Bamboo Jack

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Excerpts from “Saga of Bamboo Jack by John Wisecup
(Survivor from USS Houston and POW slave of H Force

Bamboo Jack they called him
I never knew just why,
But one good drink would start him in
So signalled I would buy.

Jack downed his drink and then turned again
And started with his story
“I’ll spin a yarn. It may sound tame,
For in it there’s no glory

I starved and rotted 'neath the Jap,
And bowed beneath his bluster
Just take a peak at Asia’s map
It shows the spot there buster.

We built a railway made it run
From Thailand into Burma,
We carted cross ties by the ton
And cursed more than a murmur

From Singapore Up country bound
A freight train cleared the station
In Thailand at Ban Pong town
It’s final destination.

That freight discharged six hundred men
They marched into the jungle
Four hundred n’er came out again
A cruel and senseless bungle

Australian, Dutch, Yank and Malay,
The prisoners of each nation
We slogged on through the heat of day
A polyglot formation.

A week long march 100 miles,
We reached Camp Hintock hollow
Pitched our tents then with cruel smiles
Our captors bade us follow

No brief respite in our new camp
We marched out to construction
A trestle 'cross a swamp so damp
Would end with our destruction

We tugged the teak logs o'er the crags
In harness like an ox
Excretion running down our leg
The stench as strong as pox

Seaweed, cold fish and cold red rice
For those you’d slay your kin
Starvation was the bitter price
For we beleaguered men.

We dined on dogs and cats and mice,
Those on a lucky day
Food was bought at any price
There was the hell to play.

We sleep on the ground rolled in a sack
Malaria racked our bones
Home sweet home was a bamboo rack
Lullaby? Your neighbours groans.

Hintock Camp! Filth ridden hole!
Our tents and beds were rotten
The lice and rain destroyed our soul
Men died forlorn, forgotten.

Mosquitos, flies and lice did vex
The starving, sick and dying
This palsied lot of fevered wreck
Soon failed…long past trying.

No Jap dared enter this foul place
Stood up wind, numbed in wonder
Then shouted down from quite a space
The working party number

Cholera came and took it’s toll
We dug the graves ‘til midnite
That mighty railroad had to run
We toiled by night by torchlight

Communal graves their final rest
Dank trenches wide and deep
One pondered was not it best
To take this final sleep

The Hintock trestles finished
The word is “pack and leave”
Our ranks are now diminished
But there is no time to grieve.

We staggered off from Hintock Hill
It’s stench I smell today
Through four decades it’s with me still
It will not pass away