photo of Glen Skewes enlargedHome Page
IntroductionIntroduction April 1943April 1943 May 1943May 1943 June 1943June 1943 July 1943July 1943 August 1943August 1943
September 1943Sept 1943 October 1943October 1943 November 1943Nov 1943 December 1943Dec 1943 1944 Entries1944 Entries ReflectionsReflections

Private GBW (Glen) Skewes

 Glen Skewes Changi Diary

M A Y    1 9 4 3

'Courage' and 'God' symbols

Back | Home | Print

May 1943

Spell at Wompah
Tuesday 4th
My leg is much easier today. I still have hot water on it about 3 times a day. Then I also give my aid on Sick Parade where there are usually scores to be treated for bad foot and other ills. 10 a.m. - Another party of English have arrived. They are in fair condition as there was no mud to plough through. The road was quite dry these last 3 nights. Thai Natives are allowed to sell food in Camp, but bad luck if you have a dollar and no change! That is one of their little tricks, as I have experienced. The river here is beautiful. O nly about 3 to 4 ft deep, but with a swift current which would carry you away if you did not grip the bottom very firmly. Some of the chaps who are patients in this temporary Hospital have caught fish with a bent pin and some rice for bait - or some yak If they could get it. The river is just teeming with fish, they keep coming in great shoals and as you bathe they give your toes a nibble. They were also very plentiful In the first big river which was deep and treacherous to the unwary. I got a fright in that river, just quietly! Yea, fish would jump up everywhere. Here I was again disgusted with Australians who did what the Natives would not do - Natives can teach many Australians something of modesty and respect for the opposite sex. The Lost Medical Book Today - or rather this morning - I have got the 'blues' somewhat. I had a dream last night, a sad mix-up it was, of near home. I have also been feeling dreadfully the loss of my treasured belongings which I carried during the 14 months of prison term at Changi - most especially the book of Medical Lectures which contained almost everything. Some kind Doctors did not spare their time or knowledge, but when reduced to the same circumstances as we were they gave us freely of these - of course to those who were interested. Only a very very small percentage were but I was one who was, nd I spent my spare time and energy in studying and writing for about twelve months. The informatlon contained in that book of 100-odd pages is of the highest value to me. No wonder I feel so sorry about it today. I expect the kitbag has been broken open by now and everything looted. This would be done, firstly by Australians with the greed to sell stuff belonging to their fellowmen and secondly by Natives, who would loot what is left. Siamese People There are two types or Native Siam people; One lot are nasty and do not need much provocation to draw the knife quickly upon you. whether you are British or Japanese. This type are also men and women not very thoughtful about their bodies, Betel-nut drug is the downfall of the greater percentage of the women. They chew and spit till their mouths go red. teeth red, when constantly kept up thier mouths and teeth go black and eventually - no teeth but an ugly black line where they wore. Women become ugly and repulsive at an early age, perhaps 30 - 35 years. They marry as soon as puberty. The other class of Siamese Natives are almost white, definately pro-British, very kind and thoughtftil to the weary. They have respect and care for their own bodies. These people have beauty in no mean measure. They seem to be a superior Native people. (They may be of French- Indo-Chinese race).

Snakes & Wildlife in the Jungle
Wednesday 5th
Wet night at first, later fine. Today very warm again. The daily party arrived early - at about 6am. The track was quite dry. I saw a big snake - cobra with a collar or shroud around its neck. It went past us down the river this morning, keeping its head up above water like the bottom of a huge bottle. Joe has seen several go down the river in the past five or six days. They travel hundreds of miles in this manner without any apparent effort on the snake's part at all. There are very pretty butterflies here, some with black wings blue-tipped lovely oolour. The bird life in plentiful, and wonderful in song. The Jungle here throbs with life of birds and animals. Some kind of bird calls each night 'puss, puss, puss' as real as humankind. Then, just an strange but real, are the ones who call when everything quietens down at night 'OK, OK, OK' and answer one another. (At a later dates the 'OK' bird proved to be a large, yellow and blacks tree lizard). I hoped to be on the track to the next 15-mile Camp today as my septic leg is almost better. However, I am not leaving until tomorrow, May the 6th, I am afraid the poisoned leg may swell during the long march and I do not wish to have to fall out and have to, be carried by some other unfortunate. By tomorrow evening it may be quite OK. At lunchtime today, Joe and I caught 23 fish between us - quite a mixture of varieties - by means of some strong cotton baited each time with a grain of rice. Gift of Scissors - Depart Wompah Examined by a passing English Medical officer and advised to stay another day to give the ankles a chance to reduce in swelling and expell the poison. Here, an English Lieutenant Doctor asked if I would lend them a pair of surgical scissors which I had and was hoping to get home with in order to return them to the relatives of a late Nursing Sister. However, after the Sick Parade I was told they had lost the scissors in the grass. Bad luck. I believe there will be no use for Thai money after the next Camp. Although I have now been resting with this foot for 3 or 4 days, I still feel knocked out from the strain of the last excruciating march through those many miles of mud, My back feels as though I have carried a ton weight on it for years. What I have done to deserve this punishment I do not know, but I must not growl as I go through this firey trial. The sandflies are terrible here, into and on everything, enough to drive one mad. It rained heavy last night here and the first part of the night was spent very miserably, yet many were worse off than me. By the way, the fish Joe and I caught, I cleaned and Joe fried them about dark. They were lovely and we enjoyed them.

