Research & Articles by Lt. Col. Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired), JP
Research, Interviews and Articles about the Prisoners Of War of the Japanese who built the Burma to Thailand railway during world war two. Focusing on the doctors and medical staff among the prisoners. Also organised trips to Thailand twice a year.
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Diary of Signaller Don Fraser
VX63764, a POW in Naoetsu, Japan 1943 –1944 Deceased Noaetsu, Japan 21 December 1942.

Don was working with AWA Beam Wireless as a telegraph clerk when he joined the AIF in September 1941. He was drafted to Reinforcements 8 Div Sigs and left- Melbourne on 29 November, arriving in Singapore on 24 January 1942. On 15 February he became a POW and marched to Changi. On 28 November 1942 he left. Singapore with, C Force on the Kamakura Maru; he arrived in Nagasaki on 7th Dec and the next day in Naoetsu, Honshu.

October 1943

Saturday 9th : Weight 59 Kg. Feeling very weak after week of chronic diarrhoea. Worked. half day on barges shovelling coal. Very heavy work. Other half day at Stainless. Very easy afternoon. Usual very unsatisfying tea.
Sunday 10th: Breakfast very poor. Morning on rokers (stone furnace) shovelling heavy stones. Afternoon with Singapore. Tea was much looked forward to and another bread and curry paste. They very kindly gave us a little of our Red Cross soup. Very enjoyable meal under the circs.
Monday 11th. Chased guard’s derby unsuccessfully, so had normal breakfast of bowl of rice and watery stew. Easy morning with Sailor. Dinner - what we now consider delicious, barley and three half pieces of potato and one piece of pumpkin boiled with a little soy bean sauce. Home to find big shot Colonel Suzuki coming to Camp in the morning. Hence frenzied cleaning. Hungry as usual after tea of light issue of rice and curried spuds.
Tuesday 12th: Up at 4 am to clean up for the Colonel. Japs all prepared for inspection. Colonel came on time and made us remove our shirts to inspect our skinny torsos. Jack Crandle died last night of general weakness complicated with pneumonia. Dinner of boiled rice and onion stew. Starving before it and very hungry after it. Usual easy afternoon. Home to tea. Scored half a bowl of Jap rice in derby which made a welcome addition to a tea of two small pieces of boiled spud and one of pumpkin. All a man's thoughts are now of food and what he will eat when he gets home. I never thought I'd descend to begging scraps from a Japanese but it is surprising what two years of starvation will do.
Wednesday 13th: Bad night. Coughed all night and bad diarrhoea. Unsuccessful at derby. Lucky to miss barge party. Usual day at Stainless (steel mill). Small earth tremor in afternoon. Most peculiar sensation. All afternoon thinking of Mother and what a great holiday I could have with her at Greensborough. I'd have the old Austin there and we'd visit all her friends. All I’d want to do would be to eat, read and loaf. I hope to God it won't be long before I see her again. This utter lack of news is very disheartening. Weak stew for tea. Derbies now cut out - all goes to the sick. Good luck to them.
Thursday 14th: My unlucky day, as I copped, the barge party. Very poor breakfast to work hard on all day. The only food I could beg or steal on the boat was a handful of burnt rice which some Jap apparently was getting for his pigs. Got home filthy dirty and covered with coal dirt to find some dirty swine had finished my last piece of soap. The petty pilfering of soap, tobacco, food or anything at all useful in the camp is disgusting. Some chaps have no principle at all. Tea very tasty, but of course not half enough. As soon as one meal is finished one starts thinking about the next.
