Stawell's Robert Illig continues his father's story through his experiences of World War II.
Mr Illig used a combination of stories from his father, newspapers and historical books he had read over time to compile the story and for the sake of this story, referred to the Japanese Imperial Army as the enemy.
My Father's War - Part three
There were some 20,000 Australians who were held prisoner at Changi during the war.
8031 died during this campaign.
For the first six months of their imprisonment, the men were formed into working parties and given jobs to help the enemy in their war effort.
Jobs included loading and unloading the enemy's ships, repairing the railway bridges and loading railway trucks.
All these jobs were being carried out by the Australians with only one thought in their mind. Sabotage.
Prior to the war, the enemy had prepared plans to extend the railway line which began in Singapore and finished in Bangkok.
They believed extending the line from Bangkok into Burma would assist them in their war effort.
The proposal was to extend the railway line for about 400km.
With thousands of prisoners of war - basically slaves - available to carry out the work, this could be achieved at very little cost.
The work commenced to transport 13,500 Australian prisoners, and many more from other countries, to begin work on the infamous Burma Thai railway.
The Australians were transported by way of railway trucks, which were once used to transport rice around the country.
The Australians were crammed into these small trucks, built entirely of steel.
Forty-two men to each truck, no room to sit or lie down and very little water on board.
The only respite from the tropical heat beating down on the steel trucks was the opening of the door.
It was agreed that on a rotating basis, each man was allowed to sit at the opening for five minutes at a time to get some fresh air.
This process went on for five days and five nights until they reached a town named Ban Pong, just north of Bangkok.
The Australians were then ordered to walk 154km to where they were to start work in the railway line.
When they arrived, there was nothing but jungle.
No sleeping quarters, no toilets, just jungle.
The enemy guards ordered them to start work immediately on building the railway.
The Australians refused until such time that they themselves had prepared a cap to at least protect themselves from the tropical weather.
They went into the jungle armed with primitive tools and built their sleeping quarters, toilets and other outbuildings.
Their sleeping quarters were merely bamboo huts, about thirty metres long with an aisle up the middle.
On each side of the hut, there were platforms built less than two metres wide and about a meter off the ground.
These were made of bamboo, and each man slept side by side on the bamboo platform.
Two-hundred-and-fifty men were accommodated in each hut. This was to be their bed for the next two years.
The enemy guards assigned to the Australians while the railway was being built had been ordered that the work must be completed as soon as possible, and as a result could not let any Australian rest.
Sometimes the Australians would work 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
If an Australian were caught having a rest, he would be told to "speedo" which mean in no uncertain terms to hurry up.
Speedo became the most hated word to the Australians in the English language.
The Australians were punished by being bashed around the head and shoulders with a bamboo rod.
It was a part of the enemy's culture - if they were going to reprimand an Australian prisoner, their head must be higher than the Australians.
Because the Australians were generally much taller than the enemy, to achieve this the enemy made boxes which they stood on when carrying out their bashings.
As an officer, it was my father's duty to try and protect his men, so he received his fair share of beatings.
After one altercation with the enemy about the treatment handed out to one of his men, the enemy guard jumped onto his box, so his head was higher than my father's, and proceeded to bash him around his head and shoulders.
When the enemy had finished, he jumped off his box and just for good measure picked up his bayonet and rammed it into my father's leg between his knee and ankle, leaving a nasty wound.
Many of the Australian prisoners were suffering from malnutrition, malaria, dysentery and other forms of tropical diseases and their bodies could not cope with the healing process, so many wounds would quickly form into a tropical ulcer.
This is what happened to my father's wound.
It quickly started to be eaten away by infection, forming a huge hole in his leg and exposing the shin bone.
It just so happened, Dr Weary Dunlop was in the camp.
He used to travel between camps keeping up the prisoner's morale.
He came across my father, who asked him if he could do something to help heal his leg.
The doctor told my father he had two options.
"The first is that I could amputate your leg below the knee without anaesthetic," the doctor said.
"Or, you can take off that filthy bandage, expose the ulcer to the air and let it become fly blown. The maggots will eat away the dead flesh."
My father chose the latter.
After two years the work was completed, and the Australians were transported back to Changi, the same way they were transported up: by train.
The work entailed the construction of 412km of the railway line.
The number of workers involved amounted to 239,511, made up of 61,811 prisoners of war - of which some 13500 were Australians - and 177,700 civilian natives.
Less than half of the total number survived. Of the Australians, 2646 perished during this time.
The Australians' diet for the two years consisted of six ounces of rice per person per day, enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
It was accompanied by a watery broth made from the weeds growing in the jungle. Occasionally pieces of dried buffalo or fish were available but were generally infested with maggots.
My father was a big man, six foot two inches, and when he arrived back in Changi, he weighed six and a half stone, a mere 45 kilograms.
NEXT WEEK: The story concludes; An emotional reunion entails
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