dadthumb                                    Charles William Nicholson From Percy Main to Sumatra via France
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Bovington 1939

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malaya 1941

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Capture 1942

Sumatra 1942

Sungei Geron

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Sungei Geron 1944 to 1945

sungi geron

The Location of Sungei Geron camp relative to the other POW camps

Sungei Geron camp (Based on Ray Stubs drawing in his "Prisoner of Nippon" book)

1944 saw the POWs  merged into one large workforce and were taken each day to a large site about tree miles outside of the town of Palembang . They were employed clearing and leveling the ground , which was semi jungle. It was hard work removing the Bamboo trees and roots and moving tons of earth to level off the whole site. Once the site had been cleared , building material arrived , long bamboo poles and Attap leaves and rolls of barbed wire fence . It was clear that the Japanese were making the POWs build their own Prisoner of War

 The Reason the Japanese did this was to make the camp more secure and to prevent the POWs having any contact with the Native Sumatrans , as by now the Japanese realized that the tide of the war was now against them . There was a general hardening of the Japanese attitude towards the POWs .

The POWs Built long huts out of the bamboo poles in the form of a lattice work (see photo) and the Attap (Dried Palm Leaves) was stitched to the bamboo using Rattan (a type of jungle creeper) . After a few week work the camp was finished and the POWs were given an 'Iasme' day (rest day) to get their possessions ready for moving .They were transported by lorries each carrying their pathetic little possessions wondering what the future held. The new camp was used to house all the POWs from Both Mulo School and Cheung Hwa

Interior of of the huts

  Each morning the POWs had 'tenko' on the parade ground and working parties were detailed for their allotted tasks outside the new camp the same as previously at Cheung Hwa and Mulo school , but the distance to travel was futher.

Dads Japanese Post Card sent from the POW camp

 During the Latter part of 1944 the conditions in the camp had deteriorated to such an extent that every POW was suffering from serious loss of weight due to the starvation diet the POWs were now on and the increasingly less chance to barter with the natives . The POW were by now showing the effects of lack of essential vitamins and protein . More and more POWs were succumbing to illness as there bodies immune system was unable to cope . The Doctors , Reed and Corcoran and their sick-bay attendants (my Father worked as an orderly in the Hospital) struggled against the odds to care for the sick . It became clear after the Japanese surrender that vital medical supplies were withheld by the Japanese .

 As it was the Doctors had to make do with whatever was available , Bandages and Dressing were salvaged from bits of rags or scraps of old clothing and sometimes boiled rice sacks . There were no beds in the 'Hospital' , just bamboo shelves or stretchers improvised from rice sacks and bamboo poles . There were few antiseptics , no medical instruments and no sterilizing facilities.  The containers were mostly made out of bamboo . Despite these limitations some of the miraculous medical treatment was carried out by the Doctors . The POWs were by now so undernourished that catching any illness could result in serious conditions and even death , Tropical ulcers were a horrific prospect for any POW that happened to get even just a minor scrape ,  this could lead to microorganisms that would eat the flesh to the bone . The treatment of tropical ulcers by the Doctors with their rudimentary implements and lack of drugs was agonizing , the puss would have to be scrapped out using a spoon without any anesthetic. Once the would was free of puss the fleshy hole would be filled with any substance that had antiseptic properties , A type of cloths die specially stolen was used , but in the absence of this , salt would have been used , the pain must have been terrible .

Tropical Ulcer

 Sometimes amputation was the only way to save the POWs life , again this would have been performed without anesthetic. Tropical ulcer although a horrific decease , Dysentery and Diarrhea caused the most deaths as the continuous passing of waste caused dehydration and drained the POWs of vital vitamins essential for their survival . 

 The lack of a varied diet made 'Avitaminosis' (diseases caused by vitamin deficiency) widespread .  The most common illnesses were 'Beriberi' and 'Pellagra' caused by lack of vitamin B1 and Niacin which was absent from white rice , the main food supplied by the Japanese .
 'Pellagra' , which caused skin lesions and Diarrhoea , was known as 'the four Ds' , Dermatitis , Diarrhoea , Dementia and Death . The systems of Beriberi were wasting and partial paralysis , The POWs noticed that their ankles began to swell , followed by loss of muscle function , vomiting and mental confusion .

