Mason was born in Melbourne Australia and had a successful career as a military
policeman in the RAAF. His
father, John Mason was with the AIF, 8th Division Signals, 6th
Line Section in WW2. Andrew’s
father experienced the realities of war in combat in Malaysia and consequently
being wounded by rifle fire. John
Mason was imprisoned as a POW in Selerang Barracks in Singapore and later
transferred by hellship aboard the Wales Maru to Kobe, Japan where he was forced
to work on the docks and endure the sub-standard conditions and nearly perished
from malnutrition. Andrew’s
Grandfather Howard Mason had also fought in WW1 in the trenches of Villers
Andrew’s passion for his
subject matter dates back to the age of six when he became a junior Legatee and
later represented Junior Legacy Victoria at the ANZAC Day ceremony in Canberra
in 1988. In 1991 he joined
the RAAF where he duxed his RAAF Police Course. In 1996 Andrew received an
Officer Commanding’s (OCs) Commendation for exemplary service in relation to
an on-base homicide. In 1997
Andrew was attached to Butterworth Malaysia and this only continued to fuel his
thirst for travelling to visit many places synonymous with WW2. In 1998 he represented the RAAF at the Hellfire Pass Museum
opening in Thailand. In 2003 Andrew also designed and submitted a commemorative
coin for the Australian Mint in relation to the 60th Anniversary of
the Thai-Burma Railway. This
being put on hold due to the Mint’s other commitments with other campaign
coins. In 2003 Andrew also qualified for his black belt in Hapkido, a Korean
Andrew has travelled
extensively in Thailand and Singapore and is also a life member of the
Thai-Burma Railway Centre in Kanchanaburi.
Andrew’s ambition and objective with this book is to combine his
knowledge of WW2 and Thailand and Singapore and encourage all generations to
take the pilgrimage to these synonymous locations with interest and understand
what their forebears endured in the tumulus history we refer to as WW2.
Andrew Mason is married with three children and resides in the seaside
suburb of Karingal in Melbourne. ‘A
Different Brand Of English’ is Andrew’s first publication.
This book is intended to offer you my travel
experiences to Singapore and Thailand, along with providing general and
practical advice pertaining to those countries. It is designed to take you to sites famous and infamous
dealing with WW2 in the Pacific from cemeteries, battle sites, cuttings,
bridges, waterfalls to hot springs etc.
I have attempted to cover the main themes of the Fall
of Singapore and the Thai/Burma Railway on the Thai side.
I apologise in advance if I have missed anything important to you, one
can imagine there are many places to visit in both Singapore and Thailand, the
information is provided for a snapshot - a basic introduction to the site, it is
therefore up to you to continue research on these places if your interests are
heightened. For further research see the bibliography of this publication
along with the recommended internet research sites; the AWM and the IWM are
excellent places to visit to conduct research and of course the TBRC.
Individuals chosen to be visited for this book have been selected either
because they played some major part (like LTCOL Ivan Lyon and CPL Rod
Breavington) or because of their date of death, or due to them being the oldest,
youngest or some other odd fact about their death or that they were mentioned by
LTCOL Dunlop etc. I have mentioned many Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC)
Members who died in Kranji, Kanchanaburi or at sea, because I have an
interest in them being an MCC member myself.
There are thousands of men in all the war cemeteries we are to visit, I
would like to include them all, however this is not possible - the randomness of
their selection adds to the brevity of the scale of what we are about to see. I have used many quotes by ExPOWs to offer their
thoughts whilst you are visiting places synonymous with their war time service.
Read all the ‘pre-tour’ information and general
advice before you go including all the miscellaneous information - work out what
it is you really want to do and prepare an itinerary based on the places you
want to go. When you are at the
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery for example, take out this book and read the pages
dedicated to this site. I
have used many other publications for this book in order to have ExPOWs’
opinions and facts etc, highlighted throughout where possible, this not only
provides excellent reference material but also gives you informed data by men
who were there. The tours are divided into sections and I have included a
‘time bracket’ for the approximate time it will take to visit that
particular section. The sections in
Singapore I have placed near public transport, eg. The City Hall Tour begins at
City Hall MRT.
Many times I have thought I would not publish this book
for fear of upsetting folk. I’ve
highlighted many people from the past (well before my time) that have died in
tragic circumstances; unfortunately circumstances that could have been avoided.
If only a few books are sold and that handful of people visit some of
these places – then I will have achieved my purpose. I have tried to contact
next of kin where possible, however this has proved very difficult; I have been
in contact with school archivists, other historians both in Australia and
abroad, CWGC, telephone directories and other means – I have sent off letters
to names in the phone book hoping one of them is related; one runs into
difficulty when you come across more common names.
I was close to deleting all the names I had researched and put into this
book (there is over a dozen fellas I mention) but then I thought isn’t
remembering the whole concept of Lest We Forget?
And then I thought of the famous saying, ‘Tell them when you get home
that I gave my tomorrow for your today’ – then I thought would I want people
to visit my dad if he lay in an offshore cemetery far away, lay some flowers,
say a prayer or read a poem – and I felt comfortable with that – dad is
buried in the new Cheltenham Cemetery (Victoria Australia) and mum says he would
be happy (‘coz he’s laying between two sheilas!).
I read a book which sealed my decision to use the names – it was ‘We
Will Remember Them – Australian Epitaphs of WW1’ by John Laffin (1995) which
was a great tribute to many Australian sons, maybe I could discuss some fellas I
have researched and promote Lest We Forget.
