The plight of the men of the Royal Norolks taken prisoner by the Japanese is far reaching and covered by other pages. They travelled to Taiwan, Burma, Thailand Japan and any place the Japanese wanted a labour force. They died from over work, hunger, beatings and some just gave up in despair.

The following has been included as it was by my pop, a bren gunner with the 4th Royal Norfolks.


Before the Japs came into our camp, stories of atrocities carried out by them were spreading, fearing the worst, we had to pile all weapons and ammunition in the open. Then a small party of Japanese checked that everything had been carried out to their commands, the trucks carrying the Japanese then arrived. Standing to attention and faced by an unknown enemy, the stories flooded through my head of Chinese men, woman and children being used for bayonet practice and allied units surrendering under a white flag in Malaya being shot and left for dead.

Our officers were allowed to take charge at first, the Japanese having set up two machine guns at the entrance to some tennis courts, placed us inside them. The following day our officers took charge and marched us to Changi Prison on the North-east end of the island. It was on the way I learnt of the massacre at Alexandra Hospital, a medical officer, Lieut. Weston had confronted the Japanese outside the hospital with a white flag only to be bayoneted to death. The enemy soldiers who seemed tall for the normal Japanese, then killed anything that moved, the patients didn't stand a chance. It was later reported that 323 died in the attack, 230 being patients, the rest medical officers and nurses. The hospital couldn't have been mistaken for anything else, all the medical officers were wearing Red Cross insignia and the hospital had a large Red Cross in the grounds, (it was later established that the soldiers that carried out the raid were the Japanese Imperial Guard and the raid was in retaliation for their losses by the Australians the days previous).

Being the nearest to Changi we were the first to arrive, later to be joined by the rest of the captive troops. Food was still being issued by our cooks at this time and it wasn't so bad, but within a week food and water were in short supply, the Japs then issued rice. I soon found myself in the hospital, rice did not agree with our stomachs and dysentery and fever spread throughout Changi Prison. While I was in hospital, a big clean up of the dead in Singapore was ordered and Divisional HQ was amongst the working party to go, brother Jack came to see me before he departed and gave me his ring and watch to look after for him, I didn't see him again for nearly a year.

In April working parties started to be taken away, our cloths, boots and belongings were taken from us only to be left with a loin cloth. If we didn't bow to a Jap we received a good beating, at first we hit back but you then found yourself in the guard room where six or seven very friendly Japs would try their best to put you in hospital for a week. Another punishment was to stand you to attention in the hot sun with nothing on, the Japs would stub cigarettes out on your body as they passed, given no food or drink you just feinted, then you were put in the cooler (a bamboo cage), for days on end with just rice balls and salt. The Sikhs and Bengalis from the Indian National Army were now helping the Japs guard us, if any goods were found being smuggled, they had the authority to give out beatings. This all had the desired effect and you tried to keep out of trouble, but you had to eat to live and smuggling food still went on.

In June we were told to sign a non-escape form by the Japanese, we wouldn't sign, so they put the prisoners together with two machine guns on us. Four prisoners who had previously tried to escape were then shot, the Japs threatened to shoot all of us if we didn't sign. After standing in the sun all day with the threat of death, the offices told us to sign the form, but we wouldn't be bound to it, to escape was ones duty, (Major-General Shamei Fukuei ordered the shootings by firing squad, he was tried after the war and shot on the same spot as the prisoners).

Working parties had increased, and later in June my turn came, I was now feeling a lot better but the food and conditions at Changi were very bleak, rice and green leaves were our diet, the water had to be boiled and the sanitary conditions were terrible, so I was glad to get away. With a party of 600 others we were herded into cattle trucks and driven up Malaya and into Thailand. We were the first working party to arrive at Non Pladuk and were treated very well, the food was a lot better then at Changi. Our first job was to clear a large area of trees, we were told a Japanese workshop was to be built there, then word got around that it was to be the start of a railway line to go 415kms to Burma.


Little did they know of the horror that the railway would bring and the toll in took in human life. The screams of my fathers nightmares will never leave me, it was part of my youth.

However much we loved him there was always that quiet place he would go back to. The faces of his lost mates haunted him all his days of his life. I pray in death he has now found a place to rest in peace.


The Parade


The bugle played the men fell in

Some of them tired and all of them thin,

Patched up shirts and shorts they wore,

Some with less, but none with more,

Bandaged arms and legs by scores,

Old rags that covered their ulcered sores,

Others straight from the malaria bed

With pains in their feet and in their head,

Everyone who could walk was there,

Dark sunken eyes fixed in a stare.

In two lines the men fell in,

And not one was wearing a grin,

Everyone was grim and stern

You wonder why, well you shall learn,

Not a word on that parade was spoken,

Not a word or familiar joke,

Jesting and joking were far apart

For each one there had an ache in his heart.

No funeral march with it's plaintive verse,

No gun carriage there to act as a hearse,

The coffin was carried shoulder high

By four of his pals with a tear in their eye,

The coffin was just a box of wood,

Not a flower or wreath to make it look good,

But the Union Jack was in evidence there

And stopped the box from looking bare.

With steps the procession passed by,

And with it the lad who was sent here to die,

Twelve months of suffering and toil,

Only to be buried on Thailand soil.

But his soul has risen to the heavens above

And with it goes his friends great love,

He's gone to a billet far better then ours

A haven of rest and happy hours,

The parade dismissed and one could note

Every one there had a lump in his throat.

Life it passes just like sand

But the way they saluted, pal it was grand.

Written in Thailand

By Frederick Noel Taylor - My pop and always my hero




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