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Private GBW (Glen) Skewes

 Glen Skewes Changi Diary

R E F L E C T I O N S

'Strength' and 'Death' symbols

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Back from the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Well at last we were put in Sclerang Barracks. We were taken with our remaining gear and loaded on a long tray truck which was pulled along the bitumen road by prisoners of war who were not sent up to Thailand. The truck was minus its engine and gearbox but had big wide tyres. We restted for some days and as I said previously, the CO said on parade, "These men have come through a torrid experience, out of the valley of the shadow of death, do what you can to help them".

The signing of the "Non escape" Form

About this time I got jungle sores all over my body and was put into hospital. I was given Sulphonomide, where it was got from I do not know but it cleared up the jungle sores very quickly. Being in Scerang Square where we were nursing the sick, brought my mind back to some many months ago when, before we were sent to Thailand jungle near Burma. The Japanese got a brain wave, to try to force us POW's to sign a "non escape form". They had erected a tall barbed wire fence around the barracks (used by the British before the second world war ). When they asked us to sign the non escape form we refused and the Japs forced many thousands of men, mostly Australian POW's into an enclosure. Now with the small enclosure and buildings filled to capacity and beyond, hundreds of our men had to stay in the hot sun day and night in top of the concrete buildings. I was nursing at the hospital, Dysentary and Diptheria, and when I looked towards the enclosure about 3/4 mile away, at a distance it looked like two buildings loaded with slack crows. They were allowed down to ground level when nature called and to make matters worse, the Japs made men dig latrine trenches within a few feet of the make shift cooking facilities, and the smell from the trnches was beyond description. This situation continued for several days until our officersbeing so anxious about the latrines being so close to the cookhouse, called a meeting of the men in the enclosures and those nursing the sick in the hospital to sign the non escape form but 'under duress'. The Officers said that if numbers like that were incarcerated such as that, an epidemic of Dysentery would break out and result in loss of many lives. We all signed the forms and so the Japanese let all the prisoners out of the confined enclosure.

An epidemic of Diptheria

Now at this time in 1942 an epidemic of Diptheria broke out. I complained of a sore throat and a swab was taken and it was found that I had Diptheria. Along with several other POW's I was put in an isolation building and was treated with weak Hyperchlor, 1:1000 gargle. I soon recovered and in a few days was well enough to nurse again and I was put to work on some severe cases of Diptheria. Many had the disease in the crutch and not the throat and the scrotums were in aterrible state. The Disease caused the skin on the scrotum to break and turn green and exude terrible matter. We applied sterilized lint soaked in Hyperchlor 1:1000. The doctors had it carried into Changi Hospital when we were taken prisoners. Along with 3 or 4 nurses I applied the soaked lint to the poor unfortunate POW's over their affected scrotums twice daily using Spencer Wells forceps, but after a few days of such treatment to these men it caught up with me again and I had a sore throat. I was put off duty and treated and was ordered not to go on to that ward again but to go back to looking after the dysentery patients. At that time we had 300 Dysentery patients in 1 builing with 3 floors. Many patients recovered but many passed away. One I remember was quite a young man with severe Dysentery. His name was Charlie Fasham from Barum, Victoria. He was a lovely soul who never complained and never used a course word. His only expression was "Oh blast No". What a trategy for a young man to die in such circumstrances. I was asked by the doctor to go to the post mortem for Charlie but after a few moments I had to leave. Many of my mates, one from Ballarat, Bert Swedman, and one from Durham Lead, Leo O'Locklan went this way.


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