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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Remembrance Day Address 2010
at Hellfire Pass Thailand

This Remembrance Day address was written by Charles Edwards NX35590 2/19 Battalion. I, Diana Bland, have been asked to read the address, as my late husband Ralph Bland was a member of the same Battalion.

We are all gathered here today to commemorate Remembrance Day, or as it was originally called Armistice Day. That unique day in the history of man-kind, that has etched its fame indelibly into the annals of immortality. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. That was the end of World War 1.

Since that time we have seen Nation rise up against Nation. And so it has always been, and sadly still is. For example, in the last decade we have had, the "Desert Storm" war in Iraq, the Albanian war, the war in Chechnia, the Somalia war, the Afghan Conflict and events in East Timor, as well as other confrontations around the world.

And now we revert to the Great War, now referred to as World War I, when the Allies fought the Germans. For four terrible years the battles swung to and fro, and neither the Allies nor the Germans were able to make a decisive gain against the other. This, despite diversionary campaigns in other areas, such as, Gallipoli, Palestine, and Egypt. The Germans hoping that the Allies would sue for Peace, and the Allies hoping that the Germans would give in.

For weeks there were rumours that the end of the war was near. The Allies could make no headway. The German High Command knew since the failure of the March Offensive had failed, that they too could make no headway. Reports coming from the Western Front to the High Command were saying, "There is no longer any prospect of forcing the enemy to seek Peace".

This is what made it unique in all the World Wars, there was no victor and no vanquished. It was an Armistice. Neither side had yielded an inch. Hence, it's original name "Armistice Day'. But now we refer to it as "Remembrance Day".

The first clause of that document of peace on 11 November 1918 was that it would come into effect at 1100 hours. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

We now move to WW2 and most of us are aware of the horrors of that War. For example:- There was the war in Europe. But we are concerned with the War against Japan in South East Asia. This involved the massacre at Parit Sulong on the Malayan peninsular, the imprisonment of Allied soldiers in Pudu Gaol in Kuala Lumpur, the treatment of the Australian Nurses at Banka Island, the exploitation of Allied POWs and Coolies on the Thai-Burma Railway, the prison ships used to transport POWs to Japan. Also those POWs who were in the relatively unknown and unacknowledged locations such as Hainan Island, Ambon, Timor, Rabaul, Mukden in Manchuria and that other railway in Sumatra (about which little is known). This is just to name a few.

World War II ended earlier in the defeat of Germany and her ally Italy in May 1945 and then August the Capitulation by the Japanese. This involved Japan's ignominious surrender, but once again a winner and a loser. This final surrender by Japan took place at 0904 hours on September 2nd 1945, in Tokyo Bay on board USS MISSOURI. Amongst those present was the Australian Field Marshall Thomas Blamey. What was different on this occasion was that this was a surrender. Quite the opposite to the Armistice on that memorable day on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.

This is the reason that we gather together on Remembrance Day each year to reflect on the horrors of war and hope that permanent peace may come to the world.


I would like now to add some personal comments.

Like many of our returned veterans, and in particular POWs, my husband, Ralph, did not talk about his days as a POW, except in the last twelve months of his life, when he jotted down a few notes about the treatment and poor health of the POWs. I realize now I probably should have made an effort to question him about his time as a POW. Unfortunately we cannot go back.

Peter was able to put me in the picture when he discovered in a book, written by Sally Dingo, that my husband was on the Mergui Road at the end of the War. Around 1000 men, many of them already in poor health, were shifted by the Japs from the hospital camp at Nakhon Pathom in April 45 to build, for the Japanese, an escape route called the Mergui Road. 250 of those men died in those 12 weeks.

Although my husband was sixth in a family of nine, he was also a loner. My friends were his friends, however we made many friends together after we married. After studying at tech on his return from overseas, he spent several years working in New Guinea. We met in 1956 and married in 1958 and have two sons and a daughter. Ralph was a loving husband and father. In latter years he became very friendly with one of our neighbours who had been a POW in Germany. We attended a couple of ex-POW reunions with this couple and Ralph also started marching on ANZAC Day after he caught up with an old friend from Wauchope, something he had not done previously. Ralph passed away in 1993.

Lest we forget.

This Remembrance Day address was drafted by Charles Edwards (2/19 Battalion), lightly edited by Peter Winstanley and spoken, in Hellfire Pass on Remembrance Day 2010, by Mrs Diana Bland the widow of Ralph Bland who was a member of the same Battalion as Charles Edwards.



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