- Cox, Leonard J.
- History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Perth I
- September 1995 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The main transmissions received were from Rugby, England, GBR, Admiralty London, GYC, Tokyo in English and Radio Australia. News from the United Kingdom was in Morse code and the other stations in plain language. The salient points of the news were reported to “Weary” Dunlop, who quietly released it to the men after some interval, just in case an English speaking guard developed a habit of eavesdropping. To avoid becoming marked men, communicators were always careful to hide their identity from the Japanese.
Because the news broadcasts were received at night, the Colonel arranged for Ted and later Harry to be on camp duty at the same time. This meant gathering wood and water to cook the rice and on odd occasions beef when the native Thais carelessly let some of their cattle stray into the camp area. The cattle weren’t well fed, therefore there wasn’t much meat on their bones.
It was still very important that the existence of the receiver should be kept secret. The least number that knew about it the better. The Kempi Tai, “Japanese Thought Police” as they were known, instigated searches, sometimes looking for knives and other times firearms. This amazed the men, living in a jungle so far away from a supply source. If the police were instructed to search for a particular item, it didn’t seem to matter what else they found. So the men benefited at times by their lack of intelligence!
Petty Officer Ray Parkin kept a diary with a number of black and white sketches. He was an excellent artist. When the men shifted camp, he gave his articles and drawings to the Colonel, who managed to safeguard them. They eventually reached Australia and became the basis of Ray’s very good books and of his experiences in “Perth”. Some of his later books include “Out of the Smoke”, “Into the Smother” and “The Sword and the Blossom”.
Harry continued operating the receiver until one day friendly Thais informed the men the “Kempi Tai” were thirty minutes away from their camp. Petty Officer Horrie Abbott could not believe what he was seeing when Harry enlisted his aid to hide the set in the jungle, buried in a four gallon tin of uncooked rice. Now that Harry too was compromised, the Colonel had to confiscate the receiver.
Shortly afterwards, a group of RAAF airmen arrived at the camp. They had a two valve set built in a water bottle, so they were given the responsibility of intercepting news from the outside world. Apart from their own thirst for outside information, it was vital that the prisoners, many of whom were sick or dying from malnutrition and disease, had much more than just a reason to survive their ordeal.
It is also interesting to note that Harry and his Navy mates were aware the Royal Navy had returned after eighteen months to attack harbour installations and airfields in Burma, Sumatra and Java. It is a pity they did not know several Australian destroyers, including Napier, Nizam, Norman and Nepal of the 7th Destroyer were among them
The trauma these men suffered at the hands of the Japanese lived with them for years. Tropical ulcers, dysentery, malaria, typhus and other diseases affected thousands. Those who died are sadly buried on foreign soil. The living and the dead will all be remembered for generations.