Sketch by Jack Chalker

Chapter XVI

Non-Pladuk

The jungle carrying business for some unknown reason was stopped all of a sudden, and we were sent back down the line again, this time to an established camp called Chunkai and it was quite a reasonable place. We often wondered whether the Japs were aware our own fighting troops were so near and were frightened they may attempt to rescue us.

Chunkai camp was near another small town and news from the natives cheered us up as they told us of the continuing success of the Allies and made no bones that we would soon be free men. It was here that I learned that one of our fusiliers had been shot by a Jap guard. Fusilier Want one of our battalion boxers had either been caught outside the wire fence surrounding the camp or near to it and the guard had opened fire and killed him.

We stayed at Chunkai only a few days then we were transported on the railway back down the line to Non-Pladuk camp, and this was the base camp for prisoners, it was very well organised and under the command of Lt Col, Toosey of, I believe the Royal Artillery.

Hut-Non Pladuk- May-1944-2tb02The camp was nicely situated between a Jap ordnance depot, a big railway siding, a Jap military camp and a huge ack-ack site, but we had no markings or signs to show it was a prisoner of war camp and if there was an air-raid we were plumb in the middle of a likely target area.

Work at the camp involved us in the ordnance area at times, but our main duties were inside the camp. I remember being in the ordnance area working one day when I witnessed another animal suffer at the hands of sadistic Jap guards, when they erected a wire-netting compound about eight feet square and put a little wire-haired terrier dog inside. The six Japs armed themselves with a crow-bar each about four or five feet long and tried to throw the bar so that it went up the little dogs backside, and they weren't satisfied if it went up only an inch or two. They played around with the dog as it screamed and howled like a little child until one of them managed to get that bar nearly a foot up, and then the sadistic bastards opened the gate and chased the dog trailing that heavy bar until it dropped dead, I wonder if they were dog lovers in civvy street.

We hadn't been in Non-Pladuk very long when the Allied air-force started coming over by the dozen and the ack-ack batteries manned by Sikhs would open fire by commands in English and we could quite easily hear the range and angle being given but they were never anywhere near the planes. We also noticed the air-force in this area consisted of one solitary plane and it was a tiny monoplane which always flew off in the opposite direction of that which the Allied planes were coming, and then after the raid it flew back again doing aerial acrobats as though it had shot some of them down.

This happened for quite a days until one morning in a sky that had low cloud hanging over us, the air-raid alarm went and up the little Jap plane flew but he was dead unlucky this time, as our planes were coming in from both directions and the little plane must have only poked his nose through the upper side of the cloud when we heard a slow rat-tat-tat and within a few seconds in a spiralling nose-dive the little plane came hurtling down and crashed a few yards from the camp-gate. There were no more planes!!!

About that time the Japs produced a newspaper for the prisoners and it must have been for the purpose of boosting their own moral because to us it was pure comic cuts. The war news was all about the Japs victories and they had taken all India, the best part of Australia and landing troops were being prepared to take several major cities on the West coast of America.

The Germans were alleged to have the whole of Russia and Africa was in the hands of Italy. England, Wales and part of Scotland had also been taken and preparations were being made for that bridge over the Channel, which was mentioned previously.

Leut.Yamamoto of the Nipponese Imperial Air-Force had been awarded a medal, something like the ‘Garter of the Red Rose’ for shooting down twenty seven Boeing fortresses over Bangkok, the last one of which had to be brought down by the pilots haversack ration, two rice balls, as he had run out of ammunition after bringing down the twenty-sixth Allied plane. Big stuff these rice balls! And I can vouch for that! Leut. Fukumara of the same air-force had also been decorated for bravery after shooting down a dozen Americano planes over Manilla and finding as he approached the run-way his undercarriage had been shot off but slowing his plane he managed to poke his legs below the plane and make a perfect landing. Some legs!!

When the Jap soldier paper-boy appeared with the bundle of newspapers under his arm there was one mad scramble to get one and I am sure the Japs thought we were keen to read their war news, but as you would guess it was the stupid or rather comical stories we were so interested to read. We used to laugh our heads off and there was always a queue to get it next, or a group would get together and one would read every single word out aloud so everyone could hear. The Japs were very puzzled that we should be laughing so much at such sad news.

But laugh we did not, one evening in moonlight, which lit the place as bright as a winter day in England and the air-raid alarm was sounded. Planes came droning over our heads and there and there must have been hundreds as the noise in the sky was just deafening and we could hardly hear ourselves speak. We strode outside our huts and the planes were so low we could actually see them and we all cheered thinking the Japs in Bangkok were going to catch another packet tonight. We couldn't believe our ears when the Ieading plane which had just gone over our heads fired his machine gun rat-tat-tat as we knew damned well that that was the usual signal for the flight to release their bombs and then the swish and screaming of the bombs could be heard as hundreds of bombs hurtled into the area including the whole of our camp and we nose-dived immediately under our huts for safety.

The raid lasted an awful long time and several fires were blazing in the surrounding neighbourhood and a huge explosion happened on the railway siding when an ammunition train was blown up but worse was to follow as the second flight came in and pounded our camp with anti-personnel bombs which exploded as soon as they touched the ground and masses of the shattered bomb casing flew at low level right across the camp and many prisoners were killed and many more severely wounded. Under the huts were hundreds of us and the air was rent with screams of pain as many were hit with pieces of shrapnel. The huts were built about eighteen inches to two feet above ground level and after what appeared to be at least two hours the all-clear was sounded and what happened in the next few minutes still haunts me to this day.

