Dowsett’s War, Part 6 – Changi Prisoner

In leading up to Purple Heart Day on Monday, 7 August 2017, we honor another POW for his sacrifices.

The Rant Foundry

Three prisoners at Shimo Songkurai in 1943. The effects of malnutrition can be seen in their skeletal frames and the stomach of the man on the right, distended by beri beri. The photograph was one of the last to be taken by George Aspinall on the camera he smuggled up to the Thai–Burma railway from Changi. [By courtesy Tim Bowden] Three Australian prisoners at Shimo Songkurai in 1943. The effects of malnutrition can be seen in their skeletal frames and the stomach of the man on the right, distended by beri beri. The photograph was one of the last to be taken by George Aspinall on the camera he smuggled up to the Thai–Burma railway from Changi. [Photo by G. Aspinall]

“The place earned the title of Hellfire Pass, for it looked, and was, like a living image of hell itself.”
Jack Chalker, Burma Railway: Images of War, London, Mercer Books, 2007, 59

For the other chapters of Dowsetts War, click here.

Douglas France Dowsett, a driver with the 22nd Infantry Brigade Australian Army Service Corps Supply (AASC) Section was held along with roughly 15,000 other servicemen of the Australian Army’s 8th Division in the British Army’s Selarang Barracks, Changi. It was a prisoner of war camp holding some…

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on August 5, 2017, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 53 Comments.

  1. The Songkurai camps were probably the grimmest on the whole of the Thailand-Burma railway, survival rates were very low.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An unbelievable story gp, that picture is a perfect example of the stark reality of that horrendous war, great repost mate, these images and story’s must be perpetuated in the annals of the atrocities of war.
    I will be missing in action for the next 7 weeks mate, heading of to north Chile on Wednesday, so will be silent on here, had an angiogram last Monday and all is clear so right to travel again.
    Cheers gp and best wishes.
    Ian

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Is there a danger we could ever forget these things? This kind of cruelty seems to be a necessary perversion of our species which I, too, find hard to register with a ‘like’. It was not only the Japanese who committed atrocities like this, as we know. Any tinpot dictator who unleashes his hounds on the world has to answer for it. I don’t know how such people can sleep.

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    • Thank you for your comment, Frederick. There are many cruel people in this world, there always has been, but we must remember that the Japanese did not have enough supplies for their own citizens or troops – one reason they went to war with us after FDR’s sanctions on them. They also had no idea they would end up with so many prisoners being as they felt surrender was so disgraceful and beneath the actions of true men. Some just did what they were told out of fear of their superiors.
      But we always have those born without a conscience as we see each day on the news.

      Like

  4. It’s so sad looking at those men more dead than alive

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  5. Oh, the horrors of war! Will they ever end? Thank you GP for your great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These types of posts are so hard to read …. but so necessary!
    We must never forget the suffering and sacrifice

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, some people just can’t understand. I actually had someone ask me 2 days ago, “What did they do so great that they are always called the Greatest Generation?” I looked them dead in the eye and said, “They were born out of WWI, spent their lives in the Great Depression and walked into WWII – the largest mess this world has ever seen and they won. I call that survival. And, for your knowledge – they weren’t called the Greatest Generation until Tom Brokaw coined the phrase.”
      That person just stared back, eyes wide and didn’t make another peep. I feel I have to post these stories – there are still people who DON’T get it !!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a sad realization of war. These men of valor are hero’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for bringing this to my attention – it’s hard to press “Like” but I appreciate having access to the article.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Here’s the detail that struck me first, before I really looked at the images of the men: I never have heard of Purple Heart Day. How can this be? Is it a newer commemoration? Or is it one of those that’s just faded away?