Friday 15th: Barge party again. Bit of luck in that the winch broke down at 10 a.m. so no work till after lunch. Dinner very tasty to my supersensitive palate, though I wouldn't give it to the dog at home. The fact that one eats it with dirty coaly hands does not add to its enjoyment. Very homesick lately. Thinking particularly of Mother and the times we'll have together when we get back. Tea very tasty again and much the same as dinner. Boiled spuds. Lucky to score a backup of rice, so feeling fairly full. Dinner and tea for the last two days have been mainly spuds.
Saturday 16th :
Sunday 17th:
Holiday today. Greatly appreciated. Did some washing in cold water without soap. Read Oliver Twist and ate beri beri tablets till dinner, which consisted of the usual amount of rice and a ladle of pork and potato stew. The rice ration, these-days consists of an army mug full. This, three times a day with a watery stew, is what we have to live and work hard on. It is no wonder a man is a walking skeleton. Played bridge in the afternoon. Don't seem to enjoy doing anything these days. Reading, playing cards have no interest, even though we have very little time to do either. The reason is mainly perpetual gnawing hunger and a restlessness of mind. Tea of 1½ pieces of potato, 1 slice of pumpkin and 1 small shallot fried in batter with mug of rice. Just enough to tease a man. I've got to give my breakfast away in the morning too and it’s worrying me.
Monday 18th: Went without breakfast this morning. Felt pretty hungry all the morning, but same as usual after dinner. Dinner of curried spaghetti - rather good. Thought of eating toast with grilled cheese piled with spaghetti and tomato sauce. Easy day with Sailor. Tea not bad. Thickened bean curd stew. Losing ½ issue of bread on Sunday still worrying me. Must get it back somehow, even if I have to go without tea one night. Got hold of Strictly Business. Reminded me of happy days at Greensborough when I first read O’Henry. Been thinking of another meal today - grilled steak and buttered eggs.
Tuesday 19th: Started the day with a fair breakfast - plenty of watery grass stew and the average rice. Worked pretty hard all day shoveling stone in the coke furnaces. Copious curry and very light rice for dinner. Excellent stew for tea - plenty of dumplings, spuds, onions and bean curd. Plenty, that is, for here, though actually one third of what I could comfortably eat before I had tea at home . Worked with Ron Coten today. He is rather an interesting person to talk to and well travelled and intelligent.
Wednesday 20th: Excellent stew for breakfast. Sweet pumpkin and plenty of miso paste. Day on Sikero. Missed the barge. Bad luck as it turned out, as they had an easy day, were issued with 3 apples apiece and knocked off at 3.30 when the boat sailed. Two noodles and 3 small boiled spuds for tea. Day otherwise the same as all the others here.
Thursday 21st: Breakfast lily root stew. Missed barges again, so work in stone furnace again. Curry for dinner. Rained heavily all afternoon. Very pleased to be working indoors. Tea of blubber and boiled dorigon (sic) - these are a coarse type of radish. Very tasty supper of two 5c buns. They were delicious to my palate, though they would be nice even at home. Still haven't got that bread back yet . Am finding it very difficult to save the rice to buy it. Must do so, nevertheless, tomorrow perhaps.
Friday 22nd: Breakfast fairly good turnip stew and miso paste. Worked with Singapore all day . Weather now turning very cold and rainy. First signs of snow on the mountains. Now resigned to spending another cold and miserable winter in Japan. Dinner was a fair curry, and tea a stew of turnip tops, potatoes and dumplings. Managed to buy the bread back, so now happy. Did it by dint of going without breakfast rice once more. Roll cal1 at 7 pm tonight. Slept fairly well despite cold and attentions of lice. These lice now getting very troublesome.