Cloud had come over the moon before the end of the raid and we were in total darkness as I crept out from under the hut over the top of dead and wounded, and as I neared the edge of the hut my hand went into a slimy mess and I had actually put my hand right inside a Dutchman’s stomach who had been ripped apart from a piece of jagged shrapnel, and the feeling made me nearly jump out of my skin as I removed my hand from the still warm gut and intestines. I vomited my inside out and felt awful.

The raid killed many prisoners who had survived three years of hell at Singapore and the railway, and there appeared to be no justice in this world. Mass graves were dug the following day and the dead were buried with as much reverence as we could muster in the circumstances.

The wounded had terrible injuries and for days afterwards the doctors worked like Trojans amputating legs and arms and sometimes both and I was on the work party who dug holes to bury those legs and arms.

Only two Japs were killed in that raid and after they were cremated their ashes were put in little boxes and draped in white cloth and set up on a shelf in the guard room, and each time we passed the guardroom we had to halt, turn right or left and give a long low-bow in reverence to the two dead in the boxes, but they in turn never showed the slightest respect for the many prisoners who had lost their lives in the raid, or in any other circumstance.

Who it was we never new but the whole American and British Air-Force got some stick from us for the slaughter they created amongst our friends and comrades for weeks after that raid.

It took an awful long to time for us to get over that terrible night and there was little conversation about anything else for weeks as we all felt so terrible that after going through what we had, to be killed by our own men, machines and weapons was just too much to bear, and if we could have got hold of any of those crew who had caused such chaos, death and destruction we would quite readily and willingly have murdered them.

It is true we were bang in the middle of military targets but our intelligence ought to have been aware of our location and far more important targets of much more military importance could have been attacked, it was sheer murder, and some one ought to have been brought to book for the massacre.

We had a grandstand view of several Koreans being punished for some misdemeanour or other, one sunny evening. The camp at Non-Pladuk had a huge parade square of maybe four or five acres and our huts were built around and facing it, and having finished our days work we were sitting outside the huts eating our rice, when half-a-dozen Koreans in full kit, packs and rifles were trotted out by a pig of a Jap sergeant, and they had to run at full pace round and round the parade ground, with the sergeant walloping them with his sword stick if they slackened the pace one little bit. Round and round they sped and the sweat was just simply pouring from their coffee-coloured faces. We stood around Iiking it very much and although we would have liked to cheer the sergeant on, we daren’t as if we had we would have joined them, so we sat and suffered our joy in silence.

card 102

This was the first opportunity we had to write home after than a year in captivity.

The card was written just before we left Keppel Harbour Camp.

What more could we say.

card 202
card 302

Returning to Non-Pladuk Camp we wrote our second postcard home, and on this occasion Swiss Red Cross persons were in attendance.

Of course the information was blatantly untrue: -

  1. We had received no mails!
  2. We were in anything but good health.
  3. We were working, and like slaves for sometimes fifteen to eighteen hours per day.

The main point was that our people would at least know we were alive.

card 402
card 502

This was the third and last card written home. It can be noted underneath Thompson and my number the Jap censors smudged out the camp name and date.

It was actually written in January 1945 in a camp named SAN PAT SU somewhere in central Thailand where we were building an aerodrome. At that time I was about six stone and in bad shape.

card 602

One by one they fell to the ground in sheer exhaustion and as they did the sergeant would batter the Korean unmercifully with his stick or his boot and after about an hour there was six exhausted and severely battered bodies lying absolutely prone in the dust, but their punishment was far from over as another sergeant appeared with six Japs carrying two buckets of water each, and with the aid of the water and a big boot, the Koreans were forced up on their feet and the run started again with the aid of hefty kicks or clouts with a stick from the new sergeant. They were punished to within an inch of their lives before they were manhandled into the Jap compound. We would have felt sorry for any normal human being, being so treated but it did our hearts a lot of good to see it happen to those Korean guards.

We never did find out what they had done wrong, but rumour had it they were caught selling material to some Thai natives, naughty boys!!! But I bet they never tried to sell anything else after the treatment they got that evening.

The Allies were in full-cry now, and the skies were rarely clear of big four-engined bombers winging their way to Bangkok, One bright sunny day a flight of planes came over and dropped a few miles away from us, what appeared, to be leaflets, but we never saw a leaflet to read, but we did see the area about an hour later burst into flame and. the fire was over a tremendous area. We never got to know very much about the cause of the fire, but rumour had it that the stuff that appeared like leaflets were actually incendiary papers which took fire due to the heat of the sun on them. What they were, we never found out, but we didn’t care as long as the problem was outside our camp.

At Non-Pladuk we had a Jap guard commit hari-kari, in a dug-out during an air-raid, so that was one less to contend with, and his mates weren’t so cocky as they used to be, as the big bombers and the numbers that came over unmolested certainly gave them food for thought.

When I was at Kan-Buri I had worked out my back-pay on the thousandth day in captivity which amounted to one thousand times a corporals pay of four shillings and nine-pence a day which amounted to two hundred and thirty pounds the British Government owed me, but when we got instructions to pack our kits for another move I can remember as we stood in the dust about to entrain for Bangkok, the amount as I calculated, was creeping past two hundred and seventy pounds and it frightened me to think I would have so much money to spend if I ever got out of this mess.

We weren't aware pay had increased nearly double since we were captured in Singapore.

 

Next Chapter

Bangkok

 

 

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[The White Flag] [Chapter I] [Chapter II] [Chapter III] [Chapter IV] [Chapter V] [Chapter VI] [Chapter VII] [Chapter VIII] [Chapter IX] [Chapter X] [Chapter XI] [Chapter XII] [Chapter XIII] [Chapter XIV] [Chapter XV] [Chapter XVI] [Chapter XVII] [Chapter XVIII] [Chapter XIX] [Chapter XX] [Chapter XXI] [Chapter XXII]

 

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