    The point you’ve made here, again and again, about young men fearing their superiors, and so on, is important. During the civil war in Liberia, children committed the most terrible atrocities because it was a way for them to get food and shelter. The use of starvation as a tactic in Stalinist Russia is another example. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that I get unnerved when I see the vile behavior on social media. Somehow, it all has to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Offhand I can not tell you when observing 7 August began. Of course I’ve had posts on the Purple Heart, but no mention of when it was enacted. I keep hoping people will learn from history, but even now, the school systems are reducing the amount of history taught. I know I’m fighting a losing battle, but I keep trying to do something!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • On the other hand, maybe the battle isn’t being lost. As so many of your stories make clear, when you’re in the midst of battle it can be hard to know what’s actually going on. Somewhere down the road, the victories may become clearer!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. In the mid 1960’s I was working for AMI in Fishermen.s Bend Melbourne, I had a bloke working for me whose age was indeterminable.His name was Reg, I can’t recall his last name now, and Reg would never kill flies, ever.

    If one settled on him, the air-conditioning at AMI consisted of opening the windows if hot and closing them if cold. Reg would just sit and watch it until it upped and flew off.

    Curious I asked him why, and he told me.

    “When we were prisoners in Changi if you got an infection then the flies would come settle on it, lay their eggs and go. The eggs would hatch and the larvae would eat all the rotten flesh’;

    Pretty much his words, after 50 plus years hard to be spot on.

    Anyway Reg never killed a fly or a blowie; ever!

    I’ve got a feeling I told you this once before a long time ago GP.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A new respect for life is learned by these men. I’ve heard of such cures [maggots]. I hope Reg lived a long and happy life after enduring such such horrors.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We worked together from late 1964 to late 66, which was some 20 years after he was freed. He seemed hale & hearty enough although he was always very, very quite. He’d sit at his desk, window open doing what he did, He’d join in the usual banter and had a ready smile; but there was always that gap which is hard to describe. He was probably about 50 may have been a bit older when I first met him, hard to tell after what he’d been though. I never asked his age.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I imagine he looked older that his years, after all he’d been through. It makes feel good that you have remembered him all these years later. You’re a good man Beari!!

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  11. Such a horrible time in our history. Very sad for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I appreciate the continuing education, GP. War was rough on both sides. The people higher up that start the wars are not the ones that fight them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes that’s true. We’ve had 12 Presidents serve during a war, but they are not the ones who started the war. If memory serves me correctly, only George H.W. Bush actually did with Desert Storm.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh! They really are skinny!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. How could the guards see these men and not feel something. I don’t get it.

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    • We can’t look back at that world and judge it with our 21st century eyes, Jacqui. There were many factors involved. The enemy soldiers were starving themselves, they were frightened of their own superiors, they were young and away from home, and their ancient culture’s survival depended on it. There are stories of compassionate guards, but most of them were harshly dealt with.

      Liked by 6 people

  15. The reason why many Japanese soldiers on the battleground died is also malnutrition.
    If searching these keyward,[WW2, Japanese, malnutrition], images will be displayed .
    And the Japanese older has been mourning “War is hungry”.
    As much as that, there was nothing in Japan.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Despite some of the stores that were underground, your people were in dire condition by this point of the war. People forget that the war for Japan started about 1937, NOT 7 December 1942.

      Liked by 3 people

  16. I cringe as I hit the “Like” button, for there certainly isn’t anything in this account that is likeable, other than the fact Dowcett somehow managed to survive.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. At that time, there was nothing in Japan anymore.
    Things soldiers eat, fuel of airplane, Japanese citizen’s food, to wear…everthing.
    Therefore, there was no food of prisoners of war.
    Many Japanese citizens also died of malnutrition and illness.
    War is a misery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand. It was difficult to feed the prisoners when your own soldiers had nothing and very little outlook for the future. According to the book “The Taste of War”, about 400,000 of the Japanese soldiers succumbed to starvation. Food – or the lack of it, I should say – was a weapon in that war.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. What human beings can do to each other! Just plain horrible! Let’s pray for this never to happen again. Thanks for reminding us of the eveil that comes out of nationalism.
    Have a great weekend,
    Pit

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really don’t believe it was so much that as a fear of their superiors, being young men away from home and strict parental discipline for the first time and centuries of culture – all balled up into very confused young men. Of course some were downright mean and cruel, but the Allies had them too. Hopefully we can learn from it all.

      Liked by 4 people

  19. Even 72 years after the war’s end, these stories still make me furious at the Japanese. To think that some of the men who carried out these atrocities are still living, whilst so many of their prisoners suffered appalling deaths at their hands.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Like

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