In late autumn of 1942 we were told of a new delight to come. We were to be moved north into Siam [Thailand] where we would be engaged in light healthy labour with good food and pleasant sunny weather, housed in well-built camps in open country. We couldn’t wait for this promised treat.
We marched to the station carrying our backpacks and were there entrained in metal-sided cattle trucks, about 40 to each truck. […] We took it in turns to sit in the better places and arranged our packs in rows so that we could sit on them with our legs pointing towards the middle of the truck. […]
There were no latrine arrangements at all, not even a bucket. One could pee through the open sliding door and the train stopped twice a day at some point well away from a village so that we could get out and ease ourselves squatting over a ditch or under a hedge. As many of us were already suffering from dysentery, these two stops were not nearly enough and we got over the problem by rigging a rope across the doorway at a convenient height so that one could hang on with both hands, bottom outwards and shit on to the track.
We arrived at Ban Pong, all 800 of us soon after the start of the rainy season. Ban Pong was a substantial small town of about 5000 and the camp was a very disgusting place. As a transit camp there was no senior British officer in command who could see that the place was kept in order. […] After a few days we marched out of the pigsty of Ban Pong.
Ban Pong in Thailand was the starting point for the railway designed by the Japanese to link Bangkok with Moulmein in Burma. The planned stretch between Ban Pong and Thanbyusayet (roughly 400 km) ran through barely charted territory following the river Kwai Noi. Designing the railway posed an enormous engineering undertaking; building it, in wartime, with no mechanical aids, required enormous manpower and resulted in over 100,000 deaths, the majority of which were forced gangs of Chinese, Indians and Malays, but also included around 13,000 Allied POWs.