Sonkurai
We were shown our bed spaces in what were to be huts. There was the framework of huts and bays about 12' long by 12' wide made of bamboo looking very much like a raised platform. Into each of these bays 20 men had to find room to keep their kit and make a sleeping space. We could stretch out and lay down but if anyone turned over it meant touching the man on either side as there was barely 18 inches to each man. Then, in trying to sort ourselves out, we stopped to complain of the ridiculousness of crowding us in so tight. The Nip came with his stick and shouted and raved at us until we were glad to get down anywhere.

We had to lie on strips of very uneven bamboo and as there were no roofs to the huts we were now tortured with sun and rain alike. We made protection from these elements our first consideration. The men of my bay joined our groundsheets together and cut poles to support them like a large marquee, and then laid down to get some rest. In trying to rest we found that we had to cover ourselves as protection against giant horse flies which were about the size of bumble bees, and we didn't know of their presence until we felt their bite which was like having a prick from a very blunt needle.

After a few hours of terrific sun, the rain came pouring down and just as we were congratulating ourselves on the worthiness of our groundsheet roof, there appeared a big swelling in one of our groundsheets. I realized it was filling with water and then, without any warning, the whole structure collapsed bringing down many gallons of water which gave us all a very untimely bath. Men in the other bays roared with laughter at our struggles to extricate ourselves from the sodden sheets. We must have presented a very funny spectacle, but it was amazing how quickly these march weary men came to life and jumped to it when the deluge landed on them. I saw the men laugh for the first time in many days as other temporary roofs collapsed, splashing water over the men below. But laughter soon changed to misery again, as we were soaking wet and chilled and there seemed no way of getting any comfort for the night.

 

I had to go out with the work parties again and on returning to camp one evening I felt sick. My stomach felt tight and queer pains were developing in the lower abdomen. the Dysentery seemed to get worse. I got scared and thought "this is it this time, if I've got cholera I'm done for, in 24 hours I shall probably be dead." On arriving in camp I went to see the M.O. and when I explained the symptoms he sent me to the sick bay as a cholera patient. When I got there I inquired about the treatment and was told there wasn't any. If I had cholera it was just too bad. I thought over everything I had read about the disease, the word "cholera" in the English dictionary is explained as bilious vomiting and purging, which is a mild explanation of the actual thing: the men in the sick bay were in an awful mess and sickening to look at. Their eyes seemed to sink deep into their sockets and became dark all around. Their faces became drawn with pain and weakness and most of them were still dirty with the dirt from the work parties, as they hadn't washed for days. Their hair was dishevelled and matted and their bodies covered in the bile and mess that had been vomited over themselves, by themselves or the men who laid beside them. They suffered from uncontrolable and unrestrained attacks of the most violent vomiting, which was always accompanied by "hair raising" screaming and groaning during the awful pain and strain of retching. Also they would probably be lying in their own excretia, being so weak and helpless and with severe cramps in the upper leg muscles, they had been unable to move when the awful purging took place.

These poor men were unrecognizable. As I entered the sick bay, one called to me in a weak croaky voice, "Taff, have you got some water,?" I emptied some into his mug and looked hard at him and realized it was Dyke, one of the men who had helped carry my kit when I collapsed on the first stage of the march, but what a change in the man in so short a time. He was dying and knew it, poor fellow. In my feeling for him I realized that perhaps I would be in a similar condition very soon.

 

 

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