Thursday, April 27, 2017

Military autocracy meets Cockney Brothel Inspectors

From The Burma Road by Donovan Webster. From page 114 on the Japanese preparations for building the bridge on the River Kwai.
With the heat of spring presaging the rains of summer, few Allied POWs in Japanese-controlled South Asia could understand why suddenly, after months of neglect, their Japanese captors began distributing questionnaires inquiring about each prisoner's education and professional history. Then, ominously, the POWs were made to sign contracts in which they agreed not to attempt to escape.

Shortly after the forms had been completed and returned - with most of the POWs explaining to the captors that before the war they had been dedicated professional "beer tasters," "centenary bell ringers," and "brothel inspectors" - yet another inexplicable event occurred. Inside prison camp wires across south Asia, from Java and Sumatra to the thick walls of the stifling Changi Prison in Singapore, the Japanese announced that all able POWs would soon be moved to "rest camps" in the mountains of Thailand and Burma. Once there, housed in cooler altitude and jungle shade, the POWs were told they would receive improved food and medical care, allowing those who'd been left sick and exhausted by their captivity to stand better odds of recovery.
That, of course, is not how it played out. All the surveying and movement of prisoners were simply a prelude to the construction of the railroad and bridge.

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