A Prisoner of War – and one of Queensland’s last surviving Thai-Burma railway workers – will honour his fallen army mates at a special Remembrance Day service on November 11.
Carinity Cedarbrook resident Gordon Jamieson, 97, will lay a wreath in respect of soldiers and civilians killed in war at the aged care community at Mudgeeraba.
Gordon served in the Australian Army during World War II and fought in the Malayan campaign. Following Japan’s capture of Singapore in February 1942, he was a prisoner of war for three-and-a-half years.
“We became captives of the Imperial Japanese Army six months after arriving in Malaya and following a ten-week battle. It was quite eerie when the din of gunfire and high explosives ceased, to be followed by the cheering of the enemy soldiers at close proximity,” Gordon says.
“We became slaves and thus began, unexpectedly, a 42-month phase of my life, a period of tragic events the memories of which will remain for all time.”
Gordon was held in prison camps in Singapore before he and fellow Allied troops were “herded into metal rice vans” and transported to a remote jungle area to work on construction of the infamous Thai-Burma railway.
The prisoners of war (POWs) would work shifts of up to 18 hours building embankments, bridging creeks and digging cuttings with picks and shovels.
“On the completion of a strenuous day at work our boys would commence the walk back to camp, several kilometres in pouring rain with little or no footwear. Then someone would start to sing a tune… and others would follow, and the heads would be lifted proudly,” Gordon says.
“The workforce had been reduced to one-third strength due to illness and death, mostly caused form diseases such a cholera, dysentery, malaria, berri berri and tropical ulcers resulting in limb amputations.”
More than 2,800 Australians were among the 12,500 Allied POWs who died while working on the railway, while around 75,000 Asian labourers also perished. Only five of Gordon’s small Platoon of 16 soldiers survived the war.
“My wartime experiences convinced me of the futility of war. The memories of my war and not those of victorious battles or ignominious defeat, but of the human spirit of our Australian soldiers,” Gordon says.
“I was fortunate that I survived to return to my wonderful country and a loving family, but leaving so many of my companions behind, the memories still linger.”
Gordon and his wife were members of the anti-conscription movement during the Vietnam War, and Gordon has since travelled to Thailand and Japan to take part in commemorative ceremonies honouring prisoners of war.
Carinity Cedarbrook Residential Manager Wendy Kane says the Remembrance Day ceremony on November 11 would be a solemn and emotional occasion.
“Many of our residents knew someone who fought in World War II and sadly many of those people didn’t return home from abroad following the end of the conflict. Cedarbrook residents and staff will show our respect to brave fallen soldiers such as Gordon’s wartime colleagues with one minute’s silence on November 11 at 11am,” Wendy says.
“The service will be particularly poignant given this Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended the First World War, and it’s 75 years since the Thai-Burma railway was completed at great cost to Australian and Allied soldiers.”
The Carinity Cedarbrook Remembrance Day ceremony will also feature a bugler and a display of World War II and Vietnam War vehicles supplied by the Military Jeep Club of Queensland.