Jump to content
Gentleman's Military Interest Club


Recommended Posts

Above are groups to WWI PoWs who were either interned in Holland or in Germany and some of whom died while incarcerated and were buried in Germany. This one varies as the recipient was so severely wounded that he was transfered to Switzerland. In all, 219,000 prisoners were exchanged and some were sent to neutral Switzerland on grounds of ill health. Internment conditions were very strict in Switzerland but softened with time........ Approval for departure in no way meant permanent freedom but instead transfer to Konstanz, where a medical commission verifying the prisoners' state was located.
An excellent article with photos on British WWI Internees in Switzerland can be found at http://www.switzerland1914-1918.net/prisoners-of-war-interned-in-switzerland.html

1914-15 Star, BWM & Victory to 2205 Pte. Frederick John Hendey, 21st Bn. London Regt. (First Surrey Rifles) With copy Medal Index Card, Medal roll entries, National Roll of the Great War entry, original Discharge Certificate and original welcome home letter for repatriated POW's (standard printed letter) from the King, copies from the Regimental History & War Diary. Frederick John Hendey was born in Wandsworth, London in October 1886.

From the National Roll of the Great War (dates from MIC, War Diary & SWB roll:

Frederick John Hendey volunteered in August 1914 (attested 31 August 1914), and after a period of training was drafted to the Western Front the following year (served in France from 16 March 1915). Whilst overseas he took part in numerous important engagements including those at Givenchy, Festubert, Loos and Arras, and in May 1916 was seriously wounded at Vimy Ridge and taken prisoner (23 May 1916). He was captive in Germany for two years and later was invalided to Switzerland, where he remained for eleven months. He returned to England in December 1918 and was discharged as medically unfit for further service (on 18 February 1919), holding the 1914/15 Star, British war & Victory Medals address 31 Ballentine Street, Wandsworth, London, SW18'.Discharge certificate notes wound scar to back. Mr Hendey died in Worthing, West Sussex in March 1974 aged 88 years.

At 5am on 21 May, the enemy bombardment on the Berthonval sector intensified. It continued unbroken to 11am, when there was a pause which lasted until 3pm. At this time, a very heavy shell and mortar fire fell on the small front - already heavily cratered - occupied by 1/7 and 1/8 Londons (140th Brigade), 1/20 Londons (141st) and 10/Cheshire (7th). This bombardment was deep, falling not only on the front trenches but back to the Divisional artillery positions too, as far as some 8 miles from the trenches. The shellfire included some tear gas. It was without doubt the heaviest concentrated shelling of the war so far: the enemy had arrayed 80 batteries on an 1800 yard front, all out of sight on the reverse slope of the Ridge. 70,000 shells fell in 4 hours, flattening trenches and cutting all communications; in the dry conditions dust also obscured all vision. British artillery replied but it had little effect on slowing the shellfire.

At 7.45pm, the blowing of a German mine and the lifting of the barrage onto the British support lines signalled the infantry attack. They crossed the smashed 140th Brigade front line almost unhindered and only stopped when they approached their own barrage. Many men of the 1/7 and 1/8 Londons were captured, still in their dugouts. Reinforcements were hurriedly organised in Zouave Valley, including the RE Field Companies of the 47th (London) Division. To each side, success was more limited as the 1/20 Londons and 10/Cheshire organised flank defences. Here, only the outpost line and the important Broadmarsh Crater were lost. 99th Brigade of 2nd Division was ordered up from Corps Reserve, and small local counter attacks were made by nearer units, but to no effect. The enemy advance, having captured their objectives of the British mine craters, halted, and under continued bombardment, the German infantry dug in. A small counter attack by units of 140th and 141st Brigades took place at 2am on 22nd May, but did not manage to change the situation except on the right, where the original support lines of 7th Brigade were recaptured by 8/Loyal North Lancashires.
Although Henry Wilson was all for mounting small local counter attacks while the enemy was still consolidating, Haig ruled that full preparations were to be made and a defensible line should be gained and re-established. The counter attack, to follow a short bombardment from hurriedly reinforced artillery, was to be made by 7th Brigade, 99th Brigade and 142nd Brigade. But it seemed the enemy was on the alert, for at 8pm on 23rd May (25 minutes before the British infantry attack was due, and after the bombardment had begun) they opened heavy shellfire. It fell on the assembly positions, particularly of 99th Brigade; the 1/Royal Berkshire lost 100 men before the assault should have begun. To make matters worse, German machine guns opened exactly on time, too. Confusion reigned in 99th Brigade. The Berkshires signalled to the 22/Royal Fusiliers that they could not attack, and the latter sent runners to halt their own Companies. This message did not get to B Company, which advanced on its own and was wiped out, along with the attached section of 226 Field Company RE. Elsewhere, 3/Worcesters of 7th Brigade recaptured their old support positions; on the left, 1/24 and 1/12 Londons got to their objective, only to be fought out of them again. 2nd Division relieved 47th (London) Division on the night of 25-26 May 1916.
The enemy remained on the defensive and after some debate it was decided by the British high command that the artillery that would be required to support a major effort to regain the former position would be better deployed on the Somme. The losses to the British forces amounted to almost 2,500 between 21 and 24 May in this sector. 47th (London) Division lost 1,571 men; 7th Brigade of 25th Division 637 and 2nd Division 267. The German losses were reported to be 1,344.

More on British PoWs can be found at: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=94077

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


I find all your posts interesting and informative and I am grateful to you for the trouble you take to share your collection and research with us.

I was particularly interested in the post on Frederick John Hendey, since I share with him a surname, which is unusual because of the presence of the second 'e'. I must do some investigating!



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


I find all your posts interesting and informative and I am grateful to you for the trouble you take to share your collection and research with us.

I was particularly interested in the post on Frederick John Hendey, since I share with him a surname, which is unusual because of the presence of the second 'e'. I must do some investigating!



Hi Brett,

I hope there's a connection. I thought of you when I got it, but didn't know that the second "e" is unusual. Thanks for the compliment. I like sharing information; that's what the hobby is all about, eh? : )

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Pte. Bell, Northumberland Fusiliers (another recent addition due to Brett and Brian :beer: )

Q.S.A. 3 Bars CC/OFS/TVL. 2546 Pte. G. Bell. North’d. Fus.

K.S.A. SA01 and SA02 2546 Pte. G. Bell. North’d. Fus.

Recipient was taken prisoner at Stormbeerg on 10.12.1899.

Fought December 10, 1899, when General Gatacre, with about 3,000 men, made a night march to attack the Boer position at Stormberg. He was misled by his guides, and came unexpectedly under a heavy Boer fire. The position was too strong to carry, and Gatacre was forced to retire, with a loss of 89 killed and wounded, and 633 prisoners.

The battle of Stormberg was one of three British defeats early in the Boer War that together became known as Black Week. Stormberg Junction was an important position in north central Cape Colony, on the railroad from Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State, to East London and Port Elizabeth in Cape Colony. Central to the plans of the Boer republics early in the war was the idea that their fellow Boers in the British Cape Colony would rise against the British and join their cause. This belief was shared by the governor of Cape Colony, Alfred Milner. He in turn made sure that the British commanders in South Africa knew of his fear.

For this to happen, the Boers would have to launch a successful invasion of the cape. Key to this were the bridges over the Orange River at Norval’s Point and Bethulie. These bridges had been deliberately left intact by the British in preparation for their own planned attack on Bloemfontein. Both bridges were captured by the Boers on 1 November 1899. This left the garrisons of Naauwpoort and Stormberg potentially very vulnerable. On 3 November Bullers decided to evacuate both garrisons.

The Stormberg garrison fell back to Queenstown, just over fifty miles further south along the railroad to East London. Fortunately for the British, the Boers did not take full advantage of this retreat. It took them until 26 November to reach Stormberg. During this period the British had already missed one chance to reoccupy the place. The new commander in this part of Cape Colony, Sir William Gatacre, had landed at East London with reinforcements (The Irish Rifles) on 16 November. Two days later he had reached Queenstown. At that moment Stormberg was still unoccupied, and Gatacre probably had enough troops to move back north, but he stopped short and gathered reinforcements. The day after the Boers occupied Stormberg, Gatacre moved his headquarters to Putter’s Kraal, thirty miles south of Stormberg Junction.

Gatacre was well aware of the danger of rebellion in the local area, and the need for a rapid counter attack. He managed to gather a force of around 2,600 men, consisting of the Northumberland Fusiliers, The Irish Rifles, the Berkshire Company of mounted infantry, the Southern and Rifle Mounted Infantry companies, a detachment of Cape Police, two batteries of field artillery and the 12th Company Royal Engineers. Inexplicably, his force did not include the former garrison of Stormberg.

Gatacre’s plan was for a surprise attack on the Boers at Stormberg Junction. On the night before the attack, his men would use the railway to move to Molteno, eight miles from Stormberg. From there they would make a rapid night march, and attack the surprised Boers at dawn. This was a physically demanding plan, but Gatacre was something of a fitness fanatic, and tended to assume everyone was as fit as he was. Late in the day he made a crucial change to his plan. Originally he had intended to advance along a road next to the railway. Now, on 9 December, hearing (incorrectly) that the Boers had put barbed wire across this road, he decided to alter the route of the march, to use a different road that did not follow the railway. He did not think it necessary to inform the officer in charge at Molteno of the change.

This change led to disaster. Gatacre’s guides were Cape policemen, who no doubt knew the area, but just not at night. Having been awake since 4 am on 9 December, Gatacre’s men began their march at 9.15 pm. Three hours later, just into 10 December, the column ran into a railway line known to be two miles beyond a crucial turning point. Gatacre was lost. Unfortunately, he did not yet know that he was lost. His guides convinced him that they knew exactly where they were, and that they were only one and a half miles from Stormberg Junction. Accordingly, Gatacre ordered his men to rest for an hour, in preparation for a final march that he believed would bring them to Stormberg from the north west.

