The case of Flight Lieutenant William 'Bill' Newton brought the vulnerability of captured aircrew to notice. It was 29 August before the prisoners from Zentsuji were found in Hokkaido, and it was a month after the end of the war before they were on their way home by train, then by air to Okinawa and the Philippines, and from there most men came home by ship. None of the Rabaul women died, but they too had suffered from malnutrition and medical neglect. The Australian Rules football matches may have been the first contested in Singapore. Aircrew continued to be captured through the following weeks. With the Japanese themselves under stress, the prisoners were both exploitable and expendable. At Kuching the officers kept the news to themselves and the guards made no admissions, although they suddenly supplied Red Cross parcels and medicines. The surviving prisoners from Ambon had suffered extreme deprivation and photographers saw them immediately on release. Guarded news bulletins, at first written and then spread by word of mouth, were circulated, and many prisoners' diaries refer to major international events, such as the battle of the Coral Sea or the defeat of Germany. With increasing fears of invasion, the Japanese ordered another march west. All were killed except Sister Vivian Bullwinkel, who was knocked down by a bullet that passed through her. The first of the men escaping from New Britain were interviewed in Port Moresby, and within a few days the scarred survivors were in Australia being photographed and interviewed: Driver Wilkie Collins told how he had 'seen his mates bayoneted before his eyes', and how some had not been killed outright and the Japanese had to go back into the jungle and 'finish off the wounded with rifle fire'. Taking off from Kota Bharu, the Hudsons flew the short distance to bomb and strafe Japanese transports and landing barges. Hundreds of Australian civilians were also interned. They also found that the police were in contact with men still sailing between the islands in the Sulu Archipelago, and that opened communication with guerrilla groups who were operating in the islands and the Philippines. It gives a narrative and pictorial account of life in POW camps north of Australia during World War II. On 12 February 1942 the last sixty-five nurses went on board the Vyner Brooke. Many digital copies of World War II service records already exist. When David Selby on the east coast of New Britain appealed to some of his men to keep travelling ahead of the Japanese, only three agreed: most chose surrender, believing that gave them a better chance of survival and getting word of their fate to relatives. The concert party put on variety acts, plays and musicals of high quality, and with so many men to call upon it was possible to arrange talks on everything from polar exploration to tram driving. By the strange ways that news moved among prisoners, men captured on Sumatra and shifted to Changi brought news of the nurses. Come and see why. Most of Sparrow Force, surrounded by a vastly greater number of enemy troops, surrendered on Timor on 23 February: a few evaders, the 2/2nd Independent Company and Timorese continued guerrilla operations. Despite receiving some help from locals, Hackney was recaptured and interned at Pudu Gaol and later Changi Prison. Nearly all the officers at Sandakan were transferred to Kuching, and the remaining men were subjected to more work, increased bashing and less food. Fearing the outbreak of disease and knowing that all men were suffering from the limited food and water, senior officers told the men to sign—assuring them that a statement signed under duress was not binding. And it was, for Australians, a significant human investment—but in fact the force was small, being only about a third of what Australia had sent to north Africa and the Middle-East, and it had little support from Australian and Allied air forces and navies. While some of the men in the near north were filling out applications to get to the 'real war', the best informed of their senior commanders had few illusions. By the end of the war, over 10,000 Allied prisoners of war had died at sea. She had been aboard the Vyner Brook when it was sunk by the Japanese on 14 February 1942, two days out of Singapore. Later, this expanded to include: 1. naturalised British subjects originally from enemy nations 2. Ten minutes later the jarring 'G' of the bugle seemed to set every nerve in their bodies quivering, and they forced themselves to their feet and plodded on again in the blackness. In Java, the Australians from Timor entered a major camp with senior Dutch and English officers in charge, but most were there for just three months before they were