Inside a POWs hut

  By 1945 the food rations were dwindling as a result of the war going against the Japanese and any food or other supplies for that matter , that got through to the camp were taken by the Japanese and only a small proportion were given to the POWs . Raids by the POWs on the Guards waste bins , were things like banana skins or tropical root peeling were collected and then boiled up into a revolting mess , but still hungrily consumed by the starving POWs. Any cat or dog that strayed into the camp was immediately pounced on and dispatched . The Japanese for reasons known only to them banned all POWs from making a fire except for the Cook house and the man employed in empting the cesspit , who was allowed to heat water up after his days work to have a bath . So now even if the POW could steal or find any other type of food to supplement their daily ration of rice , by now down to about a third of a cup full , they were unable to cook it .

  As can be imagined that things were getting pretty desperate and the moral of the POWs was getting very low , then at the end of January 1945 some Royal Navy Planes flew over
Sungei Geron , but thinking it was a Japanese army camp proceeded to bomb it , all hell broke lose , the Japanese began running around in confusion their NCOs barked orders and the POWs stood and cheered , at last the first contact with the world outside and confirmation of the rumors of the war now , finally turning against the Japanese . The result of the Bombing rain was that a Japanese guard had been hit by shrapnel from one of the Bombs , which caused another cheer from the POWs , but the Japanese soon restored order and forced the POWs back into their huts for the rest of the day , without any food.

  The Air raids that took place were , as it turned out were aimed at the Oil Refineries and the planes were flown from the Aircraft Carries '
Victorious' , 'Illustrious' , 'Indomitable' and 'Indefatigable'


HMS Victorious built at Vickers Armstrong Newcastle upon Tyne
Fairy Swordfish planes from this  Aircraft Carrier were involved in the Sinking of the Bismarck also

 After the Air raids the camp resumed its normal routine , After 'Tenko' some of the prisoners would be organized into work parties and taken out of the camp to their relevant places of employment , and the prisoners resumed their practice of trying to steal or barter anything remotely edible to take back to camp , the punishment for stealing became more and more severe until finally the Japanese erected some very small barbed wire cadges approximately six feet square (2 meters x 2 meters) into which POWs found stealing were imprisoned with only use of essential eating utillities , the cadge was so small the POW could not lie down properly and obviously could not lean against the barbed wire wall and were left to burn in the day sun and freeze in the cold nights , they also had their food rations cut . The POWs would try and smuggle some extra food to the cadged POWs but it was taking a tremendous risk , until the POWs came up with a better plan . The food was smuggled into the Latrines and left there for the convicted prisoners to get when they were allowed to go to the Latrines .
  This hiding place was the perfect place to hide the food because the Guards would never enter the Latrines as they were the most disgusting places , as it has been stated , the POWs were suffering from Dysentery or Diarrhea and the Latrines were no more than an open trench with planks over them for the POWs to squat on and simple 'attap ' walls and roof and they quickly filled up and were infested with
blow fly's and maggots and the stench would have been horrendous.

 Rumors began to spread that
Germany had surrendered ( 7th July 1945) , the rumors were put about as being recived from information given by the Native but after the war it turned out that the Officers actually had a radio that had bee kept secret throughout the years of captivity , this had to be kept secret because if the Japaneses had discovered it the owner would most certainly be executed .

Typical type of radio hidden in the POW camps

 The surrender of Germany was confirmed at an evening 'Tenko' were the commander of the guards told the POWs that even though Germany had surrendered the Japanese were determined to fight on . An other announcement was made that all senior Officers and some of the POWs were to be transferred to Singapore . The new commander was going to be  Captain W.C. S. Corry of the Federation Malay Volunteer Reserve . Rations were again reduced and the workloads increased . The POW death rates began to climb rapidly , the POWs tried to give each prisoner that died a decent burial , the dead were wrapped in a rice sack and placed into a bamboo coffin built so that only the base stayed in the grave and the top and sides were lifted out and reused for the next funeral , but the numbers of dying began to increase and the Japanese decided that all bodies had to be buried in a communal grave wrapped simply in a rice sack . It was clear to most POW that unless the war ended soon most of them would never see their homes again. The POWs  had that on a given single , the POWs were to be herded into specially built stockade and massacred.

