William Knuckey

The Passing Out Parade was supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and was coordinated by South West Arts in partnership with South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Outback Theatre for Young People.

By Ken Falahey

The sun is like a huge red ball as it rises across the sea and the islands to the east but does not make life any more bearable here at Tan Toey camp. The awful stench from latrines is overwhelming.

Some of the men suffering from a serious attack of dysentery can’t make it from their beds to the latrine area but for some obscure reason the Japs did not connect lack of hygiene with sickness and disease.

The cookhouse isn’t much better. The guards are constantly reducing the amount of food we get and lots of us have shocking injuries and even broken bones as a result of severe bashings with sticks and clubs which inflicted shocking wounds and broken bones.

This treatment reduced the manpower available to the Japs for labouring duties, which was in breach of the Geneva Convention, but we now we can’t do anything about it.

Ikeuchi Masaakayo is in charge of the POW Camp and our Aussie commanding officer here is Colonel Scott. He argued with Ikeuchi that the treatment was in breach of the of the Geneva Convention, but was told that Japan is not a signatory and therefore was not obliged to comply. Ikeuchi Masaakayo attitude was disastrous for us as we now received reduced rice rations, seventeen ounces each, sometimes we get a small issue of fish or vegetables. These meagre rations were not sufficient to sustain us, we are being forced to work no matter how sick we are. The guards tell us they are going to reduce our rations to ten ounces and I have no idea how we will survive on such a small amount of food and still be expected to unload military supplies from the ships at Ambon wharf.

There was a dump of 300-pound bombs which, in spite of numerous protests by those involved, some prisoners were forced to dismantle them with hammers to remove the prussic acid compound and grind it into powder. This powder gets inserted into bamboo tubes, a fuse attached and used for constructing tunnels, by prisoners of course.

Last week a premature explosion killed one Aussie and more died over several days. I think they are going to stop doing this soon.

The Japs had created a bomb dump close to the camp area it contained 200,000-pound of high explosive and armour piercing bombs. It is only feet from the camp hospital, where the officers camp and huts that house up to 250 Dutch women and children. There have been many protests over this. When Captain Hooke fronted Ikeuchi to have the camp identified as a POW camp he was rebuffed and reminded of our status, “you have no rights and International law and Red Cross are dead”.

Because the Japs refused to identify this as a POW camp an American bomber flew over last week and dropped a stick of six bombs on the camp. Our only Doctor, six Australian officers, four other ranks and twenty-seven Dutch women and children were killed, and the toll is rising. Since then, a further twenty-seven seriously injured Australians and a large number of the Dutch casualties have died as a result of their injuries.