Keep safe, have a great holiday in Singapore and the
‘Land of the Smiles’, these countries are fascinating places to visit and
they are littered with WW2 sites. Bear
in mind these places can and do have an emotional drain, couple this with the
normal complexities of travel and tempers can become short.
This pilgrimage will be an unforgettable journey, one that will pop into
your mind at odd stages when you come back home.
Chog Dee. (Good Luck).
and foremost I would like to thank my wife and kids for being patient with me on
this project, both for my time in travel and for the time spent in the office
typing and researching etc. Thanks to Rod Beattie for his time in responding to
my many emails over the years, the information he has provided and a special
thanks to him for all the work he does in Kanchanaburi that is aimed at
remembrance - without Rod many people would not be as well informed on the
Thai/Burma Railway who come to visit; when I had a question(s) Rod searched his
database and provided me with answers. Thanks to the many people that have aided
my research including: Mr Bill Haskell (ExPOW), Ms Lindsey Shaw of the
Australian National Maritime Museum, Huge Cope (TBRC), Roger Maunsell (Centre
for Research Allied POWs Under the Japanese USA), NARA Washington DC USA, Jean
Francois Helias (Fishing Adventures Thailand). Khun A for driving me
around Kanchanaburi and Sangklaburi on many occasions and for my constant 'Turn
here' demands - Khun A drove both Phil and I on one occasion from 9AM to 2100
hours - on the day his wife had given birth - he gave up his time for us for a
family event very special to him - we accordingly tipped him well thanks Khun A.
Pescod (Hong Kong), Bill Slape and Ayr Steer (Hellfire Pass Museum Thailand) -
special thanks to Ayr for arranging on several occasions my entry into Home Phu
Toey - I will provide a bottle of good Aussie Red as promised! Stickman
(Bangkok), Alf Bachelder (MCC), Dick Briggs (Scotch College), Roger Ladyman
(Perth), Julie Lee and Russell Atkinson (Aust War Memorial), Thai Visa, Wes
Injerd, Mr Nefu (Battlebox Singapore).
Gertsakis and Bruce Davidson (Australia Post Philatelic Group), Frank (ExPOW)
and Judy Stecklein (Texas USA), Peter Francis (CWGC London), John Howard
(Australian Prime Minister), Roy Whitecross (ExPOW), Yvvone Mant, Robert
Aspinall, Karen Ann Leong (Singapore Walks), Suchin Jienjilert (RKVH). Joost
Herweijer (Holland). Leone Fuz and Dr VivienneThom (RoyalAustralianMint), A.C.Bijsmans
(Netherlands Wargraves Foundation), Carrol Cooper (COFEPOW), IanDenys Peek (ExPOW)
and Roxarne Burns (Pan Macmillan), Jayne Correll (Subcorp), Jim (ExPOW) and
Tonia Casey, Alan Matthews (Force Z), Lyn Vaughan (BoolarongPress), Angela
Crocombe (Penguin), Bruce Constable (HMAS Perth), Ted Harris (Digger History),
Nolan D. Anthony (ExPOW USA), Lisa Lim (Fortress Singapore), Peter Stubbs (Kranji
War Cemetery), FSGT Peter Spring (RAAF), Chris Beard, Don Chistison and family,
LT COL Bill Henderson and Kathleen McCleskey (USA), Donna Liew (Singapore
Tourism Board), Lynette Ramsay-Silver (Author/historian) and Jeanne McArthur (Ex
to all the various publications that gave me permission to use them as quoted
works - it gives the reader a chance to travel with ExPOWs where they may not
have had the chance or privilege to do so.
thanks to Ron Mason, Malani Mason, Phil Martina and Richard McArthur for
allowing me to drag you all half way around the world on various occasions and
to all sorts of odd places. The publications that I have referenced are
excellent further research into these topics. Thank-you from one Australian
generation to another, without you life could be so different. I saw an
excellent saying the other day and it went something like this:
'If you can read this thank a school teacher, if it is in English, thank
a soldier'. Lest We Forget.
From many accounts the fall of Singapore was destined
to occur for many reasons. Some
authors say it was ineptitude on LTGEN Percival in spreading his troops too
thinly along the stretch at Kranji (the Australians), not joining the Australian
forces on the island to embrace one solid fighting unit, having troops not
sufficiently trained and equipped to fight a foe that was battle hardy from
years of fighting in China. Others
say a combination of the above, and poor preparedness on behalf of the military
and civil administrations, by concentrating their defences in areas where
attacks just did not occur; like the mighty guns facing the southern seas when
the attacks came from the north via land; therefore allowing holes in
Lack of artillery/ammunition, lack of air support,
rations, concerns for the civil population, non implementation of Operation
Matador (defences for the northern advances) and many other war making
essentials were either reduced or mismanaged.
What the fighting forces had however, was an eagerness to fight their
enemy which they did with valour under conditions where they ‘were under the
pump’ from the start. For example LTCOL C. Anderson, Commander of the 2/19
Battalion AIF was awarded the Victoria Cross for his legendary bravery,
leadership and courage in action at the Battle of Muar - Malaya - he had earned
a Military Medal in WW1 also. The
Allies fought fierce battles down the Malayan Peninsula, in places like Gemas,
Muar, Parit Sulong etc. The latter should be considered a household name in
Australia however sadly it is not; hence my inclusion of it in this book.
Parit Sulong is about 80 kms from Singapore and what happened there was
one of the first (certainly not the last) atrocities that the IJA engaged on our
troops and what could be expected over the following 3.5 years of occupation.
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