 On the 6 August 1945 a
B29 Superfortress , 'Enola Gay'  named after the mother of the pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima followed on the 9th August by a second Atomic Bomb being dropped on Nagasaki .

enola gay
B29 Superfortress 'Enola Gay'
little boy
"Little Boy" The Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima 

For the prisoners unaware of theses events happening far away in Japan life in the camp continued , but a few days later things started to happen in the camp , The rice ration was quadrupled almost over night and unheard of luxuries were issued , Mosquito nets toothbrushes and boots were handed over to the POWs . Even the cigarettes from the
Red Cross Parcels that had arrived many months before were handed out . It became quite clear the war was over , Japan unconditionally  surrendered on the 15th August 1945 . There was no official announcement but the behavior of the guards changed dramatically and all working parties were suspended , but the POWs were still left wondering what was going to happen to them and this lasted up to the last few days of August . Eventually a joint statement from the Camp commandant and the Senior British Officer confirmed that the war was over. Even though the war was over the Senior British Officer stressed that the Japanese and Korean guards were going to be in control of the camp 'For the POWs protection' and there were to be no reprisals against the guards as the nearest allied troops were in Singapore . The POWs were given Air Mail notepaper and instructed to write home , and it became a strange sort of existance were the POWs could move around freely and even leave the camp and visit the local villages , but the spectre of the privations of the last three years were still taking its toll .

Eric Diss who's Diary was one of the most important document I found during my research on my Father ,
 Died on the 20th August 1945 , five days after the Japanese surrender and only three days before the Australian Air Force flew supplies in.

  For the Japanese the realization that they had not only been defeated , but they surrendered unconditionally , something they always used as an excuse to abuse the POWs with . Some of the Japanese committed 'Hari Kari'
 but most of them and also the Korean guards tried to get on the good side of the POWs by asserting that they were only following orders , the POWs reacted by turning around and ignoring them completely , this is not to say that some POWs took the law into their own hands , they were reprimanded for putting the whole camp in jeopardy but every POW understood how they felt. In the days that followed the Wireless operators managed to get a message to New Deli in India , and informed the authorities of the camps location . The POWs were informed to clear a large space in the camp and to mark out a large P.W sign on the ground . The next morning a small spotter plane flew overhead and dropped a small package in to the camp , the package consisted of a jar of brylcreem . The next day bigger planes flew over the camp and dropped supplies but one one an attempted try at a second run banked too steeply and crashed into the ground . The POWs raced to the crash scene but the airplane erupted into a ball of flame , all the crew sadly perished , a  terrible tragedy , to lose their life while trying to bring relief to the POWs . The supplies dropped were evenly distrubuted to each POW but since the POWs had eating mostly Rice , the new food stuffs were a complete shock to the system and almost all of the POWs suffered stomach or Bowel malfunctions and it was going to take many weeks before the POWs could readjust to  European food again.

  News that the camp was to be visited by Lady Edwina Mountbatten , her Husband Lord Louis Mountbatten was Supreme Commander South East Asia . The ex-POWs busied themself tidying up the camp and themselves . On the day of her visit she toured the camp and talked to a few of the ex-POWs her shock at what she saw is evident in her entry in her Diary  "No Praise can be too high for what the Doctors , and Surgeons and R.A.M.C , orderlies have done in the Camps , even though they had no medical supplies , drugs or equipment. The way they improvised was quite staggering"

 She continues :-

"I spent nearly a week in Sumatra , the Japanese did what we told them and we eventually succeeded in the evacuation of British , Australian and India prisoners by boat and also by Dakota aircraft flown from hastily improvised airstrips , on the whole the evacuation went extraordinarily well considering the vast area covered , in Sumatra we evacuated all the Prisoners of war without a single allied soldier landed or the Navy lying of shore , luckily it worked and there is no doubt that had the war gone on just a few more weeks there would not have been any Prisoners of war left alive , they were absolutely on their last gasp and the tragedy is that so many did die in the last few weeks before surrender and even after it."

  Before she left Lady Mountbatten address the ex POWs and promised to do everything in her power to have the ex POWs flown out of Sumatra.

 I have no doubt whatsoever that without the Dropping of the
Atomic Bombs , terrible as they were , forcing the surrender of the Japanese , my father and many other prisoners would never have returned home . We owe a great debt of gratude to the American armed forces for their own sacrifices without which the victory over Japan would never have happend.

The first ex POWs to be evacuated were the stretcher cases and then the walking sick the day after , My father would have been taken by Dakota airplane to
Singapore  .

Lverpool School of Tropical Medicine Captive memories

A Record was secretaly kept or all POW in the Sungei Geron
My Father is listed below .

Report by Wing Commander W R Wills-Sandford about the treatment of Officers and other Ranks of the RAF

rnfCharles William Nicholsen POW Memoirs

Captured in Singapore

We were marched for 12 miles passed the Changi Jail, and eventually we arrived outside Changi Village.  A very large area like a Park.  We were given tents to sleep in.  Next morning we were told to line up with our Dixies for Breakfast.  I was very lucky, i had found one and a spoon in that garage.