again on the move to the Burma–Thailand railway, many of them leaving with Dunlop's party and going to Thailand. Officers and men were held in separate camps – Oflags and Stalags. The men were flown from Singapore into Rose Bay by Catalina flying boats, then bussed to hospital for medical examination. In his diary, Doctor Rowley Richards recorded the deteriorating conditions of the camps: the 'soul-destroying sight' of the 55 Kilo camp hospital; the 70 Kilo was 'the foulest'; and the 80 Kilo 'was even worse' with the 'nauseating stench' of mud, slush and cow manure in the huts that had once been cattle shelters. Prisoners were held in over 40 major camps all over Germany, from Lithuania to the Rhine. The nurses endured the dirt, malnutrition and lack of privacy of Irenelaan until October 1944, when they began the shift back to a new camp at Muntok. The nurses on Sumatra learnt that the war was over on 24 August, but no Australians knew where they were. We recognise their continuing connection to land, sea and waters. Most became victims of their captors’ indifference and brutality. The Japanese themselves invested heavily in the railway, allocating over 25,000 men to the task; but they were vastly outnumbered by the 60,000 Allied prisoners of war and romusha, conscripted Asian labourers—Malays (including men from Java and other islands), Indians, Chinese, Burmese, and smaller numbers of Thais and Vietnamese. Reacting to the escape, the Japanese tightened conditions, and the Australians became only too aware of their vulnerability after the 'Dutch Garden Party'. He was placed in a POW camp east of Leningrad. Shifted further north, 'A' Force was joined by other Allied prisoners and by October 1942 they had began work on the railway. 1 Squadron RAAF, flying Hudsons, reported Japanese ships in the Gulf of Siam approaching the Malayan coast. On the Western Front battlefields from 1916-1918, 3,853 Australian troops were taken prisoner by German forces, most of them held in Germany. Over 22,000 Australian servicemen and almost forty nurses were captured by the Japanese. Includes Changi, the Burma-Thailand Railway, Sandakan, Timor, Ambon, Rabaul and Japan, and the … Dutch prisoners caught passing inoffensive notes to Dutch women were paraded and then bashed until a few were dead and about twenty were stretcher cases. Spurgeon was the only member of the crew to survive the attack, the forced landing on the waves and a night drifting at sea. In less than two months over 22,000 Australians had been captured. There were also increasing signs that an Allied invasion might soon take place. The chance of getting to India and the hope that the Burmese would help, encouraged men to talk of escape, but eight men from the 4th Anti- Tank who tried were quickly captured—other Australians dug the graves, saw them shot by firing squad, and buried them. On 22 January 1943, the coastal supply ship Patricia Cam was travelling between Elcho Island and a coastwatching station in the Wessel Islands off the north-east of Arnhem Land. The prisoners even had to build the barbed wire fences that enclosed them, using the wire that should have been coiled on the beaches where the Japanese had landed. In addition some 300 men who survived the sinking of the HMAS Perth in the Battle of Java Sea in late February 1942 were taken prisoner. Other officers captured in south-east Asia were also sent to Zentsuji, bringing the Australian total to about 100. On the 17th they began the march to Changi on the north-west of Singapore Island. Before dawn on 22 June 1942 the civilians and the prisoners, except for the officers, were paraded, searched and marched away. Only a minority of Australians endured captivity, but the experiences of those imprisoned by the enemy did not sit comfortably within the overly heroic and masculine self-image that … That farewell at sea, seen by 12,000 Australians, was a significant moment in Australian history: for the first time, Australia made a substantial commitment of forces to its near north. Most of the patients had their legs amputated because of uncontrollable tropical ulcers. One party of 1400 Australians from Java, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel EE 'Weary' Dunlop, arriving in Changi on 7 January 1943, were astonished at the organisation of the vast camp, resented their designation as the 'Java rabble' and were largely unsuccessful in their attempts to persuade what they saw as fitter and wealthier prisoners to share with them. In the monsoon rains that lashed the tents, the medical assistants attempted to keep the makeshift saline drips operating. But the nurses also had strengths: they were all fit and young; they had no children to look after; they