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Private GBW (Glen) Skewes

 Glen Skewes Changi Diary

J U L Y    1 9 4 3

'Courage' and 'God' symbols

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July 1943

Quite sunny at times today
Thursday 1st
I got diarrhoea again and the pains were very crook. I asked Barney Murphy if he would help me out of the predicament with some drops of chloridine. He was only too willing and kindly gave me about 20 drops in water. The medicine began to work wonders in less tan minutes. I have had more pain frequently - and it's hours since I took it. I do hope it fixes me up, I am very weak and less than sticks. There is a big probability that about 100 patients will be transported by trucks to a combined British and Australian Prisoners Hospital somewhere in Burma. About 4 pm, 1st of July, I had the most narrow escape from death. Evidently my time had not come - thank God for that! As I mentioned before, the Japanese have been blasting stone for weeks to cart onto the road, and they don't know the first thing about blasting! They put a tremendous charge into a shallow hole in the huge granite rock - result: a loud explosion blows up into the air - small rocks. We are quartered with the patients about 100 to 150 yards from the area of blasting, and I was having a lie down on my bed before starting my afternoon temperatures. Alex Miller was on my left and Doug Scott on my right - both lying down. Suddenly, without warning, a blast of explosion went off and before one could move for shelter, (out quarters and bush Hospital has roof made only of leaves). a piece of stone not quite as large as a brick but weighing approx 2 lb shot through the roof, through the mosquito net, and hit Alex's pack and plate only few inches above my head. After hitting the bag - all in slit seconds - it clouted the wooden wall behind my head. My Gosh, it was close! Thank God, I am still living.

Japanese Guard Hits POW with Axe
Friday 2nd
Not too good again today - still affected by the diarrhoea. It's making me ever so weak and I am losing flesh fast. I have lost so much weight, I have an effort to keep my pants up and my legs are so thin as thin. It is only with great effort that I carry on and keep on my feet. I got Barney Murphy to give another dose of chloridine last evening, which has steadied me up considerably through the night. Yesterday, one of our men was hit on the leg with an axe - by a Jap Guard! Two of our chaps were unable to move a huge log which required a number of men to shift, so the Jap up with an axe and hit him in the leg with all his force with the back of the axe. Then he swung it as if to strike our chap on the head. It's terrible. Yesterday morning, some Burmese were burying one of their dead up in the bush. They had a shallow hole dug and when about to place the body in, found the hole too short. What is coming now is shocking and terrible . . . legs 'chuckle'! Dear God! how awful are the uncivilized.! Last night, another another man - only about 30 - took suddenly ill with spinal malaria. Parasites got into small capillaries of brain, and though liquid quinine was injected he passed away later in the night.

Saturday 3rd
Rather warm today. Still rather crook and exceedingly weak. Have a job to keep on my feet. Patient, Jim Bernsland, went unconscious for a time in the afternoon. I thought another case of spinal malaria. I looked and called in the Jungle for the MO Juttner, but got no response. He had wandered off, walking with some of the Officers, catching butterflies. Last night, J. Bernsland went off into a coma for quite a time, but this morning he knew nothing about it at all.

Cholera Plague Abates - Diarrhoea Prevalent
Sunday 4th
It looks like a wet day. I cut my thumb rather badly on a jagged wire this morning. I had rather a bad night and sat up for about an hour. Barney saw me in the dark and kindly gave me some chloridine which did settle the trouble in my stomach. Conditions are very bad down at Major Hunt's Camp. Quite a number of deaths from cerebral malaria, and numbers of terrible tropical ulcers. The cholera plague is practically gone altogether - thank goodness.

Monday 5th
Yesterday was the anniversary of America's Independence. I do sincerely hope that they made impression on Japan that shall quickly bring the enemy to humiliation. I am still suffering from diarrhoea - as are many others. I feel as though all the stuffing is knocked out of me. I wonder when I shall be really strong and well again . . . God, may I be spared to see better days. I still crave for a little sugar, bread and golden syrup, bread and honey, cakes and puddings . . . I just crave for them. Last night - or rather, at about 4am - Jim Bernsland died of a most rare type of malaria; Epileptic malaria, sub benign tertian.

Tuesday 6th
There were 14 admissions today and many unfortunate patients will be wet in their beds tonight, owing to the rotten roof of decaying leaves letting the rain through. Poor Jim Bernsland's burial service this afternoon - Last Post and Reveille was well played by Victor Warden. He is acting as an orderly in the hospital with us at present. I was able to buy 1/2lb of coffee for $1 from a jew POW who was on a passing Jap truck. Tomorrow will make it a week gone out of July, the time gradually passing on. I wonder what the next 3 months will bring forth. What will be in store for us prisoners of war in this hellish jungle we know not; but one can trust and hope to Him who gives each day, and that He will lead the way according to his Holy Will.

