| Death Railway Movements
Details prepared by Neil MacPherson
Based upon report
originally produced from comprehensive details compiled by Capt D.
Nelson (SSVF) B.R.E on 23 Aug 45. It was printed in a booklet prepared
by Lt Col T.R.Beaton (Retd) Australian Army after he had spent two
years as Curator of the Hellfire Pass Museum (Dec 1999 Dec 2001)
A brief description of the parties of prisoners that were sent to the Burma Thailand Railway. Some statistics on the terrible toll taken by conditions imposed by a ruthless enemy are as follows:
The above figures do not include the deaths of Railway workers moved to other locations and later died from the treatment received while working on the railway.
Green, Ramsay & Anderson Forces and the British Battalion made up A Force under Brigadier Varley
Green Force: Under Major Green of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. This force started work on the Railway on the 1st October 1943, and were the first of No 3 Group to work on the Railway.
Ramsay Force: Arrived at the 26 Kilo Camp 20th December 1942 on the 18th March 1943 they moved to the 75 Kilo Camp, then to 105 Kilo Camp on the 22 May 1943 where they were amalgamated with Black & Green Forces.
Anderson Force: Made up into Kumis of 50 men each, No 37 to 51, 750 men Kumi 37 officers Kumi, 38 Warrant Officers Sergeants, arrived in Thanbyuzayat on the 5th October 1942. On 10th October only 710 marched to the first camp which was the 18-kilo camp ALEPAUK (Hlepauk) On the 3rd January 1943 this force moved to the 35-kilo camp Tanyin to join Williams Force, later became No 1 Mobile Force.
British Sumatra Battalion: 498 British 2 Australians from Sumatra under Capt Authored, including Australian surgeon Colonel Coates worked at the 18-kilo camp then joined the Americans under Capt Fiztsimmons, these were the only British prisoners working on the Burma end of the railway.
Williams Force: Under Lt Col John Williams C.O. of the 2/2nd Pioneers made up of 884 men mainly 2/2 Pioneer Battalion, sailors of the Cruiser HMAS Perth. Arrived Thanbyuzayat late October 1942 and became part of 3 Group, moved to Tanyin 35 kilo camp first. Camp Commandant Lt Yamada was one of the best and tolerant Japanese Officers on the Railway who respected Col Williams, unfortunately he was later moved. The Medical Officer was Ear Nose & Throat Specialist Lt Col Eadie. In March 1943 with Anderson Force, moved back to the 26 Kilo camp Kunknikway, here they were to come under the control of the unpredictable and drunkard Lt Naito. On April 4th they commenced the work of laying the rails & sleepers through to where the two ends joined on 17 October 1943 known as No 1 Mobile Force. It should be noted that in all Australian camps on the Burma end of the Railway, Officers accompanied the men on the work parties and actively intervened to protect the men from punishment, often taking the bashing themselves. This was very much the rule in Williams and Anderson Forces where the Officers had won the respect of the men in action in Syria, Java & Malaya, Col Anderson won his Victoria Cross in the Malaya fighting.
Black Force: Lt Col Chris Black included 610 Australians 190 Americans & 111 Dutch arrived Thanbyuzayat 30th October 1942 moved to 40 kilo camp Beke Taung Medical Officer was Australian Capt John Higgins, joined by Dutchman Dr Hekking In November the water supply failed and the force moved to the 26 kilo camp joining Ramsay Force, Padre Keith Matheson from the Cruiser HMAS Perth arrived to provide help for the sick.
No 1 Mobile Force: From the 26 Kilo point this group worked right through the wet season, staging through many of the camps laying the sleepers and rails also ballasting, hard and demanding work that took it's toll of men. Dr Rowley Richards the Force Doctor accompanied the group right through to where the two ends were joined in October 1943, his book "the Survival Factor" graphically tells the story.
All Dutch Force: This force started work on the 8 kilo camp Wagale, and by the end of October 1942 it is estimated that 4600 Dutch POWs were working on the Burma end of the railway, believed to have come from Sumatra.
