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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Lieutenant Colonel VX14845 2/2 Casualty Clearing Station.

Norman Menzies Eadie was born in Bendigo 12 October 1893.  Norman Eadie spent his early working years as an engineer and in 1920 he became a Foundation Associate Member of the Institute of Engineers of Australia, then he chose to follow a family tradition and became a medical doctor.

He travelled to Edinburgh where he studied medicine at the famed Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he graduated in 1926.  Subsequently he practiced in London as an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, and worked at the celebrated Golden Square Throat Hospital in London.  From 1930 to 1939 he worked in Melbourne as an Ear Nose and Throat surgeon and at the outbreak of war in 1939 he had an ENT practice in Collins Street, Melbourne.  He became a FRACS in 1932.

Eadie was on an Army Reserve list before the war and he enlisted soon after the outbreak of war.  In doing so, he gave up his practice as an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist in Melbourne.


It has been difficult to put together an account of Lt Colonel (Lt Col) Norman Eadie's military career.  He did not seek attention and spoke little about his experiences.  It is fortunate that in 1953 an authoritative book titled "Medical Middle East and Far East" was published by Allan S Walker.  Without this written record there would have been little produced about the Medical Services.

From records it is clear he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 11 May 1940.  He served as an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist with the 3rd Australian General Hospital in the United Kingdom in 1940.  Then in May 1941 he was in Palestine with the 2/3 Australian General Hospital.  Later in 1941 he became the Commanding Officer of the 2/2 Casualty Clearing Station, which was part of the 7th Australian Division.  Late in 1941 it was agreed that Australian troops from the Middle East should be diverted to resist the Japanese aggression in the Far East.   The 1st Australian Corps, less a Division, and some base troops, embarked from several ports in the Middle East in an operation known as "Movement Stepsister".  The movement of the elements became very fragmented.  There were three flights (convoys) and the initial intention (by General Wavell) was to reinforce the Allies in Malaya.  It was soon apparent that Singapore was about to fall and the destination was changed to southern Sumatra.  It is a story on it's own, that the Orcades, which travelled ahead of the A.I.F. convoy arrived at Oosthaven, Sumatra.   This plan had to be cancelled when it was discovered that the Japs where already in that area.  The Orcades then took the A.I.F elements to Batavia on Java where they landed on 18 February 1942 (three days after the fall of Singapore).

When the Japanese invaded Malaya in December 1941 the Dutch and the British were already in Java.  Then as mentioned above, in February 1942, the Australians arrived from the Middle East.  The A.I.F. formed "Blackforce" under administrative command of Brigadier Blackburn VC, former Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) CO of the 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion.  The operational command wrested with the Dutch Commander in Chief General ter Poorten.  Other A.I.F.appointments were

  • Lt Col Eadie -Commanding Officer (CO) of the 2/2 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) was taken onto "Blackforce" (AIF) Headquarters as the Senior Medical Officer (SMO) of the Force.  
  • As a consequence, Major E.E. (Weary) Dunlop VX259, who was second in Command of the 2/2 Casualty Clearing Station, took over command of the CCS (part strength, with now only 3 Medical Officers (MOs), being Majors Arthur Moon NX455 and Ewen Corlette NX350,  and one Dental Officer (DO), being Captain Jock Clarke QX6245).  Dunlop was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel.
  • Captains Tim Godlee (WX11057) and J Goding (VX14906) respectively were the Medical Officers with the 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion and the 2/2 Pioneer Battalion.  They had also arrived from the Middle East with their units.  

On his appointment to the "Blackforce" headquarters, Eadie was promoted to Colonel (which is an appropriate rank for a SMO).  The book "Weary" a biography of Dunlop states that Dunlop was promoted to Colonel and Moon and Corlette were promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 8 March 1942 (the day the Dutch capitulated on Java).  Not one of the above promotions is recorded on the Internet site

When the author of the present article was at the Imperial War Museum during 2009, he stumbled across the diary of Lt Col C.W. (Peter) Maisey (RAMC), who was the Deputy Assistant Director Medical Services (most likely British) on Java.  The diary only covered the period 9 March to 12 April. It is interesting to consider one of his diary entries, covering the period 14 to 16 March.  The thrust of the diary entry was: - Lt Col Eadie ADMS Blackforce had returned from Brigadier Blackburns's (Senior Australian Officer) Headquarters appointing Eadie as Officer Commanding the No 1 Allied General Hospital.  The diary note states that the ADMS (Assistant Director Medical Services and not named) refused to accept the order on the following basis -

  • Lt Col Dunlop had "Made' the hospital, he had the full support of all the staff
  • His (Dunlop's) appointment had been notified to Australia………and
  • the ADMS considered it would be grossly unfair to him and….staff…and patients……
  • in addition, ……………required a young man of Lt Col Dunlop's type to be in command.