In fact they were three miles from the junction, and would be approaching it from the south west. The march resumed at 2 a.m. At 3.45 Gatacre’s column passed right by the hills he had wanted to occupy, but the column marched on, thinking it still had several miles to go. Instead disaster was about to strike.

A small Boer force, no more than sixty strong, was camped to the right of Gatacre’s line of march. Now, one of their sentries spotted the British column, and sounded the alarm. The small Boer camp was roused, and opened fire on Gatacre’s column. Their fire alerted a bigger Boer force under Commandant Jan Henrick Olivier, which also joined the battle. In all around 800 Boers took part in the battle.

The British had marched into a trap. They were stuck in a valley bottom, tired and lost, and under fire from the ridge line. Gatacre at least attempted to retrieve the situation by ordering the Irish Rifles to seize a detached hill at the right of the Boer line. Three battalions did just that, but the rest of Gatacre’s force, perhaps confused by the march, the new route and Gatacre’s lack of clear orders, attacked straight up the front of the hills. Half way up they reached a line of crags, and could go no further. A small party got close to the top, but was then hit by shrapnel from the British guns and forced to retreat.

The infantry now began to retreat. After just over an hour of fighting, it became obvious that the battle was lost. More and more Boers were arriving, attracted by the noise of the fighting. Gatacre decided that his only option was to regroup and retreat. This is when the most notorious incident of the battle occurred. As Gatacre’s force came back together, nobody thought to make sure everybody had received the order to retreat. 634 men were simply left behind on the hillside, with no choice but to surrender.

Neither side came out of the battle of Stormberg well. The Boers had been badly surprised, and if Gatacre had reacted to the surprise attack better might have suffered a serious defeat. In one and a half hours of fighting, the famous Boer riflemen only managed to kill 28 and wound 61 (10 officers and 51 men, sometimes incorrectly reported at 51 wounded). Their own losses had been lower – probably 8 killed and 26 wounded. However, Gatacre had done worse. He had changed his plan, apparently without telling anybody. His new route made it highly likely that something would go wrong during the night march. When the first Boers appeared, he very quickly lost control of the battle. Finally, he simply mislaid 600 men, a third of his infantry. The only redeeming feature of the day for Gatacre came a few days later. When the first casualty figures were worked out back at Molteno, he had no way to know that so many men were prisoners – and so for some time thought he had presided over a disastrously costly defeat.

The defeat at Stormberg started a very bad week for the British. The next day Lord Methuen was defeated at Magersfontein, and on 15 December Buller suffered defeat at Colenso. The worst part of Gatacre’s defeat, the loss of 600 prisoners, was not his fault – responsibility for that has to lie with the regimental officers who failed to account for their own men. Nevertheless, a night march over unknown territory was always going to be risky. Worse, by the time the fighting began, many of Gatacre’s men had been awake for nearly twenty four hours. It is perhaps a reflection on the general quality of British officers at this time that Gatacre retained his command after this disaster.

Rickard, J (20 February 2007), Battle of Stormberg, 10 December 1899, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_stormberg.html

The 2nd Battalion sailed on the Kildonan Castle early in November 1899, arrived at the Cape about the 23rd, and was sent round to East London, where Sir W F Gatacre was urgently in need of men. The battalion sailed as corps troops, but the whole of the IIIrd Division, except the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, having been sent to Natal, the Fusiliers, 1st Royal Scots, and 1st Derbys were successively sent to General Gatacre. The Derbys did not arrive until after Stormberg was fought. The general had also three companies of Mounted Infantry, some local troops — about 1000, mostly mounted — and half of the 2nd Berks, who had been in Stormberg when the war broke out. The district he had to protect was wide, deeply disaffected, and threatened by the enemy from the north and east. In these circumstances General Gatacre, although he was aware that he was weak in numbers, decided that it was desirable to capture the strong position at Stormberg Junction, which had been occupied by the Boers on the withdrawal of the British garrison.

On 7th December the general announced that he would entrain for Molteno on the afternoon of the 8th and thence march on Stormberg. The expedition was postponed until the 9th. At 4 am the infantry were astir and at work about the camp, an unfortunate proceeding, as the men's actual work was to commence after dark that night, and they had thus to begin it almost exhausted. In the whole management of the affair the same lack of consideration, or, one is inclined to say, common-sense, forces itself on one. The actual entraining commenced in the afternoon; the railway arrangements were faulty, the trains being two hours late in arriving at Molteno.

It had been intended to leave Molteno at 7 pm, but the force could not move out till 9.15. The Irish Rifles leading, followed by the Northumberland Fusiliers, 74th Battery, Cape Mounted Police, one company Mounted Infantry, 77th Battery, one company Berkshire Mounted Infantry, and some engineers. Guides were taken from the Police, but it will be observed that the only regulars who were acquainted with the district brought up the rear. As Major Pollock points out, it is strange that the four companies of the Berkshire, then at Queenstown, did not form part of the expedition, seeing they had constructed the defences at Stormberg, and their officers doubtless knew every inch of the ground. Captain Tennant of the Intelligence Department, who is also said to have known the ground, was also left in camp. The infantry marched with fixed bayonets. The Boers were not expected to make a cavalry onslaught, and why this additional strain was laid on the men does not appear. It had been intended to halt at Goosen's farm, some two miles short of the position, rest there a few hours, and attack that—the south-east portion—at dawn; but the general seems to have changed his mind as to this, and when en route he decided to attack on the west side, necessitating a change of direction, which took the column off the main road into difficult country. Part of the column, coming up some distance behind, actually continued on the originally intended road, and would have marched in innocence into the Boer position had they not been warned by Major Pollock.

At 3.45 the Irish Rifles, still in fours, were fired on from a strong position. The despatch states that thereupon "three companies of the Royal Irish Rifles formed to the left and occupied a kopje; the remainder of the battalion and the Northumberland Fusiliers advanced up a steep hill against the enemy's position. The artillery was ordered forward to the kopje occupied by the three companies Royal Irish Rifles, and in crossing a nullah one of the guns unfortunately stuck and was temporarily abandoned. The team was subsequently shot down, and it was impossible to get the gun away. The two batteries took up position, one on and the other immediately west of the kopje. The Mounted Infantry endeavoured to turn the Boer right, but fell back on the kopje occupied by the three companies Royal Irish Rifles. After about half an hour the officer commanding 2nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, finding his position untenable, gave the order to retire across the open to a ridge beyond, but a large proportion of his men, and also of the Royal Irish Rifles, remained behind (that is, in front), and were eventually taken prisoners".

In his evidence before the court of inquiry, printed in the proceedings of the War Commission, Captain Fletcher, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, said "that, by edging to the left flank, he had taken his men halfway up the kopje. He then saw a retreat going on below, but he himself had no such orders, and there was nothing, so far as he could judge, to prevent him from going straight up the hill. Then the British began shelling their own troops, and he was compelled to retire to the base of the hill, where he remained and subsequently surrendered".

The officers and men were exonerated. One of the courts added, "There seems to have been great confusion and lack of definite orders".

About 6 am the retirement on Molteno commenced. At first it was orderly and creditable, but soon, owing to the utter exhaustion of the men, became straggling and disorderly.

The Fusiliers' casualties were nearly 400, of whom 12 were killed and about 70 wounded. Six officers were among the prisoners.

It is painful to have to mention the details of this defeat, but as it involved practically the destruction of two fine battalions, in justice to them the causes of the disaster have to be pointed out.

On 19th December the shattered remnant of "the Northumberland Fusiliers departed for East London".

It was a considerable time before the battalion was in a fit state to take part in active operations at the front, and unfortunately in their next prominent appearance they were to be associated with a disaster.

In Lord Roberts' despatch of 10th October 1900, dealing with the escape of De Wet from the Brandwater basin and the steps taken to pursue him, his lordship mentions that the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers were about the end of July taken from the garrison of Bloemfontein and put into a brigade under Hart, who was then assisting to enclose De Wet in the Reitzburg Hills (see 1st Northumberland Fusiliers). In September 1900 the brigade of General Clements was broken up, and he was given a column to operate in the Megaliesberg range, chiefly between Rustenburg and Krugersdorp. His force consisted of the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, 2nd Worcestershire Regiment, 1st Border Regiment, 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry, 900 mounted troops under Colonel Ridley, and the 8th Battery RFA. Much hard and useful work was done, but, as a rule, the enemy retired and would not fight. He was waiting for an opportunity.

That came in December, when Clements was out with only a part of his force, and the Boers had been able to gather a very large body. The words of the despatch are: "General Clements' force, which had encamped immediately south of Nooitgedacht Pass (in the Megaliesberg Mountains, NW of Pretoria), was attacked before daylight on 13th December 1900 by the combined forces of Delarey and Beyers. Four companies of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who were holding the ridges overlooking the camp, were surrounded and captured by the enemy. The loss of the outpost rendered the camp untenable, and though the Boers suffered heavy loss in pressing home their attack, General Clements found himself obliged to fall back on Commando Nek". The attacking force was probably about 4000. The losses of the Fusiliers in killed and wounded were about 100, and neither Lord Kitchener nor General Clements seemed to be at all dissatisfied with the defence made; and it is satisfactory to know that 1 officer and 12 men were mentioned in despatches for exceptional gallantry.

After this the battalion had little fighting.

Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th March 1901, para 4, and his telegrams at time, also letter from 'The Standard' correspondent, who gave a clear account. He said, that in addition to the four companies of the Fusiliers on the berg, two companies were with the baggage, near which were the 4'7 gun and two sections of the 8th Battery. Eight hundred yards west were the 2nd Mounted Infantry, Kitchener's Horse, the Fife, Devon, and Sussex Yeomanry, and four guns of P Battery. On the extreme left were 400 Yorkshire Light Infantry. The Mounted Infantry were very heavily attacked at dawn, but the enemy was repulsed. Firing was then heard on the berg, and a message came asking assistance. The Yeomanry were sent. Before they got to the top of the kloof the Boers held the position, and the Yeomanry had very heavy casualties. Clements and the remainder of his force by a splendid effort saved the guns and reached a position of comparative safety.

Chapter ten of Conan Doyle’s The Great Boer War has an account of the battle:

The force with which General Gatacre advanced consisted of the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, 960 strong, with one Maxim; the 2nd Irish Rifles, 840 strong, with one Maxim, and 250 Mounted Infantry. There were two batteries of Field Artillery, the 74th and 77th. The total force was well under 3000 men. About three in the afternoon the men were entrained in open trucks under a burning sun, and for some reason, at which the impetuous spirit of the General must have chafed, were kept waiting for three hours. At eight o'clock they detrained at Molteno, and thence after a short rest and a meal they started upon the night march which was intended to end at the break of day at the Boer trenches. One feels as if one were describing the operations of Magersfontein once again and the parallel continues to be painfully exact.

It was nine o'clock and pitch dark when the column moved out of Molteno and struck across the black gloom of the veld, the wheels of the guns being wrapped in hide to deaden the rattle. It was known that the distance was not more than ten miles, and so when hour followed hour and the guides were still unable to say that they had reached their point it must have become perfectly evident that they had missed their way. The men were dog-tired, a long day's work had been followed by a long night's march, and they plodded along drowsily through the darkness. The ground was broken and irregular. The weary soldiers stumbled as they marched. Daylight came and revealed the column still looking for its objective, the fiery General walking in front and leading his horse behind him. It was evident that his plans had miscarried, but his energetic and hardy temperament would not permit him to turn back without a blow being struck. However one may commend his energy, one cannot but stand aghast at his dispositions. The country was wild and rocky, the very places for those tactics of the surprise and the ambuscade in which the Boers excelled. And yet the column still plodded aimlessly on in its dense formation, and if there were any attempt at scouting ahead and on the flanks the result showed how ineffectively it was carried out. It was at a quarter past four in the clear light of a South African morning that a shot, and then another, and then a rolling crash of musketry, told that we were to have one more rough lesson of the result of neglecting the usual precautions of warfare. High up on the face of a steep line of hill the Boer riflemen lay hid, and from a short range their fire scourged our exposed flank. The men appear to have been chiefly colonial rebels, and not Boers of the backveld, and to that happy chance it may be that the comparative harmlessness of their fire was due. Even now, in spite of the surprise, the situation might have been saved had the bewildered troops and their harried officers known exactly what to do. It is easy to be wise after the event, but it appears now that the only course that could commend itself would be to extricate the troops from their position, and then, if thought feasible, to plan an attack. Instead of this a rush was made at the hillside, and the infantry made their way some distance up it only to find that there were positive ledges in front of them, which could not be climbed. The advance was at a dead stop, and the men lay down under the boulders for cover from the hot fire which came from inaccessible marksmen above them. Meanwhile the artillery had opened behind them, and their fire (not for the first time in this campaign) was more deadly to their friends than to their foes. At least one prominent officer fell among his men, torn by British shrapnel bullets. Talana Hill and Modder River have shown also, though perhaps in a less tragic degree, that what with the long range of modern artillery fire, and what with the difficulty of locating infantry who are using smokeless powder, it is necessary that officers commanding batteries should be provided with the coolest heads and the most powerful glasses of any men in the service, for a responsibility which will become more and more terrific rests upon their judgment.

The question now, since the assault had failed, was how to extricate the men from their position. Many withdrew down the hill, running the gauntlet of the enemy's fire as they emerged from the boulders on to the open ground, while others clung to their positions, some from a soldierly hope that victory might finally incline to them, others because it was clearly safer to lie among the rocks than to cross the bullet-swept spaces beyond. Those portions of the force who extricated themselves do not appear to have realised how many of their comrades had remained behind, and so as the gap gradually increased between the men who were stationary and the men who fell back all hope of the two bodies reuniting became impossible. All the infantry who remained upon the hillside were captured. The rest rallied at a point fifteen hundred yards from the scene of the surprise, and began an orderly retreat to Molteno.

In the meanwhile three powerful Boer guns upon the ridge had opened fire with great accuracy, but fortunately with defective shells. Had the enemy's contractors been as trustworthy as their gunners in this campaign, our losses would have been very much heavier, and it is possible that here we catch a glimpse of some consequences of that corruption which was one of the curses of the country. The guns were moved with great smartness along the ridge, and opened fire again and again, but never with great result. Our own batteries, the 74th and 77th, with our handful of mounted men, worked hard in covering the retreat and holding back the enemy's pursuit.

It is a sad subject to discuss, but it is the one instance in a campaign containing many reverses, which amounts to demoralisation among the troops engaged. The Guards marching with the steadiness of Hyde Park off the field of Magersfontein, or the men of Nicholson's Nek chafing because they were not led in a last hopeless charge, are, even in defeat, object lessons of military virtue. But here fatigue and sleeplessness had taken all fire and spirit out of the men. They dropped asleep by the roadside and had to be prodded up by their exhausted officers. Many were taken prisoners in their slumber by the enemy who gleaned behind them. Units broke into small straggling bodies, and it was a sorry and bedraggled force which about ten o'clock came wandering into Molteno. The place of honour in the rear was kept throughout by the Irish Rifles, who preserved some military formation to the end. Our losses in killed and wounded were not severe--military honour would have been less sore had they been more so. Twenty-six killed, sixty-eight wounded--that is all. But between the men on the hillside and the somnambulists of the column, six hundred, about equally divided between the Irish Rifles and the Northumberland Fusiliers, had been left as prisoners. Two guns, too, had been lost in the hurried retreat.

It is not for the historian--especially for a civilian historian--to say a word unnecessarily to aggravate the pain of that brave man who, having done all that personal courage could do, was seen afterwards sobbing on the table of the waiting-room at Molteno, and bewailing his 'poor men. ' He had a disaster, but Nelson had one at Teneriffe and Napoleon at Acre, and built their great reputations in spite of it. But the one good thing of a disaster is that by examining it we may learn to do better in the future, and so it would indeed be a perilous thing if we agreed that our reverses were not a fit subject for open and frank discussion.

It is not to the detriment of an enterprise that it should be daring and call for considerable physical effort on the part of those who are engaged in it. On the contrary, the conception of such plans is one of the signs of a great military mind. But in the arranging of the details the same military mind should assiduously occupy itself in foreseeing and preventing every unnecessary thing, which may make the execution of such a plan more difficult. The idea of a swift sudden attack upon Stormberg was excellent--the details of the operation are continually open to criticism.

How far the Boers suffered at Stormberg is unknown to us, but there seems in this instance no reason to doubt their own statement that their losses were very slight. At no time was any body of them exposed to our fire, while we, as usual, fought in the open. Their numbers were probably less than ours, and the quality of their shooting and want of energy in pursuit make the defeat the more galling. On the other hand, their guns were served with skill and audacity. They consisted of commandos from Bethulie, Rouxville, and Smithfield, under the orders of Olivier, with those colonials whom they had seduced from their allegiance.

This defeat of General Gatacre's, occurring, as it did, in a disaffected district and one of great strategic importance, might have produced the worst consequences.

Fortunately no very evil result followed. No doubt the recruiting of rebels was helped, but there was no forward movement and Molteno remained in our hands. In the meanwhile Gatacre's force was reinforced by a fresh battery, the 79th, and by a strong regiment, the Derbyshires, so that with the 1st Royal Scots and the wing of the Berkshires he was strong enough to hold his own until the time for a general advance should come. So in the Stormberg district, as at the Modder River, the same humiliating and absurd position of stalemate was established.

For information on the battlefield today, there is an article written by a treasure hunter who visited the battlefield in 2009.


Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Thank you for a very well presented and informative post. The early months of the Boer War were a catalogue of disasters for the British and they retreated and lost ground even after they won battles (Talana and Elandslaagte). They had seriously underestimated the Boers, in spite of their experience of an earlier bloody nose at Majuba in 1881.



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

John not sure if you have seen the whiskey advert but it goes like this:

"Give that man a Bell's" well done, you deserve one and could not resist the pun regards your man Bell!

Your collection is trully interesting and the info first class :cheers:

Keep them coming.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Brian... this is all yours and Brett's fault that I have bought another Boer War PoW pair. I just couldn't resist after reading what you guys have written; it's infectious. ; ) Actually when you scour the lists and the web, there aren't many out there. All the best, John

PS: Nice pun... Now I'll look for one to a man named Jameson... ; )

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you ever noticed that for every one Burma Star PoW group, there are 15 or more Pacific Star PoW groups? And those aren't all that common either considering the number of PoWs incarcerated by the Japanese. Well, I finally came across one in Yorkshire with the original box of issue and condolence slip. The box is addressed to Mr. North of Bradford and the condolence slip is for 2338672 Sjt. James North, who served with the 47th Mobile Workshop Co., RE. He was the 23 year old son of Frank and Mary North of Idle, Bradford and was the wife of Winifred North. He died at the hands of the Japanese on the 6th of August 1943 and is buried in Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. His medal entitlement was: the '39-45 Star, Burma Star, Defence Medal and War Medal. All are unnamed as issued.

From what I gather, the RE had mobile workshops and eventually they became part of the newly founded and organized REME. Below is some information on the environment and circumstances the mobile workshops and Sjt. James North faced in the Burma Campaign.

