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
Ill spin a yarn. It may sound tame,
For in it theres no glory
I starved and rotted 'neath the Jap,
And bowed beneath his bluster
Just take a peak at Asias 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
Its final destination.
That freight discharged six hundred men
They marched into the jungle
Four hundred ner 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 youd 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
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 its 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
Its stench I smell today
Through four decades its with me still
It will not pass away