List of POW Casualties from British Bombing
Wednesday 7th
Today, Lieu Euro read out to us a casualty list of our men and English A Force who were recently killed in Burma by our own British bombs whilst bombing Japanese occupied towns, factories and workshops, etc at Moulemain and Tambazar respectively. Some of the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station were killed; Sgt Kemp and KW Miller. I remember when we were at Tampoi before the 'blue'. Artillery 2/6th Field Park. 4th Provost Corp. Some 8th Division Signals also 18th, 19th, and 26th Battalions, a number from 105th Territorial Regiment English, and one United States Navy (E Wilson). Heavy storm this evening, terrific rain, many patients will be wet in bed tonight - unfortunate creatures.

Thursday 8th
Very wet this afternoon - terrible rain last night. This afternoon, all of us were tested, per rectum, to find out if there were any cholera carriers. It is not long since we were done, either, I suppose about 3 weeks. I believe there were a number of cholera carriers found at Camps below us. A few days ago a number of men from the lower English Camp - including some Officers, we were told - made a break . . . Escaped. We wish them the best of luck in their dangerous undertaking, and may God speed them. The risk is an immense one - mainly disease, cholera and malaria, starvation, lack of water . . . not to mention the Japs who are ever on the watch to shoot dead any who escape. Very few have ever in the past got out of the country alive. That God's Providence may guard and keep these Englishmen who have got away, is my Prayer. Sgt Jock Taylor is still a very sick man with cardiac berri-berri. At home, it would be called dropsy. The lymph and waste fluid is running out of a bruise in one leg. The heart - through lack of vitamins, mainly B1 and B2 - is unable to do its normal work and is very weak. Jock's legs etc are an awful size and it's most difficult to nurse such a case in these most terrible circumstances in this wild Jungle with no bandages or medical supplies or utensils. I use a piece of hollow bamboo to substitute as a washdish for him. Some of our sick, about 100, will very soon be taken to a place in Burma.

Beautiful Butterflies
Friday 9th
Guards are preparing to leave tomorrow. They are going to take over the Camp above; the English Camp which had such disastrous cholera losses. The cholera has steadied up there now, too, but very recently 3 patients died very suddenly from dysentry. I saw a most beautiful sight towards evening when down at the creek for a wash. There were a few of the most rare and pretty butterflies I have ever seen. One, poising on a rock, was purple colour with 2 red spots under the wings and a gorgeous sheen. There were two others - one black and yellow, and one crimson and cream - both large types. Oh, they were a very pretty sight and I could have almost caught them in the hands. A small one fluttered by - a pretty brown one. Sometimes you come across hundreds of them fluttering in a close mass or congregation.

Saturday 10th
The new Guards., many in number, have taken over in charge of us today. Many Jap soldiers have gone past today, making towards Burma . . . rifles, machine guns, and 2 trucks loaded with 2- or 3- pounder Howitzers - mountain type guns. Hundreds pass in a week. I am down this afternoon crook with giddiness and dizzy - I think first touch of malaria. I have been suppressing it with atebrin twice weekly and I will take quinine tablets tomorrow.

Malaria Prevalent
Sunday 11th
Poor Jock (Sgt) Taylor died this morning. During the last 24 hours he picked up pneumonia and it took him off, poor soul, at about 11.30am. He was a very good and patient sufferer and appreciated all that was done for him. He had scarcely any chance of recovery from cardiac berri berri because of the poor diet. We have nothing containing vitamin B; no fruit, practically no veg; no sugar or tinned milk - nothing whatever to prevent a man from getting berri-berri, and nothing to cure one with. The prisoners here are indeed forced into a terrible, unforgivable, and certainly unforgettable plight. It was with sadness that we saw poor Jock Taylor pass away from this world, all for the want of a few simple things which are on even poor people's tables at Home. Sugar, vegetables, fruit, milk and 'marmite' - these life-giving simple foods would keep all men in good health and cure diseases. Dear God, it's slow murder. I heard today that 2 Australians were shot - one because he talked to another of news of the bombing of Burma; and the second because he would not sell his cigarette lighter. I am feeling off again this afternoon - very heavy head. Took 2 more quinine tablets and 1 aspirin, hoping to keep the fever from getting a hold of me. I had 9 more admittances to my bays - malaria fevers.

