Our Captors were most proficient in the art of Inhumane Behaviour, what follows are just some of the examples which I had witnessed, or were brought to my attention over the years of our imprisonment and mistreatment.
During our time, following the Capitulation by our Superior Officers, it became commonplace, [so much so that we almost became used to seeing them], to pass crossroads and other public places, where the heads of recently beheaded Chinese, were publicly displayed by the Nips.
Immediately after our imprisonment back at Changi, we were witness to the most atrocious atrocities of hundreds of young men, being brought to the Changi Beaches by the lorry load. Here they were bound into groups of between four and ten, with telephone or barbed wire, driven into the sea by armed guards and machine gunned by the Nips. So many that the wave’s washing the shore line were turning red.
The Nips and some of their new found friends in the Turncoat National Indian Liberation Army, would round up mainly Chinese but other nationalities occasionally appeared, truck or march them to the Beach areas where they would be forced to dig a ditch some six or eighth feet deep and about five feet wide. The earth and sand being piled into a parapet, upon which they were forced to kneel. Their arms and hands would be bound and they were usually blindfolded. They would then be either shot or used as bayonet practice by the accompanying Nip and N.I.L.A. troops. More often than not, if bayoneted, it would be by multiple thrusts to the body. After which the bodies would be cast in their self dug grave and other prisoners would be used to fill in and obliterate the evidence.
Four ‘escapees’ were taken to Changi Beach on the 2nd September 1942, made to dig their own graves and then tied to posts. The Nips chose to prolong the agony of these brave men's deaths, by using a very amateur Firing Party, made up of N.I.L.A. members, none of whom were any good with a rifle, even firing from less than twenty five yards. Their first volley only managed to wound, albeit, seriously the four P.O.W.’s. The victims begged to have their suffering ended quickly, but the Nip’s only laughed. It took a number of volleys to eventually end the suffering of these brave men, whose only crime had been that they had been in Singapore looking for food. I found out later that they had been: - Cpl Rodney Breavington (An Australian Soldier, who had asked to be the only one to die, as he was responsible for the men under his controls behaviour. This was ignored by the Nip’s); Pte Victor Gale, (another Australian); Pte Harold Waters (East Sussex, I believe) and Pte Eric Fletcher (R.A.S.C.).
Pte John Simpson of the Border Regt was caught, seriously beaten before they cut out his tongue. He was not the only one who was dealt with in this manner, but he is the only one whose name I know. John Simpson came from a well-known family in Whitehaven, in Cumberland, a family who had a number of Shops through out the Town. After his return, John became a recluse and I believe killed himself in later years. Something quite a lot of returning POW's were thought to do.
There were instances during the Defence and Retreat back to the Island, where Troops where cut off and massacred by the Nip’s. Some Australian and Indian troops were caught after a very successful ambush and a following a period of strong resistance. They had virtually run out of ammunition and had many wounded and chose to surrender to save further casualties. The Nip’s bound them, including the wounded, to trees with wire and poured petrol over them and then set fire to them. The Nip’s then proceeded on their way, leaving these prisoners to die in agony. (A very few Australians managed to escape, prior to the events above and made it back to Singapore. One of them was with me at Tonchan).
Another of the Nip’s ‘pleasantries’ along the Railway, If they caught someone ‘slacking’ in their terms, was to tie wire round the tongue of a P.O.W. which they would then fasten the other ends of the wire, round their ankles. They would then make the P.O.W. run to catch up with the other ‘Worker’. This treatment would, at least, severely lacerate the tongue and lips of the P.O.W, cause gaping wounds in their ankles, which would quickly become infected. Many of these P.O.W.’s would finish up in the Mental ‘Ward’ at Nakon-Paton.
Another of the Nip's 'Party Tricks' was if a POW became detached from the Party, if you were marching between Camps, or had fallen out on a Trek, to or from Work, [which could often be as much as 8 Kilometres from the Main Camp], they would slash at the tendons behind the knees or the ankles, [usually just on one leg,] in order to 'Speedo' Them On' to catch up with the main party.
P.O.W.’s who were caught with ‘Contraband’ would be made to eat it, [if it were edible], smoke it, [if it were tobacco] or hold out at arms length, what ever they were trying to ‘Smuggle’ back into camp.
“Holding out at arms length”, was not as easy as it sounds. The P.O.W. would be made to stand outside the Guard Room in the boiling heat of the sun, their arms straight out in front of them, holding the item they had been caught ‘Smuggling’. This could weigh very little or a great amount, i.e.: - 14 to 28 lb.. If it was only light, the Nip’s would add things like large stones or petrol cans full of water to the extended arms. You had to stand like this for hours on end, every time your arms sagged, you would be reminded to stretch them out in front of you, by a little ‘gentle persuasion’ from any passing Guard who felt like it. This could be a stick, bamboo, a rifle butt or the flat or point of a bayonet. When the Nip and Korean Guards had had enough of their fun, the P.O.W. usually finished up in the ‘No-Good-House’’.
