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- 18 August 2005
Sailing from the Clyde Glasgow on 8th December 1941 aboard the Warwick Castle 40,000 ton liner. Arriving at Java the end of January 1942.
We set up camp in a school room in Batavia (now Jakarta). Singapore has fallen and is in Japanese hands. We then set sail over to Sumatra to prepare the airfield for fighter planes comoing from Singapore. The airfield was at Palenbang on the edge of a dense jungle. Second day at Palenbang we were bombed heavily and this was followed by an invasion of paratroops. Our squadron, 605 County of Warwich managed to escape and board a boat back to Batavia, Java. From we operated our Hurrican Fighters. The Japanese army had now reached the shores of Java. For three days we machine gunned them from the air, until tehy got too close to the airstrip. So once again we set off to the south of Java but unfortunately the Dutch capitulated leaving us to be taken prisoner of war. On March 8th 1942. We were then taken back to to Batavia and put in a civilian prison, being locked up in large communial cells. Holding about 100 in each one. The name of the prison was Boel Glodock. To make room for us P.O.Ws all civilian prisoners were set free. The conditions here were terrible no beds, no toilets or beds. The heat here was unbearable. Food was just a bowl of rice a day. After one week of being locked up the Japs decided to open the cell doors and let us out into the prison grounds. We had our first wash for weeks and of course a bit of exercise which we needed badly.
Then the Japs decided to put us to work. Taking us back to the airfield we blew up on leaving. We had to refill all the craters we had made. The duties were very strenous indeed working in a very hot climate 100 degrees. As the days went by, disease set up in the prison, men suffering from disentry and beri beri. Sadly men were dying no medicine to treat the sick.
The heavy work, intense heat and lack of food took its toll quite a large number of death. Each day more P.O.W's were brought into the camp. Dutch and Australian soldiers. After about two months the airstrip was repaired. I was then put on a boat bound for Singapore. Roughly about 100 men on this journey. We then spent three weeks in Changi camp, waiting for another boat to take us to Japan.
This boat was a cargo boat al P.O.W's were put down in the ships hold. Packed tightly together like sardines. Consequently disease was very bad indead and there were many deaths before we arrived at Fornosa (Taiwan). Setting sail again bound for Japan with a lot more deaths. I suffered with a very bad bout of dysentry and was very lucky to get off the boat in one piece.
On arrrival at Yokohama we were put on a train bound for the North of Japan. Then we went by ferry boat to Hakodate Hokkiedo. It was winter time, severe cold all were were dressed in was tropical kit.
On arrival at Hokkaido we managed to get some warmer clothing. We worked long hours there, unloading cargo boats, fish, salt, timber and cement. Also we had to work in the cement factory 14 hours per day with one day off every 12 days. A great number of deaths here due to the lack of nourishing food and hard work in the severe cold conditions. The Japs at this camp were very bad indeed a number of P.O.W's were tortured being made to stand outside in the bitter cold weather because they were sick and couldnt go to work.
Food here was a bowl of rice and a dried fish twice a day. If you didnt work through sickness you only had half a bowl of rice no fish once a day.
I cant remember how long we stayed at Hakodate, I think about 18 months.
Next camp was further up north at Bobai near Sappore. We were told it was going to be much better here lighter work. Unfortunately it was a lot worse. The camp was situated in the mountains and about 1 mile was a coal mine, and that is where we had to to work down the mine. The shifts 10 day shifts of 14hrs per shift then one rest day. Then 10 night shifts 14 hours per shift and then one rest day. At this camp one of the R.A.F officers managed to come by a radio which was kept in the loft of the camp. Towards the end of the war this radio was very useful. On August 12th 1945 we were kept in the camp and no work at the mine. We were told by the Japs that cholera had broken out in the village. But on the radio we heard that Nagasaki and Hiroshima had been bombed with the Atom bomb.
On August the 15th 1945 the Jap commondant got us on parade to tell us the war was over and that the Japs had surrendered. Immediately the food increased and we were very pleased about that. About a week later Amerian planes flew over the camp dropping by parachute medical supplies, clothing, food and round to air radios. They said as soon as possible we would be liberated and on our way home. After about another week we were taken by road to an airport and put aboard a transport plane to fly off to Yokohama. There we were immmedialy examined given American uniforms and interrogated regarding the treatment we received off the Japs. I weighed in at 8 stone but glad to have come through at all.
From Yokohama we went by boat to Manilla in the Phillipines. We spent about 14 days there in an American army camp. Then we sailed from Manilla to San Fransisco USA, spending two nights there. Then by train to Tacoma Washington for another train to take us up to Vancouver and all across Canada taking 4 days on the train. Then down the coast to New York to go onboard the Cunard luxury liner Queen mary. Taking us 4 days to sail to Southampton. Arriving I think on 16th November 1945.
From Southampton we travelled by train to Wolverhampton and by lorry to Cosford R.A.F. camp. We sent one night there, being allowed to go home on 6 weeks repatriation leave.
This is a brief account of P.O.W life which lasted 3 1/2 years.
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