Monday 12th
I feel much better today - clear head and eating much better. It was with sadness that a few of us attended the funeral of late Jock Taylor. I was asked, by Lieu Hughes, if I would carry the casket, which I did with great willingness out of respect to Jock. The ashes were still warm from cremation as I carried them in a round casket made from bamboo about 1ft 6"(45cm) in length. We climbed up the side of a big hill to the little cemetery where there are now 20 graves. The CO read the service, and Vic Warden played the Last Post and Reveille - or Resurrection - marvelously. I will ever remember poor Jock and his patience. Only 2 days before he died, he invited me over to WA to see after the war and he would show us around. poor soul. There is a rumour from the Japs that Mr Churchill is out of power and Anthony Eden taken charge.

Building Falls on Tents
Tuesday 13th
Early yesterday morning there was a terrific crash as portion of a building fell on 2 tents, pinning some of our comrades to the floor. Many hands turned out, also Japs with candles, and very soon our friend were rescued - and suffered no harm, luckily. There is talk around the concentration Camp that there may be an issue of a cup of tea tonight with some sugar in it.

Wednesday 14th
Much the same as usual today. We had to stand a long time on parade this evening - well into the dark, mosquito bites, etc - all because there was one man missing. Of all things! One man came in sick to the Hospital and admitted himself, got into a place and told no-one. This is the man who couldn't be accounted for a long time. We had a 1/2 pint of Boong tea made with boiled stinking well water sweetened with sugar. The bit of sugar was a luxury, but a waste to put it in such tea made of rotten water.

Thursday 15th
We have been prisoners 17 months today. Some Nips and our QM and a Pte went to Neichki Camp today by truck. We hope they bring back food supplies. There were 23 admitted today. I took 11 of them. One man, le Bes by name, walked into Hospital with the rest this afternoon and at parade time after tea he took suddenly ill and died in a few minutes, poor soul. It may have been cerebral malaria. He was aged only 36 and had been sick with slight cholera and, when better, quickly sent out to terrible hard road work and was completely exhausted when he came on sick parade. Every prisoner here is now being given 2 tablets of quinine daily and this should prove a strong preventative. The ulcer cases are terrible. Some of enormous size, arterial tissue eaten away to a large extent. There is great suffering with these tropical yaws. Many men have been in Hospital 5 and 6 weeks bathing ulcers in hot water. Dishes are substituted by bamboo sections about 1 ft or so long and approximately 3 inches wide. I am still craving for Home food - bread, butter, honey, treacle, golden syrup and suchlike, milk cream, cakes . . . ine thinks . . . plans . . . craves and visualizes these things in imagination . . . beautiful foods that we cannot have. Dear Lord, hasten the day of our release, if it is Thy Will.

Medical Supplies from Neichki
Friday 16th
11 more admittances today, mostly tropical ulcers and berri berri. Truck came from Neichki with a few Medical Supplies which will help us for a while; but no M & Bs. Thre was some Gaulla Molacca also brought back from Neichki, but only those who had Thai money could buy any, consequently only a few of the lucky ones partook of this form of sugar.

Colonel Banno Appeals for POW's
Colonel Banno, the Imperial Japanese Army Commander, did his utmost to have F Force POW's sent back to Malaya, as he saw them dying in numbers; but the 'Engineers' would just laugh at him and drive the men out to work 14 hours a day. Colonel Banno even went right back to Singapore to see if he could have F Force Prisoners returned there, but the authorities above him would not consent to this. The Engineers had their orders from japan to carry out this cruel task by manpower. To put a railway through dense Jungle and over gorges and great rivers - a project that Britain had abandoned a few years ago because of the loss of lives ite would involve; although workers would have been properly fed, not starved and expected to do heavy work as we are expected (and driven) to do under this Asiatic Conqueror, Japan. Yes, Britain left this region because if diseases - cholera, malaria and dysentery. No. I do not blame Colonel Banno. He did his best to help us,. Colonel Banno was a First World War man who fought as an ally of Britain. It was powers higher up, on Japan who were to blame. Also the 'Engineers' over us who vowed th job would go through - no matter how many lives it cost among the Prisoners of War.

Japanese Doctors Test for Cholera
Saturday 17th
Very wet again. These monsoon rains are terrible. Its is tragic to see our men go out to slave on the road, breaking, and carting stone in carrier baskets in the pouring rain, often wet through for hours and hours, coming in wet with legs and feet covered in slush and mud. It's just damnable Hell! Just what these conditions really are for our AIF, English and Dutch, cannot be imagined . . . only those who suffered it know. Jap Doctor and attendants arrived again yesterday to test, p.r., for cholera. This completes the third test and they told us that if this proves negative the sick will shortly then be sent to Tambasai, Burma.

