At the same time I was old enough to know that this lost Japanese platoon was beyond the point where life and death meant anything at all. They were aware that their own lives would shortly end, and that they were free to do anything they wanted, and inflict any pain.
Peace, I realised, was more threatening because the rules that sustained war, however evil, were suspended. The empty paddy fields and derelict villages confirmed that nothing mattered.
26 February 1944: Beaten to death for teaching childrenShe held the side of her head as the blood seeped from between her fingers. I don’t think I could ever have imagined that much blood coming from such a wound. It covered her blouse and her skirt and fell in drops onto the dry earth. I couldn’t believe the blow to her head had not killed her, but she stood still and, although she was crying, I could see she was getting stronger by the second.
4th June 1943:Dutch Jews arrive at the death ‘camp’ SobiborI was so taken aback and distracted by having had all our possessions taken from us, that although I had seen an SS man at some point, I never noticed, until it was too late, that the women had been sent in a different direction. Suddenly Rachel was no longer walking beside me. It happened so quickly that I had not even be able to kiss her or call out to her. Trying to look around to see if I could spot her somewhere, an SS man snapped at me to look straight ahead and to keep my “Maul (gob) shut.”
17th July 1942: Auschwitz – the sudden death of Yankel Meisel
In the tenth row outside our Block, the Block Senior found Yankel Meisel without his full quota of tunic buttons.
It took some seconds for the enormity of the crime to sink in. Then he felled him with a blow. An uneasy shuffling whispered through the ranks. I could see the S.S. men exchange taut glances and then I saw the Block Senior, with two of his helpers, hauling Yankel inside the barrack block.
Out of sight, they acted like men who have been shamed and betrayed will act. They beat and kicked the life out of him. They pummelled him swiftly, frantically, trying to blot him out, to sponge him from the scene and from their minds; and Yankel, who had forgotten to sew his buttons on, had not even the good grace to die quickly and quietly.
The original of this Diary was buried in the cemetery at Chungkai for fear of discovery by the Japanese and dug up in 1945. Published for the first time 40 years after the completion ofthe railway, Dr Hardie’s Diary tells the true story ofthe 16,000 Allied prisoners who died from sickness, exhaustion and malnutrition.
In appalling conditions, using surgical instruments improvised out of scrap metal and with totally inadequate supplies of drugs and dressings, Hardie and his fellow Allied medical officers fought to stem the ravages of beriberi, cholera, malaria, tropical ulcers, dysentery and other diseases.
It is a remarkable contemporary record written by a cultivated, objective and sensitive observer, whose delight in nature was a major sustaining influence during the darkest days of his captivity.
The text is illustrated with Robert Hardie’s own wartime sketches and watercolours.
The immensely brave, selfless and indomitable Dr Hardie . . . this amazingly prosaic and factual diary . . . talented drawings of landscape and flora.
The Daily Telegraph
The Kempeitai were horrible little bastards. My most vivid memory of them is being lined up outside a hut as they beat a bloke to death who’d been caught with a radio hidden in a tin of peanuts. We had to stand to attention and listen to his screaming. The beating lasted a long time. I can’t say how long but the bastards knew how to prolong this torture and didn’t want him to die too quickly.
12 September 1944: USS Sealion sinks Rakuyo Maru – and 1300 PoWsIt was now 4am and most of the rafts had drifted close together. A lot of the English POW’s drifted into burning oil and a lot also died after being hit by rafts and hatch covers which were being thrown into the water. The English had been on the starboard side of the Rakuyo Maru. A few men had still not abandoned ship and they found a lifeboat that the Japanese could not launch but which they managed to launch. They also found one terrified Japanese Jig-a-Jig girl still on the ship whom they took with them. Once in the water they met up with a boatload of Japanese and handed the Jig-a-Jig girl over to them.
12 April 1944: Avoiding Japanese ‘doctors’ in Shinagawa Camp, TokyoIf they got worse, they were operated on at night while he was out of camp. This was done in the face of his direct orders forbidding any surgery being done other than by Dr. Tokuda. Black with anger the next morning, he cussed and howled when he found out that a victim – had escaped his tender ministration. We told him blandly that it was an emergency and we were unable to reach him.
The approximate figures for the week ending 0600 the 6th November were 399 killed and 1,102 in total of which London suffered 253 killed and 497 injured. This represents about half the total number of casualties for the previous week in London; in the provinces, however, while the number of deaths is about half that of last week, the total of wounded has increased from about 400 to 600. In no town outside London did casualties exceed 100, the highest provincial death roll being at Fraserburgh where over 28 were killed.
There is little appearance of nervous or physical overstrain. Fear and shock, attendant on actual explosion, passes quickly in most cases. Without over-emphasis people take the obvious precaution to ensure such safety as they can and particularly to ensure sufficient sleep. By day they continue their ordinary business. Having adjusted their lives to such reasonable extent they regard the event philosophically, the Cockney adopting an appropriate bent to his humour, though there are signs of increased hatred of Germany, and demands for reprisals are numerous.