The 48th LAA Regiment
by COFEPOW Associate Member Peter Barton, ex - 'Java Boy'
The 48th LAA Regiment, 'Bofors Guns', had three Batteries, 49, 95, 242. We sailed from Gourock on the river Clyde the day Japan declared war, December 7th 1941. We and many other regiments were on the 'Duchess of Athol'. We thought we were going to Basra (where the problems are now). We stopped at Freetown, and had our Christmas dinner there, then on to Durban. We changed ships there and after about six days there we boarded the 'HMT Dunera' with the possibility of Singapore, but we and other ships were diverted to Batavia, Java, and docked at Tanjong Priok harbour.
We went to some barracks called Meester Cornelious, then on to airfields Kemorjuran, Tejililiton, then on up to Andir airfield up in the mountains. We went up Punkak Pass, and on our way up we got hammered by Japanese bombers. We were there for a few days and then moved out.
We were stopped in a tea-plantation and told to unhook our guns and put all ammo, rifles, grenades, bayonets, pistols, at the roadside, and the tractors were driven off by our drivers. Then we marched so many miles each day. We arrived back in Batavia and were put in a Chinese school POW camp, then after a few weeks we were marched out to Boei Glodak Jail, just like Changi. After a few months 242 Batteryand other units were moved out on a draft to Borneo, Sandakan Camp, and they all died.
The reason why I'm writing this letter is because I was too ill to travel. Our M.O. said, "You would never make the trip, you're too weak.". Later I was put on a draft, went on to Singapore, then to Saigon, then to Formosa, then to Japan. The first ship from Java was the 'Yoshida Maru' to Singapore. Then we were put on the 'Dianichi Maru' and stayed on until Japan. Bodies were put overboard about every day.
We must have been on those two ships for about fifty days, so one could imagine not being able to wash for that length of time. Between decks was sub-divided into about four feet of headroom, and we were packed in like sardines. We were lucky in not being bombed or torpedoed by friendly fire as quite a number of ships were. We were sent to the Southern Island of Kyusho Fukuoka, and our camp was Omini Mashi, and my number in Japanese was 'Nana-Ju-ichi' which in English is seventy-one, and the quicker you learned the language the less hidings you got. We got two and sometimes three days rest a month, and that was our lot. Until the war ended we were coal-miners.
The Americans released us and we got on a train to go to Wakayania and boarded an American Hospital ship to the Okinawa Islands. From there we went down to Manila, then across the Pacific on a British Aircraft Carrier to Hawaii, then on to Vancouver Island, Victoria. We then joined the train at Vancouver City for a four and a half day journey across Canada to New York, then on to the Queen Mary back home. It would be about the end of November 1945 when I got home.