A 97-YEAR-OLD former Prisoner of War and one of Queensland’s last surviving Thai-Burma railway workers will honour his fallen army mates at a special Remembrance Day service on the Gold Coast this morning.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended the First World War, and 75 years since the Thai-Burma railway was completed at great cost to Australian and Allied soldiers.
Gordon Jamieson, 97, will lay a wreath in respect of soldiers and civilians killed in war at a ceremony at the Carinity Cedarbrook aged care community in Mudgeeraba at 10am.
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Mr Jamieson fought in the Malayan campaign during World War II and, following Japan’s capture of Singapore in February 1942, was held as a Prisoner of War for three-and-a-half years.
A young man aged in his early 20s at the time, Mr Jamieson was enslaved by the Imperial Japanese Army following a 10-week battle, six months after arriving in Malaya.
Speaking from his home at the Carinity Cedarbrook aged care facility, the now 97-year-old says the memories of what were a “period of tragic events” that followed his capture will “remain for all time”.
“It was quite eerie when the din of gunfire and high explosives ceased, to be followed by the cheering of the enemy soldiers at close proximity,” Mr Jamieson said.
“We became slaves and thus began, unexpectedly, a 42-month phase of my life, a period of tragic events the memories of which will remain for all time.”
Mr Jamieson was held in prison camps in Singapore before he and fellow Allied troops were “herded into metal rice vans” and taken into a remote part of the jungle to help build the infamous Thai-Burma railway.
Their, the imprisoned soldiers would work shifts of up to 18 hours building embankments, bridging creeks and digging cuttings with picks and shovels.
More than 2,800 Australians were among the 12,500 Allied prisoners of war who died while working on the railway, which was completed 75 years ago. The project also claimed the lives of around 75,000 Asian labourers.
“On the completion of a strenuous day at work our boys would commence the walk back to camp, several kilometres in pouring rain with little or no footwear,” Mr Jamieson said.
“Then someone would start to sing a tune and others would follow, and the heads would be lifted proudly.
“The workforce had been reduced to one-third strength due to illness and death, mostly caused form diseases such a cholera, dysentery, malaria, berri berri and tropical ulcers resulting in limb amputations.”
Only five of Mr Jamieson’s small Platoon of 16 soldiers survived the war.
“My wartime experiences convinced me of the futility of war,” he said. “The memories of my war are not those of victorious battles or ignominious defeat, but of the human spirit of our Australian soldiers.”
“I was fortunate that I survived to return to my wonderful country and a loving family, but leaving so many of my companions behind, the memories still linger.”
Mr Jamieson and his wife were members of the anti-conscription movement during the Vietnam War, and he has since travelled to Thailand and Japan to take part in commemorative ceremonies honouring prisoners of war.
Carinity Cedarbrook Residential Manager Wendy Kane says today’s Remembrance Day ceremony will be a solemn and emotional occasion.
“Many of our residents knew someone who fought in World War II and sadly many of those people didn’t return home from abroad following the end of the conflict,” Ms Kane said.
Today’s ceremony at Mr Jamieson’s aged care home will also feature a bugler and a display of World War II and Vietnam War vehicles supplied by the Military Jeep Club of Queensland.