Friday 7th
Started off once again to the next Camp on Friday night, May the 7th. Another blasted thunderstorm before we started and, of course, the truck through the Jungle was sticky and slippery. I would keep stumbling, and fell down twice. Oh, it was oruel enough to make the hardest heart cry! I could feel the strength going out of me fast as I staggered on, slipping because I had no grips on my boots - just smooth rubber soles and heals. It was very dark and unless we were able to keep contact with the party ahead, we would easily be lost In the dense, prickly Jungle. Everything Is thorn, spikes and prickles in this dense undergrowth, and aloft also.We halted on the wet ground for 3 hours. 1 had only shorts. and shirt with no sleeves. so I shivered with the cold from the damp ground. We were given raw green peanuts to eat the previous day and I retained some to eat on that terrible march. These I ate, and results terrible diarrhoea. I was fortunate enough to have my pack carried by yak dray for 50c. It was a great help, but in future I will have to carry it myself as 3 unfortunate chaps had their packs stolen probably by the Thais who drove carts. Now these men are completely destitute except for what they stand up in.

Arrive Wonyon (Camp No 4)
Saturday 8th
I arrived at this Camp - No 4 - completely exhausted at about 8am Jap time. I believe we have yet to go over 100 miles through this Hellish hot Jungle past huge mountains so dense of Jungle growth. The food here is damnable. Poor rioe and watery vegetable stew with few vegetables - about 4 or 5 little Pieces - the rest ... well, lt's hard to explain. No tea to drink. The thirst is quenched by walking ½ to ¾of a mile to the river and filling bottles, and same can be clorinated here. We just lie out under bushes and when It rains, which it does almost daily in this Hell-fire of a place, you just get wet and sleep if possible in wet blankets and wait till morning to dry same. In the blasted burning heat of another day. 18 days out of Changi

Sunday 9th
Here, on account of the dissatisfation with poor food, I ate some raw onions which a chap gave me and I paid dearly for this. Last night I had a bad night of vomiting and this morning am running a fever. I was so exhausted I could scarcely walk at all. My bush mate, George Grittith from Newport, was a great help to me. I went on Sick Parade, where an English MO gave me 3 M & Bs. I feel womewhat better this afternoon, but am an weak as a kitten. I don't know what I've done to deserve this punishment. I was to have gone on again tonight another 15 miles, and I am sure I would have collapsed quarter of the way. However, the Doctor ordered me to go to A.1.F. R.A.P. to recover. I hope to be able to carry my pack to the next Camp tomorrow night. We have met up with some others of our forces who have been working up here in the Jungle for many months. There are to be many thousands of our chaps working on the new Railway from here to Rangoon, Burma. Some of the English and AIF POWs have been on the Railway here now for 10 months. The farther North we go now, the hotter it becomes - It's as hot an the 'Hobs of Hell' where we are now and we are surrounded by mountains and do not get any breeze. Thoughts of Home My loved ones at home would cry tears of blood if they saw or knew what I've been through in the last eighteen days since I left Changi prison camp, Singapore.

Monday 10th
Today is dear Kenneths birthday. May God's Blessing fall on him and his darling Mother who did bear him five years ago early this morning, God Bless all my beloved ones, especially as and while we are separated one from the other during this cruel sacrifice of Hellish war, God knows the trial, and pray it not be long. The Doctor has kept me yet another day that I may pick up from my bodily exhaustion. I am one of many who have become exhausted during this trial. Today Ken's birthday, with regret I sold the dear little toddlor's sailor-suit of corduroy so as to lighten the load on my weak body. Also, this enabled me to buy some food for strength. I was able to purchase two cooked duck eggs from the Natives, which - along with some salt which a Doctor advised - has given me some strength. Tomorrow night I am to make the next march - about 15 miles. One poor lad is almost blind. He is recieving as best treatment as can be procured, but is enduring much pain. There are over 80 sick and exhausted at this RAF, or Bush Depot under shrubs. Paul Cutts is in charge, Joe himself is yet back at the last Camp with many sick and euchred - as also is Cpl. Smith and Major Rogers. The day has been as hot as possible again. Water in so precious - has to be carried by patients half a mile from the river. This Camp will be emptied tomorrow night, I have lost much weight by the look and feel of myself, and by comments from others. I must weigh only about 9 stone if that.

