to FEPOW social occasions in the 1960s and I remember them to be very happy and vibrant occasions with music and dancing and everyone having a good time. Clearly they weren't going to let their war experiences wreck their future chances of a 'normal' life.

Having said that, I know that my father did suffer with nightmares and it was only much later, as I got older, I realised why I'd hear him get up during the night and find him sitting quietly in the kitchen, drinking tea.

"Are you all right dad"? I'd ask him,

"I'm OK son" he'd reply,

" it's just that bloody Jap's been chasing me again".

Either that or he'd be unable to sleep because of the after affects of the Hookworm infection picked up in the jungle, that later on, caused terrible itching if you got a bit warm.

My dad was lucky, he and mum had a good but simple life and they always did the best they could for me, but I know it wasn't always plain sailing for them, particularly early on, before I came along.

thomas oliver 110/04/2018 21:16:35
96 forum posts
23 photos

Another sequel to the aftermath of the Burma Railway story. The C in C of the prisoners was a Colonel Twomey I believe. He had had reasonable treatment by the Japanese C in C. When the war ended the Colonel went to the Japanese counterpart and told him that he had decided to release him to make his way home to Japan, This officer was so impressed by his treatment that he became a devout Christian. Years later he travelled all the way to Britain only to find that the Colonel had died a while before hand. T.O.

J D 811/04/2018 07:44:42
1439 forum posts
84 photos

The Railwayman was recently made into a film with Colin Firth,well worth a watch.

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