           After a couple of days, the camp was quite organised.  We were with a lot of Australians.  One unit I think was the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion.  They organised the Trucks, but they were stripped down to a frame, a flatback on wheels and we had to push them, maybe half a dozen to a Truck.  These were used to collect the rations of Rice.  A fornight after capture our Officers started organising lectures.  The first one I went to, was how a Car works.

           This class was run by a Captain Toohey an Australian.  He said when you get back home you must join the R.S.L.  I often  wondered if he was related to the Beer Manufacturers in Melbourne.  Funny thing was we never saw any Japs.  A party was rounded up.  I was one of them.  We were marched down the road, passed the Changi Jail, to the Docks.  We were sent into one of the Gowdowns, which were full of all kinds of goods that were left behind.

           There was always the chance of loot, we filled our pockets with Sugar.  Sometimes we would be searched.  One day a fellow had a fish stuck down his shorts.  At the inspection he was caught by the Jap the tail of the Fish was hanging below his shorts.  The Jap yelled  Bagger Dana { literate translation meaning stupid } he grabbed the Fish, and slapped his face with it, then gave him it back.


Charles William Nicholson's Japanese Index Card,  Front View


Charles William Nicholson's Japanese Index Card , Back View

           Another day it was smoko time. Something like morning tea, only there wasn’t any tea and some times no Cigarettes.  Anyhow we were sitting in a circle and the Jap tried to tell us that the Aussies were theives.  He placed a tin of Corned Beef, under a slouch hat and went on talking.  When he finished he lifted the hat and the tin was gone, he just laughed, as if to say I have proved my point.  One day we very were lucky, we  found Cigarettes in the Gowdown we were working in.  After 7 days we marched back to Changi.

           Breakfast, a sloppy rice called porridge, lunch, one cup of  rice and watery stew, Dinner the same.  I have gotting some small  Ulcers.  Then in March I was sent to Roberts Barricks which was turned into a Hospital.  I had Fever and Dysentry.  I was in 3 weeks then out again.  My Weight had dropped from 11stone and 7 pounds to about 5 stone.  Every body starting to lose weight.

           Most of us in our twenties but we looked like old men.  The Guards around the Camp perimeter were Sikhs, with there Turbins and Pike Staffs, they were turncoats, and had joined the Free Indian Army of Chandra Bose on the Japs side.  Life going on but every one going down hill fast.  I have caught Diarrhoe’a another week in Hospital.  They came around asking for volunteers to go to Siam, so I volunteered to go as Camp Boot Repairer.  We had to pack our gear if you had any, and went on trucks to Singapore Railway Station.

           The Train was standing waiting for us.  We left on Thursday the 16th July 1942.  Off the trucks and into a cattle truck, 35 men to a Truck.  Off we went, over the Causeway into Malaya.  5 days of agony locked in this truck.  We had a bucket in the middle for the latrine, or if the train was stopped open the door and squat over the side.  The Guards were travelling on top of the trucks, at least they were cooler than us, as we had to take turns for fresh air from a small grill.

           We stopped every night to get our Rice.  On one stop we raided  a Pineapple Plantation, so there was plenty to share around.  After 5 days and nights we arrived at a Town named Bam Pong in Thailand, [ names are Japanese pronouncements } everybody off and we were marched up the road to some Huts, which was our accommodation for about 3 weeks.

           Article in the Scottish Expres 8th Febuary 2002,reads They were called ‘Britains Forgotten Army’-the men who had suffered so hideously under the lash of Japenese captivity in World War Two.

This was 60years to mark the anniversary of the fall of Singapore-the alleged impregnable fortress-on Febuary 15th 1942.The British garrison commander Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, surrendered over 100,000 British and Commonwealth troops to a small crack Japenese forces commanded by the cruel General Tomoyuki Yamashita, later hanged as a war crminal

           Most of the soldiers captured ended up in Singapores notorious jail 0r, worse, on the infamous Burma railway.  Many thousands died, either victims of disease or the sadism of the Japanese guards.

Percivals son said his father was made to feel a scapegoat by Winston Churchill for the fall of Singapore. 

Churchill never backed him up when he needed it and he thought his father died a bitter man.  End of quote.

           Every day we would be marched up the road for 3 miles and we had to build this large Camp all timber huts.  This was Nong Pladuk which later became a large siding for the Railway.  From this Camp you could see a large Buddist Temple with a Gold Leaf roof.  September I now had Scabies for one week . Every night when we marched back to our Camp, which was on the main road, where people, and  Buses and Rickshaws passed.

