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Private GBW (Glen) Skewes

 Glen Skewes Changi Diary

O C T O B E R    1 9 4 3

'Courage' and 'God' symbols

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October 1943

News of Move South - Off Sick
Friday, 1st October, 1943
I have been carrying on with the work of specialling with extreme suffering. I've had Jungle fever and some diarrhoea for the past 5 days. I've been bearing up, fighting against the fever but, instead of me throwing it off by keeping on going, it has been wearing me down until I could stand it no longer. So, amid the rush of yesterday, I reported to Capt. Taylor who immediately took my temperature and put me off duty to go to bed. I am thankful for this. There are now another 2 amputees - each with a leg off. Harry Griffith from North Melbourne, and an Englishman Jock Simpson - whose leg had gone gangrene and there is little hope of him living. Very sad. He leaves a wife and 2 children at Newcastle. Tom Simpson, the aborigine, died suddenly the other day. Men are now dying in great numbers. The death roll, caused by malnutrition, is now titanic. Word also comes to hand that 300 of our men have died at the Bush Hospital in Burma. Now, at midday, we are told of more of our comrades who left Changi with us and have died since, among them Tom Winters who helped nurse me of pneumonia at Balcombe in 1940, and A. Chessell, and Tom Quinn. We are about to move from here to Kanchanburrai any day now. The remaining sick, about 1,500 of F Force alone will be set up there. Others, able to walk, will be sent back to Changi. I expect we will go there when the sick are better. Cpl. G. Braham, the lad who cut his wrists in attempted suicide the other day, died about 2 days ago - but not from the above cause. He has had dysentery a long time, as well as being dispirited - Poor Gus. My legs still ache, also sore behind eyes from this foreign fever.

[No entry for 2nd or 3rd. - H.S.]


Officers Rob Men again - Pay and Food

Monday 4th
I am still off with Jungle fever - far from well yet - muscles of legs sore and tired. Capt. Taylor has given me 2 more days - today and tomorrow. Pte. Wookie is very sick with dysentery but is not fighting much, I think. The Officers have robbed many chaps again with their money; but bigger and more obvious is there terrible daylight robbery of our Gualla Malacca and oil and biscuits and some tinned fish which we were supposed to get. Oh yes! They had their 4 tins of fish, biscuits and plenty of Gaulla and oil before other ranks could get theirs. Result: many got nothing out of this particular payday buy at Neichki. I got ¾ - pint of pig oil for $1. The food is back to just terrible at present -just damnable - a pig would turn his nose up and look if it was given to him - especially the midday meal. Jack Wake and many others died yesterday, and the day before - also Pte. S. Coffield . Cremation chaps are very busy.

Tuesday, 5th
My dear wife's birthday today - 30 years. It makes one shed quiet tears. But surely, as time does march on. The day will come when we shall unite - God Willing. I have had a rough night - diarrhoea and vomiting - because I made a hash out of last night's rice and whitebait and re cooked it with 3 spoons of pig oil. Allan Schleibes had half but he was quite OK. Oh, I was sick, and still have foul stomach today. My stomach must be very weak.

Wednesday 6th
New guards marched in today; but we've no immediate word of the move yet. Tragedy occurred: Pte. Wookie was sick of dysentery and much was being done for him but he would not fight. [Alex even paid $8½ out of his own money for a tin of milk for him.] Then, last night sometime between 10.30 and 12 midnight, Wookie committed suicide. When Barney looked to see how he was, at midnight, he found his body lifeless - bled to death. Wookie was attached to AAMC. He had been given a sheep station [small, but good, I believe] at Snake Valley near Ballarat. The days are now very hot and the nights extra cold. I am feeling better and will be starting work again tomorrow.

[No entry for 7th or 8th. - H.S.]


Lectures in Wards - Lice Terrible - Amputees
Saturday 9th
Still specialling the amputees. We lost one of them last evening -. George, the Englishman, died of diarrhoea and malnutrition. A great pity, for his stump was healing up well. He died during teatime. Cpt. Swartz gave an interesting lecture last night in Ward 2, about oil and its refining. He used to work for the Shell Oil Company. Padre Splain gave a most interesting talk in Ward 1, on some of his experiences in the last war in France, his return home, and what the Repatriation did after the war. I feel a lot better now the Jungle fever has left me. I am now very very thin though - never been so thin in all my life - also weak. I also have berri-berri and tinea in one place. The lice are terrible, existing in millions. I have lumps from their bites over almost every part of my body - as have most chaps here. The itching is dreadful and sometimes one has to rub or scratch the bites till early hours every morning. Men and buildings are crawling alive with lice. Norm McKenzie has been in Hospital with haemorrhoids.