Note.  It is not clear who the ADMS referred to above was.  

Interestingly, the Maisey diary note for the 14-16 March period, also mentions that Eadie interviewed the (a) Japanese diplomat through the help of the Swiss Red Cross Representative and opened negotiations for a relief ship for the Australians.  Not surprisingly, nothing resulted from this approach.

Along with about 3,000 other Australians Lt Col Eadie became a Prisoner of War (POW) on 12 March 1942 (the battle for Java concluded with the Dutch capitulation on 8 March and the other elements on 12 March 1942).  The Australian units under command of Brigadier Blackburn were as follows:-

2/3 Machine Gun Battalion   710
2/2 Pioneer Battalion 937
2/6 Field Company  222
Company HQ plus Platoon Guard Battalion 43
105th General Transport Company     206
2/3 Reserve Motor Transport Company 471
2/2 Casualty Clearing Station  93
Stragglers  165
Others???  73
Total        (all figures approximate) 2,920

It is worth noting the following extract from the definitive book "Medical Middle East and Far East" by A.S.Walker first published 1953 at page 585:-
At the end of October (1942) Lt Col Eadie, who had previously commanded the 2/2 CCS arrived from Java. …………we may note that in March 1943 he had been taken to a native gaol in Batavia after he had unsuccessfully attempted to arrange for hospital accommodation for casualties resulting from a forced march of POWs at Batavia.  This gaol was filthy and 2,000 European POWs were crowded into a space meant for 900 native prisoners.  With Captain Goding AAMC, Eadie tried to do something for many men suffering from dysentery , malaria and dengue fever, though hampered by a serious shortage of drugs.  A month later some of the Australians, with Eadie and Goding, were transferred to a camp in the city known as "Bicycle Camp" where the Brigadier (Blackburn) had been some time previously.  In October 1942 Eadie was sent as Senior Medical Officer (SMO) with a working force of 1,500 Australians and Americans…who suffered horrible conditions on board ship to Singapore.  After a few days at Changi Eadie went to Moulmein in Burma, and became absorbed into "A" Force.

As referred to above, during 1942 about 6 parties of POWs were deployed from Java to other locations where the Japs put them to work.  Lt Col Eadie was with the fourth group to leave Java with Lt Col Williams (CO 2/2 Pioneer Battalion) party, known as Williams Force.  Williams Force then transitted through Singapore and arrived in Burma in October 1942.

Lt Col Eadie was one of the older men of the Railway at 49 years of age.  It is not possible to positively identify all the camps in Burma where Eadie was stationed.  It is known that from arrival in Burma in October 1942 and for most of 1943 he was on the Burma end of the railway construction.  Camps identified are:-

  • Kunknitkway (26 kilo camp)
  • Retpu (30 kilo camp)
  • Tanyin (35 kilo camp)
  • Beke Taung (40 kilo camp)
  • Taungzun (60 kilo camp)
(see The Burma Railway, Hellships & Coalmines" by Tony Carter and Neil MacPherson, "A Doctor's War" by Rowley Richards and "The Survival Factor" by Rowley Richards and Marcia McEwan).

Lt Col Eadie, had poor health whilst in Burma, but in the words of Rowley Richards (refer his book mentioned above), "…was doing his best to cope with the RAP and sick parades…"

Another quote from "Medical Middle East and Far East" page 588 states:-
In June (1943) cholera in the 60 kilo camp was well under control, largely owing to the efforts of Eadie and Richards, and the men, most of whom had recurrent malaria were sent to 40 kilo camp which was even worse.  Men were driven to work by the Japanese, and Lt Col Eadie and Sgt T O'Brien who refused to let sick men go, were sentenced to a month's imprisonment.  Fortunately the sentence was cancelled at the last moment.

A prisoner of War Ken Darwin 2/2 Reserve Motor Transport Company SX10941, in his unpublished book, states.