From Wonyon to Tarso (Camp No 5)
Tuesday 11th
Hot, and the mulga much as visual. Water Is still a problem. We leave this Camp tonight, 11th. I feel much better through the spell, also the saline I drank and some Gaulla Molacca I was able to buy.

Wednesday 12th
Well, I had to carry my pack the 16 miles to Camp 5. God's Blessing the road way dry - no strength lost through mud, as previously has been the case, but it was Hell all the same. Several times the Guard kept going over the hour and as a result many men became exhausted and had to be assisted to walk. We stopped 2 ½ hours at about half way, where the Nips gave us a mug of water each, I struggled on, but was not able to keep with the Z Coy to which I was attached as not fit, (approximately 70 men from the RAP - bad feet, etc.). Yes, I know what hunger is, and I also know what a terrible experience thirst can be. Last night was terrible. Also, in the blackness of the night at about 3 or 4 am, I fell into a huge hole or crator about 4 feet deep in the road. Two Englishmen pulled me out, luckily unharmed, There were big holes in culverts and bridges and little stumps to trip and fall upon all along the distance of miles and miles. It's not roads here in this oountry, but rough-made tracks through the Jungle; but what the POWs trip on - big holes or stumps in the road are nothing to the Thais or Nips. There were wild animals here also - tigers, etc., A wild beast barked loudly in the mountain Jungle an we passed at about 3 a.m. and the Guards seemed to be extra cautious regarding wild animals. Day at Tarso - Bill Hornblow We eventually got here this morning at about 8.30 a.m.. I was stonkered - as many hundreds of others - and we were told we would have to move out again to the next 15 miles tonight in exhausted condition. I just felt terrible. I lay down to sleep but could not - worn out, and the heat of the cruel sun almost drove me mad. We all cheered like children when we were told we could stay until tomorrow night. Bill Hornblow, (English) kept with me and we are together tonight, camped under the stars as usual. I struggled to the river with Bill this aftemoon in the terrific heat and was glad to get a wash in that swift-flowing, picturesque river as it wound beneath those tall mountains. God Willing, I may battle through this joumey. I was unfortunate to lose my only dollar Thai money on the march last night. Now I am penniless. The food is not good, but better than last Camp - rice and vege stew and some onions. Bill has been good to me, gave me some ooffee he bought and has been a great comfort to me indeed. We have caught up with some of C and D Force who pioneered this particular area, roads and buildings, campsites, etc. English, Dutch and Australian. Many lives have been lost up here from dysentry, malaria etc, - about 70 English, some Australians, and over 100 Dutch and Javanese are buried in a rough cemetery in this area of Jungle, 75 miles from Banpong. Tonight I have made a water bottle out of a bamboo section which a Jap kindly sawed off for me.

Thursday 13th
I slept well last night but do feel tired and knocked out on awakening, I feel that my body calls out for food of nourishment for nerves and stamina, which I cannot get. Rice can never substitute the vital foods of value which we had before being taken prisoner, and therefore the suffering men are in no state to be forced to do these laborious marches of 15 miles by night burdened by our little gear, when we should be sleeping. Yes, life under some circumstances can be 'very hard', especially when, through fate, one falls into enemy hands. God, please give me food and strength to bear up and see it through, if you are willing. Today I sold my nickel Eversharp pencil and with the 50c. I was able to buy some duck eggs to help sustain life. I cooked 2 for dinner and ate with the rice and it has made me feel a new creature. There iswonderful life-giving food in an egg or two. I was able to buy flour and still have 10c. to get another egg tomorrow If possible after tonight's long and strenuous maroh. We leave here at 6.30 pm 13th or May. Loss of Blanket, Pliers and Bible Now, before we had to march off this night, I heard that those unable to walk were to be taken by motor truck to the next Camp, or further, Bill Hornblow was one of the sick to get the truck ride, so he offered to take some gear for me - namely, my blanket, a pair or pliers and my Bible. It helped me considerably not having this extra weight to carry on the mountains. But when I searched at the Camps ahead for Bill Hornblow and the others they were not to be found . . nor the blankets etc. I had to face the months ahead with the Monsoon rains without a blanket.

