3 Squadron RAAF POEMS

3 Squadron RAAF HOME / Search

A Poem from 75 Years Ago…

In 1943, the improving prospect of Allied Victory over the Japanese Empire came far too late for the Prisoner of War slave-labourers on the 415km Thai-Burma “Death Railway” [completed 16 October 1943]. 

This poem was illustrated by Changi POW Artist Des BETTANY
[It has not been possible to identify the poet: “F.H.S.”]


Northward they travelled, Northward to Thai -
conquered the jungle, only to die,
that the yellow man's railway, with sinews of war,
might penetrate swiftly, from shore, to shore.
Crossing the land of Thai.

To the earth by the side of the track they fell,
their neighbours, the coolies, writhing in hell.
The hell of disease, the Hades of thirst,
the slave with the master, the best with the worst.
Helpless victims of Thai.

Still to the North, the remnants reeled,
to meet their fate on a battlefield -
of plague and lice and rotting flesh.
Pawns of the warlords, caught in the mesh -
Of steaming, festering, Thai.

They fought with the fly, and the rat, and the rain,
the damp foetid air of that jungle terrain,
the cholera scourge, the dysentery plague,
they shivered and shook like men with an ague,
In the mud of Perfidious Thai.

For them not the glory of death in the field,
forgotten, their bones lie rotting, concealed -
'neath a carpet o creeper and fungus and slime.
What matter?  The railway is finished in time.
Who cares if the toiler dies.

But though forgotten by fellow men,
when reveille sounds, they shall march again,
onwards and upwards, never to fall,
Each soul inspired by the clarion call -
Of the almighty God in the sky.


3 Squadron RAAF POEMS

3 Squadron RAAF HOME / Search