By VE-Day May 1945 (the end of the War in Europe) the Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers had been firmly established as an essential component of the Armed Forces having proved their utility in the various theatres of operations. By 1942 the Japanese had driven the British Army out of BURMA, and when the REME was formed the British and Indian Army units were establishing a line of resistance in ASSAM. The operations against the Japanese met with limited success, and the tide of battle was not turned in the Far East until 1944 with Allied success in the major battles of KOHIMA and IMPHAL. The REME supported the Army operations providing Officers and senior NCOs for the IEME, the East Africa EME and the West Africa EME who were also fighting in BURMA.

The dreadful terrain and climate, together with the absence of nearby workshops, placed a heavy strain on the Corps of EME. Improvisation and repairs beyond the limits intended for small mobile workshops became normal routine. The nature of the campaign and the absence of clear front lines resulted in support services like EME often being in the thick of the fighting. The provision of EME base support in the Far East came from INDIA where military and civilian-manned workshops were established. Only a trickle of repairable equipment reached them over such tenuous L of C, so their efforts had limited effect except where components could be made or repaired for airlifting forward. The need of a build-up for REME and IEME resources was met by a number of reinforcing units sent from Europe after the war had ended there.

The terrain and climate of BURMA proved to be very hard on equipment. During the dreaded monsoon period very few vehicles without four-wheel drive could progress on the muddy roads. Vehicle and component life was short, weapons succumbed to rust, instruments and radios were affected by damp and fungi. In order to increase the mobility of workshops, many larger machinery trucks were gutted and their machines transferred either to smaller four-wheel vehicles or to trailers which could be towed or manhandled. The widespread rivers and estuaries led to workshops being established on landing craft or even on a railway train. Wayside service stations had to be established on the main supply routes. All these Allied Corps of EME included tradesmen of different races and creeds, highly motivated and well regarded. Before the end of the war, fully trained Indian Officers and artificers began to replace REME personnel in the IEME.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has posted this information on the cemetery.

Location Information

The town of Kanchanaburi is 129 kilometres North-West of Bangkok and is best reached by road, along the National Highway which runs north from the capital. There are bus and train services from Bangkok. Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is situated adjacent to Saeng Chuto Road which is the main road through the town. When approaching from Bangkok, the cemetery is on the left side of the road, towards the far (northern) end of the town. A Commission signpost faces the cemetery on the opposite side of the road.

Historical Information

The notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar).

Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre. The Japanese aimed at completing the railway in 14 months and work began in October 1942. The line, 424 kilometres long, was completed by December 1943.

The graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the Burma-Siam railway (except for the Americans, whose remains were repatriated) were transferred from camp burial grounds and isolated sites along the railway into three cemeteries at Chungkai and Kanchanaburi in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar.

KANCHANABURI WAR CEMETERY is only a short distance from the site of the former 'Kanburi', the prisoner of war base camp through which most of the prisoners passed on their way to other camps. It was created by the Army Graves Service who transferred to it all graves along the southern section of railway, from Bangkok to Nieke.

Some 300 men who died (most from a Cholera epidemic in May/June 1943) at Nieke camp were cremated and their ashes now lie in two graves in the cemetery. The names of these men are inscribed on panels in the shelter pavilion.

There are now 5,084 Commonwealth casualties of the Second World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. There are also 1,896 Dutch war graves.

Within the entrance building to the cemetery will be found the KANCHANABURI MEMORIAL, recording the names of 11 men of the army of undivided India buried in Muslim cemeteries in Thailand, where their graves could not be maintained. The cemetery was designed by Colin St Clair Oakes.

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A recent acquisition of a programme for a WWI PoW camp concert. It was held at Dulmen on 18 July 1918 and cost 10 Pf. What is interesting is it has the names of the PoWs who were in the "Musikal Burlesque" in two acts and entitled, "Down on the Farm". You may be fortunate enough to see the name of a relative or one whose medals grace your collection.

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

And a WWII PoW Camp programme dated Januray 1942 and held at Camp 45 (II) Klein Barelsee, Bromberg. It cost 50 Pf. Again, there are many names and ranks and so is an interesting reference.

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


What a nice little gem that program booklet is.

Well known characters and great to see the ranks and names of all that are involved.

Thanks for showing.

Best regards


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The latest addition to the collection consists of a GSM 1918-62 with clasp "Palestine" to ( 7586653 Gnr. Stanley Brian Guy), a '39 Star, Africa Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal and War Medal along with the orgianl box of issue addressed to him at 44 Freemount Drive, Beechdale Estate, Mottingham. GSM roll confirms that Guy served in 45th Bty., 20th Field Regt., RA and was signed by the OC of the 5th Heavy Regt. at Aden on 15/1/1940. Guy does not appear on the Italy PoW roll, but was PoW # 53173 and held captive at Stalag IXC at Mulhausen in Hesse. He was born on 19/1/1915 and married Ethel Burrown in 1941. He died when he was 91 in Nottingham in May 2006.

Stalag IX-C was a German prisoner-of-war camp for Allied soldiers in WWII. Although its headquarters were located near Bad Sulza, between Erfurt and Leipzig in Thurgingia, its sub-camps – Arbeitskommando – were spread over a wide area, particularly those holding prisoners working in the potassium mines, south of Mulhausen.

The camp was opened in February 1940 to hold Polish soldiers from the German invasion of Poland In June 1940 many Belgian and French troops taken prisoner during the Battle of France arrived. In April 1941 prisoners from Yugoslavia came into camp. In 1943 British and Commonwealth soldiers came from the battles in Italy and North Africa. In September and October 1944 British and Canadian airborne troops, taken prisoner during “Operation Market Garden” at Arnhem, arrived. Finally in late December 1944 Americans arrived that were captured in the Battle of the Bulge. On 29 March 1945 the camp was evacuated and the PoWs were forced to march eastwards in advance of the American offensive. For some the march lasted four weeks before being freed by U.S. Army units. Those left in the camp were freed by troops of the U.S. 3rd Army. Also under the administration of Stalag IX-C was a large hospital, Reserve-Lazaret IX-C(a). This was in the town of Obermasfeld, south-west of Erfurt, in a three-story stone building that was previously a Strength-Through-Joy hostel. The hospital was operated by British, Canadian and New Zealand medical staff. Its staff was considerably augmented in October 1944 with the arrival of an entire ambulance team of the British 1st Airborne Division, captured at Arnhem. Patients came from across Germany, but mainly from Wehrkreis IX. The hospital was liberated by the U.S. 11th Armored Division.

Since Guy isn't on any Italian PoW rolls, It appears that he was captured during "Operation Market Garden." If anyone can assist with information on the 20th FA Regt., it would be greatly appreciated.

More very interesting information on Stalag IXC can be found at this site: http://www.pegasusarchive.org/pow/cSt_9C_History1.htm

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A very interesting addition for the last big defeat of the British Army in WWII.

A Second World War Fall of Leros Prisoner of War group awarded to Private W.S. Crooks, East Kent Regiment - the Buffs, who was taken prisoner of war by the Germans on 17th November 1943 in the ill fated expedition to the Greek Island of Leros, being interned in Germany at Stalag 4B Muhlberg and then Stalag 4G Leipzig.

Group of 5: 1939-1945 Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; Defence Medal; War Medal; together with Army Council Award slip, and Infantry Records box of issue, addressed to: Mr. W.S. Crooks, 61, Somerville Road, New Cross, London. With the following documentation and photographs: Army Book 64, Soldier's Service and Pay Book, complete with attached Discharge Certificate dated 29th November 1945; Record of Service Card dated 21st November 1945; National Service Armed Forces Act 1939 Enlistment Notice, dated 9th July 1940; National Service Armed Forces Act 1939 Grade Card dated 18th June 1940; National Service Armed Forces Act 1939 Certificate of Registration, dated 17th July 1940; Discharge Pamphlet; Ministry of Labour and National Service Disabled Persons (Employment) Act Certificate of Registration, dated 14th March 1949; four other documents relating to his pension; two original photographs of Pte. Crooks in uniform; and his Saint Christopher pendent.

Walter Stanley Crooks was born on 25th December 1915, and lived in Cambridge and was working as a waiter at the outbreak of the Second World War. Crooks enlisted into the British Army on 17th July 1940, joining as a Private (No.6099622) the Queen's Royal Regiment, and then transferred to the East Kent Regiment - the Buffs from 9th October 1943 when he formed part of the ill fated expedition to the Greek Island of Leros, he being one of those taken prisoner of war No.267621 by the Germans on 17th November 1943. Crooks was interned in Germany at Stalag 4B at Muhlberg from 31st December 1943 to 17th January 1944 when he was moved to Stalag 4G at Leipzig, this being a work camp where he was involved in demolition work till his release from captivity on 15th April 1945. Crooks was discharged on 13th January 1946. Crooks served in the Persia/Iraq Campaign from 25/8/1942 to 23/3/1943. He as in the Middle East from 24/3/1943 to 15/22/1943 and was captured on 17 November 1943 and was a POE from 16/11/1943 to 12/5/1945. He was held in Muhlberg (4B) from 31/12/1943 to 17/1/1944 and then in Leipzig (4G) from 18/1/1944 to liberation on 15/4/1945. His PoW number was 267621.