Sunday 18th
Wet, Wet, Wet, Will it ever stop? Alex Miller is doing good work specializing 2 patients and caring for 3 or 4 others also in his bays. One chap, 'Punch'. is very low with malaria and pheumonia. Last night we had several good-sized pieces of yak meat with our rice, which was very filling and should do us some good. We had another burial service yesterday, the 22nd who has passed away in this one small prison camp of a little over 300 men.

Longer Working Hours
Monday 19th
We had a few bandages and some gauze today. Some of our own Medical gear the QM obtained from our folk at Neichki Camp the other day. Poor Punch died at 5.30pm today after a hard battle by his heart for life. Punch was aged 42 and left a wife and children - in Geelong, I think. The 23rd comrade o pass on. Tomorrow, all men working have to rise 1 1/2 hours before daylight, have some rice in the dark, and move off to work in dark and rain - still before daylight. The pressure is certainly being applied now more than ever. Also Hospital staff cut down so more men will be working for them on the roads.

Tuesday 20th
We had to rise at 5.45am, Jap time, and daylight did not break till 7.15am, Jap time, and daylight did not break till 7.15am. The day has been quite fine, I do hope it continues.

Wednesday 21st
The Japs amended ye time on to 6.30 from this morning; that gives the chaps 3/4 of an hour longer rest in bed. There were many cheers last night when this was announced - even so, it is very early and still dark after breakfast is over. Japs are very severe on our men at work - work hard and cruel. This afternoon I have developed a bad leg which gives me pain to walk on. It is like a bruise on the bone (tibia) which covers a large area of more than 9 inches in circumference. I hope its not an infection on the shin bone. I bathed it well with hot water after tea.

Elephants from Burma
Thursday 22nd
My leg is still very sore today and I am laid up resting it. The affected area is quite pink. Seventeen elephants passed by here today from Burma, 3 of them with their riders, Burmese, pulled in to stay at this Camp - probably to work on the Railway Construction.

Friday 23rd
Owen's (brother) birthday today, I think. I am still off with the crook tibia. I went on sick parade last night. MO ordered hot water on leg and some rest. I think he said it was Osteomyelitis. I have bathed it with plenty hot water and rested again today and I now notice the infection has decreased down the bone towards the ankle in a large red patch. I am hoping it will work out completely in a short while now. It's to account for, as I do not recall a knock or kick in recent weeks - unless it's something that may have occurred in the past and only going crook under these adverse conditions and circumstances. Today, more rice came in by truck from Burma, and with it a basket of green cigars. As I had 2 1/2 rupees left from the watch, I was able to buy 50 cigars for 60 cents. They will certainly be a comfort to me in the next 2 weeks, I know.

Saturday 24th
Very Wet. Early, as usual. We had rather a treat for breakfast this morning; there was a little sugar put in the rice and my work it was delicious. It's terrible to see the men go out to toil in the jungle, wet through, some of them, before they start at the crack of dawn and almost half of them without boots coming back with tortured feet - tinea - caused by the water and mud, and cuts from brambles, prickles and the cruel sharp pieces of stone on the road - especially the stone-carriers suffer.

Petty Pilfering
There are some very low men here in the AIF, - real underworld types The CO had his Gaulla Malacca stolen the other night, and this morning Jack Ferris had to go without breakfast and 2 others with only half their usual because of some low swine or swines who stole their fellowman's food . . . breakfast which was being kept for about an hour in a bucket for them till they came off night duty. Later on, between 9 and 10am, some low wretch - possibly the same person, and probably one of the Hospital patients - stole 1/2 a dozen green cigars from under the pillow of a very sick man. Some of the AIF have certainly degenerated to the very lowest. My leg is very much improved but I am still resting it and bathing it with hot water today. I believe the Japanese are going to give us some pay. It will be the first we have had since the small sum of a few cents at Changi, which is now 3 months ago.

Natives build huts for more men
Sunday 25th
We were paid yesterday, $10.50. We were done out of $25.50 - 'not' by the Japanese, but by our own CO . . . ! They did much the same trick as this at Changi. They gave us 3 sheets of pay forms; 3 lots of $9 for 3 months pay. The Japs gave them the full amount and our crown - heads in authority over us kept the rest. We have been arguing about it and Sgt Murphy has gone to the CO over the matter, but did not get satisfactory answer from him. The CO has promised to give us, each Red Cross Personnel, a receipt for what he has kept and we will stick out for it, and some of us do not intend to sign in the future for money we do not receive. I wish the Japs would get to hear of it and they would soon demand the CO to give us what they already given him for us - our entitlement. I believe that another 500 men will march in here today. I hope there will be some mates among them. The Natives have almost completed the hut for the company of incoming AIF men. %0 of the sick may leave here in trucks today or tomorrow for Tambasai, Burma.