It was May 5, 1944 and just at dawn, I left my pap on my "bed", and armed with my water bottle, headed due east into the rising sun, on crutches, bound for the boiled water point.  A shriek from an unseen guard warned me I was in real trouble.  With the glare of the sun on the horizon, I had not seen him, so I hadn't saluted!  I was marched to the guard house where I now found myself lined up with 6 others, all there for the same reason.  That group of guards had just come on, so were due for duty for four hours and needed some relaxation!  Shortly after, the guard who had marched me up there returned with an eighth victim and we were in business!  The little saw-off runts then worked themselves into a frenzy, screaming, kicking, punching.  If they were too short, they went back into the guard-house and got a box so they could stand on it and reach higher.  While this was all going on, you stood strictly at attention, fingers stretched.  If you dared to curl your fingers as in making a fist, you could hear the guards behind you click their rifles as they took them off "safety", ready to shoot you in the back!  I had a little short-arsed runt stand off and throw the biggest punch he could muster straight at my belly-button, so I tightened up everything and he hit a fairly solid obstacle.  His comment, in English, was "Ah!  Very strong"! and from then on, he went for broke!  He stood on his box, hit me over the head, used his rifle butt, punched me in the stomach until I fell, then kicked me until I got up, etc., etc.  As one tired, another would take over.  When their stint of 4 hours duty was over, I was given my bamboo crutch and sent back to my hut.  I finished my cold "pap" and reported to the Doctor, who in turn referred me to the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, Colonel Eadie.  The results of the fun were an umbilical hernia, a burst right eardrum, a damaged right eye and with probable detached retinas in both eyes, not to mention the contusions and abrasions.  By the time I had had my pap, the right eye was completely closed over.  Colonel Eadie, the ENT fellow told me that I would probably never hear again out of the right ear because the eardrum was so badly perforated that it resembled the top of a pepper-shaker.  I spent the next several days boiling up water, adding salt and bathing the various places.  After all, what else was there to do?  The ear was a problem.  The sound of rushing water was always there and I was finding it upsetting and nauseating.  Some considerable time later, I was lying awake at night and I heard a noise, like a squeak, when you kick a sand-shoe into deep dry sea-sand, and all the rushing water sound disappeared from my hearing and I could hear again.  I tapped out a morse code message onto Pat Campbell's foot to tell him I could hear, but he was angry that I had awakened him when he had just gone to sleep.  Next morning, I went to see Colonel Eadie, the EN & T fellow.  He told me how lucky I was and that the squeak I had heard was when the last little hole in the ear-drum had healed itself over.  Major Hobbs had accepted responsibility for the rest of my injuries and when a small yellow-head appeared at the side of the right eye, as a result of all the hot foments, I was held down while he made an incision.  The detached retinas apparently re-affixed themselves more or less in their correct places.

In the papers written by Major LJ Robertson (2/6 Field Company RAE "Blackforce") titled "The Gap is Bridged" said,-

"The senior Australian officer, at this time, was Lt Col Eadie, the Chief Medical Officer of Blackforce.  For some reason, he was attached to the RAF and lived in their quarters.  Together with Major Robertson, he interviewed the Nippon Commander, with the idea of setting up an Anzac Day parade.  It was pointed out that the aid of the Nippon Navy had been effective in keeping the Indian Ocean clear of German naval enterprise whilst the troopships were bound for Gallipoli.  This, the Commander seemed to appreciate.  The idea of honouring Australia's dead servicemen needed no pondering.  In short, permission was granted for the ceremony, which took place on the 25th (April 1942) in the largest compound of the jail.  Lt Col Eadie addressed the troops, pointing out that the Anzac Spirit was needed at that time, as never before, and that it behoved every man not to let the Anzacs down!  The Commander attended the parade in his best uniform, with all accoutrements and decorations, and with his staff.  The utmost dignity was observed; and just a little bit more began to be understood about the Nippon mind.  Australian and New Zealanders from the RAF also paraded together with interested British troops… probably those with relatives who had been in the Lancashire Fusiliers.  A British bugler sounded the "Last Post" and "Reveille" calls."

In the unpublished book "The Burma Railway - One Man's Story" by Major Jim Jacobs VX40983 8 Division Signals Eadie is mentioned a number of times and the following are extracts:-

Date estimated to be around first half of 1943. "The road was under water for a kilometre or so, and we trudged through water up in our knees.  We found men at the 40 kilo in pretty bad shape.  One man from the "Perth", who had been a regular performer in the concert party at Tanyin four of five months before, was hobbling around on a stick, so emaciated from dysentery that I hardly recognised him.  His only possessions were a "G" string and a mess tin.  Then I made enquiries about him from his mates I learned that several of them had clubbed together and got a few clothes for him, but the unfortunate fellow had a mania for gambling, and he sold the clothes to some others, and then lost the money at two-up to some of the more unscrupulous.  A few months later he died of exhaustion and malnutrition.

Lt Col Norman Eadie, whom I had known in Melbourne before the war, was the only medical officer in this camp, and while we were here Shimojo was holding a "blitz Parade", as we called the farcical medical examination which the Japs frequently held.  The men were lined up in three ranks, some of them almost too weak to stand.  Shimojo deciding at a glance which were considered fit to go out and work the next day.

