Sabotage on the death railway
1st April 1943: Allied POWs forced to work on the bridge on the River Kwai do everything to undermine its structure
On the Railway of Death - which the Japanese were forcing POWs to build through the jungles of Burma and Siam - there was no respite.
Australian Don McLaren1 had survived the nightmare journey by box car up to the jungle camps from Singapore.
On the 1st April 1943 he found himself at the beginning of a new ordeal, the construction of a bridge:
It was still dark when the guard was yelling. 'All men out, all men out.’ Here we faced an enormous natural gully.
A timber framed bridge would eventually span this gully, we called it 'The Pack of Cards.’ We hauled these teak logs in from the jungle. First we had to drive the logs, sharpened at one end, into the ground.
Next we shaved off one side with crude axes to make it possible to keep going up and up. The Jap engineers rigged up this piledriving apparatus. We had long ropes. Hundreds of Australians would walk back until the rope was taut, then we’d sing, ’Ichy, nee. Nisio, nisio, nisio.’ (One, two. Pull, pull, pull.)
As we sang these numbers, we’d pull on the rope. This huge great lump of steel would rise up. On the last ’nisio’ we would all let go. Down would come the pile-driver and the pole would sink another inch. All day seven days a week, for weeks on end, with not a single day off, we drove these bloody things into the ground.
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