Sketch by Jack Chalker

Nakom Paton

PART EIGHT

NAKOM PATON (Nakhon Pathom) 1944 – 1945

12th May 1944, parties of P.O.W's were moved from Camps up river to newly erected group base camps. After a month had passed, these men [except Dutch or Asiatic born], were medically examined by Nippon Doctors and if passed fit, were grouped into parties of one officer and one hundred and fifty men and ordered to stand by to move by boat to Japan. They were issued with clothing and paraded for inspection by the Nip commandant. It was the funniest parade I have ever seen, a fancy dress parade was not in it. Men were dressed wearing, R.A.F. jacket and Tartan Trousers, or Hospital Blue Jacket and long pants, or Pyjama Jacket and Kit, all mixed dress. This was the only funny part of what was to be a tragedy.

These parties left Thailand by train to Singapore, here they were loaded like cattle on to 1,400 ton boats. 3,000 P.O.W's, 300 Asiatic's and a number of Nippon Troops on one boat. Conditions were terrible, in some respects worse than the Railway. These boats sailed in convoy for Japan and were torpedoed off Saigon, Indo-China. Very few being saved, a terrible ending. The number lost being unknown.

1st Red Cross Letter 31-12-1944-tn
Red Cross Letter

Also during May 1944, Chungkia ceased to be known as a Base Hospital for all groups. IV Group went to Tamuan (Tha Muang), I and VI Groups to Non Ploduk, III Group to Tamakan (Tha Makhan). The moves were carried out by train or barge.

At these Base Camps, conditions were much better. The Accommodation, food and sanitary arrangements were good. A Canteen was allowed, but discipline was stricter, especially saluting and Roll call. Camps were divided into two parts, Hospital and Fit, about 12,000 Dutch, Australian and British P.O.W's in each Camp. Work was easy, but beatings still continued.

In Tamuan, Roll Call procedure was as follows: -Battalions (or what was left of them), paraded, [less Hospital], at 9 am and 7 pm, on a large field. (This used to be a Tobacco Plantation), in groups of ten, Sergeant Major's called the Roll and dressed the ranks. After waiting about an hour, a Nip Officer accompanied by Korean Guards would arrive on the scene.

The Nip Officer would mount a raised dais, so that he could see the whole parade, or should I say, "That he would be higher up so that white men had to looked up to him" (Nippon Greed). The Senior P.O.W Officers would call the parade to 'attention', and give the order "Eyes Centre". All  P.O.W's would look directly at the Nip Officer, who would salute. Then "Eyes Front". The Korean Guards would then check each Battalion in turn. When checked and correct, the same saluting procedure would be carried out and the Parade dismissed, sometimes at 8 pm or at 9-30 am. Sometimes at 9.0 pm, but never later than 9.30 am in the morning. Night-time, our time, did not matter, (NOTE All orders were given in Nippon).

Nakam Paton-tn

 On June 10th 1944, the serious sick at all Camps commenced to be evacuated to a newly built Hospital Camp called Nakom Paton, approximately 50 miles from Bangkok, a Camp especially built to accommodate 10,000 sick.
Click on list to enlarge

Nip Do’s and Don’ts at Nakom Paton

click on above list to enlarge - it will take time to load as it is a big file

The Camp consisted of 50 well built huts with good and sufficient latrines, however the sanitary conditions with regard to drainage was bad and could not be improved, owing to the Camp being built on the flat and in old rice paddy fields. Consequently when it rained, the Camp became a swamp, with roads and several huts under a foot of water. In dry weather, it was just the reverse, insufficient water, disregarding the fact that water wells had been bored, but water was only available for cooking purposes. The Camp was subdivided five sections, Dysentery, Surgical, Anti-Vitamin, Medical and Fit. (600 fit were allowed for Camp duties). The Medical treatment and supplies were more plentiful and much better than previously. Discipline was not so severe. But this did not last long. After the end of July, the Nips asked for workers, they had to be found, so a new block was formed and called the 'Convalescent Block'. So each week, each block, (less the Fit Block), would supply a given number of men and transfer them to this newly formed block. Consequently the Hospital was turned into a 'Workers Camp', and where there are 'Workers', there is trouble. Discipline became more severe, beatings once again came into being, a 'No Good House' was erected and used.