           Each night when we arrived back to Bam Pong a Jap would stand at the gate with a very large hose and everybody was hosed down, us standing naked on the edge of the road.  People Rickshaws and busses were passing by.  After we finished building the huts we moved in and we were giving jobs working in the store, box loads of all kinds of items.  Each gang used to steal items, our gang was Axe Heads, which we sold to the Siamese.  They would even buy Nails if you had them.

           When we went out to work we waited our chance then crawled through the tall grass or small trees and shrubs.  The Siamese would be lying there waiting, then you had to bargain for the best price in cash.  One morning we were called out on roll call and the Camp Commander Colonel Sato mounted his platform and started talking in Japanese.

           The Interpreter explained that everyone had to sign a form, stating that we would not attempt to escape.  We all refused to sign and Sato was mad he waved his sword around his head and his Revolver in the other hand, he then brought into the Camp 4 Machine Guns one in each corner of the square as a threat, but that did not move us.

           So they made us stand to attention in the blazing sun, we were dismissed at 4 pm but the Officers were made to stand untill 7pm.  We got word that the Prisoners in Changi had to give in as they were herded  into a small square in Selingor Barricks and were dying like flies.  Everybody pack up your belongings we are off by Truck to Kamburie (Kanchanaburrie), where we were loaded onto a Barge with the Siamese Family aboard also.

           These Barges were towed by a big Motor Launch, another 5 days and nights and we arrived at Kinsyuke.  I stepped off the Barge and I was covered from head to foot in Ringworm.  The Doctor Lt Smith or pill Willy as he was known, if you broke your arm he then would give you a number nine pill, he could not help me as he did not have any  Medical Supplies, so he went to the Jap Doctor and asked if he could help.

           At 6pm that night I was sent across to the Jap Doctor, he had a peice of Bamboo with some Kapock on each end ( this was used instead of cotton wool ), he then dipped it in an Acid jar then into a Creosote jar.  He painted all my Ringworms which started at my forehead then down to my toes.  I could not sleep for the burning pain all over my body.  Next morning they all peeled of like postage stamps.

           It was worth the agony to be rid of them.  We were spilt into small gangs and giving different jobs, some to cut and collect Bamboo, others to clear the site for the huts, and some to do the building ready for tne next batch of prisoners to occupy.

           Pack your kit we are off again onto the barges down the river to Tarsoa.  There were a few huts but we had to build more, as they were expecting an influx in from Singapore.  We were then sent out to build a road which would be along side the railway when they start it.  One day while we were walking to the road where we had finished off the day before, one of the lads said to this nip Benjo please.

           Which means I want to go to the toilet, when he came out of the Jungle he was at the tail end of the column.  Which meant that they were different Koreans, on guard, so one started raving at him then started to bash him with his Rifle another two started in and he was a mess.  That night when we got back to camp, he was in a small hut and tied with rope around his kneck and down to his ankles.

           Next morning he was stood at attention outside the Guard Room, in the full sun all day.  Every Jap or Korean  that past him would have a bash at him.  Their favorite was to hit behind the knees with a Rifle.  After 4 days they took him into the Jungle and shot him.  A short while after 4 chaps took off, but as there was a price on our heads, the Siamese turned them in. 3 days later they were all taking out and shot.

           We didn’t have much chance of escaping, as we stood out like sore thumbs against the Natives.  I was taken off the Road gang and put on a Quarry gang digging stones for the road and the railway embankment.  My first day and I was in trouble.  We worked in pairs, one with a pick and one with a shovel.  And this Jap saw me standing outside the hole and he bashed me in the lower spine with the butt of his Rifle.

           I was in agony, his idea was that we should both work in the hole at the same time.  So when I arrived back I went straight to the Doctor, and was put on light duties.  When I was supposed to be fit again, I went to the work Sergeant and told him about my bashing so he said he would send me on another party.  Next morning I was put on a party to cut down the tallest and straightest trees then we had to carry them back to camp.

           There was a large round hole dug and we cut the trees to length and stacked them upright in the hole, when it was full we covereds it over with soil and at the front was left a small opening.  The pile was then set alight and we produced Charcoal.  One day while cutting a tree down we disturbed a wasps nest and my mate and I were attacked, so we dropped our axes and started running.  We were covered in large lumps were they had stung us and it hurt, after a while we had to go back for our axes.

