Sketch by Jack Chalker

Kinkaseki Reunion

Lowestoft Journal, Friday, July 16. 1999

Kinkaseki Reunion

PoW Slave Labourers Meet Again

By Nigel Jarrett

It may have been more than 50 years overdue and sadly not all the potential guests were still alive to be there, but a first ever Kinkaseki reunion, held at Lowestoft at the weekend, was an outstanding success.

Group

Together Again: Survivors of Kinkaseki PoW camp get together again at Gunton Hall

Pictures Keiron Tovall

(To enlarge photo click on it)

Kinkaseki was the Japanese empire’s largest single copper mine of the second world war, set in Taiwan and run as a slave labour camp to produce

Maurice and Frank

metal for munitions.

Of 1135 Allied PoWs interned there, most of them British, 111 died within its gates but many hundreds more perished beyond after being fatally broken by its harsh regime.

Yet out of the suffering came an unquenchable camaraderie, rediscovered in the grounds of Gunton Hall as almost 30 survivors, relatives and next-of-kin of some of those who died met up again.

Together they sang, ‘Down the Mine’ penned by Gunner Arthur Smith to lift flagging spirits and became Kinkaseki’s Colonel Bogey, a song of defiance.

 

Down The Mine

    There's a song in old Formosa that the Nips they loudly sing,

    In the billets every eveing you should hear the music ring,

    Now they sing to British soldiers who have travelled from afar,

    To fight for king and country, now they’re prisoners of war,

    But they know they'll see their homeland in the future once again,

    Listen, while I sing to you the Nipponese refrain.

           

    Chorus:

    Down the mine bonnie laddies down the mine you'll go,

    Though your feet are lacerated you dare not answer no,

    Though the rice is insufficient and we treat you all like swine,

    Down the mine bonnie taddies down the mine.

     

    Now the boys were fairly happy till one cold and cloudy day,

    When the 'Bunsho dono' he came out and he to them did say,

    Now expect you all are wondering why you're out on this parade,

    The reason is, you must be taught, the Taiwan serenade.

     

    Chorus:

    Down the mine bonnie laddies down the mine you'll go,

    Though your feet are lacerated you dare not answer no,

    Though the rice is insufficient and we treat you all like swine,

    Down the mine bonnie taddies down the mine.

     

    You should see us work with 'chunkles' and we work with baskets too

    Though the method is old-fashioned to the boys its something new,

    And we'll work away with patience till the dawn of freedom's day,

    But until then the Nippon men will all be heard to say.

     

    Chorus:

    Down the mine bonnie laddies down the mine you'll go,

    Though your feet are lacerated you dare not answer no,

    Though the rice is insufficient and we treat you all like swine,

    Down the mine bonnie taddies down the mine.

Written and Composed by Trumpeter Arthur Smith

`Kinkaseki´ POW Camp Taiwan 1942

 

The reunion came about following the erection of a PoW memorial at Kinkaseki in which a local businessman and war historian, Michael Hurst, 51, became closely involved.

He heard how Canadian doctor, Major Ben Wheeler, managed to save many fellow prisoners’ lives without proper medical supplies.

After Mr Hurst and his Taiwanese wife, Tina, had helped secure the memorial, he liaised with Norwich ex-PoW, former sapper Maurice Rooney, to organise the weekend reunion.

He said: “I’m delighted that it has been possible to bring so many of the survivors together again, To see them rekindling friendships and sharing past memories has been a truly moving and humbling experience.”

Kinkaseki Mine

Kinkaseki Camp

(The mine was joined to the camp by a 1.25 mile tunnel)

Mr Rooney, of Abbey Close, Horsham St Faith, recalled the brutality of the Japanese who ran the mine, which was a mile from the camp and up to 800ft deep.

“There was no light and you had to use carbine lamps to get around,” he said. “Part of the mine were so stiflingly hot that you could only work there a minute or two before you collapsed.

“Yet almost every evening you would get a beating from the Japanese guards who never thought you worked hard enough.”

A fellow East Anglian at Kinkaseki was Signalman Frank Buttifant, now 83, from Great Yarmouth, who has been left a permanent reminder of such beatings.

He said: “They’d set about us with rifle buts, and the blows so damaged the veins in my chest and shoulders that when, many years later, I came to have a pacemaker fitted the surgeons couldn’t attach it in the normal way.”

“The mine had no timber props to shore up the rook and you were constantly showered with debris and in danger of it caving in. I suffered serious injuries to a leg and foot after I was caught in a roof fall, and it was only thanks to major Wheeler and my mates that I came through.”

The men recalled that rations for each heart-breaking day’s toil had been a handful of rice and some watery soup. When they were eventually rescued by the Americans and taken aboard a warship, battle-hardened ratings had fainted at their skeletal appearance,

But both agreed that the savagery of their captors could not be blamed on the generations of today, and Mr Rooney said: “It’s in the past and you just have to accept that. We were lucky enough to survive, but there were many who did not. That is what I will remember.”

Kinkaseki Memorial

Kinkaseki Memorial

‘In Memory of

The more than 1000 gallant men of the British Commonwealth and Allied Forces, who suffered brutal and savage treatment here and in the nearby copper mine, and other places in Taiwan, as prisoners of war of the Japanese, from 1942 to 1945.

Their Souls remain here forever.

“NONE OF US SHOULD FORGET”

Dedicated 23 November 1997’

 

Further Information:-

Brothers in Arms - Maurice Rooney

Maurice Rooney - Roll of Honour

Frank Buttifant - Roll of Honour

‘Never Forgotten’ - The story of Taiwan PoW Camps

 

Books:-

‘Kinkaseki - One Day at a Time’ - by Arthur Titherington

‘Banzai You Bastards’ by Jack Edwards

 

Identifying PoWs in Photo:-

Group-Ident

Jack Edwards - 3rd from left, front row in photo

Frank Buttifant - 4th from left, front row in photo

Ken Pett - 3rd from right, front row in photo

Walter Kirkby - 4th from right, front row in photo

Maurice Rooney - 6th from right, front row in photo

Stan Vickerstaff  - 6th from right, back row in photo

George Reynolds - 7th from right, back row in photo

 

Sharing information with others is rewarding in itself, the pieces from the jigsaw begin to fit together and a picture begins to appear. Improve your knowledge and help make the Fepow Story an everlasting memorial to their memory.

Any material  to add to the Fepow Story please send to:

Ron.Taylor@fepow-community.org.uk

and their story will live on.

 

[Kinkaseki Reunion] [Group Photo]

 

 

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