Sketch by Jack Chalker

The White Flag

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The White Flag


Tommy Thompson

Born in old Killingworth village on the 12th September 1918, Tommy worked as a Joiner before joining the army in 1939 when he was still only 20.

This is his story of the time he spent as a Japanese POW for three and half years between 1942 and 1945, and for a large part, working on the infamous Burma Thailand ‘Death’ Railway.

The white flag passed by our very noses as we sat in our machine-gun nests in the front line on the Island of Singapore, and my comrades and I thought someone must have gone berserk, for even at this crucial stage we had no thoughts whatsoever of surrendering, and even defeat was the last thing on our minds.

Tommy before sailing

Tommy before sailing off to war in

February 1942

My regiment was the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, and the 9th Battalion had reached Singapore as part of the 18th Division on the 5th February 1942, and here on the 15th only 10 days later, we were on the point of capitulation. Our minds were in a whirl, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, as we had had a right roughing-up by the Nips since we arrived, with continual high altitude bombing, shelling from the sea, and on terra-firma a fanatical army pounding us with mortar and small arms.

At that time we were in a tricky position, due to a forward thrust by the Nips during the night, and instead of supporting the infantry we were in front, as the infantry had withdrawn through our lines under heavy and continual fire power from the enemy. When dawn broke we had to open fire on the Nips who were only yards from us and many of them bit the dust before their mortars were ranged on to our area, but the positions were held until that white flag appeared.

We had arrived on Singapore after virtually traversing the world, sailing from Liverpool more than three months beforehand.


    Chapter I Chapter I


Liverpool to Halifax

    Chapter II Chapter II


Halifax to Mombassa

    Chapter III Chapter III


Mombassa to Bombay

    Chapter IV Chapter IV


Bombay to Singapore

    Chapter V Chapter V


Real Friends

    Chapter VI Chapter VI


Preparing for Action

    Chapter VII Chapter VII



    Chapter VIII Chapter VIII


Changi - Our First Camp

    Chapter IX Chapter IX


Keppel Harbour

    Chapter X Chapter X


March to Paradise

    Chapter XI Chapter XI


Wampo Viaduct

    Chapter XII Chapter XII



    Chapter XIII Chapter XIII



    Chapter XIV Chapter XIV


Repair Work

    Chapter XV Chapter XV


Chilly Valley

    Chapter XVI Chapter XVI



    Chapter XVII Chapter XVII



    Chapter XVIII Chapter XVIII



    Chapter XIX Chapter XIX


When We’re Free

    Chapter XX Chapter XX


Homeward Bound

    Chapter XXI Chapter XXI


Back to Geordieland

    Chapter XXII Chapter XXII



After the war he married Francis and together had a son Russell. He continued his career in the building industry and worked his way up to being Chief Building Surveyor for Gateshead Local Authority.

Tommy died on the 26th July 1985 aged 67.


The following table cross-references some of the place names that Tommy refers too in his story with the names from maps of the death railway referenced from the fepow community website.


Map References


Non Pladuk / Nong Pladuck  (start point 0km)


Ban Pong (5km)

Kan-buri / Kanburi

Kanchanaburi (51km)


Chungkai (Hospital) (57km)


Wang Po / Wampo viaduct 3 camps (114km)


Tarso – 3 camps (130km)


Kinsaiyok (168km)


Rin Tin (181km)


Tamajo – camps (237km)


Konkuita (258km)


Nikhe / Nikki – 2 camps (282km)





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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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