Signalman Wader´s Diary

Part 4

My P.O.W. Life 3 .5 Years



By Ronald Searle

The Japs guarded us for two days at Saint Nicholas Flats, then we were told to pack up. We were marching to Changi from Singapore, a distance of 15 miles. We set off on our long march and we went through the town towards the road for Changi. On the way we saw white women who didn't get away from Singapore looking out of their windows weeping and waving to us. We put our thumbs up and said we would soon be coming back, hoping to cheer them up a bit. It was terrible to know our women were at the mercy of these yellow swines. They were far from civilised which we soon found out. On our way we passed all manner of horrible sights. We saw Indians bodies leaning over edges scorched and burnt to a cinder. We saw the heads of Chinese stuck on gateposts.

By the time we reached Changi we were all in. I knew I was about to start the greatest fight of my life. This was the beginning of our treatment under the Japanese.

We were packed into a room like fish. The first three days we had our own food that we had taken with us. It gave us two or three hard biscuits and a small tin of fish between three of us. This didn't last long, then we went onto Japanese rations. We were allowed 16oz of rice per day, which run us a pint of boiled rice with a quarter pint of coloured water called stew. It took us weeks to get used to this new diet. We soon started having a lot of sickness. Men were going down with dysentery and dying. One chap who slept next to me went to the lavatory 36 times one night. He died there. They made a rough cemetery and and in about 4 weeks we had buried 100 men.

We had been here about three months when the nips sent some men to New Guinea. Some of my mates went. I was picked to go but out M.O. got me off as I was sick at the time. As you know they were released in 1943.

One day the lad who was hurt in the shelter at Alex's came out of hospital and showed us the scars on his back. My pal, Jack from Bradford went into hospital with dysentery, he was very ill, but he got over it when he came back you could count his ribs. He looked like a living corpse.

Another day we were told to pack up as we were going back to Singapore. It seemed good to see all the shops and people again. The nips had got most of the damage cleared up and things running fairly normal again. They took us to the Great World Cabaret, which was a billet now for P.O.W.'s. It wasn't the great world we used to know. We had a canteen, the Japs allowed Chinese to come in and sell us fruit and fish and Chinese cigarettes. Each day we used to go on working parties on the docks and in the go downs. Each party had a Jap guard on charge of them. We got fresh jobs every day. The boys used to pinch stuff and take it back to the billets and sell it to the Chinese at a good price, for instance, lipsticks used to fetch 20 dollars, flints 100 dollars a tube. The Chinese couldn't get them so they relied on the P.O.W.'s . I got a few things in at times, we were able to live pretty well till the Japs got wise to the pinching. They started searching us when we finished a job. But we found ways of tricking them. I was working on a job one day at a place called ``Nestles House". This place was stacked with tobacco and cigarettes. The nip in charge of us went out of the room for a while so we all got busy while someone kept watch. I had got 2 quarter pound tins of Capston tobacco and was just putting the last of it in my boots when the nip came in behind me. I had my boot off and pretended I had hurt my foot. He hadn't seen the empty tins I had thrown behind some cases so I got away with it. I got 10 dollars for it off the Chinese.

Another day I was on a job clearing a warehouse when we heard an explosion, we went out to see what it was, it was an oil tanker, which had caught fire. When I looked round the others had all gone back, so I made my way back. When I got there the guard had them all lined up, checking to see if anyone was missing, well when he saw me he went mad and struck me on the back and legs with the butt of his rifle. He wasn't satisfied with that, he started kicking me, he kicked me below the waist and put me out. This was my first experience of the Japanese treatment.

One of our lads was caught selling razor blades to a Chinese. They took the Chink to Jap HQ, beat him up unmercifully, then tied him to the railings of the guard room. Every time a nip passed he would either kick him or slap his face. The P.O.W. they brought back to camp – they tied him to a tree stripped to the waist and smeared the rope with sugar, then they beat him till his face poured with blood. They left him alone then. It wasn't long before the rope was covered with red ants and they bite like hell. You can imagine what he felt like and went through. They kept him tied up all night, but that wasn't the finish, he was to be shot at dawn, but our camp commandant pleaded with the Japs. They finally gave way and let him go. This was nothing to what we were to see later.

One day we were told to pack our bit of bedding up as we were going to Thailand, otherwise known as the land of the yellow robe. I had no blanket, only a rice sack cut open. I had lost my blanket in action and I had just got over a bad turn of dysentery. Well we left for Thailand leaving my pal behind in hospital. He had an ulcer on the bladder. I heard later that he had died with serbial malaria.

We got on our train for our long journey, but we weren't travelling 1st class.


Cattle Trucks to Thailand

By Charles Thrale

They shoved 50 to 60 of us in cattle trucks, we had just enough room to sit up. It was impossible to lay down. We had hundreds of miles to travel under these conditions. At night we had to sleep the best we could, sat up and cramped, we soon began to feel haggard. We got meals at different stations on the journey, the same old rice and coloured water. When we got well into Thailand it was all flooded with the monsoons. The lines were under water, one time our truck came off the lines, we all jumped out into the water. This was when I was glad I had learnt to swim. The yellow devils made us get to work getting the truck back on again. We were in a bad state for want of rest and sleep. We set to and sweat like dogs with the Japs rushing about cursing. After about an hour we got it back on and were on our way again. We arrived at a place called Bang Qui. Here we all got out and had to walk 7 kilos as we couldn't go any further by train. The embankment was washed away leaving the lines in mid air. We arrived at a place that was all paddy fields, still damp and swampy. Here we had to fit up some sort of shelter from the rains. I stuck 4 bamboo poles up and spread my ground sheet across the top from pole to pole and spread palm leaves on the ground to lay on. This was my home while we stayed there. The only means we had of washing was dirty stagnant water.

We went backwards and forwards each day repairing the embankment, we got it finished in a week. Then we left and arrived at a place called Bang Pong where we were put in huts made from bamboo and attup.

Nong Pladuk Hut -1tb 

Hut-Non Pladuk-1tb 

Atap Hut

Sleeping Quarters


By W.C. Wilder

They put 200 of us in one hut allowing each man 20 inches of space to sleep in. This month was the cold spell and I couldn't keep warm at night under my bit of sacking. This camp was where we had our first amputation case, a lad had an accident on a Jap lorry and had to have his leg off. There was also a bit of a skirmish one night. 9 Japs and 3 Thais were killed. We left Bang Pong and went to a camp called Non Pladuk.





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