Groups of prisoners were transported around Japan’s captured territories, usually in small, slow, overcrowded merchant ships. Conditions aboard them were appalling. The prisoners continued their war with typical resourcefulness, sabotaging the ships' engine and guns whenever they could. In this case Bob's stature (less than 5 feet) came in handy.
And then another sea voyage under Nippon,
On the tiny tub “Tenki Maru”
With 1,000 on board and no space to lie down,
Where we were bound for we hadn’t a clue.
That night a mate came to me and said,
“Tich, there’s a gun on the for’ard deck,
I’ve dropped all the tools and spares overboard,
But I can ‘t make it useless by heck.”
It seemed to be a small calibre gun
Like our regiment had had,
So I crept up on to the for’ard deck,
For my small size I was glad.
I crawled underneath the cover,
And in the darkness I felt about,
Pulled down the breach block handle,
Luckily – no shell fell out.
With my steel mirror for a lever,
I released the locking cam,
Withdrew the striking mechanism,
Closing the breach block before it could jam.
Creeping back to my squatting place,
I dropped the striker in the sea,
If the Japs had found out what I’d done,
T’would have been unlucky me!
When war broke out in ‘39,
I did my level best
To join the bloomin’ Army,
R.H.G. Jelley 4th Anti Tank Regt 8th Division. A.I.F.
Bob (Tich) - the shortest NCO in the A.I.F)
At last, a river, a pagoda, a town,
shouted a Burmese stripling,
Some of us had heard of it before,
In the writings of Rudyard Kipling.
By late afternoon we’d been put ashore,
And marched to where we should camp,
In the grounds of what remained of a mission,
We slept under the stars in the damp.
Next morning we were herded
"Kurra! – Speedo!"
Into open railway trucks at that,
And were carted some miles south eastwards,
The camp in which we found ourselves
Left much to be desired,
But compared to what came later,
Could really be admired.
Our job of work – a railway line,
To link Siam and Burma,
And thus make Nippons’ hold in Asia,
Even so much firmer.
The work is hard, the days are long,
We’ve dug cuttings, made embankments and bridges,
And now we’re actually laying the rails,
Across rivers, gorges and ridges.
Sickness is rife in all the camp,
Death stalks every soul
And after every waking dawn,
To see the sunset is our goal.
Oh! You can have your heroes
Of imaginative birth.
For I have seen the greatest men
The battle for Malaya is over,
For Singapore as well.
Those of us who survived the debacle,
Are condemned to a living hell.
“Speedo! Speedo! All men work faster”
Shouts the Japanese engineer
We just carry on at our usual pace
And make out we do not hear.
Then, in move the guards-Bash! Bash!
Down comes rifle butts and bamboo!
The railway is well behind schedule;
Good!- that’s what we’re trying to do.
Death is here, all around us
Along this thick jungle trail
We’ve dug cuttings, built embankments and bridges
And now we are laying the rail.
We work from very early morning
And toil through till noon the next day
Then wearily trudge back to our huts for some food
Before back-spiking the rails that we lay.
This surely can’t go on forever
Somehow, one day it must end
We’ll either make it back to Australia
Or our belongings taken home by a friend.
But no matter what the outcome
Rest assured we’ll have done our share
To keep the Japs out of Australia
So generations can live in peace there.
(Prisoners did their level best to sabotage the railway by building weaknesses into the construction)
BURIAL ALONG THE BURMA-SIAM RAILWAY
We’re at Taunzan, the 60-kilo camp
A place of cholera, disease and death
Where sorrowfully we watch
so many of our mates
Bravely, draw their last breath.
Reverently, in silence, with bowed, bare heads we stand,
As yet another we lay to rest, in this foreign land
A faltering prayer is said, and then “Attention squad”
The Last Post is sounded
For a soul returned to God.
Lest We Forget - Their Service Our Heritage
Lest We Forget Memorial Project - Celebrating The Hero Within
Bob, (the shortest NCO in the A.I.F) was passionate about Australia; about the roles and responsibilities of all to defend, nurture and guide our young, about educating the youth to develop with a spirit of service to community; respect for previous generations, and a deep commitment to making the world a better place for us having lived in it. He had an ability to bring out the "hero within" some of the most unlikely persons.
Over his lifetime, Bob collected much war time memorabilia, books, paintings, poems, medals, personal letters, and dossiers concerned with defense. He took every opportunity to talk with adults and school children and relate various stories illustrated by these artifacts.
Bob was concerned that after his death these items should be part of a display that was accessible to all.
A display that encouraged all to search for the hero within themselves. He found that, in himself, as a young man in the battle of Muar for one, and through his experiences as a POW on the Burma-Siam Railway.