I worked in these Wampo Camp conditions for about six weeks and then a party of us was detached and sent to a place named Kin Sayot, about 150 km from Wampo. It was a bad march as we were all sick men and had to march (walk) throughout the night in monsoon rain all the way. It was also very dangerous for we followed the newly forged rail track which was just then a path through the jungle. Over the deep ravines the Japanese had placed 14” x 14” timber beams for the rails to go on and we had to walk across these in the dark. It was the longest thirty feet that I have ever walked, carrying what few belongings we could, having to throw most away for we needed both arms free to balance ourselves. God was with us for nobody fell.
I remember there was a little guy amongst us whom we called ‘Snowball’ because he was very blonde and small. All through the night one of us would call “Is Snowball okay?” The answer would return “Yes, I’m okay” and we would go on trudging through the mud.
Just before daylight we arrived at the new camp. At least there were bamboo huts in which we collapsed and just slept, although we were wet, dirty and very hungry. We never were issued with a blanket but just slept in what we stood in, in sheer exhaustion.
Nevertheless, we were soon enough rousted up and organised into working parties whose job it was to cut down trees, debark them, and with cross cut saws cut them to required length and square shape which was very hard and tiring work. With my ulcerated leg there were times when I could sit and still use the cross cut saw, but if a Jap was on the other end he would work very fast and my arms would ache so I had to call halt. The Jap would laugh and call me names. I learned not to mind this haranguing and used the time to rest my arms and restore breath. This was how we had to tolerate our captors.
On other occasions we had to chop down small trees, approximately eight inches in diameter and carry them to the Dry Bridge Building site. We also cut large bamboo, about three inches in diameter, assisted by a group of Chinese. Bamboo is very dangerous to cut. When full of water it is very heavy, and if not cut right through then the outer skin will cut like a razor. It was my misfortune to receive severe lacerations to three fingers. I had to think quickly as blood was fast flowing. I held my wrist tightly and ran to the Jap’s camp, about 500 yards away where there was a white flag with a red cross upon it. I made directly for this ‘haven’ but had to pass the sentry at the gateway. As I approached he lowered his rifle toward me and swore as I hurried past him, regardless, making for the hut under the Red Cross Flag. I went straight in and sat down, whereupon a Jap in a white coat, without one word, prepared a basin of warm water and Dettol and placed my hand in it – oh the relief. He the carefully replaced the pared skin, bandaged the hand and placed it in a sling, and breaking his silence, said “Campo”. I blinked and thanked him but explained that the sentry was very angry with me. The doctor looked toward the gate and then turned me around and painted something on my back in Iodine then indicated that I should go. When I got to the gate, the guard, who was in frenzy with anger against me, I turned and let him look at my back. I never did find out what this indicated, but the guard’s mood changed instantly and he bowed low as I passed him by.
However, all this stress took it’s toll, what with my leg ulcer, which was by now four inches in diameter, the loos of blood from my lacerated hand and the frequent malaria attacks. Every man in the camp had malaria for we had no drugs to combat it. I was put into the camp’s hospital hut, but the worst was yet to come. Cholera broke out in the camp and took its toll. I was lying in hospital, with my leg raised up to prevent loss of blood and fluid and men all around me were dying of cholera. Men on each side of me, with whom I had spoken only the day before, died and their place filled by another until there were only about ten of us left in the hut, out of approximately one hundred. Either I was very lucky or I was immune to cholera, though I was very sick.