Friday 14th
Arrived at Camp No 6 at 7 am. - about 12 miles north, most of the track was steep, strenuous up-hill climbing for some miles and I felt my heart pounding under the strain and with mouth open breathed heavily - yes, it was a huge battle. We are staying here for only a few hours and then pushing off again at 6 p.m. - a further 12 - 13 miles without sleep; but I am standing up fairly well today because of the eggs I had yesterday. Marvellous answer to prayer yesterday. I prayed in solitude in the wild bush and in a few hours Christ came to my aid in a wonderful way . . . pencil - watch - money - Jap . . . Good Jap Guards last night.

Kenyu to Kinsayo
Saturday 15th
We set off for next Camp at 6 pm. yesterday without sleep. My shoulders ached under the-pack, especially when on stiff climbs. We have been, and still are, amidst tall mountains - the highest I've ever seen, sheer rock, in places hundreds of feet high. The bamboo in the Jungle is very tall, anything from 40 to 90 feet high and thousands and thousands of acres of it - endless miles of Bamboo Jungle, It gets very monotonous. The journey last night was much shorter than usual and at 1 a.m, we stopped until nearly daylight, when men slept. But on account of my clothes being ringing wet with sweat as usual, I caught a chill in the stomach with pains which turned to diarrhoea. I had no blanket so lay on a piece of canvas with cape over me and was soon shivering from my own sweat and heavy dew of night. Later, when I could stand it no longer, I forced my tired self to shift along the road to where the head of the column was sleeping and there was a fire to keep away tigers. Here, I was able to dry clothes and at last got about one hours' sleep.

Big Construction Camp
We marched off at first dawn and arrived here at 7.40 a.m.. The brook and river is 1 ½ miles away and I staggered down to wash in the cool, almost icy cold, mountain stream. This stream is near the river. This is Kinsayo, a big construction Camp where some thousands of POW's work for the Nippon Master, clearing big trees of the Jungle for railway line . . . on rice! There, have been many die here in this area. The Japs give one no peace to sleep - pull at you, wake you up perhaps several times per day wanting to buy your clothes. T hey have been annoying me today, always wanting to buy the pullover that Evelyn made for me. I found some of our chaps are laid up with septic, and otherwise crook feet.

Attacked by Jap Guard
Sunday 16th
We are to leave tonight at 8 p.m. for the next Camp - Wompin, Camp 8, 13 miles, I have slightly septic foot near big toe but must carry on. I went to the mountain brook this morning 1 ½ miles, and had a most refreshing bath under a waterfall cascade which did massage my tired body. It was so lovely I kept under it for about half an hour. Later, I went to a River House where I saw a Native in a small boat selling a few banana, some coffee and tins of biscuits. As I had only one dollar, I was taking time to decide which to buy, when lo . . . that familiar awful grunt from a Jap Guard. He sprang at me with fixed bayonet. He pointed and thrust the bayonet two or three times to within 2 or 3 inches of my throat and chest, then kicked me in the lower stomach, then made me stand nearer him while he hit me right and left in the face with open hand. He repeated this assault on any prisoner who came to buy anything to supplement the starvation diet. I bought some marmee at the Camp and some coffee, then came back here to camp and am now packing for the march tonight.

Monday 17th
Arrived here, Camp 8, at about 8am. We were allowed 4 hours sleep (if you could get it - the mosquitoes were terrible). The trip was not as strenuous as usual. Bad Camp here, but one great thing to be thankful for is that a beautiful cool stream flows by the Camp, but we are only resting for a few hours then push off again this evening. I have developed a septic toe, I shall bathe it in hot water, got it dressed and carry on. One poor chap has struggled on last night before recovering from malaria. He was exhausted.. Another marched very sick with diptheria - only reported it this afternoon. There isa big number on 'Sick Parade', as usual. I caught up with Bert Sweatman at this Camp - been here 8 days with septic legs. Just the slightest scratch or rub turns septic in this Jungle country. The Dutch have lost many comrades with sickness - dysentry and malaria, also some Australians. I believe they have been here months without any medical supplies at all.

Tuesday 18th
We left before sundown for the ninth march. Bert came with us. We had some steep climbing for a while then we had a good distance of flat and some ups and downs. As the night wore on, my foot became worse until I was quite lame after each stop, We were tortured with small midges - flying Insects which bit our ears and any part uncovered.- and many parts were unclad because of our circumstances. I'll never forget the Hell those insects gave us that night, They would drive one mad. Arrived at 8am. - Camp 9. This proved to be a most terrible place after such a strenuous march. We were put on fatigues that afternoon - sick and all. I was sent by an NCO Sgt. Bill Rossiter, who said he also had bad foot. But he did not have to do the work; He rested in the bush and did not come near us as we struggled working for the Nips clearing some of the Jungle for paths leading to their bore-hole latrines. I felt just terrible trying to work - weak with septic foot, and running a temperature of 100%. This is about the hardest Camp we have struck let. The Doctor said that night's march would give me hell with my septic foot and a swelling I had in the groin; but he advised me to try and march to get out of this Camp, as, if I got worse after the Doctor had marched on and only a handful of sick left. we may be made to do fatigues - sick or not. So I've cut a big piece out or my boot (at least, Bert has) and I will carry on tonight. We may, I believe, cross the Burma Border tonight. (Later, we realised we were yet far south of the Border.)

