Ironically, Dunlop told us later that he definitely never knew who had the radio and had never seen one. Years later I saw such a radio in the War Museum in Canberra, fashioned into the innards of an army issue water bottle. Perhaps this came from Tarsoa - - perhaps!
About this time we received our one and only supply of Red Cross parcels. They were from South African Red Cross and consisted of tinned meats and tinned fruit, chocolates, cigarettes and various articles of clothing. Each man was allotted a share and mine amounted to half of a quarter pound chocolate bar, a half pound tin of meat shared with fours others, six cigarettes and a part share in a balaclava! Of course the appearance of the balaclava and some other woolen articles was a bit of a joke - with no reflection on the good hearted ladies in Sth Africa - however they did make their appearance in a later camp where we allowed the odd concert and they became part of the props.
This was the only Red Cross parcel received by our particular group and later we heard others had fared little better if as well. However on the cessation of hostilities, "go-downs" in Singapore were found to be stocked high with parcels containing not only food, but also medicines! Another indictment against our captors!
At last the time came to move again. It was December, 1944 and early one morning the sick and legless were carried to the railway nearby and loaded onto vans and open trucks for the journey to another prepared camp nearer civilisation at a place called Nakom Patom. This camp was approximately 80km north of Bangkok. We so-called "fitter" men were left to clean up the Tarsoa camp before we too joined the sick at the new camp.
Nakom Patom camp was the best we had been housed in since leaving Java. All huts were constructed of bamboo and attap roofing with the platform made of wood and not split cane as we had experienced before. However, it was still hard to lay on but at least it was clean and at first bug-free. The camp housed approximately 3,000 prisoners, mostly sick and amputees from both Thailand and Burma. There was one huge kitchen area, well set up for rice cooking etc and thankfully, for the first time, an operating theatre complete with table and quite a few drugs to assist on the operations and healing of the sick.
Whilst there, where I stayed for the next eight months and until the end of the war, many men died despite the better treatment and facilities. The brutal treatment and heavy work, also the poor food of the preceding years kept taking its toll. As men slowly regained their health and were able to walk again unaided, they were formed into parties and sent up into the jungle again to maintain the line. In many cases these men were never seen again. One can only assume they died of illness or were executed at the time of the Japanese surrender.
This huge camp was surrounded with a trench some twenty feet wide and about ten feet deep. Behind this was an earthen wall about twelve feet high and fenced with wire mesh about ten foot high. Guard posts were about every 100 yards. It was many years later, after the allied Command had infiltrated the Japanese Intelligence System, that it was revealed that in the event of the camp being relieved by oncoming Allied forces, all prisoners were to be shot before these forces could free us. With this trench, embankment and fence set-up, we would have had little chance of surviving had the Japs carried out their plan of execution with the positioning of machine-guns on all guard posts.
All so-called "fit" men in this camp, apart from those sent out to maintain the railway, were allocated tasks. Ken and I had two responsibilities, one was to keep wood up to the kitchen fires and the other was to man the "scabies centre" and dish out the treatment. The wood was delivered into the camp by Thai labour and it was our job to carry it from the front gate near the guard house to the kitchen. It was on one of these occasions when we loaded our litter, (two rice sacks threaded through two poles) and were carrying it past the guard house, that a roar of "Kiotski!" came from a Korean on duty. We stopped and he came over and let us know in no uncertain manner that we should have bowed to him as we passed. After years of suffering this indignity of bowing to the enemy whenever we passed by, we always tried to dodge this procedure by various ruses. Sometimes it worked and other rimes we paid for it dearly by suffering various forms of punishment. It all depended on the mood of the Koreans, one day we would be ignored and the next the same guard would punish the offender. This time we were told to drop our load of wood and after a heavy slap across the face, we were ordered to stand outside the guard house with outstretched arms and a piece of wood was placed in each hand. Naturally before long, our arms would tire and droop. When the guard was not looking in our direction, we would drop our arms but this was dangerous, because if we were noticed doing so, then we would suffer the indignity and pain of a hefty slap across the face.
After about two hours of this treatment and the suffering of aching arms and various slaps, we were allowed to go. With muttered oaths such as "You’ll keep you yellow bastard!" we picked up our litter and went on our way. Needless to say on all future journeys for the wood, we would make sure we bowed as we passed the guard house whether a guard was looking our way or not.
As for our second job at the "scabies centre", we were issued with bags of powdered sulphur and two heavy duty scrubbing brushes. Neither of us had any previous experience in any kind of medical treatments, so Col. Dunlop explained what was required of us. It appears a rash of scabies had penetrated the camp and was very contagious. It was particularly rife in the Javanese and Tamil sections, with only the occasional outbreak amongst the Dutch, English and Australians. The scabie is a mite almost invisible to the naked eye and is particularly active on unwashed bodies. To be blunt, the dirtier the body, the greater the chance of becoming infected. The mite enters the pores of the skin and burrows in and out all over the body if not treated. It causes a terrible itch which when scratched, brings up an open sore. Sulphur powder made up into a paste will cure it and eventually kill the mite. However as the scabies mite lives happily under the scab on the sore, the sulphur is useless until the scab is removed allowing the sulphur to do its work.