Prevention of Escape 7-1-45-tn

The above letter was issued by Nippon Camp Commandant to try to prevent PoW’s breaking camp.

The Nips were becoming nervy, allied Air Raids, were becoming more frequent, they commenced enclosing the Camp by building a bund wall, 10 feet high and two feet wide at the top, with a ditch at either side, 10 feet deep by 10 feet wide around the Camp. At each corner they built Machine gun Pill Boxes with their firing slots looking straight into the Camp. This work was carried out by the convalescent sick. Parties where then ordered to leave the Camp, mostly 1,000 strong, at first they were sent back to the Group Base Camp, later put to work building aerodrome, to unloading ships and barges, repairing and rebuilding bridges damaged by Allied bombing, or back up the river.

POW Medical Report-tnBy December 1944 the Camp strength had become 6,000. In February 1945, all the Officer, irrespective of their Group or sickness were separated from the men and concentrated at Khan-Chan-Buri. Senior Warrant Officers took charge in place of the Officers at other Camps. At all the Camps, instead of the men being concentrated in large numbers, parties were detailed in groups of 500 and sent to various smaller Camps, up the river, etc., or kept on the move doing odd jobs here and everywhere. The idea being so as not to have large numbers of P.O.W's in one place. Therefore outside the Base Camps, conditions again became vile, deaths mounting through the lack of food and medical supplies.

The Wampo Road was commenced. This Road was to run through virgin jungle and very mountainous country and had to be completed by a certain time. The Road was to be made from Wampo to Tavoy for the purpose of preparing a road in case of retreat and also for the supplying rations to the Nip troops in the Tavoy area. All rations had to be carried by the P.O.W's, wheeled transport could not be used or spared. The P.O.W's carried bags of Rice weighing 120 pounds, etc., on their backs for about a mile, they then handed their load on to a relief, and so this went on.

POW Medical [REAR]-tn

Japanese medical reports above

Malaria, Typhus and Ulcers were prevalent, and the medical supplies were nil. Quinine was not available, therefore sickness among the workers increased. When the P.O.W's were too sick, they were sent back to Base Camp to recuperate, others being sent back from the Base Camp to take their place, and so it went on.

The system of Roll call at the Base Hospital Camp was, when the Camp first opened, the Roll call was carried out under our own administration. But regretfully this was not very successful. Several P.O.W's used to break out of the Camp after Roll-call times, mostly at night and although the Nips knew about this, they very seldom caught any of them. Consequently as soon as anyone was known to be outside the Camp, the Nips carried out a Roll call, but somehow or other, the Roll call was nearly always correct. This did not satisfy them, someone must be caught or reprisals would be taken against the entire camp, food would be cut by half, all Roll-calls would take place in the open and not as at present, in the huts. A letter was typed and read out to all ranks asking them in Nip language, to 'play the game' and stop the Korean guards from getting into trouble. Still this proved unsuccessful, until three men were caught, (Camp Radio), were severely punished, causing P.O.W's to be more careful. Roll calls were carried out by the Nips, 8 o'clock in the morning and 7 o'clock at night and twice during the night at odd intervals. At all times everyone was counted, anyone missing, even if at the latrines, meant a beating when he arrived back and one for the night orderly on duty. If the individual could not be accounted for, if it were during the night, the whole Camp would be waken up and made to sit on the edge of their beds, [including the seriously sick], for hours until he returned or the Nips found out the name of the missing person.

On one occasion, the Nip sentry thought he had seen a P.O.W crawling over the top of the Bund Wall, Nips were everywhere, a Roll-call was ordered at 11.15 pm, everyone must sit at the edge of their bed spaces, without talking, moving or smoking. This went on until 5-15 am, when the Nips ordered that everyone would parade in tens by the Hospital Blocks on the centre road of the Camp. Exemptions were only persons who could not walk. Quinine was not available at the time and most sick had untreated Malaria, but they had to parade however ill they were. No one was allowed to leave the Parade or sit down without first obtaining permission from the Nips, which was rarely given. Beatings became frequent, at 12 o'clock, [Noon], the Nips realised that nobody was missing and dismissed the parade. Of approximately 6,000 on parade, at least half were very sick, at 3-30 pm P.O.W's received their first meal and drink and also their dressings or medicine. Several died because of this Parade.