Tarkanoon - Officers beaten
Wednesday 19th
Arrived at Camp 10 today. We had a strenuous mountain climb some of the way. They are the most remarkable mountains I have ever seen - straight up. then sharp down, rather picturesque, some thousands of feet high - but I wish they did not exist here, for our sakes! We got wet through and halted before entering Camp, lit fires to dry our clothes - and were they wet! This Camp proved to be better for foods, some fish with the rice . . but the Japs!!! Two Officers were beaten up because a Jap wanted to buy a pipe and could not get one. Captain Wright was badly beaten with a stick and our CO Major was hit over the eye with a big stick and knocked out for some reason. It was a nasty sight, to see our officer treated thus.

Rain, Mud and Slush

Thursday 20th
Hell's Valley. Left for Camp 11. This trip I will remember as long as I live. I call this one the March of' the Valley or Death. Firstly, leaving Camp 10 necessitated going down a steep bank past the railway viaduct under construction by Japs and POW's. It began to rain in torrents. We left Camp wet through. I wore a pair of shorts and a towel over my shoulders to prevent pack straps cutting in. Wet through, we began to decend this dangerous slippery bank with gully one side and river the other. Slip, Slide, Slip, dangerous and terrifying. After a long period, everyone got through - some with sticks, others almost on hands and knees - falling into slush many times then crawling up sluchy incline. But that was only the beginning - the worst was to come. For a time, the rain eased off and the road dried a little but not long after it began to rain and thunder and lightning again. Slush was result. I have smooth rubber heals and soles slide, slip, slide, down, down, down, most times on my back. My load began to get heavier with water and mud. We passed an English Camp, it had only been there a short time but a small cemetery alongside where lie 25 to 30 comrades already in their graves. This is only one of many cemeteries in this country of the ill-fated POW. On we ploughed through the mud, men falling backwards, forwards, always into the filth, soaked to the skin - and now our packs soaked.

There was danger to life all along that Jungle, mud roads. The bridges were 6 or 8 feet wide, very poorly made, with holes in them and no hand-railing to keep anyone from falling. If not very cautious one could easily slip over into the gorge and creek below - a sheer drop. One chap slipped and nearly fell down. At one place, it was a big climb up alongside sheer rocks on one side and river 40 to 50 feet below on the other - with big pieces of broken rock to march over. We marched up steep sides of newly-formed roads and there were many partly-constructed viaducts, At 12.30am we got to half-way stop, got water and pushed on - t I am, I think it was - and the dangers grew. One could scarcely stand up at all, up steep hills then suddenly down, sliding, sliding all the times falling into the slush, gear going different directions into the slush . . . and nearly always at the bottom of the sliding down was another dangerous bridge with no protection from the precipitous gorge, The moon could not give us her light because of the terrible heavy rain that kept falling, and the heavy clouds which dragged on the mountains through which we battled along.

The lightning would dazzle one to blindness and was most dangerous, especially at these death-trap bridges made of saplings. Straight up from these bridges were sharp hills which would sometimes send you slipping back, or flat on the roads. Along with these dangers, there were Hellish flies - small midges, insects like flying ants - which kept constantly biting our ears, neck, nose, etc and were eternal torments. Throughout that black Thursday night these Insects would bite unmercifully just when one was slipping dangerously and would cause one to clap and tear at cars, neck or nose with the hand that carried the bamboo stick for helping one along. Often in dangerous spots I would let go of that faithful friend, the stick, used for probing the slime before me, to rub my tortured ears with it instead, and so would fall behind the front ones who had nails and leather soles on their boots. It would take me a long tIme to catch up - seemingly eternity. During one of these reverses, when I was by myself (but for some chaps who were away back at my rear), I was startled by the shock of seeing the naked body of a Siamese Native lying dead beside the roads. He had not been dead long and appeared to have been murdured. Soon after this, passing on, I crossed another most dangerous bridge with a deep gorge beneath, I had to cross in the blackness of night with great caution, afraid to step too smartly because or the frightening slides of my rubber soles and heels skidding in that slimey mud. This Black night of my life just simply made any hardships I've ever had in life before seem like nothing. Every man said it was the worst night ever. Some felt it more than me because of the state of their health, poor chaps.