Monday 26th
The sick did not go yesterday, nor did the 500 men march in. The rain kept off yesterday - for a change. I wish it would cease for a long time so that the earth would dry up, especially for the sake of the men who have to walk and work in mud and water all day, some without boots, others with boots so broken away that almost only uppers hand on their feet. The tinea and AIT that they are suffering is just terrible.

Tuesday 27th
Jim Mercer, a patient very sick indeed, threw in the towel yesterday; but picked it up somewhat after much talking to by Barney Murphy last night. He is suffering from amoebic dysentery. Yesterday afternoon, he had 8 M & Bs, a dose of bi-carb and 1 Stovarsol tablet. He is a difficult patient. I told him about fighting to live for his ife and children, and I do hope today he will strive to live. He told me yesterday he wished to die because of the amoebic dysentery. No doubt it's a terrible disease, but one must fight hard.

Wednesday 28th
This morning brings more trouble to Ivan Leo, sufferer from Berri Berri. His face id blown up with Oedema and he has been worrying whether he would be driven off his head again. He went off for some months when at Changi and was put in the AIF and british Asylum. Now, this morning, he has surely gone off again. Let's hope it will pass off from him. The MO has given him an injection in the spine and he is quiet and I think sleeping.

350 men arrive from Major Hunt's Camp
Thursday 29th
About 350 men arrived here from Major Hunt's Camp, No 11, to try to live here. They look just terrible, half starved, bones protruding all over, some scarcely able to walk or raise hands to those they knew here. Lack of food, and ill-treatment was terrible - sometimes worked to 10 and 11pm, rising and having breakfast long before daybreak, some nights arriving back at Camp at 1am, next morning only a mug of rice and weak onion stew to work on. Some looked for snakes to eat but often failed to find them. One chap got a 5 ft snake and ate it for his tea. Others - walking patients from Hospital - look for lilly roots in the jungle to boil up to supplement the small issue of rice. They also suffered bashings with shovels often - terrible!

Friday 30th
Poor lad - Lee died last night, berri berri and malignant maleria, very sad - only 20 years old. Yesterday, Major Hunt called for a few minutes - was going past in Nip truck to his Camp. He has been up making preparations at Hospital in Jungle, 8 klms from Tambasai, Burma. I was greatly surprised this morning to be confronted and hand-shaken by Norm McKenzie while I was in the hut doing the round with the MO. He was at Major Hunt's Camp and came up here with the big party of men yesterday. He told me of the hellish experiences that he and many other men have been going through at that No 1 Camp. Really, we have been miles better off than they. We have had more rice to eat and much better guards and Engineers. I thank God that I was blessed in being brought to this camp 2 months ago. Though all have had it tough, it's been really mild here compared to the cruel treatment at No 11 Camp and others - Neichki and the English Camps.

'Professor' Edmund Waddington passed away
I received much sadness of heart when, on the 28th and the 29th, I was informed by several chaps whom I know from Camp 11, that me dear friend 'Professor' Edmund Waddington has passed away at Neichki Camp. He died of dysentery. I was told that he fought very hard to beat it, but in his state of exhaustion and malnutrition his constitution would stand such a serious illness. Poor Ed - it's hard for me to realize my pal has gone - how sad . . . Ed was only 38. I have his people's address in the little diary. Jim Mercer died here last night at about 11pm. He did not fight to live the last few days; was very obstinate and bad-tempered and fought against us in every way. He leaves wife and four children in Syndey. The men are working on the line behind the latrine today, grubbing roots and stumps, clearing for the railway and viaduct bridge over the creek. The Japs are pushing them now - say they do not care what it takes out of our men so long as they get the line through by the end of August. Major Hunt and many others marched past here today en route to the Jungle Hospital at Tamasai, Burma.

Fevers cut by Quinine Tablets
Saturday 31st
Fine again today. Has been for 5 days now and slush and mud is drying up fast. A Miller and J Evans ere told today that they are to go to Burma with the patients and are to be ready at a few moments notice, but they may not go for a few days. The ulcer cases are terrible. A few are getting better slowly, but others are very stubborn, Pte Britnell's has now eaten a huge area exposing one side of ankle bone. There are many sufferers of the cursed tropical ulcers. The Cholera ward is now empty but for 1 patient; Roberts has the disease still, others have been sent over here to convalescent. We have very few malaria patients now - fevers have taken a definite pull because the Japs give each man 2 quinine tablets every evening. This keeps the fever dow considerably.

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