           We wouldn’t go near the tree, so we had to get a long branch, then creep forward and snare the axes.  Then I was next on a Bamboo party to cut and bring it back to their cookhouse, and one fellow wrote a song it went like this.  ENGLISH HAITI KUTSI KOY, TAKSAN MAKI MORTI KOI, KIRO KIRO SWEDEGEEBAR, TAXAN SATU TAXAN CHAR . Which when translated into English.  Was, English Soldier come here and bring plenty of Bamboo to the Cookhouse, and we will give you plenty of tea and sugar, and we all sang this song, every time we went out and came back, but we never got any of their Tea or Sugar.

           There was one Korean Guard and he was always on the warpath, at night some one would shout look out here he comes, and the next minute the Hut was empty.  These Huts were made from Bamboo and Attap for the sides, and the roof.  They were 50 foot long, and had 100 men to a Hut with split Bamboo for the beds.  Which ran the whole length of the huts, both side.  If you had a Blanket you were very lucky.  I had a Rice sack and I used to sleep inside it.  Six of us were sent to a Camp about 3 Kilometres away North.

           We had to unload Barges with foodstuf on board.  I think this was one of our good times as we used to steal every time we had the chance, as we cooked for ourselves.  One day the Japs killed a Bullock and we were giving quite a bit of meat and bones, so we had real stew with meat and  bones floating in the Wok.  The best meal we had had in months, and this was the last one for one and half years.

           One day we had to go past Tarsoe and when we came back we were caught for not saluting the Guard.  He made us stand at attention outside the Guardroom, after half an hour, he slapped us all  twice in the face then told us to hop it.  I did forget to mention that as you marched past the guard room or Nips  you had to eyes right or salute.  

           As the Nips did not speak English, you can imagine the swear words that were shouted as you marched by, but some fool started teaching some of them English so you had to be very carefull.  We were  sent back to Tarsoe and on one morning parade the Sergeant said fall out  the Camp Boot Repairer, ths was late 1943 which was quite a surprise to me, as it had never been mentioned before.  I was taken to this Hut  and introduced to this Korean.

           He was sitting at a Singer Sewing Machine mending Uniforms, his name was Yaster Googi San which in English was mister Yasta Nail. He gave me a Last and a Hammer and a Knife which was a Thai knife which looked like a paint scaper, and a hide of Leather which was Buffalo.  It was of various thicknesses and a lot of knots which was from Flies biting the Buffalo.  Then I was giving some Jap Boots and told to repair them.  A few days after I was told to go to the next Camp lower down the River which I think was Tamuwang.

           Next morning I went  down to the River and got on this Motor Launch, Which  had been sent especally to transport me.  All I had was my Hammer Nails and a Knife and a piece of leather, arriving at the Camp I was taken to the Camp Commander Captain ? a Jap, he said you repair my Kneeboots.  Made of Brown Leather, I did not have a Last so I got a pretty solid piece of Bamboo knocked it into the ground and Heeled his boots.

           That night a chap came shouting who is the Boot Repairer so I shouted me and he told me the Jap Captain wanted to see me at his house.  I thought here we go I am in trouble.  When I got there the English Camp Commander a Captain was there and also a Major Swanton who was the Cricket Commentator for the B B.C.  So we all sat down to dinner.  The Jap Captain said to me this was a thank you for fixing his boots.  We had been giving a printed Card to send home, and Swanton said; to the English Captain, I wonder if I should say cheerio to the boys at the B.B.C, brag artist.

           Next morning the Launch was there and I was on my way back to Tarsoe.  By  this time the Camp was growing and I was giving two extra Boot Repairers.  Kenny Kemp from 14,Victoria road Diss Norfolk and Jos Hynes who was from Queenstown in Tasmania.  At this time we also had with us two Storemen Harry Doughty from Birmingham and another.

           Plus two Tailors Allen Headlem from Gothland Yockshire. And another, and Arthur Ardly from Herne Bay Kent, a Watchmaker, then  we had Charlie Wilson from Southampton added to the squad as another Boot Repairer.  In 1943 I had in the following year, Malaria and Piles in March , May and July.  In September, Foot Rot.  October Piles and Foot Rot.  November a smashed finger.  I was helping to grind rice to make Rice cakes.  I was pressing the Rice down too far and caught my middle finger.

           The lad turning the handle said I think there is a bone in the rice,I said yes my finger bone.  When I took it out we had red rice from my blood and the finger nail fell off, the cure, stick it in a bottle of Iodine, this was followed by B.T Malaria.  Another time I broke my top false teeth eating rice.  I rivetted a piece of aluminium across them but could only wear them on parade.