Another Wet March
Friday 21st
We have arrived at Camp 11 and do leave here tonight without sleep, just a rest of about 8 hours in bush camp. I am trying to dry wet clothes - boots, socks, shirt, etc before we go on again tonight on a further 12 miles - roughly. I hope and pray that there will be no rain tonight. I do not wish to go through the hell of last night again - never. Bert Sweatman was with me last night and he suffered extra with dysentry. He is very, very weak today. Also, Jim Cole with malaria. I wrote the above pages, Friday 21st of May, 1943. From here, I did not have time or energy to continue this diary but, as I am now at the destination for the time being and the long cruel marches are over, I can write my account of the rest of that terrible journey a fter leaving Camp 11. We have marched 196 miles, continuing from April 27th to May 25th.. We left Camp 11 in an exhausted condition without sleep. From here, we had a most strenuous march through slush and mud. At one stage we found it necessary to halt and wait for the moon to rise, otherwise, men would probably have been injured by various objects along the terrible Jungle road - holes in road and bridges, etc . . . it was as dark as pitch. I shall not forget that night, it was a 15-mile march. We pulled up at a waiting camp on a hill up a dangerous road. The insects nearly drove us mad. We were about to have two hours sleep here, but - oh, too good to be true! Down came the terrible rain. Wet through as usual we took off again and the climbs up slippery hills in the dark was terrifying. Men would try to climb some treacherous patches and slide back. I was forced, in one bad place, to crawl hands and knees and feet, digging my fingernalls into slippery mud on the hillside, and in this manner, I was able to negotiate that Hellish climb. It was this night that a Nip Guard pocketed my watch in this case, a Korean. He asked to see it, and very reluctantly I let him look at it, then, as I feared, he would not give it back. I explained that I needed my watch to take the pulses of sick men, but he ignored my pleas. If there had been a Japanese Officer handy, I would have reported this theft, but none about so I lost my watch. Later, this Guard gave me $12.

Konooita - First Outbreak of Cholera
Saturday 22nd
We eventually arrived at Camp 12 at about 10 am, 22nd of May. The Jungle going was so laborious that night, it seemed like 20 miles to everyone, although only 15. At this Camp, Konooita, we saw interned Natives - possibly Burmese - and a little previous to this, up at or near where we spent the day, the Japanese gave the 29th Battalion permission to chase the 'boongs' with sticks, right out of the Camp, because of their filthy habits which had caused cholera to break out and made the river water quite dangerous for use unless boiled. Forty Natives have died here of cholera and have passed the disease on to our men. In the last few days we have lost 5 Australians, their deaths caused by the above disease. Tom Nash had it and was not expected to live, but now is beating it, I hear. (P.S. Later, he died of pneumonia). Colonel Harris at this stage reported the matter to the Colonel of the Japanese Guards and asked that movements cease until cholera epidemic should be got under control. Though very sympathetic, the Japanese C.O. seemed suppressed somewhat by the Engineering Organization of Japan. Therefore, cholera continued its deadly work, and it was not until some days later that our Doctors were given a limited amount of anti-cholera vaccine. It undoubtedly saved many lives; although I knew of cases who died of cholera even after 1and 2 injections - and one case I knew of in particular, a man who suddenly took ill and died within 36 hours, although he had his 3rd injection of anti-cholera vaccine since arrival at the Camp. Well before we left Camp 12 it began to rain like fury again, just when we were expecting and hoping for a dry track for the night. With no shelter and no ground sheet I was soon wet through and shivering cold. Got a little dry and some warmth from a fire in the woods, and with no sleep (or rather, 1 hours' sleep) that day, we pushed off. I had some champion falls that night - must have fallen about 12 times into holes of mud and water. One fall put a quantity of mud and slush right into my pants. This was a very strenuous night altogether, but with the thought that the coming Camp might be our last, we pressed forward.

