The Official 2/26 Battalion Website

In affiliation with the 2/26 Battalion Family & Friends Association Inc.

"This website came to fruition in an attempt to tell the true story the 2/26th Infantry Battalion, (the only Infantry Battalion raised in Queensland; part of the 27th Brigade, 8th Division) played during the Malay Campaign of World War II..... "The 8th Division constituted 14% of the British force but it took 73% of the battle deaths."

The Story of F Force

As the Japanese commenced calling for work parties and indicated the move of large parties out of the Changi area and away from the Australian Army control, it was decided by our own Camp Administration that once a group was moved off the Island of Singapore, it would be a self contained group with a letter of the alphabet as it’s designation, this was for the purpose of maintaining accurate records of all POW’s.

On the 8th April 1943 word was received that a force of 7,000 POW’s was to be moved.  The orders issued by the Japanese Camp Administration Headquarters to our Administration were as follows:-

By April 13th, it was known that the composition of the Force was to be made up of 3,600 A.I.F., and 3,400 English Troops.  Movement was to be made in 12 train-loads from Singapore and to move to 7 different camps of 1,000 men each.

Train loads were made up of some 600 personnel with all their baggage and were numbered 1 –12.  Trains left Singapore as from 19th April, each being a rice train consisting of 23 steel wagons (similar to closed goods wagons) with 27 men together with all belonging cooped inside for three days and three nights.  In these cramped conditions there was no room for sanitary facilities and no room in which to lie down. The only ventilation was the door in the middle of each wagon.  Twice a day the train stopped for food which consisted of rice and onions boiled in water. Once a day the train halted and with a whistle blast from the guards 600 men leapt from the train to complete their daily toilet arrangements.

As each train load of men reach Banpong (a little village not far from Bangkok) they were informed that a march of several days was to be carried out by all men, including the unfit.  All articles the men and Officers could not carry were to be dumped at Banpong.   This march was in fact of 300 kilometres (about 200 miles). It was taken in fifteen stages and lasted over 2 and a half weeks.  Marching was done at night, usually from 1900 hours (7p.m.) to 0700 hours (7a.m.) and except for the first two stages, along rough jungle tracks. The average distance covered was about 20 miles per night, then the troops had to perform camp duties, get their meals and was during the day so they had very little rest.

Conditions at the staging camps were appalling, with no overhead cover provided, except at one camp where there were a few tents for 100 people.  The monsoonal season had started and food supplies were poor and in most camps consisting only of rice, with a cup of hot water to drink.  At one staging camp, they had to buy their own water from a privately owned well.
No arrangements existed at these staging camps for the sick to remain and men who were totally unfit to march because of disease and weakness were beaten and driven from camp to camp.  Pleas by Officers and Medical Officers for these men to be left behind were ignored with many of these officers being beaten themselves. Where ever possible sick and wounded men were helped along by mates, but those to unable to keep up with the march were more often than not shot or bayoneted by the Jap guards.

The March at a Glance

Distance from

Distance of



Banpong (km)

March (km)



Start of March




Stage Camp




Stage Camp




The Temple Camp




The Bridge Camp




"D" Force Base




Water Point




Bamboo Swamp Camp




Dutch POW Camp




Corral Camp




"Hitler Camp"




Elephant Camp




Bamboo Camp




Cholera outbreak




Water point



Shimo Neiki

Parties Grouped




"F" Force H.Q.



Shimo Sonkurai

No. 1 Camp




No. 2 Camp



Kami Sonkurai

No. 3 Camp



Chang Karang

English Camp



Thai Border

3 Pagoda Pass

Sometimes the men were required to build their camp from scratch – at others the camp had been inhabited by Tamils or Coolies and were in a shocking state, as these natives knew nothing about basic hygiene.  Human excreta and the unburied bodies of natives were often found when the men marched into these camps.  Where camps had latrines trenches dug, they were often very close to the living quarters of the men and overflowed with the monsoon rains.

Cholera broke out at Shimo Neiki on 15th May and it was requested by the Commander of all POW’s that all movement cease until the outbreak was under control, unfortunately the Jap Commander did not comply with the request and as a result Cholera spread into five other camps occupied by the Force.

When the first party of men arrived at Shimo Sonkurai they were required to clean up the camp.  Huts were in bad shape with the continued rain collapsing them in parts and in one the complete floor fell through.  The IJA demanded 300 men to start work on the railway and another party of 500 to build to “Tiger Fence” around the camp. These number of fit men could not be met.  Requests were made on medical grounds for tents for isolation of dysentery patients and the protection of men, medical stores, and a supply of rice polishings to combat beri beri.  The Jap medical officer stated that he had no supplies, but would do what he could to obtain extra tents.  The information that the local Jap authorities had made no provision for medical supplies came as a great shock.