The Battle of Leros was the central event of the Dodecanese Campaign of the Second World War, and is widely used as an alternate name for the whole campaign. The Italian garrison in Leros was strengthened by British forces on 15 September 1943. The battle began with German air attacks on 26 September, continued with the landings on 12 November, and ended with the capitulation of the Allied forces four days later. After the fall of Greece in April 1941 and the Allied loss of the island of Crete in May, Greece and its many islands were occupied by German and Italian forces. With the surrender of Italy on 8 September 1943 however, the Greek islands, which were seen as strategically vital by Churchill, became reachable for the first time since the loss of Crete. The United States was skeptical about the operation, which it saw as an unnecessary diversion from the main front in Italy. This was confirmed at the Quebec Conference, where it was decided to divert all available shipping from the Eastern Mediterranean. Nonetheless, the British went ahead, albeit with a severely scaled-down force. In addition to that, air cover was minimal, with the U.S. and British aircraft based in Cyprus and the Middle East, a situation, which was to be exacerbated by the withdrawal of the American units in late October in order to support operations in Italy.

After the Italian government had signed an armistice, the Italian garrisons on most of the Dodecanese either wanted to change sides and fight alongside the Allies or just return to their homes. The Allies attempted to take advantage of the situation, but the Germans were ready. As the Italian surrender became apparent, German forces, based largely in mainland Greece, were rushed to many of the major islands to gain control. The most important such force, the Sturm Division Rhodes swiftly neutralized the garrison of Rhodes, denying the island's three airfields to the Allies.

By mid-September, however, the British 234th Infantry Brigade under Major General F. G. R. Brittorous, coming from Malta, and SBS and LRDG detachments had secured the islands of Kos, Kalymnos, Samos, Leros, Symi and Astypalaia, supported by ships of the British and Greek navies and two RAF Spitfire squadrons on Kos. Sadly in the transfer of troops to Leros, on 24 October 1943 HMS Eclipse struck a mine in the Aegean Sea off Kalymnos. She broke in two and sank within five minutes with the loss of 119 of the ship's company and 134 soldiers from A Company, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment). See: http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?15980

The Germans quickly mobilised in response. Generalleutnant Friedrich-William Muller, the commander of the 22nd Infantry Division at Crete, was ordered to take Kos and Leros on 23 September. The British forces on Kos, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel L.R.F. Kenyon, numbered about 1,500 men, 680 of whom were from the 1st Bn. Durham Light Infantry, 120 men from 11th Parachute Battalion, a number of men from the SBS and the rest being mainly RAF personnel, and ca. 3,500 Italians. On 3 October, the Germans effected amphibious and airborne landings (Unternehmen Eisbär, "Operation Polar Bear"), reaching the outskirts of the island's capital later that day. The British withdrew under cover of night, and surrendered the next day. The fall of Kos was a major blow to the Allies, since it deprived them of vital air cover. The Germans captured 1388 British and 3145 Italian prisoners. On 3 October, German troops executed the captured Italian commander of the island, Col. Felice Leggio, and 101 of his officers, according to Hitler’s 11 September order to execute captured Italian officers.

By October, the British forces on the island of Leros numbered ca. 3,000 men of the 2nd Bn The Royal Irish Fusiliers, (under Lt Col Maurice French), the 4th Bn The Buffs (The Royal East Kent Regiment) (Lt Col Douglas Iggulden), the 1st Bn The King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), and a company of the 2nd Bn Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, the whole force under Brigadier Robert Tilney, who assumed command on 5 November. There were also 7,602 regular Italian (mostly Navy) troops, plus 697 naval reservists and 20 air force reservists, including an infantry battalion and two heavy MG companies, under the island's military commander, Rear Admiral Luigi Mascherpa. The island's pre-war fortifications also included 26 artillery batteries with 115 guns, 52 of which were AA guns. Most of these, however, were badly protected from air assaults and, accordingly, suffered badly from Luftwaffe attacks. Of the Italian naval vessels stationed in the island, there were the Turbine class destroyer Euro, six MAS torpedo boats and several other auxiliary ships. Initially, the British had planned to secure the high ground of the island's interior, but Brig Tilney insisted on a forward defence on the coastline, which had the effect of spreading his forces too thinly.

The air force units detailed for this operation were not large. Apart from the troop-carrying and transport Dakotas, there were two-day and two night Beaufighter squadrons, a Wellington Torpedo Bomber Squadron, three Baltimore and one Hudson General Reconnaissance squadrons and a detachment of Photographic Reconnaissance Spitfires. This force was based on the mainland of Africa and in Cyprus. In addition, two heavy bomber squadrons, No. 178 Squadron RAF and No. 462 Squadron RAAF of No. 240 Wing RAF equipped with a mix of Liberators and Halifaxes, and a Wing of IX United States Bomber Command took part at a later stage. The only real offensive force were just the two squadrons No.7 SAAF and No. 74 RAF both equipped with Spitfires. In all, the number of aircraft used amounted to 144 fighters (single and twin-engined) and 116 heavy, medium and torpedo bombers. Of this total of 260 aircraft, 115 were to be lost.

On 12 November 1943 at 4.30 am, after almost fifty days of air strikes, an invasion fleet landed troops at Palma Bay and Pasta di Sopra on the north-east coast. The Italian coastal gunners were not able to prevent these landings. There were other landings at Pandeli Bay, near Leros town, that were heavily contested by the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The Fusiliers stopped the capture of some key defensive positions but were unable to stop the landings.

The positions of the British units were spread around the island with poor communication between them. The attacking German forces did not only have the advantage of numerical superiority but also that of air control. In the early afternoon Luftwaffe fighter-bombers machine-gunned and bombed the area between the Gurna and Alinda Bays, followed by Junkers 52s, which dropped some 500 parachutists from the Brandenburg Division, most of whom landed safely despite British efforts. The position of these landings effectively divided the island in two, separating the Buffs and a company of the King's Own on the south side of the island from the rest of the garrison. Counterattacks during the rest of that day failed. During the night of 12/13 November more German reinforcements arrived. Counterattacks by the King's Own and the Fusiliers failed during the 13th with heavy casualties, but the Buffs on the south side of the island managed to capture 130 prisoners and reclaim some control of their area.

On the night of 14 November two more companies of the Royal West Kent Regiment and their commanding officer, Lt Col Ben Tarleton, from Samos landed at Portolago Bay. The fighting on the 14th and 15th was mostly inconclusive with more casualties on both sides, although a counter-attack by two companies of the King's Own succeeded in recapturing part of Apetiki. Lt Col French was killed in this attack. On the night of the 15th the fourth company from the West Kents was landed and 170 German prisoners were taken to Samos. The Germans, on the other hand, landed an estimated 1,000 troops and artillery during that night.

On the morning of 16 November it became apparent to the British commander, Brigadier Tilney, that his situation was untenable and he surrendered; 3,200 British and 5,350 Italian soldiers went with him into captivity. The 4th Bn, The Buffs, in their isolated position, were unaware of the surrender so did not attempt to escape; consequently nearly the whole unit was captured. As with the Buffs, only ninety men from the West Kents managed to escape from the island.

The withdrawal of the American fighters had sealed the fate of Leros. With no air support and heavily attacked by enemy aircraft, the three battalions had fought for five days until they were exhausted and could fight no more. The Commander-in-Chief, Ninth Army, General Wilson, reported to the Prime Minister: "Leros has fallen, after a very gallant struggle against overwhelming air attack. It was a near thing between success and failure. Very little was needed to turn the scale in our favour and to bring off a triumph." Everything was done to evacuate the garrisons of the other Aegean islands and to rescue survivors from Leros, and eventually an officer and fifty-seven other ranks of the King’s Own rejoined the details in Palestine.

After the fall of Leros, which was received with shock by the British public, Samos and the other smaller islands were evacuated. The Germans bombed Samos with Stukas prompting the 2,500-strong Italian garrison to surrender on 22 November. Along with the occupation of the smaller islands of Patmos, Fournoi and Ikaria on 18 November, the Germans thus completed their reconquest of the Dodecanese, which they were to continue to hold until the end of the war. The Battle of Leros was considered by some to be the last great defeat of the British Army in the Second World War and one of the last German victories. The German victory was predominantly due to their possession of complete air superiority, which caused great losses to the Allies, especially in ships, and enabled the Germans to supply and support their own forces effectively. Brigadier Tilney's scrapping of the original defensive plan, the work of Lt Col Maurice French, aided the Germans whose tactics, including scramble landings and an audacious air assault, further confused Tilney. The whole operation was criticized by many at the time as another useless “Gallipoli” like disaster, and the blame was laid at Churchill's door. The story formed the basis for the 1957 novel The Guns of Navarone and the successful film of the same name.

For more on the battle see:



Private Crooks was originally in Stalag IVB, but was moved to Stalag IVG. The conditions were very bad at both as noted below.

Stalag IV-B was one of the largest PoW camps in Germany during WWII. It was located 8 km (5.0 mi) north-east of the town of Muhlberg in Brandenburg, just east of the Elbe river and about 30 mi (48 km) north of Dresden. A sub-camp, sometimes identified as Stalag IV-B/Z, was located at Zeithain,10 km (6.2 mi) to the south in Saxony.

The camp, covering about 30 hectares (74 acres), was opened in September 1939. The first inmates were about 17,000 Polish soldiers captured in the German September 1939 offensive. For the first two months they lived out in the open or in tents. Most of them were transferred to other camps. In May 1940 the first French soldiers arrived, taken prisoner in the Battle of France. In 1941 British, Australian and South African soldiers arrived after the fall of Tobruk and later in the year Russian PoWs from the invasion of the Soviet Union. In October 1944 several thousand Poles arrived, members of the Armia Krajowa ("Home Army") captured after the Warsaw Uprising, including several hundred women soldiers. In November 1944 the Polish women were transferred to other camps, mainly Stalag IVE at Altenburg and Oflag IXC at Molsdorf. At the end of December 1944 about 7,500 Americans arrived from the Battle of th Bulge. At least 3,000 of them were transferred to other camps, mostly to Stalag VIIIA. On 23 April 1945 the Red Army liberated the camp. Altogether soldiers from 33 nations passed through the camp.