Taimonta - Roofing Huts with banana Leaves
Sunday 23rd
At about 8 or 8.30 a.m. arrived at a most terrible Camp - huts without roofs. This was a rough base depot where you remained for a day or more and were then sent to your destination. tiers, one had to not to work and build a roof of banana leaves. It was a disheartening game, almost falling to sleep and trying to make a roof of leaves which, as soon as heavy rain came again, would quickly leak and one's self and gear saturated including this book, which was wet for days before I could get the opportunity to dry it. Before night fell properly, I fixed my sheet up over the shelter - for now the roof of banana leaves had collapsed. It was not much good anyway, Ned Ansill. shared his blanket with me, while I shared my sheet overhead for protection from the rain, also my half- mosquito net we put on the wet floor to lie on. A little before midnight we eventually got his blanket about half dry, then lay down covered by this half wet blanket - wet below, wet at sides, and a sheet struggling to keep most of the rain out above - lay down to sleep after having travelled 4 nights and days without sleep . . . and I did have some sleep in such wet and uncomfortable circumstances! It was absolutely the roughest and toughest position I've ever had to face - lie down wet with no dry blanket. I got some warmth from N. Ansill's body, and he from mine but he hung well on to most of the blanket and the bamboo beneath me was wet, and horny with knots which hurt. Ansill's blanket being wet - and belonging to a chap like him - it smelt very sour, and would have been much wetter had I not sat up for long out in the bush by a fire drying it till almost midnight. I found dear old Ed. Waddington here In a rough Hospital which leaked the rain. Poor Ed. - septic foot and legs - he was like a skeleton, He too, had been through hell.

Monday 24th
In the rain next morning we had to shift our gear to another roofless hut. This necessitated again going through the misery of climbing uphill deep into the Jungle for fresh banana leaves. (Wild bananas - no good to eat, full of big seeds - not cultivated.) We needed loads of armfuls of these, so more trips into the wet Jungle until I had a roof of leaves. But when it rained in the afternoon, some parts of it leaked and gear that had been dried soon got damp again. In fact nearly everything I had was wet and I was drying things by a fire after tea when we received orders that we had to get up out of bed at 2.30 a.m. and leave at 4 a.m. for the next Camp. Well it was the dizzy limit to take off with all wet - what a load! Yet I was glad to do so, as to spend another night trying to sleep in the wet may have finished one off with pneumonia or some other complaint. There were already 200 men in this Camp Hospital and some Australians had died, even during my short stay of 36 hours here. I was therefore glad to be off, even though wet through to the skin and all my gear wet - pack, sheet, towel and all - oh, they were a load!

Before I left here, I had my Bramac Cape taken, so now I am minus raincoat and blanket, and have only one sheet with not even a bag to face the cold and monsoon rains of Burma with. However, I suppose it's all In the life of one who falls P-0-W. We were called from our wet beds at 2.30 am. and had some rice and onion water (later, the rice upset all hands as it was musty). We were to leave at 4 am. but were kept on parade in the rain until 5.45 am. I was anxious to get off as, being wet through, I began to shiver with cold and get minor pains in my joints. The majority had waterproof capes, but there were several like myself wet to the hide, The moon did not shine because of the rain and we slid everywhere In the mud. The sandflies bit our ears and faces and scalps and just gave us hell. It was torture, and to stop for a few minutes rest was worse. This is no exaggeration in any form, but rather under emphanised . . . and this Includes the whole of the written pages of this trip since we left Changi In those steel, oven-hot, rice truck. The conditions and the circumstances 1 find hard to describe.

Tuesday 25th
This Proved to be the last march, a long one, and many were exhausted and just tottered along about 1 mile or a little more in the rear. One man collapsed with exhaustion. Captain Juttner also gave in when we got to the Big Camp at lunch-time that day, (25th May, 1943). Major Hunt was here at the Hospital with many patients. But Bob Cairms, Bob Owen (Hospital worker) and many other Red Cross men who came up here to nurse the sick, were out on road and railway jobs. I saw many who called to me an we marched by. We had rice here and at about 3 o'clock, we took off again for our final camp - Camp 14. We passed through Shimo Songkrai, Thai for Lower River. After a time, we crossed a big river where hundreds of English were camped and big constructlon was under way for a railway viaduct. Two or three Engishmen were taken past us to some small Hospital. Oh, they did look like Death... I don't know what the disease, but it looked like the last stages of malaria, they wore so jaundiced and wasted almost to dolls. What a tragedy! We arrived at our destination about 8 p.m. and Natives got out of a hut. We crammed in, 12 to a bay, and got a sleep, we had not had for weeks - thankful for a roof overhead.

