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Escape from Jinsen Chesan POW Camp, Korea and Other Memories - Part 3

by levenvale

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Prisoners of War

Contributed by 
levenvale
People in story: 
James Miller
Location of story: 
Korea, USA, Scotland
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4334203
Contributed on: 
02 July 2005

James Miller, foreground second from right, On Parade, VJ Day Perth 1995.

I think it was three days later that a lorry load of Russian troops entered our camp and arrested all of the remaining Jap officers and troops, (many I understand had already fled). The Russians told our officers to take over the camp and provide our own Guards until further notice. A few days later an American plane circled our camp and dropped a small canister which contained a note asking someone to mark a suitable area near the camp where they could safely make a parachute drop of barrels containing food. Next day a huge American plane, spotted the cones we had marked, and dropped a number of barrels full of food and clothing, all of which were carried back to camp for storage and distribution.

Dr. MORRIS gave a warning not to gorge ourselves. Needless to say a few took no heed, and paid the penalty with painful results. A few days later in the afternoon, a large Russian lorry entered our camp. On board there were two 45 gallon drums, and a dozen or more Russian troops complete with a brass band. We were asked to provide buckets of water and cups or something, as each of us was to receive a ration of Russian Vodka.

A Russian soldier gave a demonstration of how to drink the stuff. He poured a large Vodka, swallowed it in one big gulp followed by a cup of water. We were then invited to do likewise. There was much spluttering and coughing before this ceremony was completed. Many were sick in the attempt to down their ration. Others went into their respected huts and collapsed. I must admit I felt a little tipsy after taking my ration. The Russian interpreter explained that the purpose of their visit was to cheer us up with music and Russian dancing. Their brass band began to play, and half a dozen or more very young Russian soldiers gave a brilliant performance. Apart from the Vodka tasting session it was a most enjoyable time.

A few days after this event, the American plane returned and dropped more barrels containing sports equipment and food, etc. Just as it had completed its drop, two Russian Fighter Aircraft appeared and fired a few bursts of machine gun fire. They then appeared to be escorting the American plane. The Pilot and Co-Pilot of this plane were later brought back to our camp and explained that they had been instructed to land on a Airstrip some miles away. They had been interrogated by the Russians, and their plane was being thoroughly gone over by Russian technicians. The two Americans stayed with us for several days before being taken away by a Russian Officer. I presume to collect their plane and fly back to their base. There was a considerable number of visits to our camp by High Ranking Russians Officers.

We learned that the Russians wanted to take us back to Britain via Russia, but the Americans claimed that it was their responsibility. We were allowed out of camp during the day, and I observed strong Russian troop movements heading down south by road and rail. During one of these outings from camp a party of our lads did a deal with a Korean Farmer. They exchanged some bags of rice for a bullock, which they walked back to camp and shot with a Jap rifle from our Guardroom. It was soon carved up by lads with butcher experience, and divided between the two cookhouses. The majority of us were ill after eating the cooked meat. Our stomachs were so much out of order and not used to rich food.

The disagreement between the Russians and Americans regarding who would handle the responsibility of getting the ex-prisoners of war back to their respective countries, was resolved with the Americans having their way. A party of Americans escorted us to a train at 'HOUAN' Station. We were taken down to the docks in South Korea, where we embarked onto an American Hospital Ship. The fittest of us were transferred to a British Aircraft Carrier, H.M.S. COLLOSUS, while others were flown to Australia or back to England.

When our ship reached MANILA, a big cheer went up from the flight deck, for there to be seen were the remains of the 'FUKI MARU', sunk by the Americans when they were recapturing Manila from the Japs. Our stay in a well organised camp on the outskirts of Manilla was a happy one, and we were well treated. Manila City was in ruins, but it was amazing to see how the natives had built up homes and business premises around the bomb-flattened city.

The time came for us to move. We embarked along with many American soldiers onto the Troopship 'ADMIRAL BREWSTER' and sailed across the China Seas under the Golden Gate to 'ANGEL ISLAND', which was a sort of transit camp for American servicemen returning home from various war fronts. Again we were well treated with excellent food and entertainment.

Several days later we got the ferry boat to SAN FRANSISCO where we boarded a train for New York. I think it was four days and nights we spent on this trip. Crossing the Rocky Mountains by train the scenery was beautiful, and it was an experience I will never forget. At New York we boarded the 'QUEEN ELIZABETH' and sailed for England. On reaching Southampton we went to a nearby Military Establishment, where, after certain papers were filled up and signed, I was given a pass for the Railway journey home.

Over five long years had passed since I had said goodbye to my wife Peggy and baby daughter of two months, who was now at school. Needless to say, I think she looked upon me as a 'bogeyman' who had suddenly come into her life. A few weeks later I was admitted into the Tropical Disease Unit in Edinburgh. After several weeks there I was transferred to Edinburgh Castle, Military Hospital, Surgery Ward to have my tonsils removed. I had had Diphtheria whilst being a P.O.W., and apparently the disease left my tonsils badly infected. Eight weeks later I was given the all clear. Then it was back home to commence the battle of survival.

Thanks to a good wife and the medical profession I survived to work to rear our family, and enjoy my retirement. My experiences though as a Jap P.O.W. has left its mark both physically and mentally. Muscle and joint pains, together with memories of my good comrades who died because of the inhuman treatment from our enemy, are my constant companions.

In conclusion many thanks to my comrades whom I met at Bournemouth Reunion, who helped with dates etc. Their names are as follows:

Gunner Signalman Joe Fountain - 122 Army Field Reg. R.ART.

Gunner George Petrie - ,, ,, ,, ,, ,,

Sgt. Cliff Morris - ,, ,, ,, ,, ,,

Lt. Swimmerton - ,, ,, ,, ,, ,,

Lt. Mullins sent me a letter giving some information.

I trust allowances will be made if not all the dates quoted are quite exact.

JAMES J.S. MILLER
Ex. Gunner Driver 122 Army Field Regiment R.A.

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