Saturday 23rd: Very cold and windy morning. Breakfast turnip top stew again. Cold morning spent cracking stone. Dinner of 3 pieces of spud, a small amount of squid and a little sauce. Not much to wield a sledge hammer on all day in the rain. Spent a very cold afternoon shovelling stone into a crusher. Very poor tea - cold blubber and turnips boiled plus a spoonful of miso paste.
Sunday 24th: Very cold morning. Usual breakfast boiled turnip tops. Good amount of mashed pumpkin, potato and pork. Delicious here, but pig food home. Good afternoon. Expected to find a nice bath on arrival home, but it was cold and dirty. Had a wash in it however, though I have no soap. Tea was the much looked forward to bread. It was a bread bun this time, beautifully fresh and crisp. With it were 7 or 8 potato chips one piece of fried pumpkin. Also had an issue of rice and the dinner hash, so altogether a pretty good tea. Roll call at 7.10. The ....... was in and found fault with everything - clothing, bed making, etc. All got a dong on the head and stood to attention for an hour.
Monday 25th: Fair breakfast of the usual turnip tops boiled. Weather still cold - just about winter weather at home. Very easy day filling in time with Sailor. Yarned motor-bikes with Jim Downey all day. Dinner of boiled rice and a very watery, turnip top and bean curd stew. Supper - boiled pieces of turnip and two noodles. These noodles are doughnut shaped affairs made of plain flour and water. They boil them and put a little diluted soy bean sauce on them. Tasteless, but nice under the circumstances.
Tuesday 26th : Greeted this morning with the news that Tom Cummerford had died. He died of pure starvation. Once a man gets a bit weak here they are on to him and he goes down very rapidly. Meals today all the same - boiled sweet potato tops. Day same as usual - worked with Sailor and did it very easy. Lice very bad, particularly at night time. It is too cold to have a cold bath, besides which I have no soap, and it is hard enough to get hot water to drink, let alone wash in. A man is filthy dirty most of the time. There is a bath once a week, but it’s usually lukewarm, and by the time 200 dirty men have washed in the same water, it’s like pea soup.
Wednesday 27th: Green stew for breakfast and dinner again. Not bad taste and fair quantity. Cold day with rain wind and a little sunshine. Lucky to be working inside with Sailor all day. Green stew for tea with the addition of a few potatoes.
Thursday 28th: More greens for breakfast. Fried for dinner. Same job as yesterday. Very uneventful day. Good tea of boiled spuds, blubber and bean curd. Rice issue slightly more for today's share meals.
Friday 29th: Good potato and turnip stew for breakfast. Dinner of boiled fish and turnip. Tea of fried potato and pumpkin and beans in batter. Excellent tea considering. In fact, I feel very full - quite a novel sensation. Very cold and wintry day, and dark by the time we reached home. Hailstorm while walking home. Wind and snow and slush will soon be with us. Worked inside with Sailor all day. Easy work and warm.
Saturday 30th: Very cold and rainy night. Light rice and potato tops for breakfast. Easy day in the warm again with Sailor. Good issue of boiled rice and potato top stew for dinner. Tea - fair rice, 3 noodles, 1 piece pumpkin and 1 piece bean curd. Still raining and blowing. Feel as cold as a frog. The tea did very little towards warming one up. Looking forward to good tea tomorrow night.
Sunday 3lst: Bitterly cold night and blizzardly morning with hail storm on way to work. Cold and wet all the morning dragging a roller inside a big draughty shed. Afternoon a bit warmer - crushing stones on the rock pile. Breakfast turnip and potato stew. Dinner a watery curry, and bread and sweet bean for tea. Had two issues of cold rice extra. Altogether a very cold tea.