Camp publications

The British prisoners published two periodicals: the wall newspapers The New Times and a richly illustrated Flywheel. The Flywheel was founded by Tom Swallow, and comprised pages from school exercise-books that carried hand-written articles with colour illustrations from whatever inks the editorial team could produce from stolen materials, like quinine from the medical room; these were stuck into place with fermented millet soup, kept from the meagre camp rations. One copy per issue, was produced to be circulated among members throughout the camp. When extracts were published in hardback format in 1987, the book ran to two reprints.

An additional periodical, The Observer was published between December 1943 and May 1944 and the camp's Welsh soldiers also created their own periodical called Cymro ("Welshman"), edited by prisoner William John Pitt. The magazines were produced between July 1943 and December 1944. Eight issues of the magazines were created, and out of these one was lost in the camp. Although most of the issues are in English, two pages are in Welsh. The manuscript was bought by The National Library of Wales at auction from Sotheby’s in 1987. From March 1944 to December 1944 the Scottish prisoners were served with their own papers, The Scotsman and The Scotsman Special Sports Supplement, edited, printed and illustrated in both colour and black and white by RAF pilot Warrant Officer Matthew MacSwan Robertson. The articles were written by the editor and other prisoners and concentrated primarily on Scottish matters, camp social life and the various sports events held in the camp. The Scotsman had seven issues and the Sports had twelve issues. Only one copy of each issue was produced and the papers were taken from hut to hut between publications for all to read. Copies of one of each are shown below and both are also included in Wikimedia Commons where they can be viewed at full size

Soviet control

When the Soviet Army arrived at the camp in April 1945, there were about 30,000 prisoners crowded into the facilities; of these 7,250 were British. About 3,000 died, mainly from tuberculosis and typhus. They were buried in the cemetery in neighboring Neuburxdort, Bad Liebenwerda. Today a memorial and a museum commemorate them.It is not widely known, but the Soviet liberators were in no hurry to repatriate the British and American prisoners to their homelands. In fact they were held in the camp for over a month. Individual soldiers "escaped" from the camp and made their way on foot to the American lines. In August 1945 the Soviet secret police NKVD opened on the area of Stalag IV-B one of its special camps No. 1 using the shacks of Stalag IV-B. More than 22,800 people were imprisoned and over 6,700 of them died until operation of the camp was ceased in 1948. The monument to those who died at Stalag IVB is shown in the color photograph below.

Stalag IV-G was a German WWII PoW Camp for NCOs and enlisted men. It was not a camp in the usual sense, but a series of Arbeitslager ("Work Camps") scattered throughout the state of Saxony, administered from a central office on Lutherstraße in Oschatz, a small town situated between Leipzig and Dresden.

The camp operated from February 1941. The International Red Cross, following an inspection tour of 11-16 March 1945, reported that there were a total of 5,233 prisoners, of which 4,457 were British and Commonwealth, and 776 American. Of these only 20 PoWs were at the HQ in Oschatz, performing administration tasks, while the rest were assigned to 76 separate Arbeitskommando ("Work details"), working in agriculture, forestry, and industry. The Arbeitskommando varied in size from around 20 to over 100 men, who worked between 8 to 11 hours a day, 6 days a week, with only Sundays free. The report notes the generally poor health of the Americans, and some British, who were suffering from the effects of being marched from camps further east. The area around Oschatz was one of the last to be liberated at the end of the war. In May 2005 the Oschatzer Heimatverein e.V. organised an exhibition to commemorate the liberation and Stalag IV-G. The last color photo below shows the HQ building in Oschatz in 2003.

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Guy and Crooks are realy fine additions to your ever growing POW collection.....I think your Topic Heading needs to be renamed :D

Paper work is what it is all about especially with WW2 British groups. So many British soldier POW's were "short changed" regards medals, so it is nice to see POW groups with F&G medals/clasps and Italy Stars, well done and thanks again for posting these well researched groups, always a pleasure to visit your page.



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

This one varies as the recipient was so severely wounded that he was transfered to Switzerland. In all, 219,000 prisoners were exchanged and some were sent to neutral Switzerland on grounds of ill health. Internment conditions were very strict in Switzerland but softened with time........

Indeed, there was some kind of agreement with POWs over a certain age that had been POWs for a certain period of time could be sent to switzerland.... apparently the conditions were often harsher than the POWs camps they had been in up until then.....

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Indeed, there was some kind of agreement with POWs over a certain age that had been POWs for a certain period of time could be sent to switzerland.... apparently the conditions were often harsher than the POWs camps they had been in up until then.....

Hi Chris,

Any source on that they were worse than the PoW camps? Love to get the sources for future research. Cheers! John

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A GSM 1918-'62 with Cyprus Clasp to 22522036 Rfn. E. Ross RUR along with his UN Korean War Medal (English version). Missing is his Queen's Korea. Ernest Ross was captured on 25.11.1951, which was the first day of the Chinese and N. Korean counter offensive when they launched 200,000 troops against the UN positions. Ross when a PoW also played football (soccer) for the UK Team at the N. Korean PoW Olympic Games that were held in 1952. The UK Team won the championship. Amazingly, I came across one of his teammates' pairs below a few years later. Ross is listed on page 8 of "Korea 1950-1953 Prisoners of War The British Army" by Peter Gaston. Ross is also mentioned on page 159 in David Green's book "Captured at the Imjin River: The Korean War Memoirs of a Gloster 1950-1953. Green wrote about his boxing in the PoW Camp.

I had Ernie Ross in my corner, a first rate boxer who could have been in with a good chance had he entered the competition but for reasons best known to themselves, a number of useful boxers, like the referee, Dave Crawford, had declined. I decided afterwards that they had shown good sense. Later on in the same story Green recounts, I was exhausted and quite ready to throw in the towel but Ernie Ross, with whom I would gladly have exchanged places, was saying, "Look at 'im! He's knackered! Watch that right and you'll nail 'im!" as he pushed me out for the last round. After the fight Green wrote, As I dropped onto my stool in my corner, Ernie said, "One more round and you would have had him," to which I gasped, "You must be joking mate."

Here's a site that has information on the N. Korean PoW Olympics of 1952.


Ross' photo is in the top photo of the three black and white football teams.

For a good summary of the RUR in Korea go to:


Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A few years after acquiring the above pair to Ross, I managed to acquire this pair to 22243665 Cpl. P.F.P. Williams RUR who also played on the same football (soccer) team in the N. Korean PoW Olympics. Peter F. Williams was captured on 4th or the 5th of January 1951 during or after the Battle of Chaegunghyon. Williams, like Ross, is listed on page 8 of Peter Gaston's "Korea 1950-1953 Prisoners of War The British Army". The medals are the Queen's Korea (type II) and the UN Korean War Medal (English version). Although Williams is not in the above photograph, he is listed in the nominal roll on this site:


It's quiet an amazing feat to find medals to men who played for the same side.

The Battle of the Imjin and Kapyong are the two actions that remain to this day the two bloodiest battles fought by British soldiers since 1945, the RUR — today, the Royal Irish Regiment — has received little recognition.

The Korean War — where more British soldiers died than in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Falklands combined — is almost unknown to the British public.

As part of Britain’s 29th Brigade, 1st Battalion RUR landed in South Korea in November 1950.

American-led UN forces had defeated Kim Il-sung’s North Korean army, which had invaded South Korea in June, and the RUR were expecting to spend the winter mopping up guerilla holdouts. Instead they would be pitched into severe battles as China stormed into the war. The New Year of 1951 found the RUR deployed north-east of Seoul as 267,000 enemy charged into South Korea. The UN line broke and the RUR was engulfed. One RUR company went down the valley after nightfall, but behind them US aircraft mistakenly dropped flares. By their light, Chinese spotting the RUR pullback and charged down among the Riflemen The battle became a melee. The RUR lost 157 men and the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars lost six tanks. The next morning at parade was when they realised what had happened the previous night. The Koyang battle would become known, with grim irony, as “Happy Valley”.

Meanwhile, China was massing 300,000 troops for the greatest onslaught of the war; their key breakthrough point was the Imjin River. After dark on April 22 the hammer dropped. The Chinese charged en masse. You could not see enemy, just their tracers as they fired; you had to keep firing. Other units were overrun, but the RUR held their positions until morning when the entire UN line started to retreat. Seeing their prey escape, the Chinese surged down the hillsides into the British. For the RUR, it was “Happy Valley” all over again. Their stand had bought critical hours for South Korean refugees to escape, saving countless lives. A battle monument commemorating the sacrifices of the RUR was relocated from Korea to Northern Ireland in 1962 and now stands outside Belfast City Hall.

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The most recent addition to the collection and a first from a PoW captured in Java and another first for a man serving in the RAF.

Sadly, this was stolen in the post or possibly never sent by Britannia Medals. Please contact if these surface.

WWII Prisoner of War Medal group to:
1266305 LAC Walter McIntyre Bowman, Royal Air Force

Consisting of a 1939 Star, Pacific Star and War Medal along with a Red Cross letter confirming the recipient was captured by the Japanese and held as a Prisoner Of War at Java Camp. Also with two photographs, a letter from his mother to him while a POW and a Java Camp POW receipt book that the recipient used as a diary in late 1945.

Good survey of WWII in Java: http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/articles/aerialdefense.aspx

From Java to an Uncertain Fate

One of the major tragedies among the horrific stories of the Far East prisoners of war in Japanese hands during the Second World War is that of the drafts from Java to the Molucca Archipelago or 'Spice Islands'. Flight Sergeant Eric "Johnny" Johnston, was in one of the men in a large group whose destination was the tiny island of Haruku (Haroekoe) just east of Ambon.