Morning and night Roll-calls were as follows: - On the 'Fall In' sounding, all P.O.W's, irrespective of their employment, returned to their huts immediately and sat on the edge of their bed spaces, the seriously sick, lying on their own beds. No one was allowed to leave the hut, not even to go to the latrines, they must not talk, smoke, move about, play cards or read books. Everyone must be still, the Nips arrived, check the hut by seeing and counting every person. If correct, he would leave the hut, but this did not mean that the restrictions were lifted, that only happened when the 'Dismiss Bugle' sounded. Sometimes Roll calls lasted from half and hour to one hour. No wonder we are speechless.

POW Postcards [Rear] [13a]-tn

Postcard Home

Concerts were allowed once a week, but, before they were played, the script, songs, etc., had to be shown to, and passed by the Nips. No talks, Lectures, etc., were allowed.

In May 1945, the Camp was reduced from 6,000 to 3737. Instead of 50 huts being used, only 20 huts were used, the remainder were used as a Hospital for Nip sick and wounded. That gave us a good idea that the War was getting nearer.

Prior to the Camp being reduced, the Nips asked for a party of 1,000 men, seeing that only 500 recovered P.O.W's could be found, the Nips said “That the other 500 would have to be found from the least serious sick, and if, Medical Officer's could not find them, then the Nip Medical Officer's would!" They were found poor blighters, paraded before the Nip Medical Officer to see if he thought they would do, the usual way, marched past in fours, if they could walk, they were fit.

The Nips stated that they were being moved to a Base Camp and not to work. Another Nip lie, they were sent to the Mergui Road after marching for 9 days.

This Road was similar to the Wampo Road, but conditions were worst. A Road had to be cut at the Junction of the Thai-Burma-Malaya Border, through disease infested virgin jungle to Mergui, Burma. The area is very mountainous in this area. 200 P.O.W's would cut a path three yards wide for 15 Kilometres, without any food, or without any food being taken with them. When this was completed, they slept in the open. The next day they would commence on the next 15 Kilometres. At the same time the second 200 P.O.W's left the Camp, but this time, only caring rations and maybe a little medical supplies. The first party working at full "Speedo" pressure for two days without food, little water and practically no sleep. So this method went on until 2,000 men in parties of 200 were all doing the same thing. In six weeks, of these 2,000 men, 395 had died, over 700 were too ill to be moved, 150 had returned to Non Kumbaton Base Hospital very sick. Most of them weighing 5 to 6 stone.

{On the Japanese Capitulation, many of the Parties could not be found and when they were found, Medical Staff and supplies had to be dropped from the air to attend to them until they were fit enough to be moved}.

Prisoner postcard-tn

From Christmas 1944, until the Capitulation of the Nippon, Discipline of all types became stricter. Armed guards were posted with all parties irrespective of the number. The local Thai's became more friendly, but were unable to talk to us. Leaflet raids to became more frequent, the Leaflets being in Thai. These raids generally took place on Wednesday, men had to stay inside their huts; Leaflets if picked up must be handed over to the Nips. But this order did not stop the Leaflets being picked up, the photographs on them were scrutinised, which gave us a little information on the War's progress. The Leaflets were carefully split into two, and used as cigarette paper and smoked. They were not deciphered.

On 15th August 1945, rumours were circulated that Nippon had Capitulated, but no one would believe it. At about 5-00pm on the same day, the Nip Commander sent for all Hut Commanders etc., and told them "that they were no longer Prisoners of War, as Nippon had Capitulated on the 10th August 1945".

Japanese Surrender Leaflet-tn

The Nippon Leaflet was dropped by aircraft informing them that Nippon had surrendered and warning them to stop fighting and lay down their arms. South Thailand 18th August 1945.

TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH.