Wednesday 26th
Next day, rain got under the shed. Sun came out and dried a lot of gear from my pack. But mildew had got at my writing set, this diary, pay book, etc, and worst of all, the lovely Evening Gown that I've treasured and kept all along in A1 order that one day I may be able to give it to my Evelyn - God Willing. I dried the garment as best I could but it had mildew stain in one place. Terrible shock: Natives who get sick go out a few yards or chains from others and lie in wet and cold till death! I saw it myself, two dying first night we got here. They were dying in the next hut too, moaning all night. Later, they were taken Into the bush to die, then, when they were dead, were hardly covered with soil. . . Dear God Above, this is terrible. I also saw a woman skeleton staggering back to the Native camp with a stick, from the place in the bush (a few chain from our hut) where she had been taken to die. She must have recovered sufficient strength and was endeavouring to fight death. I do not know whether she was accepted by her kin or not; but It was a tragic night and a deplorable state of affairs. Among the Natives there Is no such thing an medicine or doctor, as far as I can gather, and it's no wonder that they die so rapidly from various diseases. They had not the slightest idea of hygiene or sanitation - no lavatory at all - just leave their excreta outside their huts anywhere for flies to carry germs to food. They are just filthy, and the flies that are bred . . . they exist In millions! It would he no wonder If a terrible epidemic of disease broke out here in this new Camp. I hope the Natives will be sent on to a camp by themselves. Hundreds or them - men, women, girls, boys - just lie down to sleep together on the bamboo floors of their huts, and the filth outside the huts . . . it's hard to describe.

Septic Foot
Thursday 27th
However, after one day's rest we were put to work under japanese Guards to build a rough road from here to Burma. I worked in bare feet because of no socks and sore feet. I thought Red Cross A.A.M.C. Personel would be used to care for the sick - as laid down by Geneva Convention - but no! out with the rest I was sent. I used a heavy pick and shovel navvying on the road. First day we felt done after a few hours, on the poor tucker and not recovered from 196-mile march without a skerrick of meat . . . (Yes, one place, at Camp 3 where Joe was in charge of M.I.R. I got some meat in rice one meal, if I remember rightly.)

Friday 28th
Second day's work (28th May) we worked on the construction of the railway road, forming earth up to a certain level. I was exhausted before 6.30 p.m. when we knocked off. I dug earth all day. I had much pain with foot and, taking boot off, found it to be poisoned.

Saturday 22th
I saw the now English M.O. who arrived yesterday. He has given me 2 days No Duty and told me about hot foments to bring down swelling and septic. About 40 others sick, including my friend Alan Schliebs next to me with acute diarrhoea. (Also 2 days No Duty - he is recovering.) He helps me get boiled water for my septic foot, I sleep with my friend, Alex Miller who also has no blanket but has a sheet like myself, so we share and share alike and thus keep each other comparatively warm at night.

Sunday 30th
My second day In R.A.P, - also Alan and about 40 other sick. My foot has gone down. Alan put a hot foment on before I went to bed and another just now, He is a true friend indeed, I shall not forget his kindness. I have smaller septic sores which suppurate on leg and both feet, blood must be gone bad - completely out of order with this forced, unnatural existence. Many of us have septic sores wherever we get a slight scratch, rub or knock. There is gloom over our Camp today, for we have lost our first comrade of this particular Camp. He died In this hut after breakfast time - malaria, I heard - another fallen in the cause of that which we left . . . Home and Country, God Bless and Strengthen those at Home when they shall learn the truth . . . those friends and families of the many fallen POWs. I am to go out to work tomorrow. I wish I could buy a sackbag to wear and to put on over sheet at night; but as in Christ do I trust, therefore I feel sure he will provide. The young man who died was cremated in the bush about 100 yards from here by men who were off duty, (not well). Files of dry bamboo were used to consume the body. So far, our force at this Camp in only about 350 strong. We have no Medical Supplies for the sick, except some M & Bs a little acriflavin, and about a dozen bandages, We are surely in a bad plight. I wish - but it's no use, though - that the Nippon would allow Red Cross supplies to come in. Yes, we definately are up against it and the conditions and hardships would make the stoutest heart cry with tears of blood.

Monday 31st
I will be at work again today. I have nothing to keep the rain off, so often just go in my shorts. I have no socks, but while my feet are bad Alex Miller has kindly lent me an odd pair which give me a good measure of comfort. I tried to buy a sackbag to wear, an I have now only one shirt (one was stolen), and a bag would keep me a little warm at night, since I have only a sheet and half a mosquito net and 1 towel nearly worn out. A piece of soap as big an a shilling, a toothbrush nearly done, 3 worn blades and the razor complete my toilot, I worked at a stone quarry, using bar and, alternatively, sledge hammer in the morning; and carting stone on a stretcher in the afternoon. I was so tired when I got back to Camp at about 7-30 P-m, - too tired to go to the creek to wash. Alan poured some water out of his bottle over my hands. I lay down. There are 2 very sick men here within a few feet of me. We sleep almost alongside the sick in this hut. One seems to have cholera, poor chap. He collapsed today. Was a cook from 2/3rd Battalion, named Smith.

Introduction | April 1943 | May 1943 | June 1943 | July 1943 | August 1943 | September 1943
October 1943 | November 1943 | December 1943 | 1944 | Reflections | Image Gallery

© 2004 - 2010 The Family of Pte GBW Skewes