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.