On Dr Dunlop’s instruction, we were to heat tins of water, then scrub the patient until all sores were open and of course bleeding, then washed down with warm water and finally sulphur paste applied to the infected parts. So began what was known as the "Badham and Heyes Butchery" mainly because of our seemingly rather brutal treatment.
As most of our patients had contracted the disease through filthy living and lack of cleanliness, we did not feel guilty when we began our scrubbing routine. Our usual greeting to a patient was "OK, mate this could hurt, but if you weren’t such a dirty bastard, you would not have the problem!" This camp was supplied with enough water to allow every prisoner to wash his body each day. As we had practically no clothing, our bodies soon dried in the hot climate, so there was little excuse for uncleanliness.
After some three months both Ken and I had eradicated the camp of scabies! However during this period we had our problems. Some men would allow us to scrub them and just stand there quite docilely, but others would try to knock the brush from our hands etc. In these instances, one of us would hold him down any way possible while the other scrubbed. As they had to return daily for treatment until cured, at times we would have to find them and drag them to the "centre". No wonder it was called the "Butchery".
Before I close this subject, I must relate a particularly bad case. He was a Javanese from Sumatra who we called Freddie as this was the closest English pronunciation we could find to his real name. Freddie turned up one morning and shocked both of us with the worst bout of scabies we had seen. He was virtually covered in them. Sores were all over his body! Even in the hair on his head and right down to his feet and toes! He must have been almost driven insane with the itch from them all. Well, we began by stripping him naked and to our amusement they were even on his penis! Every day we washed and scrubbed poor Freddie until he was bleeding all over his body - then we scrubbed in the sulphur.
From that first day he showed signs of improvement, until some weeks later we had him completely cured. He would turn up each day and take the treatment without a murmur. As the days wore on, we got to like him and we were as happy as he was to see him improve. I used to jokingly say to Ken that it was his job to work on Freddie’s penis and, as there was a certain amount of homosexuality evident in this camp, particularly amongst the native races, he might run the risk of Freddie falling in love with him!! By the end of the treatment Freddie was so grateful, he would do anything for us. He followed us and helped us wherever he could until the day of liberation. He then gave us his address in Sumatra and told us that if ever we desired to call on him, his village would be sure to treat us royally. However we never did pay that call and I have no doubt he always remembered those two Aussie "butchers" who possibly saved his life for, if untreated, those sores would have eventually become tropical ulcers.
Perhaps I should add at this stage that over the years spent in jungle surroundings, I seldom came into contact with venomous reptiles or insects despite the fact that they did abound in these areas. Whilst at Hintok Jungle Camp, I used to spend the off hour with Hugh Cory, who was then looking after our food supplies. After work one evening I paid him a call in his little bamboo structure where the meager supplies were kept and where he spent his days and nights. After conversing with him for a short time I happened to look up and received quite a shock to see a huge snake curled up on a cross beam holding up the roof. On drawing Hugh’s attention to it he casually remarked, "It’s only a Cobra and he helps himself occasionally to the sugar and never worries me. Live and let live I say!" No doubt Hughie wondered why he saw less of me for the remainder of our stay in that particular camp!
Another rather humorous incident occurred on our way to work early one morning. Marching along we suddenly heard a howl and then a chap tore past us holding his backside and heading back to camp. It appears he was "taken short" and as he squatted, suddenly felt a nip on his bottom and, according to him, followed by a rustle in the bushes. On our return that evening, we heard he was treated to the day off from a good-tempered and amused Jap officer. It appears that on reaching camp one of the doctors examined his buttocks and found some puncture marks that could have been more consistent with a prickly shrub than a venomous snake. If it had been this type of reptile, then little could have been done anyway other than cauterising, especially after the hard run back to camp!
Another comical instance (not for the victim, I admit) occurred at Nakom Patom. A chap in a ward that Hugh Cory looked after, arose one morning and put on a pair of over-patched and well-worn shorts he had prized for so long. Suddenly he let out a yell and frantically tore his shorts off to find a scorpion had bitten him on his "private parts". It was on the ground and he quickly trod on it. Hughie treated him as best he could and after an hour or so the pain subsided. He then put on his shorts again and lo and behold, he was bitten again! There had been two scorpions and the second one bit him around the same area. He survived, but was a sick boy for the remainder of the day and always examined his shorts before putting them on in the future.
So life went on at Nakom Patom. As we were not daily in close association with our captors like we were on the railway, we could wander about the camp once our daily chores were competed. We even managed to acquire a basket-ball and had the odd game between countries. We eventually fielded an Aussie team that was unbeaten. We were so thrilled about our ability on the basket-ball court that after liberation, we challenged the Chinese team from Nakom Patom village. To our despair and amazement the game ended with the score at CHINESE - 84, AUSSIES - nil. So ended my association with the game of basketball.
Nakom Paton Camp