           At night I used to go across to the Medical Orderly’s hut, to play Marjong with Charlie Cole from Tynley Birmingham and Fred Baker who had a fruit shop in Potters Bar Middlesex, two medical orderly’s.  The Japs had a gang on digging an escape trench, around the Camp.Ten feet deep and ten feet wide.

           I used to cross this road over the trench from my hut to get to the M.O Hut.  One night it was pitch black and I mean black.  I left Charlie and Fred to go back to my own hut.  Well I could not even see my hand, even 6 inches away.  I was walking along the gravel road when suddenly I could not hear my feet on the gravel.  So I got onto my hands and knees.  I was on fresh earth.  I put out my hand and there was nothing there, so I turned away, as I thought, but instead I was falling head first into the trench.

           I got up in a daze and my right wrist was aching, so I walked to where it was at half level and so climbed out.  Back in my hut I had one of the chaps strap my wrist with tent webbing which we used as bandages.                                 I could not sleep for the pain, just sat on the bed waiting for morning.

           At 9am I reported sick and saw Doctor Moon an Australian, he said I had a Collis Fracture.  He sent me to the hospital.  About an hour after he came in and said climb up onto the table.  As usual this was made with Bamboo, An orderly placed a peice of cloth over my face and the Doctor poured some Ether onto it, and I was asleep.

           My mate Harry said afterwards, that he had watched  and he thought that the Doctor was trying to pull my arm off.  When I came to I was told that I would be on light duties.  With my right arm wrapped in plaster I used to sweep the floor.  This happened on the 17th of December.  Just before Christmas Yaster came to see me, he brought some Bananas Brittle Toffie and also gave me a 5 dollar note.  These Doctors were amazing, without much medicine or tools they managed to keep us going.

           Often you would see blokes leaning on the wall watching operations.  I watched one day, the patient was lying on the table.  He had very large Ulcers on his leg, you could actualy see the bones in his leg. So the Doctor was going to amputate.  He had a loan of the Carpenters saw and he sawed off the leg below the knee.  There was an orderly standing with a fan swishing the flies away.

           Early on I metioned Jarrett, he went out one night to the toilet and a Guard shot him.  At early light we saw him lying against the Bamboo fence, the Japs said he was trying to escape.  In 1944 the Japs were getting a hiding in Burma, and there were train loads of wounded Dead and Dying, coming back from Burma.  The Dead were just slung off the train where ever it stopped.

           I saw one Jap Medical Orderly stick a large needle into one, he did not move so he just pushed him over the embankment.  As there was a big push on in Burma by the British they decided to move us to the next Camp Tamuang.  We were taken on the Railway which we helped to build for our first ride on open trucks.  Arriving at the camp settled in.  In January I got B.T Malaria. April B.T.Malaria, June Yellow Jaundice, August Foot Rot, September .Denghie fever, and the same in October.

           There was a Wireless in the Camp.  These were always hidden by one person,and the Japs never found a one, but the news was always camouflaged and put out as toilet rumours.  December, still all together with our own hut, and our work hut was at the end of the store hut.  Yaster was busy making  Knapsacks for himself and his mates. That should have giving us a clue as to how the War was going.

           One day Yaster give me a Knapsack and a bar of soap which was about 6 inches long.  I put the Havesack into a bucket, then I took the soap to my bedside and put it in my Haversack.  I then went down to the river and stayed lying in a nice warm River until lunch time, and all I had done with Haversack was to put it in the water weigh it down with some stones and let it soak On my way back to the Camp I bought 6 eggs off this Siamese Woman whos house I had to pass by.

           I put them in the bucket, and covered them with the Haversack and the water.  I walked passed the Guard house but was not stopped.  I got to my hut and hid the eggs, then off to our work hut and gave the bucket to Yaster.  When he saw it he said you washie, I said yes.  He then started yelling in Japanese or maybe Korein, he then took it outside and said! I washie, so I patted him on the back and said you number one  washer.  The others stood and watched and were laughing behind there hands.

           They said! it was like a pantomine, both of us talking together in different languages.  One day Yaster asked me my name and I said it is Bill, he then said you Bamboo man and I replied, you Mr Butu which means Pig.  If anybody else had said that they would have got a hiding.  We used to wet the floor with water, and then sweep it and it used to go like concrete.

           One day we were doing the floor and Charlie Wilson was sent for  more water and the River was 20 feet below.  So it was  down over all those rocks then climb back with the bucketful of water.  Charlie arived back with the water and said I’ll give him water and he threw the bucketful over the floor.  Now Charlie was 6 feet tall and Yasta was jumping up trying to slap Charlie’s face while we were laughing our heads off.  But he did not succeed so he gave in.