Sunday, 10th
Weather very pleasant today. Roy Paton died at 6.a.m. - ulcers and malnutrition. Pte. Starr has gone mental and has to be kept outside in a tent, 4 or 5 men to hold him down when drugs wear off. Many chaps with terrible ulcers in Ward 2, and many - like Fred Guilford - looks like death itself. My patients, Bill Mead, Jack Simpson, and Harry Griffith [who had a flower stall in the Victoria Market], are all doing fairly well; but Harry is still on sulfanilamide's. His wound is still infected and smells.

Monday 11th
245 men have died in this Camp in the past 4 months but the majority during the last 6 or 7 weeks. I believe there are now over 2,000 - something like 2,400 out of the 7,000 who marched up here 4 months ago who have died of malnutrition and exhaustion. Some of them were sick and 3rd class men before they left Changi.

Tuesday, 12th
For a change, no one died last night. The weather is very mild. Lice and bugs terrible - the itchy sores left by them almost unbearable. Mr. Euroe gave an interesting talk last night on hitch -hiking and jumping the train throughout America. Padre Splain took a short Service before dark last night between the Hospital and the Jungle. It was very good.

Wednesday, 13th
The days warm, nights cool. Everyone has the rash from bites of lice, bugs etc.. One cannot sleep till late because of this itching. I got some iodine put on mine each day by Barney Murphy and I do his in return. The lumps and pimples are terrible. The days are monotonous. We expect to be shifted day after day but the shift does not come and men are dying in great numbers - cannot bear out with their agonising ulcers till we shift. They are just slipping out of this life, night and day. Poor Fred Guilford is dying now of the toxic condition caused by his terrible ulcer. He is sinking fast and may be gone before dark. Also Bob Bolt appears to be slipping back - he has pneumonia. I am still looking after the amputee cases. Cigarette issue of 12 packets today. Although they are a cheap brand, they are most acceptable. I wonder what came over our Captors! Cpl. Smith died last night - ulcer and debility. There are now 250 crosses on the hill at our Camp. 88 Australians and 317 English have died at the Burma Hospital. Also 3 more of our AGH boys - Gerald Letwin of Melbourne [dysentery and ulcers], Ron Wilson of Sydney [dysentery and ulcers], Gordon Marchbank [dysentery and berri-berri]. Major Hunt is sick with malaria. This type of malaria in Burma is of a most severe type indeed, so we are told.

[No entry for 14th, 15th or 16th. - H.S.]

First Locomotive Passes - Lice, Maggots, Death
Sunday 17th
No definite word of shift yet and many men, especially the sick, are very despondent. Many seriously ill are just fed up and throwing in their bundles and dying at a terrifying rate. 9 died yesterday. Poor Fred Guilford from WA passed on; and quite a shock to me was the death of Sgt. Sam Atkinson at 6a.m yesterday. Yesterday, for the first time, a steam a steam locomotive and a truck load of Nips was sent past here to test the line. It went back towards Burma later in the afternoon - about 5.30p.m. The itching is terrible and - most serious - I get very little sleep because of it. The heat makes it fifty times worse. The food has improved. Prawns and some sweet potatoes are put in for a stew, but are crawling with maggots [big]! You just have to put them aside and go on eating to keep strength for life. I am still with the amputee cases. Bedsores are crook and under these circumstances cannot be avoided - all that can be done is relieve them wherever possible. Bill Mead's arm is almost healed. The two leg stumps look well - considering.

[No entry for 18th or 19th. - H.S.]

Wednesday, 20th
Days hot as fire. Lice and bugs torturing at night - torment - scratch, it's terrible. We lost poor Jack Simpson last night - malnutrition and diarrhoea - very sad. His stump was doing well but he had an awful pressure sore. Left a wife and 3 children in Newcastle. I am to dress and irrigate Harry Griffith's stump and ulcer and thigh often - smells terrible. He is fighting hard. My nerves are not good. I feel strain of circumstances and work and malnutrition and monotony - seemingly ever caged in as a prisoner.