had group strength; they were accustomed to living in institutions; they had already been through battle; and they had skills and energy. Few Australians have been able to visit the Thanbyuzayat cemetery, where more than 1300 Australians reinterred from burial sites along the Burma–Thailand railway are buried. On Ambon, about 800 prisoners from Gull Force were contained in their old barracks at Tantui outside Ambon town. The rediscovery of the enormity of the prisoner of war experience and of the terrible events on the Burma–Thailand railway, at Sandakan and on Ambon, were central to the nation's recovery of its history. In July, Mollie Nottage was told that her husband, Captain Stewart Nottage, 'must now be posted missing'. The Reverend Kentish was captured in Australian waters; he was a civilian, and he was the victim of random, misdirected brutality. At night, the Australian concert party put on a show, and under the watch of Japanese machine-gunners and before a vast crowd, gave one of their best performances. On a beach on north Banka the Japanese separated the men who came ashore there, marched them around a headland, then killed them. The march of 150 km was hard on men already suffering from a year of imprisonment and six days on the train from Singapore. Australians continued to be captured, but in small numbers. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, Attorney-General's Department, Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600 or posted at, Community engagement team Singapore itself fell on 15 February, and in that greatest defeat suffered in the history of British arms, 15,000 Australians became prisoners. Two, Lieutenant Charles Wagner and Sergeant Rex Butler, were killed fighting with the island guerrillas, and the other five were picked up by an American submarine early in 1944 and taken to Australia. On board the Japanese transport Montevideo Maru, they were torpedoed by a United States submarine off Luzon on 1 July, and no prisoners survived. This presentation is based upon a chapter from Grant's forthcoming book, Australian Soldiers in Asia-Pacific in World War II to be published by NewSouth in November 2014. AWM P03478.001, Nurses of the 2/13th Australian General Hospital at the temporary hospital established in St Patrick's School, Singapore, September 1941. Many prisoners were brought here from Burma after the Burma–Thailand railway was completed, and chopping wood for the cooking fires was a daily chore. By the war’s end more than one in three of these prisoners – about 8,000 – had died. They also began contacting former members of the British North Borneo administration and local police who had served the British. When all the prisoners from the first march gathered at Ranau in April, only about 150 were still alive. The Sandakan 'underground' began to plan for a response to an Allied landing, but Japanese suspicions were aroused and through the torture of local Chinese and then others they gained evidence, made intensive searches of the camp and found radios and incriminating documents. The Changi library had more than 20,000 volumes and over 3000 men would listen to George McNeilly, previously a professional singer, introduce and then play records from the donated and 'scrounged' Changi collection. Nearly all the troops in Port Moresby were militia, and there were a few militia men in Rabaul, but the rest were Australian Imperial Force (AIF). They were near a coconut plantation and in the evening could sit on the beach and imagine that they would soon see the navy steaming to their rescue. In his statement, Frank Forde, Acting Prime Minister, spoke of starvation and amputation of ulcerated limbs, warned that perhaps 2000 men had died on the railway, and said that conditions in other camps might not be as bad. Forming 'trailer parties', the teams that hauled on the ropes to tow the trucks, became a common task. There were many negative consequences for the POWs. Mills jotted down his description of the camp where he had forty-one cases of cholera and many of malaria and dysentery: 'humpies constructed with ground sheets, tent ends—pouring rain—workers out at daylight back after dark—no bathing in creek—ground fouled—men could not reach latrines in the dark, through mud...'22 The doctors, attempting to protect the sick from the demands of the guards that more men must work, used every ploy they could, and most were bashed. When the war ended and plans were made to shut down the camp in 1947, Andras Toma was sent to a mental hospital when the prison camp closed. The Japanese had a large army in Burma, they thought it was essential to hold Burma to protect Singapore from counter attack, and both politically and militarily Burma