Colin Juttner was born in 1910 at Tanunda in South Australia. He was educated at St Peter’s College, Adelaide and studied Medicine at Melbourne University and graduated in 1935. He took his residency at Perth Hospital -now known as Royal Perth Hospital. (It is of interest to note that fellow POW Medical Officers Claude Anderson and Tim Godlee, moved from Adelaide to Perth to practice medicine.). He became a ship’s doctor and travelled to the UK with the intention of doing his FRCS in London. However, this did not eventuate for family reasons. He returned to Adelaide and in November 1938 married Patricia Seppelt. Following marriage they travelled to the UK with the intention of a second attempt to do his surgical degree. However, war broke out, the course was cancelled (temporarily as it turned out) and they hastily returned to Australia to enable Colin to enlist.
Colin enlisted as a Medical Officer (MO) in the AIF on 16 April 1941. He was sent to Malaya later in the year as a member of 2/13 Australian General Hospital (AGH). Later he was transferred to 2/9 Field Ambulance (Fd Amb) which was deployed into Malaya in the Kota Tingi /Mersing area on the East coast, in support of 22 Brigade. Later the allies withdrew into Singapore Island. In this period things were chaotic, and the situation with the medical services was much the same. In these circumstances Colin observed the varying reactions of people to these stressful conditions. Some acted in a noble fashion and others failed to set an appropriate example. For a time Colin’s Field Ambulance element met up with the AGH and he was assisting Albert Coates with anaesthetics. Following capitulation, Colin was sent with working parties to various locations. There was much work to be done including recovering corpses, collecting personal effects and identity discs.
In April 1943, Colin was one of 10 Australian MOs in support of 3,600 Australian POWs sent to Thailand as part of “F” Force (the balance of “F” Force was 3,400 British). It is well known that following an horrendous five days train journey in steel trucks, “F” Force was force-marched by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) to Northern Thailand, a distance of 300 kms over a period of 18 nights. Colin was with a group, which was sent to Kami Songkurai, the most northern camp occupied by Australians. It was about 10 km from the Burma border. During the march he saw and experienced the sadism and brutality of the IJA. He actually suffered a brutal beating by two of the guards. Strangely, two Korean guards who witnessed the beating, later that night put mercurochrome all over the cuts on his back and brought him some food. However, this was just a sample of what was to come over the next 7-8 months.
When in Kami Songkurai, Colin was co-located with, amongst
others, Colonel Kappe the senior Australian Officer “F” Force
and the Senior Medical Officer of “F” Force Major Roy Stevens
(captured on Timor) and Captain Reg (later Sir Reg) Swartz. The camp was
located at the base of three steep hills. These formed a swampy low lying
valley into which water ran from all sides and turned the camp area into
a quagmire when it rained. The area was very remote, unlike the southern
camps where there was at least a chance of contact with some form of civilization.
Here they also had contact with a notorious and dreadful guard by the
name of Toyama (Post War sentenced to Death (later commuted to life imprisonment)
for his crimes) and others such as Captain Fukuda (POW Camp commandant)
and Lt Abe (Japanese engineer).
Comments by fellow POWs follow:
At Kami Songkurai, Colin had welcome visits from Major Bruce Hunt (in reality the leader of the Medical Officers of “F” Force) and Captain John Taylor MC (see above). There was also a British Medical Officer, Captain Wilson, who assisted. The diseases experienced here (amoebic dysentery, malaria, pellagra, beriberi, tropical ulcers and possibly smallpox) were much the same as elsewhere on the line. However, the death rate in this area was dreadful. The death rate amongst the British was 59% and amongst the Australians 29% with an average rate of 44%. There were a number of factors in the high death rate, but no doubt the forced march-in played a big part.
Following completion of the railway on 17 October 1943, Colin returned to Singapore, via Kanchanaburi and Bangkok. The trip Bangkok to Singapore was by ship. Along with others he felt that Changi was like “Home”. After the Japanese capitulated Colin returned to Australia and was discharged from the Army on 23 November 1945.
Post War Colin established a General Medical Practice at Woodside, South Australia. Colin and Pat had two children, Angela and Michael. Whilst at Woodside he indulged in many interests. He passed away 15 July 2003 and, up to nearly his last days, maintained an active life. In fact, he had a fall whilst feeding his horse only days before his death.
Notes prepared by Lt. Col. Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired)
JP - Email address email@example.com.
The assistance of Angela Gunn (Colin’s daughter) and her husband
Neil, Arthur Kearton and information from the Bill Skewes Diary is acknowledged.