The short train journey of about forty or fifty miles to Bangkok took us nearly six hours as the train was moving at a snail's pace due to aircraft flying overhead the whole time, and we were terrified our bombers would have a go at us, however we were not attacked.
Bangkok, the ‘Venice of the East’, as it is described, was a disappointment although not having been to Venice, we could not truthfully compare one with another, but if Venice was no better city than Bangkok as we saw it, then it could hardly be a desirable place for me to rush to for my holidays.
The river was chocker block with small dirty, derelict sailing craft and the water was covered with every description of foul matter and rubbish, the smell was worse than our own River Tyne at low tide, and the Allied bombing had reeked havoc with the buildings along the river bank. The railway ran alongside the dockside and as we pulled to a halt we could see nothing, but devastation, with many large buildings raised to the ground. Away across the river on the sky-line we could see the panorama of the Royal Palace and many domed shaped roofs, of mosques and temples, but there seemed no happiness amongst the natives whom we saw.
Whilst working on the railway we often saw Buddhist priests garbed in bright yellow blanket-like robes wrapped around their bodies, shaven heads and bare-feet, but in Bangkok every other person we saw was a priest, they must be a very religious community and other than persistent thieving I found the Thais very nice people and very pro-western and it was quite obvious at this stage they had had their belly-full of the Nippon Co-prosperity Sphere.
The air-raid sirens wailed a warning as we detrained, and we were rushed along the dockside to a corrugated iron warehouse which appeared one of the few left standing, and an obvious target if the docks were to be bombed again.
We did notice the extreme calm of the natives and whether they were very brave people or had lost interest in living, I couldn’t decide, but there was no panic as the bombs began to fall, and the ack-ack guns opened fire. Mind you many had nowhere to run to, as there isn’t much cover on sampans or houseboats in the middle of a river. We were terrified, as the thoughts of the raid on Non-Pladuk was never much out of our minds and here we were once a pain in the middle of a military target.
We were herded into the warehouse and the doors were locked from the outside, as the Jap guards scrambled away to well prepared air-raid shelters to try to save their skins.
The planes droned overhead and as the bombs fell in close proximity and debris rattled on the corrupted iron cladded walls and roof and the noise from the ack-ack guns reverberated inside it was an awesome hour we spent, but no bombs landed on our building and when the all-clear sounded we breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
We were moved quickly away to the edge of the city after the raid, and as we marched through the streets we were astounded at the sight of so many anti-Japanese slogans and signs, and it gave us such comfort in our hours of desperation, to know that at last the ‘worm was turning’.
We had had no contact with women for over three years, and in our emancipated and starving condition it was just as well, as I am sure we would have done ourselves an injury if the opportunity had arisen, however marching through the streets of Bangkok we saw come really beautiful women, and the Thai women are much prettier than most other Orientals, particularly those Thais from the northern part of the country. They have a slight tinge of sun-tan, faces more like that of Europeans but with a slightish flat nose, beautiful gleaming black hair and the most gorgeous figures, and as we marched through those streets, it was like a dose of medicine and roast beef and Yorkshire pud, all rolled into one, Yum! Yum! the heart was willing but if we had had the opportunity I am sure the flesh would have been too weak, but it put thoughts in our minds for future reference.
It was remarkable that over the past three years, although being void of female company, I never saw any signs of homosexuality, except for a short period at Changi when ‘Eddy’ used to do his rounds with those who wanted him, and when he died of dysentery that was the end of that love affair, but of course we always had so many other things on our mind, particularly survival, that we never had time to think on those lines, perish the thought! even when we were reasonably fit, and for the past two years or so due to the starvation diet, the extremely hard work, and the vicious mal-treatment we had endured, it would have been impossible for us to rise to the occasion, but those Thai women brought back memories of things of long ago.
Our fleeting exposure to normality was quickly eroded as those pigs of Jap guards waded into us with their rifle butts, to show the natives they were the master race, and it is a sensation to have the body dealing with two different nervous tensions, the first being the tingle of sexual beauty and the other a pain of a rifle butt crashed across the flesh-less face bones, and we soon found we were a little premature in allowing the female to out-gun the rifle-butt. We were brought back to the facts of life fairly forcibly and were soon back to the old routine as we reached our destination near a bog on the edge of a copse and bedded down for the night.