was the base for any advance into India. Zentsuji was one of the few camps inspected by the International Red Cross and supplied with Red Cross food parcels, and where letters arrived with reasonable frequency. He has come to symbolise the suffering of the final groups of Sandakan prisoners. American, British, Dutch, Australian, Canadian, Indian and other allied military and civilian The prisoners of the Japanese were to say that they had thought about death and wounds, and they had worried about whether they would be able to uphold the traditions established by the diggers in the Great War; but that they would, so early in the conflict, be prisoners of war had not occurred to them. The five survivors were picked up by a Japanese cruiser, and the doctor in the sick bay, Metzler said, was the 'soul of kindliness and courtesy', and through the next years he never met another Japanese like the good doctor. But his three mates decided 'one in all in'. The men in the background wearing crossed white webbing are members of the Royal Papuan Constabulary band. While he was able to make and preserve a few sketches and watercolours of Singapore, his main work was completed on the Burma–Thailand railway and in the hospital camps in Thailand. It was not 17,500 who came home—it was just 14,000. Australians of the 22nd Brigade, 8th Division, on the deck of the troopship SS Queen Mary, 4 February 1941, the day they sailed from Sydney for Singapore. 4, (1963); R Mills, Doctor's Diary and Memoirs (1994); JG Morris, A Soldier's Reflections Forty Years On (no date); G Olle, Trooper Percy Roy Olle, typescript; Rowley Richards, A Doctor's War (2005); David Selby, Hell and High Fever (1956); J Simons, While History Passed: The story of the Australian nurses who were prisoners of the Japanese for three and a half years (1954). The Australian War Memorial acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia. If they were going to ration their medicines then how long should they assume they were going to be prisoners? By January 1945, 1850 were still alive, but many of them were malnourished and ill. On 29 January, 470 prisoners, 350 of whom were Australians, left in groups of about fifty, each man loaded with Japanese equipment. That increased the logistic problems, because all food for workers had to be transported long distances by difficult river and road routes. 10 am to 5 pm daily (except Christmas Day), Get your ticket to visit:, Copyright With the Japanese crowding between twenty-five and thirty men into each cattle or goods wagon, about 600 prisoners packed each train, but it still took over ten trains to carry the largest forces. AWM 042578, The graves of some of the 365 Australian prisoners of war at Galala, Ambon, October 1945. Many survived for weeks, suffering malaria and malnutrition, as they evaded the Japanese. AWM P02338.001, photographer: George Aspinall, Troops de-bugging their beds, Changi, by Murray Griffin, 1942–43: oil over pencil on softboard, 63 x 81.2 cm. AWM 305634, Ex-prisoners of war returning from Japan are inoculated by Australian Army Nursing Service personnel in Manila, 4 September 1945. The heat of noon in the Indian Ocean was shattered when the Queen Mary gave several blasts on her siren, circled to the rear of the convoy, and at near top speed raced past the other ships. The English prisoners on 'F' Force, who were less fit initially, suffered twice the casualties. For a decision based largely on a guess, it was both accurate and prudent. She lay semi-conscious in the shallow water, and when she recovered all the Japanese had gone. The wave of Japanese victories, ending with the capture of the Netherlands East Indies in March 1942, left in its wake a mass of Allied prisoners of war, including many Australians. AWM P00348.001, Lieutenant Ben Hackney, 2/29th Battalion, was one of only two men to survive the Japanese massacre of Australian wounded at Parit Sulong in January 1942. The bands of the 2/18th, 2/19th and 2/20th Battalions played on the deck of the Queen, soldiers and nurses on all the ships sang, waved, cooeed and cheered: 'It was a great sight'. The Australians were uncertain how they would be treated as prisoners. A few months later this was followed for the lucky with a letter saying that a son, husband or daughter was 'being held as a prisoner of war of the Japanese' and then there might be three or four cards which said little more than a printed message 'My health is good ...' and a few personal words, 'My love to all at home' and perhaps the name of a camp—'Moulmein' or 'Nieke'. Initially, the government classed foreign nationals of countries at war with Australia as enemy aliens. 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