We, in the hope of concluding the present affair with utmost determination to cope with the present conditions of the World and that of Japan, proclaim to our subjects as follows: We, the Majesty of the Imperial Nipponese Empire ordered our Government to notify Governments of U.S.A. Britain, China and the Soviet Union that we accept their joint declaration in spite of chivalrous fighting of our Military Forces. Diligent endeavour of every official and our hundred millions of subjects loyalty; our fronts did not actually turn out satisfactorily always, besides, our enemies have started to use newly barbarous bombs, destroying innocents, to the extent of never ending destruction; under the circumstances continuances of war might mean the destruction of millions, and the destruction of civilisation of the human kind; if so, the protection of our subjects and the forgiveness of our ancestors is the actual reason of our instructing the Government to concede to the joint declaration.

We cannot refrain from expressing our regret to the countries, which co-operated for the liberation of East Asia. When we think of our subjects dying at the front or meeting with untimely death in carrying out their duty at various posts of duty, we really bear the thought.

Further, we are very much concerned for the welfare of those who are wounded, our lost trade, etc., on account of this war.

It is well imaginable; the fate of our Empire shall be to suffer. We can well understand what our subject’s feelings will be, however, we hope and desire to conquer the difficulties for the future, even doing the impossible to bear. Should anyone choose to do things in excitement, it shall end in nothing but the making of things still worse, should subjects debate with each other, it will disturb the pending affair and cause us to loose faith with the world. We apprehend, therefore, and give warning, instead, believing in the ever-existence of the Empire, all be of one accord, in keeping faith to fathers, to sons, externally, remember that the road is far and your duty, heavy for the reconstruction of the nation. Do your utmost in good moral sense; with firm determination uphold the best features of the Empire. Endeavour not to be delayed to cope with the progress of the World.

Ye Subjects, bear in mind what we need.

I am afraid that this news was not taken by a lot of cheering, it had come so suddenly, we could hardly believe it. After this terrible experience, could it be true. Men cried, but after a short time, became more cheerful. Flags started to be flown. Where they came from only the men concerned knew. It was a wonderful sight to see the dear old Union Jack flying again, with one of our friends, a Korean guard underneath it.

At 6.00pm, the entire camp, less the most serious sick, concentrated at the Camp Concert Stage, here all Ranks sang the National Anthems of the Allies accompanied by the Camp Band. We were informed by Lieut. Colonel A.C. Coates, A.I.F. Senior Medical Officer and Camp Commandant, that the War ended on August 10th 1945, and that he would now give orders to the Nips and they would do as they were told, but also we must "Play the Game, and act as soldiers not fools". He was cheered and Ranks went back to their huts.

British Bugle calls were sounded, British Administration took over, British Parade times and Discipline came into being. It was grand, and ALL Ranks "Played the Game wonderfully".

But certain difficulties still had to be overcome and the following order was published: -

"The I.J.A. have just informed me that they have received fresh and more detailed instructions concerning our release.

The preliminary interview yesterday evening led us to believe that we were entirely responsible for our own feeding, discipline and security. Acting on these instructions, I talked to you yesterday evening suggesting that we were free to roam more or less at will in the neighbourhood.

As a result of this second conference, the Commanding Officer directs as follows: -

1:- All troops will remain within the inner bund except on duty, until further notice.

2:- No communication is permitted with the Thai population, in particular reference to this, it is pointed out that there are many I.J.A. armed isolated units who have not yet been informed that the War is over, or who are aware of the Armistice Terms and if Allied Troops were seen in association with the natives, reprisals might follow.

3:- The Area known as the I.J.A. Compound, the I.J.A. Hospital and Tool-store area is particularly Out-of-bounds except on duty.

4:- All I.J.A. property rights will be observed. No borrowing, lifting or making use of any I.J.A. equipment, etc., is permitted.

5:- The I.J.A. "q" Department will consult the C.M.O. concerning the new ration arrangements.

6:- The Commanding Officer wishes it to be known by all ranks that I.J.A are still responsible for our safe custody and will be until such times as Allied Authorities arrive to assume control.