Occasionally he asked a question of Col Eadie, but the result was nearly always the same, a lot more sick men were sent out to labour on the railway.  The protests of the doctors and camp commanders were in vain, they were powerless to prevent this inhuman treatment of sick prisoners, who were now beginning to die at an alarming rate."

A further extract:-
Friday, 5th October (1945) This morning the adjutant asked me if I would like to go home on a ship called the "Highland Brigade".  I could not say "Yes" quickly enough, and I looked anxiously over his shoulder while he entered my name on the nominal roll.  In all my life I have never obtained so much pleasure from watching somebody else write my name.

This morning we heard that the Australian nurses who have just been recovered from Sumatra are at the 14th Australian General Hospital, which is located at St. Patrick's School, Katong, formerly the site of the 13th A.G.H. to which many of the recovered nurses belonged.  I managed to procure a jeep, and went out to the hospital with Lt. Col. Norman Eadie, only to find that the nurses had just been sent to the hospital ship "Manunda"

Another extract:-
Thursday, 14th October (1945) After an early breakfast we drove out to the airstrip, where the din was terrific as Dakota after Dakota warmed up.  We waited about for a while before being allotted to a plane.  There were twenty in our party, which included Lt. Col. Norman Eadie, Buster Badger and Major Robertson.  We took off at three minutes past nine, and Bangkok quickly disappeared in the distance."

Rowley Richards Captain Medical Officer from the 2/15 Field Regiment and later on the Burma end of the Burma Thailand  Railway (and later in Japan) has these comments about his fellow POW doctor Lt Col Norm Eadie.- I was with Norm Eadie on the Burma end of the line several times.  He was a thorough gentleman and did his best for the men, though sick for much of the time himself.  He arrived in Burma from the Middle East via Java with Williams Force (from Java) and remained with them for most of the time.  He did not complain and despite his 50 years battled on.  Readers must remember that for POW life 30 was getting old - 40 was old and 50 was very old.

Former Prisoner of War Neil MacPherson (co-author of the book "The Burma Railway Hellships and Coalmines" published 2008 - ISBN9780646468938 - previously mentioned) was treated by Lt Col Eadie in one of the camps in Burma.  Neil contends that, along with others, he owes his life to Eadie, who at one stage sent him back to a Hospital Camp, where he was able to regain some semblance of health.  He says that as he recalls, Eadie was respected by all.  Below is part of Neil Macpherson's medical record (which is from his pay book).  The record shows treatment by Lt Col Eadie in Batavia and Burma and also Captain Rowley Richards in Burma.


As is known, the railway was built from the south in Thailand and the north in Burma.
It was joined on 17 October 1943 at a place identified as Koncoita in Thailand.  Progressively after that date the POWs from the Burma side were moved into Thailand.  The initial location where they were mustered was at Tamakan (beside the concrete and steel bridge spanning the Mae Klong River).  It is not clear which camps Lt Col Eadie was in during 1944 and 1945.  But, from another area of interest it is known that at the end of the War he was in the POW camp at Tamuang (he was one of 69 Freemasons who met in that camp on 18 August 1945).

FAMILY - In the early 1930's Norman Eadie married Eileen Larkin, a delightful lady working as the nursing sister in his medical specialist rooms in Collins Street, Melbourne.  They built a beautiful home on 16 acres of land overlooking the Yarra River at Lower Plenty, 13 miles from Melbourne, and in 1935 Norman and Eileen had a son Edward (Ted), who was born two months prematurely.

POSTWAR - After the war Norman, with the help of Eileen, established and operated a poultry farm for laying hens on the Lower Plenty property, a hobby Norman had been involved in prior to the war.  Sadly, his wife Eileen died within a few years of his return from the war.  Norman's health was not sufficiently good to re-establish practice as an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, but he did return to medical practice with the Repatriation Commission in Melbourne.

RE-MARRIAGE - In 1949 Norman married Lt Col Edith Butler RRC from Adelaide whom he had met during the war, and she remained his wife until his death at the age of 91 in 1984.  During their marriage they lived at Lower Plenty then moved to a property at Yea in Victoria in 1954 and later to Adelaide in 1958.  Subsequently, they enjoyed a number of overseas trips together after Norman finally retired from medical practice, which he resumed in Adelaide.

This account of another POW Medical Officer from the Burma Thailand Railway has been compiled by Lt Col Peter Winstanley OAM RFD JP following reference to a number of books and with the assistance of his widow Edith (aged 102 in 2010) and his son Dr Edward (Ted) Eadie DPhil PhD SJD author of "Animal Suffering and the Law - National, Regional, and International" published in 2009, ISBN: 9781740085281.
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