November 1943

Monday 1st: Months going very quickly. Felt sick this morning. Result of eating too much rice. Day with Sailor again. Meals fair potato and dargon stew. Thick fish stew for dinner and excellent spaghetti stew for tea. Didn't eat rice for dinner. Swapped (sic) rice for stew at tea time. Suffering from diarrhoea again. Nice sunny day, but very cold in the morning and evening. Good news though – rumours of letters, issue of soap and newspapers and 130 bags of sweet potatoes arrived.
Wednesday 3rd: Fine sunny day. Indoors with the ...... all day. Usual breakfast good thick sweet potato stew for dinner, fried sweet potato, pumpkin and one bean for tea. Bad diarrhoea and pains in the stomach all day.
Thursday 4th: Usual green stew for breakfast, boiled rice and fair potato stew for dinner. Fish pumpkin and turnip top stew for tea. Very sick in the stomach all day, and unable to enjoy meals. Day outside with Sailor. Glorious sunny weather - just like Autumn at home, makes me very homesick. Spent all day thinking of lying in a deck chair on the back lawn with a book, wireless and a table laden with fruit, chocolates, cakes and biscuits and cigarettes. The walk home at night, with the smell of wood smoke and food cooking also brings poignant memories. Ah well, it can't be long now.
Friday 5th: Ordinary meals today - green stew, green & potato stew, boiled potato, sweet potato and turnips. New job today, on the roller. Hope I can keep on it for the winter. It may be hard work, but it will be inside and warm for the winter. Tobacco issue today.
Saturday 6th: Copious green stew for breakfast. Had the rice for dinner and changed the dinner rice for the boil that was on. It was excellent, a kind of fish roll, boiled sweet potato, turnip and potato. Two issues made quite a good meal. Still on the roller job. Very easy morning indoors. Elected temporary stew server from this morning. Pumpkin and turnip stew for tea. Received the bad news that my name is not on the list of roller men. Thought it too good to be true that I'd strike a good job for the winter. I'll probably be outside, shoveling snow the same as last winter. There may still be a chance, nevertheless.
Sunday 7th: Usual breakfast. Watery stew for dinner, one each boiled bean curd, sweet spud and pumpkin for tea. Lost the roller job - just my luck. Outside with Sailor all day. Sunny day with chilly breeze blowing. Fairly heavy fall of snow on the mountain tops. It will be here soon. I suppose I'll be shovelling it again all winter.
Tuesday 9th: Good meals today. Cabbage and sweet spud stew, spaghetti, sweet potato and fish rool stew for dinner, fried battered sweet potato, fish roll and bean for tea. All the odds and sod worked together with Rateye all day unloading bricks inside a shed. Very easy. Got sopping wet coming home. On picket tonight. Cold, wet and windy. Giving ½ breakfast rice to Frank to do it for me.
Wednesday 10th: Good stew for breakfast - potato and bean curd - only ½ rice though. Dinner copious stew of pork, sweet potato, turnip and greens. Didn't enjoy because of seeing the sergeant's ration - pure pork and vegetables, while mine was half water. Fairly satisfactory notwithstanding. Sunny morning with Sailor. Very easy. Cold afternoon. Good pumpkin, blubber and potato stew for tea. Tea was late due to search for money. We are not permitted to take money to work, but some fools insist on disobeying orders, and it rebounds on all of us.
Thursday 11th: Breakfast and dinner very poor. Watery green stew for both, dinner with the addition of a few pieces of fish inside. Filled up on hot water. Still suffering from diarrhoea. Worked all the morning with Sailor throwing slag about. Talked to Charlie Molloy and Jack Devlin all day, mostly about food. Hope history repeats its self with regards to Armistice Day. Fair dumpling stew for tea. Same job in afternoon and sopping wet going home.
Friday 12th: Pretty good potato and green stew for breakfast, potato and greens for dinner, fish potato and greens for tea. Cold wet windy miserable day, outside all day. Diarrhoea very bad.
Saturday 13th: Meals not worth recording. Fair day with Sailor. Red letter day - issue of 9 lollies, 2 eggs, sugar and 2 oz cocoa. Dry cocoa and sugar mixed together tasted to me like the finest dark chocolate. Just shows how hypersensitive one's taste is for anything decent.
Sunday 14th: Went without tea last night and breakfast this morning. Bought issue of bread for them. Cured diarrhoea, enjoyed dinner of curry, and tea issue of bread, mashed sweet potato and gravy. Fine sunny day outside with Sailor.