Such was the cruelty and sadistic mind set of the Japanese responsible for this expedition that only about one-third returned to Java, but how many ultimately survived the deprivations, cruelties and dangerous sea journeys endured in this draft of men is difficult to say. 

The Haruku draft was assembled in April 1943 when a parade was formed at Jaarmarkt Camp in Sourabaya, Java. 2,070 so-called 'fit' men, i.e. those who were not lame or seriously ill at that stage, were chosen to board ships to an unknown destination. The selection was carried out on the basis of a glass rod being inserted in the rectum to check for the presence of blood and thereby dysentery. No subsequent examination was made of these samples, so it was essentially a pointless but degrading exercise.

To Hell on the Hellships

The band of 2,070 men forming C Group, consisting mainly of RAF and a smaller Dutch contingent, which boarded the Amagi Maru and the Matsukawa Maru where they had to endure appalling cramped and filthy conditions with limited food and water for the two-week voyage. The group included dysentery carriers and the severe over-crowding in the ships caused this to spread quickly.

A halt at Ambon was closely followed by orders to unload the cargo of decomposing oranges. A further stop at Amahai saw the men unloading petrol drums, bombs and other such dangerous items over a grueling 36-hour period without sustenance and accompanied by the usual screaming and beatings by the guards. However, they were transported via small motorboats on to a muddy shore with rain-drenched vegetation that was Haruku. Exhausted, they were then forced to complete the building of the bamboo huts that were to house them for the next sixteen months. Today, this is known as the "nutmeg island" of the "Spice" group.

White Coolies

The men were to be deployed as slave ; although, many of them were highly-trained and skilled in technical applications - air crew, fitters and armorers, aircraft engineers and radio operators. For example some had undertaken three years training at RAF Halton and RAF Cosford as Fitter/Armourers, only to spend at least as long again wielding primitive tools for the Japanese war effort. Their main task was to build an airstrip - a potential Japanese launch pad to Australia, but unfortunately a hump of coral graced the surface of the island and had to be hacked away by hand to make the land level. Using a native hand tool called a pachul, or pickaxe, and a chisel, it took many man-hours to do this. Their parlous state of health due to months of starvation led to serious conditions such as beriberi, pellagra and malaria caused by mosquitoes and the scourge of dysentery that was to run like wildfire through the temporary population of this island. There were also the tropical ulcers, which could be caused by a small scratch from a piece of flying coral or the casual blow of a guard's rotan (bamboo pole) and which could fester to huge proportions. The blinding sun was hard to contend with as it reflected mercilessly off the pale coral that the men were forced to excavate.

Over the next few months, dysentery was to claim 1 in 5 of those PoWs who were taken to Haruku, and over the weeks a total of almost 400 men were carried with decreasing ceremony to the cemetery on the island. The nauseating stench of death permeated the whole camp and its environs.

The Evil Gunso Mori

Perhaps the most pernicious threat to the survival of the prisoners was the presence of the Japanese guard, Gunso (Sergeant) Mori and his sycophantic Korean sidekick and interpreter, Kasiyama. Known as 'Blood and Slime' respectively (two of the symptoms of dysentery), all power seemed to have been given to Mori by the laissez-faire camp commander, Lieutenant Kurishima. Mori's use of violence was purely gratuitous and indiscriminate. Other-ranks, NCOs, doctors and officers were not safe from the wrath of his rotan. Squadron Leader Pitts, the Senior British Officer on Haruku particularly suffered at his hands and yet, Squadron Leader Pitts had this to say about him after the War, "being in part an untamed and brutal savage and, in a much lesser degree, a placid harmless human being, possessing a strong personality and intelligence"

"It must be said that first and last he is a soldier with some fine but indefinable quality, perhaps the absence of meanness, which, suppressed though it was, won for him a certain admiration which was not accorded to any other Japaneseit is difficult to appreciate how one man can indulge in such bestial and brutal savagery upon another, and still be regarded with a certain amount of esteem, yet such a state did indeed exist."

Perhaps it was this juxtaposition of qualities that led the eminent ex-Java POW, Laurens van der Post, to base his Gunso Hara upon him in his book, "The Seed and the Sower" which was later made into the film (under Japanese direction and therefore heavily 'fictionalized' and romanticized), "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence". Both the book and film are condemned by the PoWs who experienced the real events. 
 Nevertheless, Mori was directly responsible for the dysentery epidemic and the huge number of deaths because of his refusal to allow a latrine to be built over the sea for fear that it would 'sully the ocean belonging to His Imperial Emperor'. Instead, the ground fomented with infected excreta and disease-spreading maggots and flies, which overran into the rudimentary accommodation huts. 

There were certain theories about the causes behind Mori's state of mind and his brutal behavior, including the rumor that he was an ex-China veteran who had contracted syphilis during the rape and conquest of that country and which had rendered him insane. Whatever the cause, the fact remains that he was a merciless mass murderer who paid for his crimes in the hangman's noose in Singapore in 1946.

Heroes of Haruku

There were many heroes in the Pelauw camp in Haruku whose day-to-day acts of brotherhood and compassion surely alleviated the suffering of their friends under these diabolical circumstances. The doctors, amongst them Dr. Buning, Dr. Springer, Dr. Philps and Dr. Bryan, saved many lives using the crudest of contrived instruments and effecting what cures they could in the absence of medicines or even vegetation to concoct alternative means of healing. One of these heroes was not a doctor, but a botanist by training who went on to become a Professor of Botany at London University some years after the War (now an Emeritus Professor), and who was serving as a radio officer in the RAF when taken prisoner: Leslie Audus used his skills to manufacture yeast from 'next to nothing', providing the very sick, and eventually all the men, with a source of vitamin B, the absence of which in their scant diet worsened their malnutrition and caused beriberi and pellagra as well as optic neurosis, which could cause irreversible blindness. A good summary of his cultivation methods can be found in Dr. Richard Philps' book, "Prisoner Doctor" as well as in his own definitive work on the Moluccas drafts - "Spice Island Slaves". Without a doubt he saved many lives and the eyesight of many of the men by developing his cultures, and they were most fortunate indeed that he was in the Haruku draft where conditions were so appalling. He was only permitted to continue with his yeast-making activities because one of the by-products was alcohol, which was then commandeered by the Japanese guards.

Departures from Haruku

By November 1943, there were so many sick on Haruku that even the Japanese must have become marginally concerned that they might lose their whole, "workforce" so arrangements were made to remove the sickest men back to Java. One such unfortunate party was on the ill-fated Suez Maru, which was sunk by the USS Bonefish with the loss of all on board. Those who survived the torpedoing were shot in the water by the Japanese guards who had secured life rafts for themselves. The motive: To prevent the world from finding out about their brutal maltreatment of prisoners of war. 

Even by the end of 1943, US operations were intensifying over the Ambon area, notching up the casualty list of POWs and indigenous peoples as well as the Japanese. starvation, beatings and despair continued in the prison camps but despite everything the men retained a strong sense of discipline and camaraderie - the cornerstones of morale and, ultimately, of survival in such diabolical circumstances.

On 1 August 1944, the gates of the Pelauw camp on Haruku were shut for the last time as the final party were moved to Ambon. The airstrip with its inbuilt "design faults" effected by a covert PoW-devised sabotage was never really used by the Japanese who had not reckoned on the Americans out-flanking them in the Banda Sea. 

Between August and September 1944, most groups were clustered around Ambon, for want of sufficient means of transportation back to Java, pending their participation in the risky and piecemeal evacuation and doing their utmost to evade the heavy bombing being carried out by the US. The horror of the "hell ships" travelling to the Moluccas matched the squalor and severely over-crowded conditions of those that returned the men to Java. There were two real and crucial threats: their severely weakened state of health from long-term deprivation under the dreadful conditions on the islands and the increased US domination of the sky and sea. The infamous Maros Maru which took 70 days to reach Java from Ambon and on which 372 of the 500 men aboard perished from disease, starvation and exhaustion. It is nothing short of a miracle that many returned once more to Java and it is no wonder that some of those who still survive today are convinced that they had a "guardian angel".

The titles below are all accounts of (or contain accounts of) the Haruku draft. The definitive and most comprehensive work - "Spice Island Slaves" also contains detailed accounts of the other Moluccas drafts and "The Knights of Bushido" contains a sizeable passage on Haruku but is essentially a study of Japanese war crimes across many theatres.
"Spice Island Slaves" - Leslie J. Audus
"Prisoner Doctor" - Dr. Richard Philps
"The Knights of Bushido" - Lord Russell of Liverpool
"My Life with the Samurai" - Anthony Cowling
"The Emperor's Guest" - Don Peacock
"Their Last Tenko" - "James Home

Here's LAC John (Jack) Plant's account as given to the BBC. He was a PoW in Java along with Bowman.

When I was captured by the Japanese in Java in 1942, I was just 24 years of age. I had served for 2 years plus in the UK in the Medical Branch of the Royal Air Force in No. 3 Bomber Command, based at Marham in Norfolk; I was a fully trained Nursing Orderly. After being moved around a variety of PoW camps in Java I found myself in the Jaarmarkt cam p in Soerabaya. Jaarmarkt (Dutch for Yearly Market) was the largest PoW camp in SE Asia covering about 5 acres; by its very nature and the storage and office buildings available, it was ideal for the Japs to use it for this purpose; e.g. there were fixed toilet facilities and running water.

Prisoners who had been confined in a mixed bag of camps around Java were ultimately moved to Jaarmarkt ;it became the main transit camp and provided men to undertake tasks which were essential to the Japanese war effort and which were spread around the East Indies (then Dutch), now Indonesia. The PoW’s were made up of Dutch, British, Australian, New Zealander, few American, troops and at any one time there would be anything up to 3,000 of them confined in Jaarmarkt.

