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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A Japanese tribute to 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion men


Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Hamilton was the Commanding Officer of the 2/4 Casualty Clearing Station at the fall of Singapore.  Following capitulation he recorded the verbatim accounts of some of the men he treated in Roberts Barracks Hospital.  By co-incidence he also made the following verbatim record of the experiences of a Japanese officer who was involved in crossing the Johore Straits and coming under heavy machine gun fire from the Allies.  This fire would almost certainly have been from some of the 2/4 Machine Guns on the coast west of the Causeway.  Colonel Hamilton was the Senior Medical Officer with “A” Force which was the first body of Australian troops sent to work on the Burma Thailand Railway.

“This section was vividly related to Captain Lee (Adjutant of the 2/4 CCS) and myself in the rat infested hold of the hell ship “Celebes Maru”, during a hot night in late May 1942, when the ship – deserted except for a portion of my unit and a few Japanese guards – lay at anchor in the Gulf of Tavoy.  Sasaki, unusually decent and generous to us, spoke English fairly well.  He wanted to talk of Western classical music, but we drew him on to speak of Singapore; the while munching hungrily at a tin of bully-beef which he had brought to us.

Lieutenant (Choi) Sasaki, aged 23, a fighting wild-cat of a machine gun officer in the Imperial Nipponese Army, demonstrated with flashing eyes and vehement gestures how his military landing craft had started from the south western corner of Johore, and proceeded, at full speed with lights showing, towards the Causeway.  When fire was drawn from the defenders on the opposite side of the narrow strait, the lights were extinguished.  Then the motor barges were turned about and steered back to a pre-selected landing place on Singapore Island.

“It was ver’ bad place,” continued little Sasaki, his voice rising as he recalled the excitement.  “Orstralians shoot ver’ hard, ver’ fast, brr’p, brr’p” (here he imitated the rattle of machine-guns) “so that Nippon soldiers jump down” among mangroves, and sweem, sweem in mud, oil and dark.  Hoi! Hoi.  What beeg mess!  We throw off packs, off shirts, off everything except sword and material for fight.  Then we fight with glory in mud.  Ah! Orstralians!  They are for me a grand souvenair of fight for Seenapoor, - what you say? a gallant memory.

“When morning come we have crawled to railway line past mangroves.  When I look up – all quiet!  About feefty metres away I see road where like many dead men er.. er.. p’raps twenty-seeven Orstralian, ver’ sad, ver’ sad!”  (Here Lieutenant Sasaki stood erect at the salute).  “I give them salute of honour.  Then on to objective; more fight begin, grand fighting but no water, no food!  For five days we drink from stream and eat cocoanut; dam’ near starve!  But on feefth day take Mandai Hill where we rest, ah! beautiful rest.  Never I forget Orstralians and grand fighting souvenair they give me at Seengapoor.”

Marvelling at the stamina revealed by Sasaki’s men between the landing and the capture of Mandai Hill I could not help asking:  “And where did you train for all this fighting, Choi?”

“Ah!  French Indo Cheena,” he answered readily.  “Every day for six months, twelve hours every day, dig jungle, sweem swamps but keep sword and guns clean, ver’ hard!”

Sasaki had too much regard for our feelings to add that the Japanese were good fighters.  No white troops would stand such a hard, animal-like training; but jungle warfare and animal life have much in common.

The casualties caused by the Japanese landing meant more work for the Medical Service; while the civilian and military in habitants were startled into a frenzied activity paralleled only by that of an ant heap into which a stick has been thrust.”

This extract was from papers given to Lt Col Peter Winstanley by the daughters of Lt Col Thomas Hamilton – Jean Charlton (Newcastle) and Anne Mulholland (Melbourne).  Peter Winstanley see his website   has stood on the area where the Japanese landing took place and observed just how difficult it would have been to move through the mangroves.


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