No 5 Group From Java: 456 Americans 385 Australians, 1159 Dutch, led by American Lt Col Thorp they left Singapore by train, 9th January 1943, at Penang they boarded the Hell Ship Moji Maru. 965 Dutch aboard the Nichimei Maru also left Penang in the same convoy On the 15th January the convoy was attacked by B24 Liberators, the Nishimei Maru was sunk with the loss of 40 Dutch prisoners, on the Moji Maru 25 prisoners were killed. On reaching Thanbyuzayat this group worked in the 18-kilo, 80-kilo and 100 Kilo camps. The death rate of 24% for the group was made up of 322 Dutch, 28%, 98 Americans 22%, 54 Australians 14%.
Dunlop Force: Under the command of Lt Col Edward Dunlop a noted Australian surgeon, 895 made up of 15 Officers 12 WOs and 868 ORs left Bandoeng, they were joined before boarding the ship by other prisoners, Australian mainly with 159 Dutch, departed from Batavia, in January 1943 first by Hellship Usa Maru to Singapore then by rail to Non Pluduc. They were the first Australians to arrive in Thailand; they were transported by trucks to Konyu and later to Hintock where they remained for the duration of the construction, working on a particular difficult section involving cuttings and embankments. In February Dunlop commanded a force of 1873 prisoners including 623 Dutch. Cholera also took a huge toll of this force with 66 deaths, 84 cholera victims recovered due to a miracle of ingenuity when a distilling plant was manufactured from stolen copper piping. The saline fluid was injected directly into the patients to replace the rapid dehydration caused by the cholera. Initially Dunlop Force was housed at Hintock Jungle camp later Hintock River camp. The poem, "Bamboo Jack", written by John Wisecap tells the story in graphic detail.
Java Party 5, 6, 8 & 9: Made up of 16 train loads each of 625 they departed from Singapore during January and February 1943, consisting of 8750 Dutch and 1250 other nationalities.
Java Party 3000: Consisting of 2831 Dutch and 169 other Nationalities left Singapore in 5 train lots of 650 on 13th to 17th April 1943.
JAVA Semarang Magelang Soerabaja Java Parties (PDF) - Original rosters containing rosters for parties 3 (USS Houston and 131st Field Artillery), 5a (USS Houston and 131st Field Artillery), 5g (incl. 131st Field Artillery), 12 & 15 (Staff; Mystery No. 1), 20, 22, 23, 24, 26.
See also this site (in Dutch) for rosters: Java Parties
Thailand Parties from Singapore
First Mainland Party: Under Major R.S.Sykes (later killed in air raid on 3rd December 1944) 3000 British left Singapore June 18, 20, 22, 24/26th 1942, their task initially was to build the housing camp at Non Pluduc to house future work parties en route for up country. These troops were also involved in building the railway through to Kanchanaburi, assisted by Thai workers.
K.L Party: 401 British POWs left Kuala Lumpur Malaya on the 14th October 1942 for Ban Pong.
Sime Road Party: 2600 British left Singapore in four train lots departing on the 17th 18th 20th and 22nd October 1942 for Ban Pong. Colonel Toosey led one party, the fictional British Colonel in the movie Bridge on the River Kwai was supposed to be fashioned on Toosey however nothing could be more opposite. Toosey was the leader responsible for the Prisoners at Tamarkan that built the two bridges over the Kwai he was most respected both by his men and the Japanese. Toosey tread a fine line between protecting his men and cooperating with the enemy.
Y Party: Left Singapore for Ban Pong 24th October 1942 commanded by Major P.S.F.Jackson R.A. made up of 650 British from Adam Park.
Letter Parties X, W, V, U, T, S, R: Lt Col C.E Morrison senior officer with six other Lt Colonels in charge of each Letter Party, 4550 British seven lots of 650 departed Singapore on the 25th, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31st October 1942.
Letter Parties Q, P, O, N, M, L: Lt Col D.R Thomas senior Officer with six other Lt Colonels travelling with each party, total number 3900, departed Singapore 1st, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6th November 1942 the combined Letter parties made up six separate train lots of 650.
