Mimeographed typescript, giving details of 'life as a Prisoner of War in Thailand [...] collected by Mrs. P. M. Robinson, wife of Major Robinson, 1/5th Sherwood Foresters, now in No. 4 Camp from two men recently returned from this Camp.'

Mrs Hope Robinson, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, wife of Major P. M. Robinson, 1/5th Sherwood Foresters [Number 4 Camp (Bam Pong), Thailand; Japan; Japanese Prisoner of War]
Publication details: 
Dated 29 November 1944.
SKU: 12528

3pp., folio, on three leaves stapled together. Fair, on aged paper. All in all a curiously positive account, with the possible explanation that Mrs Robinson's two informants chose to hide the worst from her. It is also pointed out at the foot of the first page that 'owing to the size of the Camp and the way it was divided up, it is not easy for the escaped men to give details of all the members of the Camp. In effect the men only knew intimately those who were in their individual labour group, although they know others by sight if shown a photograph but cannot remember them by name.' The first leaf is headed 'From Mrs. Hope Robinson, ILKESTON, Derbyshire. 29.11.44. | The following details of life as a Prisoner of War in Thailand have been collected by Mrs. P. M. Robinson, wife of Major Robinson, 1/5th Sherwood Foresters, now in No. 4 Camp from two men recently returned from this Camp.' The first half-page describes the liberation of the two men from Japanese captivity. They are named as 'Pte. Ward, 1/5th Sherwood Foresters and Gunner Simpson R.A.', who 'left Thailand at the end of August'. They 'were being transferred with a number of labour units to work in Japan as the work of road-making on which they had been engaged in Thailand had been completed. On arrival in Singapore they found the island had been stripped of its food and all articles of value and comfort by the Japanese troops.' The account then describes a 'terrible ordeal', as the Japanese ship on which the two men were sailing was 'torpedoed by U.S. Submarines'. The crew and guards take to the life-boats, leaving their British prisoners 'to improvise a certain number of rafts by lashing together some of the hatches and most had life belts of a sort, although many of these proved ineffective. No food or water was available until they were rescued and many were unable to survive'. At the time of writing, both are back in Britain, apparently in 'excellent health' and without 'any mental strain or reaction'. The account of the men's suffering begins: 'Three months after the fall of Singapore the troops were moved to Thailand. No.4 Camp really consists of four different parts and was made up of several thousands of men. The groups were moved about frequently according to the work they were required to do. At first the Japanese put great pressure on both men and officers to make roads through the jungle. This was when most of the "savage" treatment referred to in the press was inflicted. As the work got under way the officers ceased work much to the relief of the other ranks who did not like to see them under the discipline of the Japanese guards. Some stayed in the jungle to look after the men, including a number of R.A.M.C. Officers, others were moved to rest camps. Conditions began to be much improved.' The account now describes the system of punishment, stating that if 'a man did his best he was left unmolested. Naturally, some men resented the discipline and by showing their independence or by insulting the guards, asked for trouble, but most had the good sense to adapt themselves to the circumstances and comforted themselves by only inwardly despising their captors.' Most of the last two pages of the document are divided into eleven sections headed: Situation; Climate; Health; Camp Discipline; Camp Administration; Food; Recreation; Clothing; Mail; Deaths; and Morale. In the shortest section, on 'Deaths', Mrs Robinson writes: 'These occurred from time to time when epidemics broke out. Names of casualties have been carefully checked by the War Office from accounts witnessed by the liberated prisoners. At first all deaths were followed by a military funeral for which a Union Jack was used. Eventually this was torn up by the [J]apanese and no more funerals with military honours were allowed.' Of 'Camp Discipline' she writes: 'Col. Lilly of the 1/5th Sherwood Foresters was in charge of all troops in No.4 Camp. Any complaints of treatment were made to him and he referred them to the Japanese Commandant. Pte. Ward and Gnr. Simpson could not speak too highly of all that Col. Lilly did for the welfare of the men. At first the Japanese tried to prevent the men from singing at work. The Commandant asked Col. Lilly how it was that men who were prisoners and who were certain to be defeated could possibly wish to sing. Col. Lilly told him that no one would be able to make them believe this and nothing could stop them from singing. After this, all attempts to prevent them were given up and the men say they found singing a great help in keeping up their spirits.' At the foot of the last page: 'I have been requested not to publish the names and addresses of the survivors as they can only give particulars have been taken by the War Office, and will be published in due course.' Excessively scarce, with no copy in the British Library or on COPAC, and the only copy traced among Major Robinson's papers at the Imperial War Museum.