The ‘No-Good-House’ was a building often dug into the ground, about five feet long by four feet wide and between three and four feet high. Usually built of bamboo in the Jungle camps, there was insufficient room to lie down or sit in comfort. Being below ground, it usually had it’s own ‘House owners’ to start with, often they had a corrugated iron roof, which kept the heat in during the day and got bloody cold at night. Here you would be forced to take up a crouching position, which was agony on the joints and worse when you were released. You fed, watered and defecated in this one place, until the Nip’s had had their fun. The only company would be the bugs, the occasional lizard and the flies and rats. The longest I spent in one of these ‘Hell Holes’ was three days.
Beatings were a common every day thing we had to contend with. Beatings were done by any of the Nip or Korean Guards, Nip Railway Worker’s or Nip Railway Engineer. They would use what ever came to hand, always the flat of their hands to the face, [this was done to each other as well, which would please us!], Bamboo rods, pieces of wood, flat of swords by the N.C.O.’s, rifle butts, bayonet's, pieces of metal, length's of wire, branches of trees, pick axe handles, etc. All of them caused us harm, many resulting in wounds, which would become ulcerated or caused lasting damage to limbs and internal organs. Being tall, [I was over 6’ in height], along with many of my fellow P.O.W.’s of this sort of height, we seemed to be picked out by the smallest of our Guards, [of which there were many], to be humiliated in their view. Our way of combating this effect was to stand to attention and sway slightly to nullify the effects of the beatings. More often than not the Guards, tired of expending energy, much sooner than we did as we were hardly moving. It still didn’t have any effect in reducing the bruising we suffered, usually more in most cases, rather than less. We just had to suffer standing to attention in the heat or monsoon rains until they tired of that as well. In many cases the Guards would make you kneel, so that they could get a good slap in at you without you being able to move very much, [rolling to lessen the blow]. [Maybe I should explain, that a 'Slap' was not what we would do with a recalcitrant child, Oh No! This was a clenched fist swung from about knee height, a full round house of a blow, delivered to the most vulnerable part of your head. If they could not reach your head it was into that most tender area of your anatomy, the testicles. Sinking to your knees in an attempt to protect this most delicate part of your body, would usually result in a frenzied attack upon your person, not only by this first Guard, but often by any passing Nip or Korean who fancied a bit of 'Light Relief"! This would be by fists, boots, rifle butt, anything they could get their hands on.]
Other inhumane behaviour, could consist of being made to kneel on the shaft of a Chunkel whilst holding a large rock or piece of railway equipment directly over your head. Move and you got a bashing. If you got tired of holding the item and your arms sagged, you clouted yourself with what ever you were holding and got another bashing. The problem here was the blood left your arms and your arms would go dead, and because you had so little food to help your stamina, invariably you clouted yourself, which led to the inevitable results from the Guards.
A P.O.W. could be tied to a tree with wire, no head covering and a petrol can of water suspended round their neck, the top edges of which would have been peeled back to leave jagged edges pressing on your chest. No water or food would be given by the Guards and some times the poor prisoner, would be driven to the edge of insanity by the time they were released.
The Kempi-tia were expert at what can only be described as Torture. They knew how to beat a P.O.W. or other victim, within an inch of their life and then revive them. One of their worst treatments, in my view was the forcing of a rubber hose into the throat of a victim; water would then be forced into the body cavities, their lungs and stomachs. These would then become hugely extended, whereupon the Nip’s would force the water out of the victim, by jumping and beating the area of the stomach, until they would collapse into unconsciousness, they would then resuscitate them, then after yet more questioning, they would recommence the treatment. I was informed that sometimes the body of the victim would be unable to stand the pressure and split. At least there would have been some blessed relief from this horrendous pain.
Another form of ‘Treatment’, would be to force you to your knees on rough ground, put a Chunkel between your arms, and then place extra weight on the gap left between the shaft of the Chunkel and the small of the back and across the shoulders. To move would result in a beating and much bruising to the kidney areas.
Sometimes you could be suspended either by the thumbs or the wrists, over the branch of a tree, with your toes just touching the ground. The pain on the fingers, joints, shoulders and arm sockets was excruciating. What with being exposed to the full heat of the sun and usually no head covering. I am sure the Nip’s were trying to fry our brains by such treatment. The only good thing was occasionally you would be allowed a mouthful of water. Thankfully this only lasted for a couple of hours. [For some it lasted much, much longer.]
There were also instances, where, whilst on the treks between camps, some of the weaker members of the Parties would fall by the wayside. There were recorded instances, when the Guards, chose to use these poor souls as bayonet practice, taking them into the jungle to hide their insidious acts.
I know there were many other forms of Mans inhumanity to their fellow Man, but most of those I have written about, I either suffered myself or saw them being put into practice whilst a P.O.W. on the Railway of Death.