Food was improved, plenty of meat, fish, thick vegetable stews, fresh fruit and very little rice, what a change from eating rice and still more rice. In three and a half years I had eaten the following amount of rice: -

Number of days as a P.O.W 1,278 at 1 pound of Rice per day, 1,278 or 3,834 pints.

I ate .57 tons of rice, or five and four fifth, 220 pound bags of rice or 3,834 pints of rice.

On the 14th, food issued by the Nips consisted of: -

Breakfast - One pint of pap Rice and Sugar. Tea.

Dinner - One pint of Boiled Rice, a quarter of a Pint of Stew. Tea.

Tea - One pint of Boiled Rice, half a pint of Stew. Tea. One Rice cake.

Now what a contrast, practically a European diet, it was simply beyond words.

On the 17th August 1945, Dakotas, 14 of them, flew over the Camp and dropped by parachute, enough clothing, boots, cigarettes, medical supplies, etc. to re-equip the entire Camp and treat the sick properly.

Each man received as follows: -

1 Towel, 1 Vest, 1 Underpants, 1 Jacket, 1 Trousers, 1 Socks, 1 Shoes [Canvas], 1 Shaving Soap, 1 Lifebuoy Soap, 1 Tooth Brush, 1 Tooth Paste, 10 Razor Blades, 50 Cigarettes, 1 Box Matches and 1 Blanket.

The Camp looked like a Military Camp once again, all men being dressed, razors were being operated for the first time for years, soap the same. Matches were a curiosity; men struck them just to feel what it was like having a match.

Now just take for example, the conditions four days previous.

Men were clothed only in a loin cloth, wearing the Nip wooden shoe as footwear, getting a shave once a week, washing without soap, drying themselves on any old piece of rag, using old sacks as blankets, smoking Thai tobacco wrapped in old pieces of paper, latrine or otherwise.

A check was taken of men without clothes or boots, etc. the under mentioned is the summary concerning 737 of the Dysentery Block.

Clothing Deficiencies - 14th August 1945

1 ABSOLUTE NECESSARY.

Shorts 97

Shirts 229

2  NOT IN POSSESSION.

Shorts - 494 + 97 = 591

Shirts - 368 + 229 = 597

Towels - 428

Blankets - 423

Socks - 462

Boots - 537

[NOTE: - DOES NOT INCLUDE REPAIRED ARTICLES, OR MADE FROM KIT BAGS OR RICE SACKS, BOOTS DOES NOT INCLUDE PEOPLE IN POSSESSION OF HOME MADE SANDALS].

On 18th August 1945, the first party left Camp for Rangoon by Air.

On 23rd August 1945, I left Camp, I went by train as far as a river bridge, the main one was destroyed by Allied bombing. Here we detrained, and allowed the Nips? To push the trucks across the wooden structure, what a grand sight it was, seeing them working and us looking on.

We got aboard again and arrived at Bangkok, leaving next day by Dakota for Rangoon.

AT LAST FREE FROM HELL.

 

Extra Notes:-

NAKOM-PATON

Motiamo ‘the Black Prince’ A cruel Bastard if there ever was one. [He was in charge of the Guardroom at Tamuang].

26.8.1944 the Head of POW’s in Thailand Col. Sugisawa visited the Camps. [He had been nicknamed “Sugersweet or Soya Bean”]  Lt Col. Knights was the Camp Commander, after the Nip Col’s visit Lt. Col. Knights became known as “Silent Knights” as he had refused to discuss any complaints with the Nip.

12.2.1945 After the removal of all the senior Officers, most Camps were Commanded by R.S.M.’s [The Officer’s left on 21st, 22nd & 23rd Feb 1945]

R.S.M. Christopher 9th Coast Regt. [now promoted to Lt.] Commandant, BQMS JK Gale Adjt.

C.S.M. Sewell [Beds and Herts], British Commandant, C.S.M. Eric Robert Adjt.

R.S.M. McBinnes Commandant Australian Commandant, C.S.M. Ben Anstey Adtjt.

Adj. Van Den Assem Commandant Dutch Troops.

C.S.M. Pennock as Adjt.

 

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Camp Radio

 

 

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