Early in 1943, a party of us ,mainly British R.A.F. some Dutch, were lined up in an open area of Jaarmarkt for what was said to be a medical inspection to determine who was fit enough to be put on a draft overseas. The ‘medical’ was to say the least perfunctory; looking back on it makes one smile at the simple deceipt.We were lined up Tenko fashion and instructed to drop our pants; in that most of us were wearing shorts this was no problem. Then along came a Japanese doctor; he was at least wearing a stethoscope and a white coat, with half a dozen orderlies in attendance. At a signal from the doctor, the orderlies began to take samples by inserting a glass rod up one's anus. The rods, one to each man, were then thrown into a tray on a table ;there was absolutely no identification of individuals, and thus the whole procedure was farcical. However, if it achieved nothing else it made us smile; the jokes are not repeatable here. The following day we were called out on parade and each handed a small beg, holding about half a kilo of uncooked rice; cursory examination showed the contents to be very poor quality and full of weevils. We were told to retain the bag carefully as it may be required in an emergency. We were then marched down to Tanjong Perak, the docks in Soerabaya; two ships were tied up alongside; we could see their names beneath a rough covering of paint; the Amagi Maru and the Matsukawa Maw. Each was of about 5,000 tons and looked as though they had seen long service; they were clearly coalers and there was evidence of that spread around the decks.

The equatorial sun burned down upon us; the godowns on the dockside offered no relief in the way of shade as we were quite close to the equator; in any case, moving out of line brought the guards down on us unmercifully. We waited thus for some hours and were relieved (silly us) when the guards shouted that we were to embark. A few planks of wood were thrown down to enable us to get aboard from dockside to deck; they were not secured in any way and as the vessel rolled with the swell, the planks moved and became unsafe. However the guards had, it seemed all gone mad; they shouted and screamed at us to” speedo and lekas” (faster, faster) and used their bayonets to prod us forward. It was only when we were actually on deck that we realised that we were to go down into the hold. There was a wooden stairway set at about 45o which had its bottom end sitting upon the floor of the hold. The guards pushed and shoved us so viciously that men piling in at the top of the steps were falling forward on top of those further down who of course were unable to see in the blackness of the hold having just left the brilliant sun above. It was complete pandemonium until the guards were satisfied that they had forced a sufficient number down.
Now to describe the hold; it was about 18 yards square at the base but narrowed to about 5 yds. at the top .The top was timbered over and covered with tarpaulin sheeting leaving a space about 2yards square at the top of the steps. It was quite a drop to floor level and some men had suffered severely when pushed down during loading. Everywhere was covered in coal-dust and within minutes of arriving the mixture of heavy sweating and dust made us all look like freaks.
We were now aboard the Amagi Maru, and we realised that the situation was desperate. There were between 300 and 400 of us confined in a” black hole of Calcutta” situation ; there was no panic despite several men collapsing from either heat exhaustion or from physical damage done during embarkation . The rest of us stood, in order to seek what little air there was coming in through the aperture at the top of the steps. In our hearts we knew that the immediate future looked grim. As we stood packed closely together we realised that it was unlikely that we would find enough room to lie down, and cheered ourselves with the expectation that we would only be aboard for a few hours.

In the corner of the hold, we could discern as we got used to the darkness that there was a wooden structure built in 3 stories which would, on the face of it, provide more floor space, but it soon became clear that the distance between the layers would allow for a person only to lie down.
There was complete calm as each one of us weighed up the situation .Clearly there was need for someone to” grasp the nettle “and organise us. We had two officers with us, both RAF personnel; one a doctor named Forbes, known to be a disciplinarian, took over the responsibility. Without him we should have been in a worse pickle. He had us all seated, cross-legged and back to back, and drew up a series of rules that we should all adhere to; less physical activity would conserve our air supply; priorities were set for the use of the latrines and orderly queuing became the order of the day. Doc Forbes made it clear that he had very limited stocks of medicines; no more than he could carry in a side pack; therefore the use of them would be for only ones whom he considered to be in urgent need.
The latrine facilities aboard the Amagi Maru need description; there were none below deck. A urinal trough was mounted on the bulkhead on deck, which discharged directly into the sea, Only 4 persons could be accommodated at one time, and the Japanese guards saw to it that that number was never exceeded. One had to go up the steps and bow to the guard as one stepped onto the deck; use the urinal and return, bowing as one went. Failure to bow was seen by the guards as inexcusable and was rewarded with a severe beating around the face. The no.2 requirement was catered for by a couple of open topped wooden boxes, each about a yard square, mounted on the side of the ship directly over the sea. There was an aperture in the base which allowed one to discharge directly into the sea below; at least that was the idea, but it was quite a different “kettle of fish” when the vessel was at sea, what with the swell and winds. It was quite a frightening procedure to use the boxes, particularly at night when there was little moon; no lights were allowed on deck. Clearly most people preferred to go at night when one couldn’t easily be seen but had to face what was a substantial risk. The numbers of men using these facilities meant that there was an endless queue, day and night; when the epidemic of diarrhoea occurred, the process became horrendous: (but I jump the gun somewhat).

Despite the awful brutality to get us aboard quickly, we lay alongside the dock for 2 or 3 days; conditions because of the heat meant that life was almost intolerable. Doe Forbes was constantly being called for to treat heat-stroke; as his orderly I helped in whatever way I could; we had to crawl over people to get to the stricken ones. We too, like every one else, were under intense pressure to give in. Doc Forbes made many representations to the Japanese to ease the situation, by for example opening up the aperture at the top of the steps, in which he had some success. He of course risked a beating whenever he protested about conditions. On one occasion, he was told when he pointed that many men would likely die, that” there were thousands more back in Jaarmarkt camp”
We were housed in the hold forward of the bridge but we became aware that there was another hold full aft of the bridge; at no time were we allowed to contact them. We sailed after about 3 days and it had the advantage that there was at last some movement of air through the aperture at the top of the steps. We of course had not a clue as to where we were heading but visiting the latrines on deck presented the opportunity to those of us who were more expert in these matters to make a judgment; we apparently were heading east and running along parallel to the Flores Islands; i.e. passing Lombok and Bali .After a few days we turned due north heading in the direction of the Celebes.

Life aboard became a little more bearable from the point of view of excessive heat but almost everyone was struck down with diarrhoea which overloaded the latrines and made things even more difficult. The daily routines include the distribution of food; a temporary cookhouse had been constructed at the pointed end of the ship; it provided us with two “meals” per day. For breakfast we got a portion of rice pap; about ~ of a pint. As far as food goes it provided no nutrition consisting of carbohydrates and water. If one was lucky enough to have a small quantity of salt or possibly some “goolah” (local natural sugar), one could make it a little more acceptable. That was it until the afternoon when again it was rice, steamed rice, served with a green liquid called vegetable soup. Again without a pinch of salt, it was nauseating, but you either ate it or starved. The rice had to be carried from the cookhouse in wajangs (large shallow woks), and a space cleared at the foot of the wooden steps for distribution. It was essential that the sharing out was done absolutely fairly; there were in this respect two queues ; the first one which saw that everyone got the same amount, started with a different person each meal; and a second queue called a “laaghi” queue (laaghi means more) where the remains from the first distribution were shared. Again the person at the front changed in sequence each meal. For anyone to attempt to dodge the order of distribution was an offence and the person involved could expect some rough treatment from those around.

As the diarrhoea problems got worse, Doc Forbes confided that we were in for an epidemic due largely to a complete lack of washing facilities; matters it seemed could only get worse. On very rare occasions, the guards would allow a hose on deck to be used for washing, albeit seawater; for those who happened to be on deck at the time it was a treat. Through no fault of their own a half of the PoWs went down with diarrhoea. Necessarily the queues for the latrines got longer and longer; it reached the point where the sick were unable to control their bowel movements. Indeed the situation became so desperate that the wooden steps out of the hold became fouled with excreta; the smell was horrendous .Those who were unlucky enough to have been living beneath the steps had to find alternative space. It was found necessary to scrape down the steps when the food was due from the cookhouse to prevent slipping. Our Japanese guards thought our predicament was hilarious, and despite Doc Forbe’s protestations our conditions continued to deteriorate. Whatever happened when we reached our destination we thought couldn’t be any worse; how wrong we were.

After about two weeks and a thousand miles we arrived at the port of Ambon on the island of Amboina. Those PoW’s who claimed that they could swim were allowed on deck; their task was to transfer stores which could float, from the ship to shore by swimming behind for example a 40 gallon drum of oil and pushing it to the beach and rolling up the beach. It was dangerous and hard work; the drums would simply be rolled off the vessel and men instructed to jump in and push. Men were tempted to undertake the task purely to get into the sea and wash. This off-loading was accompanied by much shouting and the guards used their bayonets to speed things up.

We then pulled out to sea; within a few hours sailing we arrived at our destination; a coral island which formed part of the Moluccas called Haroekoe. The island was breathtakingly beautiful with lovely sands along the beach and a wooden jetty running out to sea. It was raining when we disembarked late in the evening; there were no huts yet erected and we had to huddle together on the wet ground overnight. The Amagi Maru cruise had come to an end.

Submitted by - John (Jack) Plant
Ex Royal Air Force (March 1940 -March 1 946)
Rank -Leading Aircraftman
No. - 958592
Prisoner in Japanese hands -March 1 942-Aug 1945
Award -Mention in Dispatches 1946

Photo below: RAF Sqd. 211 personnel in March '42. Possibly on the Tjilatjap railway platform.

Sadly, this was stolen in the post or possibly never sent by Britannia Medals. Please contact if these surface.

Edited by azyeoman

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now