One of the most remarkable records we've added to the site as part of our POW records concerns the diary of a Lt. H Hill of the Indian Army Ordinance Corps. Lt Hill was captured by the Japanese during the fighting in the Far East during WW2, and was held at Number 4 Camp, Shirakawa in modern day Taiwan.
He recorded, at great personal risk, a diary which documented the deaths of other allied personnel around him in the rudimentary hospital facilities provided by the Japanese at Shirakawa.
As the Japanese had not signed the Geneva Accords of 1929 relating to the treatment of Prisoners of War, the treatment suffered by POWs at the hands of the Japanese was often brutal, harsh and unforgiving, and this often extended into denying or delaying medical treatment to wounded and sick men.Lieut. Hill prefaced the extracts of his diary provided to the War Office with the following introduction.
It is clear from his diaries that the treatment provided to POWs who were sick or wounded was more or less non-existent in Shirakawa camp, an appalling but all too common state affairs particularly when you consider that this camp was designed as a hospital camp and aid centre for POWs too sick to work. The descriptions of those who died, and their physical states as written by Lt Hill provide a window into the lot of the average Far East POW, and how hard the conditions were if interned in a Japanese POW camp, especially if you were wounded or ill.
Gunner Day in one of the entries died due to a plethora of illnesses, which caused such weakness that he could not even move, and had to be assisted to perform the most basic functions.
Another Prisoner, Hughes, a US Cavalryman, died on arrival at the hospital after the Japanese refused to treat him for his wounds at all, even throughout his arduous journey to the camp. He was cremated after he died, but even then, not laid to rest. His ashes were carried around by the Japanese so that they could prove he was with the transit party even if he had died.
Although very specific, these diaries give a real insight into the conditions, common causes of death and conditions experienced by prisoners of the Japanese in the Far East during the Second World War. The life of a prisoner of the Japanese was hard to the point of impracticality, and it is for this reason it is unsurprising Hill records at least 3 cases of men simply giving up. One, a signaller, apparently died as he was 'tired of life'.
Another case of this is Trp Hume, Reconnaissance Corps, who appears to have died due to severe depression and attacks of the nerves, effectively a nervous breakdown.
Deaths were so common in this camp that Hill at one point also notes out of hand that 'another chap also died,' as if he was writing an afterthought.
Lt Hill's dairy is a brief glimpse into the world of a Far East prisoner of war, which was often incredibly brutal and incredibly dangerous. You may have Far East Prisoners of War in your family tree. Why not explore our new Prisoner of War records and see what you can find?