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Gnr/Dvr. Bob Lister RA, 11th Indian Division

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A survivor of Dunkirk, Bob was posted overseas to join the 11th Indian Division in India, subsequently becoming a POW in Singapore Ω. They went imprisoned in Changi Goal under very bad conditions so when the opportunity to volunteer for work in Thailand they took it. (ed: unbeknown to them, they were to work on the infamous Burma-Siam railway which would claim the lives of 13,000 Allied POWs and perhaps 100,000 native workers)

Packed into rail wagons, under terrible conditions, they eventually arrived at the first part of the new railway, the camp at Bam Pong Ω. They passed from camp to camp, using primitive tools and working under dreadful conditions Ω. Illness was widespread and in the virtual absence of medical supplies, medical staff had to resort to very unconventional methods of treatment to save lives Ω. Treatment by the guards could be brutal, particularly if they felt that insubordination was involved Ω. The dangers of the jungle were always present.  The ill treatment continued with the officers being separated to avoid any organisation of resentment. The camp at Kinsayok passed by the “cholera camp” that had been the site of horrendous casualties during a cholera epidemic Ω. They were also employed unloading diesel from wagons although this presented the opportunity to blackmail medical supplies from the Thai workers Ω.

At Nikki Nikki they were nearing the end of the line but Bob and his mates had been identified as staying on to maintain the line in the future Ω. The joining of the North and South branches of the line offered a rare opportunity to savour extra food Ω. They continued on to Moulmein at the Northern end of the line and saw their first examples of Allied air activity. Taking refuge in the jungle offered the opportunity to scrounge extra food Ω. In the camps, keeping up the spirits of the sick was a constant preoccupation; they could still find the will to sing to help their comrades Ω. 60 years on, the poignancy of the singing is clear in his memory Ω.

In Moulmein, the first news of the dropping of the atomic bombs became known from the local Thais, and the Japanese camp staff slipped away. Allied aircraft dropped leaflets telling the POWs to stay in camp Ω. At last medical help arrived and the sickest moved to base camp by barge. They were told to destroy all clothing and were moved downstream to an airfield in Bangkok Ω. They were finally transferred to Rangoon when his group was at last broken up and after 2-3 months to recover and assist in the description of war criminals, he returned to Amnanaga in India and thence to Bombay Ω where he joined a troopship.

He was back in England in time for Christmas 1945.

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