Monday 15th: Breakfast good sweet potato and green stew. Dinner boiled dargon, bean curd and sweet potato. Tea - fish rool and dargon stew. Had the symptoms of flu all day. Miserable day outside scratching slag. Very bucked to get two letters from home tonight. First word so far. Dated 1942, 18 months old, but nevertheless very welcome.
Friday 16th: Excellent pumpkin and dargon stew for breakfast, very poor bean curd and green stew for dinner. Spent morning on ....... with Sailor. Afternoon on same job. Very dirty, but finished day with lukewarm bath. Tea of good boiled rice boiled blubber, sweet potato with crab roll. Quite good. Beri-beri becoming very troublesome. Hands and feet becoming swollen and legs very stiff and painfull. Scotty Allanson died of weakness this morning.
Wednesday 17th: Poor breakfast of greens and a few potatoes . Good firm rice. Poor dinner of crab roll and green stew. Excellent tea of spaghetti with pork and onion. Same job as yesterday. Very easy.
Thursday 18th: Fair potato and green stew for breakfast, bean potato and pumpkin stew for dinner. Rather good. Nice warm morning again with Sailor. Been out of tobacco for three days. No good at all. Worked with Charlie Molloy for the past week or so. Very interesting to talk to. He, like me, is fond of music, and talks of very interesting food dishes. We continue to pass the time quite pleasantly between us.
Friday 19th: Cold wet miserable day. Some hail. Snowfalls on nearer foothills. Day with Sailor outside. Good smokes by the fire though. Water boiler in mess hut warms things up a bit, and makes dinner much more pleasant. Breakfast good green and potato stew. Dinner fair – pork, potato, greens and floury curry.
Saturday 20th: Breakfast and dinner watery stew. Tea a fry of pumpkin, potato and bean cluster. Fine sunny day outside with Sailor. Finished day with a hot bath. Very welcome. Diarrhoea still very bad. Losing weight and strength consistently.
Sunday 21st: Holiday today. Cold wet windy day. Spent the whole day in bed. Too cold and sick to do anything else. Breakfast and dinner watery stew. Tea - bread and tasteless sweet bean.
Monday 22rd: Too sick and sore in the stomach to eat breakfast. Still pretty sick at dinner time. Gave half dinner and all breakfast rice to Merv Gronow. Very poor sweet potato stew for dinner. Managed to eat a little. Spent all day outside with Sailor. Issue of cocoa for tea. Poured it over the rice and thoroughly enjoyed it. Also ate and enjoyed dargon and fish roll stew. All Stainless called to Jap guards and sick looking ones put on rollers. Unlucky to miss out again.
Tuesday 23rd: Potato, turnip and green stew for breakfast, good potato and poor stew for dinner. Thickened bean curd and dargon stew for tea. With Sailor again, out in drizzly rain all day. Still suffering from acute diarrhoea and beri-beri. Issue of Jap underpants tonight.
Wednesday 24th: Went on gruel today in effort to cure diarrhoea Good sweet potato and green stew for breakfast, vile blubber curry for dinner. Fine day. Same job as yesterday. Looks like repetition of last winter's work this winter. Snow heavy on mountain tops now. Gradually creeping closer. Rather tasteless spaghetti stew and light issue of gruel for tea. Very welcome hot bath after work.
Thursday 25th: Dargon stew and still lighter issue of gruel for breakfast. Dinner - curry with no vegetables in it. Same job with Sailor - fine sunny day. Fish roll and blubber stew for tea.
Friday 26th: Dargon and sweet potato for breakfast, fish and sweet potato stew for dinner, spaghetti and bean curd stew for tea. Gruel ration pretty good, excellent for tea. Worked at Sinetsu (chemical factory, including rock piles) today. Fine sunny day. Very unpleasant atmosphere out there. Very nice bread bun issued after tea. Went on sick parade with beri-beri tonight, and now on no duties.
Saturday 27th: On no duties today. Full gruel ration for breakfast and sweet potato stew. Dinner of half ration ...…. Small mug rice and half ladle stew. Tea - three small pieces battered sweet potato and one very small bean cluster. Small mug of sloppy rice.
Sunday 28th: Cold day spent making rope. Very monotonous on no duties in here. Breakfast - cabbage and sweet potato stew. Dinner same - with addition of a little pork. Tea - bread with mashed sweet potato and onion gravy.
Monday 29th: Breakfast - dargon and green stew. Dinner same with addition of pork. Boiled tea of blubber, sweet potato and bean curd. Supper of 2½ boiled sweet potatoes. Days very uneventful on no duties. Weather cold and wet.
Tuesday 30th: Usual sweet potato and dargon top stew for breakfast. Dinner - pork, sweet spud, cabbage and pork stew. Very cold morning. Afternoon of wintry sunshine. Tea - brown thick stew of bean curd, dargons and greens. Boiled sweet potatoes again for supper. Beri-beri getting painful, and diarrhoea worse. Feeling very weak.