Continued supplies of rice and rations were becoming scarce as there was no railway and no permanent road only a bullock track which had become impassable because of the monsoons.  Groups of men would haul yak carts up to 13 km each way in order to draw supplies such as sacks of rice, onions and maize.  In one camp 3 yaks were killed at a time to supply 2,000 men, but only after the Japs had taken the hind quarter sections for their own use. 

On the 29th June, a Jap Medical Officer and two Allied Officers left to make arrangements to establish a 2,000 bed hospital Camp at Tanbaya in Burma.  The purpose of this Camp was not to help the medical situation but to remove from the labour camps men who were too ill to work.  It was intended that sick POW’s begin the trip to this hospital on the return of these three men, but it was to be over three weeks before this began.

On 21st July it was announced that the transfers would begin, but numbers would be reduced from 2,000 to just 1,250.  In actual fact was over 1,900, due to the sympathetic efforts of a Japanese Camp Commander.

A great number of desperately sick men were sent to the Hospital Camp from the Labour Camps.  Sick men stumbled along carrying their own gear as well as the gear of the sicker men they carried on stretchers. The transportation conditions were appalling, first an enforced march to the railway siding, then packed like sardines into carriages for the trip to Tanbaya. Every time a new batch of the sick arrived it would be found the up to 10 had died on the journey.  Any hope that conditions or rations at this Camp would be better was quickly shattered and conditions were almost as bad as elsewhere.

Between August 1943 and January 1944, a total of 1,924 ill men were sent to Tanbaya Hospital.  Of those 750 died there.  By July supplies for each man per day was as follows:

These rations were for working men, who at times were slaving for up to 14 hours per day working on the line.  On top of this they often faced up to a 10 km march each way to work. Rations for hospital patients were usually half of that for working men, as the Japs considered they did not need as much as they were not working.  It was a regular practice for the Japs to drag men whom they classed as fit from the hospital.  Stretcher patients were often carried to the work site and spent the day breaking rocks.

Working conditions deteriorated with the weather.  The ground was sodden and muddy and many earth embankments and roads had to be rebuilt. Swollen rivers and creeks had to be forded in order to build bridges.  Engineers and guards with steel whips drove men to work faster.  Working conditions and lack of food combined to drive several men, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups disappear into the jungle.  Sometimes this was with the idea to die in freedom rather than in captivity by disease and ill treatment.  Recapture meant facing harsh punishment, usually resulting in death.

The majority of men had no boots – these having worn out – and stone chips and scratches resulted in Tropical Ulcers. These were treated with banana leaves and bandages made from the sleeves and legs of the POW’s clothing. These bandages were used for many days before being changed, then washed to be used on other patients. 

Typical treatment was scaping the ulcerated and putrefied skin out with a spoon that had been honed on one side to act like a knife. Usually the patients needed to be held down by others in order to endure this treatment.  Often ulcerated legs were amputated with the crudest of tools and without any anaesthetic. Unfortunately many of the amputees died of shock or other complications. Cholera, malaria, ulcers, dysentery, diarrhoea, beri beri, diphtheria and other ailments were taking a heavy toll on all the men.  Clothing and blanket issues as promised at Changi were not forthcoming and medical stores were completely inadequate.

September saw no improvement in rations: Below is the daily ration per man:-


23 ounces


1.325 ounces


2.7 ounces


0.02 ounces


0.6 ounces


0.32 ounces


3.7 ounces

October saw the linking of the railway, but still there was no improvement in the rations.  Death rates were still very high. This month saw 61 Australians and 82 English die in one camp alone. 

On 12th November Nominal Rolls were called, but not until 20th November were the men actually entrained for the return to Singapore.  First stop was Kanchanaburi where the men had about a weeks rest to recuperate and reorganise into train groups and prepare for the return to Changi. Dozens of men died on the journey to Kanchanburi and several hundred over the next three weeks.

The journey back to Changi commenced on 20th November under similar conditions to the trip up – still 27 men per rice truck, but this time all men were ill and suffering from either Malaria, beri beri; dysentery, or tropical ulcers. The stench of these ulcers combined with the lack of toilet facilities was putrid.

Not all survivors were able to return to Changi at that time.  There were still 550 desperately ill and 150 medical staff at Kanchanaburi and 220 desperately ill and 100 medical staff at Tanbaya.  Of those in hospital in Burma 96 died before the camp was evacuated in February 1944.  This group of survivors together with those from Kanchanaburi Hospital returned to Changi in April 1944.

Out of the 7,000 men who left Changi in April, only 3,800 men returned to convalescent back in Changi in December, after just eight month of Hell on the construction of the railway.  Because of the intense hardship suffered by this party of POW’s it could rightly be referred to as “The Ill Fated “F” Force.”