D Force: Under joint command of British Lt Col G.G. Carpenter and Australian Lt Col Mc Eachern, 5000 POWs, 2780 British and 2220 Australian departed Changi 14th to 23rd March 1943 for Ban Pong The Australians were organised into three battalions, "S' "T' "U" commanded by Lt Col McEachern, Major E.J Quick and Capt Reg Newton This mixed force were spread over an area including Tarsao, Hintock, Konyu and Kinsayok and some worked on the notorious Hellfire Pass cutting.
F Force: 7000 prisoners under the command of British Lt Col S.W.Harris, with Lt Col Dillon leader of the British and Lt Col Kappe Leader of the Australians, were sent by rail to Non Pluduc during the latter part of April 1943. Made up of 3666 Australians and 3334 British they were to suffer the highest casualties of any group. They remained under the control of the Malay Command, not the Thai-Burma Command so they suffered in the distribution of supplies. Another factor was the forced march of some 300 kilometres in shocking conditions to their work area near the Burma border. The final disaster on top of over work, poor rations, and diseases rife in the area was the cholera epidemic, which struck during the wet season. 637 of F Force succumbed to Cholera up to September, 193 Australians, 444 British, 10% of F Force The final death toll for the British prisoners was 61.3% the Australians 29%. Of the 3336 British in F Force 2037 of them died, the Australians lost1060 men. LINK to Col. Dillon report on this Force; see also The F Force. Original archive: Capt. Benjamin Barnett Diary
"H" Force: Under British Lt Col H.R.Humphreys and Australian Lt Colonel Oakes the party of 3270 left Singapore in 6 train lots during the period 5th to the 17th May 1943. Consisting of 1141 British, 670 Australians, 588 Dutch, 26 Americans, Malay Volunteers and Indians made up the rest. A unique feature of H Force was an Officers Party made up of 260 Officers who worked as labourers. A number H Force were sick before departure, the last work party to leave for the railway their death rate was extremely high, like F Force they remained under the control of Singapore Command and suffered accordingly Initially this group went to Tonchan Camp 139 Kilometres north of Non Pluduc. The Australians under Lt Colonel Oakes with Major green 2/IC went to Konyu Camp 2 and worked on the Hellfire Pass Cutting, also the Three Tier Bridge, which took a deadly toll of the men. Living conditions were atrocious the only protection from then wet were 24 canvas tent flys (canvas sheets) The death rate in H Force was 27.4% or 885, of these 179 were Australians. Australian Medical Officers were Majors Ernie Marsden and Major Kevin Fagan. In August 1943 100 Australians were selected and force marched to Konkoita to join F Force on a cutting that was running behind time.
The 26 Americans in H Force included 7 Merchant Navy Officers who were part of the Officers Work party in H.Force. 13 American prisoners initially worked on the Thailand end of the railway, on 5th May 1943, 19 American POW were sent up with H. Force, all were from the Thorpe's Java party who were left in Singapore through sickness. Led by their only NCO Clayton S Gordon of S Battery 131 Artillery, they marched the 140 kilometres from Ban Pong to Hintock Camp, 6 were too sick to continue and remained in Kanchanaburi. At Hintock Mountain Camp they worked on the notorious "Three Tier Bridge" at the 155 kilo point, four of this group died, John Wisecup a survivor from the USS Houston wrote the following poem."K" Force: Another medical part left Singapore 25th June 1943 under British Major E.E.D Crawford, made up of 230 medical staff 163 British, 55 Australian 11 Dutch and another National.
"L" Force: Medical party left Singapore on the 24th August 1943 led by British Lt Col H.C.B. Bebson R.A.M.C. made up of 42 British and 73 Australians.
Medical Party: Made up of 28 Dutch and 2 other Nationalities left Singapore on the 87th February 1944 for Ban Pong. These people arrived four months after the railway Construction work was completed and were used to treat the sick prisoners.