[No entry for 21st. - H.S.]

Canteen Set up - Amputees doing Well
Friday, 22nd
Still on specialling. Bill Mead - arm amputated 3 weeks ago - was assisted out into the sun today. He is improving rapidly - bandages off and wound healing beautifully. The area of berri-berri in his feet has contracted since injections of vitamin B1. Harry Griffith fighting on bravely. Chap named Rogers died today - ulcer. Vic Warden died 2 days ago - tragedy - hardly ate at all. Young man, 26 years, brought in and collapsed and died in a few minutes - like a skeleton from malnutrition and exhaustion. It's something terrible. Men are dying in great numbers, night and day. Allan still on hygiene. We talk of future each night. Weather terribly hot. Diarrhoea rampart, also skin rash from malnutrition. Lice beyond expression.

Saturday, 23rd
Very hot. Much the same as yesterday. Stretcher party very busy night and day taking away the remains of young men who have died. To date, there are 311 men died of malnutrition in this Camp alone - 166 English and 145 Australian. The cemetery is barely 200 yards from here and is ever facing us from the hill. Our position is terrible, most people very despondent and melancholy.

Sunday, 24th
Ditto, as far as work's concerned. Mjr. Stevens pleased with Harry Griffith's stamp and pressure sore clearing up well. Many men went to Camp 2 today and bought some stores for a small canteen - oil and Gualla, etc. - purchased with the pay of 6d. per day and will be a great comfort for a few days. Dreadfully hot. Lice and deficiency rash itch terrible. A little canary seed came through. Deaths continue Endlessly - I have a heart attack

Monday 25th
Don Phillips died this morning - it's terrible to see young men pass like this. The day much the same as usual.

Tuesday, 26th
Young Barry Smith of our AGH died today. There are now 315 crosses on the hill. Many hundreds of Natives moving back to Burma.

Wednesday 27th
Last night I dreamt that Mjr. Turner of Sydney [Changi Dr.] examined me and told me to go easy as I had cardiac berri-berri. I went to the creek this morning about 9.45a.m.to get water, prior to starting on my patients - proper time was about7.30a.m - and on returning with water in bamboo. I came up the 8ft. ladder to my quarters for a few minutes. All so suddenly I received a definite heart attack. It began to thump and race. Don Murray checked me by the minute hand of his watch and instead of normal 72, my ticker was doing 140 to the minute. I was almost gasping for breath. Doctor Taylor put the stethoscope on heart and took pulse. It was a disorder named techni cardiac. He pressed his thumb into a gland on the side of my neck, then told me to bear hurt whilst he pressed my right eye in against socket of head with thumb as hard as he could. It hurt very much, but had the desired affect, for the action of my heart came back to normal. He told me to take work easy today and not to worry or there would be future detriment to my heart. I still feel a bit off, but have eaten fair for midday. I will rest as much as I can this afternoon.

Thursday, 28th
I find it hard in breathing today since acceleration of yesterday. Diarrhoea again too, but mild. Harry Griffith's stump healing well now. I am very pleased - as also are Mjr. Stevens and Cpt.Taylor. A little rain fell last night.

[No entry for 29th. - H.S.]

October Ends with No News of Shift South
Saturday, 30th
Cold last night. Poor Slim Johnson died, after battling hard to live. He got over cholera some time ago, but lately very debilitated. Malnutrition got him down, and diarrhoea, then bronchial pneumonia and he went off very suddenly. Young men are still dying in big numbers. There is nothing much to relieve the suffering and monotony. We hope a move will take place soon - and keep on hoping against hope. I still do not feel too good - some palpitation, so am taking it as easy as possible. Still Specialling 2 amputees. I had an interesting talk with MacDonald this morning about land in Queensland around MacKay and St Laurence near where his dairy farm is situated. I am very interested and will surely give it much consideration.

Sunday, 31st
Everything much the same. Colonel Kappe returned from Neichki with some small 'Canary Song'. Some yak stew for lunch, and tea - fresh thank God! I am thankful October has gone [or will be at midnight tonight]. What an awful dreary morbid month of prison experience. I do hope future is brighter and happier.


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