           We were told that we were moving out in the morning.  Next day we had our rice porridge, then marched off to the railway.  This time open trucks, 35 to a truck, then we set off down past Kamburie then Bam Pong.  Then to Nong Pladuk where we had our first building lessons when we first arrived in Thialand.  This was now a large railway siding, and the Yanks had dropped bombs on it and a lot of  P.O.W.’s were killed in the raids.

           At the station a squad of ex Indian Army now called Free Indian Army.  Or Chandra Bose’s army.  We were told to get out of the trucks and the Indians’ were told to go inside.  We were then told to climb on to the roofs of the trucks, the Guards had to climb up also, one wag shouted we are still on top of you b…….  It was the stangest ride we ever had just as well that the Train was not going fast, as no one fell off, but we also had a good veiw.

           At the station a passeger train pulled in along side us from Bangkok and there were a lot of French Indo China people on board including woman, first White woman we had seen in nearly three years.  We arrived on the outskirts of Bangkok disembarked and we were then herded onto Barges, which went to the other side of the City.  We spent the night in some warehouses.  Next morning we were put onto trucks for the next part of our jouney.

           No one knew were we were going.  After 170kms we arrived at a town called Sraburi, and another few kms we arrived at this camp called Pritchi.  The usual setup, long huts 100 to a hut, low walls and Bamboo slat beds all native materials.  Not far away opposite the Camp there was a hill with a beautiful Monastery on the top.  There was a track up to the top, but it was on the opposite side to us.  We settled down to work again, we had our own work hut, at the end of the store hut.  The same set up where ever we went.

           Parties were sent out to work every morning.  To dig large caves into the hillsides.  So life dragged on day in day out the same routine.  Then one day the work parties went out as usual, but were back after two hours, then the rumours started to fly, its all over, bull dust.  This was August the 16th. The Jap camp was next to ours seperated by a wire fence.  There was much  laughter on our side but on the other side all was quiet.  I felt very sorry for poor Yasta, he had been very busy sewing Black tops and pants for himself and his mates.

           At about 5pm the cooks were making coffee.  So myself and the other three Boot repairers went to our work hut, took a knife and slashed down the wall into the store.  We found a large glass jar in a straw and wire basket.

           We opened it and filled everthing that we could find, It was pure Whiskey.  So we went to the cookhouse and by this time the Coffee was ready so we poured a lot of Whiskey into the Coffee.  It was the best drink we ever had in 3yrs and 6mths.  Every one full of joy even the hidden wireless was now on show blaring music.  There were still Jap guards on the gates with their Rifles but they did not bother us.  Next  morning the 17th a lone Yank strode through the gates.

           He with a lot of others had been parachuted in before the war was finished.  My mate Harry Doughty was one of the storemen and we decided to walk down the road to the town Saraburi.  When we got there we found this Barbers Shop and had the works even hot towels all free.  That night Harry and I decided to have a walk down the road.  Across on our left a light was shining so we strolled over.  It was a typical Thai house, built on stilts, with one room and a veranda.

           The Thai was sitting on the floor with two Dutchman and in the middle of the floor was a large basin, and they were passing a can around with the lid as a handle.  So we just sat down uninvited and had our share.  It tasted like Boot Polish, Petrol, and Kerosine, all mixed together.  I do know we suffered for it that night.

           Next morning the Guards on the gate were replaced by Siamese no rifles.  Yaster Googi and his mates, were told to find there own way home, at least that was what we were told.

           The last time I saw Yaster and said goodbye he was off walking carring his Singers Sewing Machine on his shoulder.  Another Korean wasn’t so lucky he arived back at the Camp minus his ears and part of his nose.  One day he had had a bath in the Thais holy water, so this was payback, after our Doctors fixed and bandaged him, he used to work around the Camp until we left.  More excitement a party of V.I.P’s arrived in the lead Lady Mountbatten.

           She was touring P.O.W.camps.  Then there were lazy days for us, nothing to do but talk and listen to the Wireless.  On the 10th of September we were told we would be leaving next morning, 11th September 1945. We were all up bright  and early.  I was dressed in my best Shirt Shorts Clogs and a Forage Cap made by one of the Tailors, and my Royal Northumberland Fusiliers Badge on it.

Most POW were asked to fill in a Questionaire upon liberation , Below is my Uncle Charles William Nicholson's


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