December 1943


Wednesday 1st: Breakfast as yesterday. Spuds cut out of rice, resulting in still further reduced ration. Ration now approximately half old squad ration: Getting very weak on it. Dinner, fish roll and dargon stew. Fine sunny day, but too weak and miserable to enjoy it.
Monday 6th: Nothing to record for the last few days. Still on no duties and feeling rather sick. Rice ration has been increased for the winter. Sick now get a full pannikin. Not too bad, but I still can't enjoy my meals. Bad diarrhoea responsible. Two more deaths on Saturday. Total now 19. Looks as if only the very fittest will survive the winter. I hope to God this war soon ends. Breakfast this morning weak dargon stew.
Friday 10th: Still on no duties. Had diarrhoea all the time. And feeling very weak. Absolutely nothing to record for the last few days. Very cold. Monotonous and miserable. Highly welcome issue today of 4 mandarins, 11 small sweet biscuits and a bun. These, with an extra of a bun, 5 biscuits and 3 mandarins which I bought for rice, and a good hot spaghetti stew was the first meal I'd enjoyed for some days. The biscuits particularly show how keen a man's taste is. They were small and hard, merely flour, sugar and water and carb-soda, yet I have never enjoyed a biscuit half as much.
Saturday 11th: First falls of snow today. Very cold and miserable. Sick parade in for two more days. Couldn't eat breakfast, but enjoyed dinner of good pork stew.
Tuesday 14th: Back to work today. Very easy day with S……. shifting scrap. Fine sunny day, and still feeling very weak and unable to eat.
Wednesday 15th: Warm easy day with S…….. again today. Feeling a bit melancholy and very listless, due to lack of food and diarrhoea. Must pull myself together, otherwise I'll be in that there little box.
Thursday 16th: Another fairly fine and very easy day with S……... Still off the food and feeling as weak as a kitten. The whole camp had to stand to attention from 8.30 till 11.45 pm, because four galoots went outside the fence to thieve salt. Some chaps are absolutely irresponsible.
Friday 17th: Still chilled to the bone after last night's episode. Been eating two rice balls for breakfast instead of rice for last two days. Very tasty but not much …..?…can't eat this rice. Beans out of rice this morning until further notice. I can eat it a little better in consequence. Merv Gronow behaving very decently and giving me all he can afford and more. Gave me all the bean curd out of dinner stew today, giving me a very tasty dinner. Cracking carbon this morning. So weak that after six strokes with a 10 pound hammer I'm absolutely exhausted. Tried tea - very tasty. Sweet spuds, one bean cluster and one piece squid. Letters on issue, but I was not lucky.
Sunday 18th: One year since we started work. Hope to God we don't have to complete another one. Woke up this morning feeling so stiff and weak that I could hardly walk. Still got diarrhoea and can't eat. Managed to enjoy dinner of piece of nice fish and a piece of boiled potato. These sweet potatoes still nauseate me, so swapped it for fish. Very easy morning with S………. Comparison between conditions now and one year ago is woeful. Lost over three stone and now as week as a kitten.
Sunday 19th: Still as sick as ever. No breakfast or dinner to speak of, though enjoyed bread and stew for tea. Small bag of lollies issued. Very poor really, but delicious to me. Merv Gronow gave me his - very decent of him.
Monday 20th: Still sick, though enjoyed rice balls for breakfast. Able to eat only small portion of dinner and tea. Suffering badly from pellagra. Legs are practically useless. It is an agony walking home at night, and climbing stairs is something I dread. However, I must keep on I suppose. A chap had too much behind him and too much to hope for, to give: in at this stage.
Tuesday 21st January, 1944*: Enjoyed rice balls again, and managed to eat most of dinner : Weather hasn't been too bad lately, and work is easy, so I'm not faring too badly. The legs are still the prime cause of my misery and self-pity, though ……..?

Diary ends here. Last words.

*This date was most likely December 1943.
The 21st January 1944 was the reported day of Don's death; he was aged 23 yrs. His grave (ND A,B. 9) is in the Yokohama War Cemetery. His personaI belongings (safety razor, shaving brush & this Diary) were given to his family in Frankston. His parents were Archibald & Annie Fraser. His brother Norman was in the Navy on the sloop "Yarra " and he died when it was sunk just after the invasion of Java in 1942

"The above copy of the diary of Don Fraser was passed to me by Dr (Signaller) David Rodda. David & Don were signals reinforcements sent to Singapore late January 1942. They both became POWs in February. Don was sent to Japan and David initially was sent to Burma and much later followed to Japan. Don Died at Naoetsu POW camp December 43 or January 44, before David arrived in Japan en route to Omuta POW Camp."
Lt Col Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired) JP email Web www.pows-of-japan-net

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