Videos

Chinese Anzacs

This short documentary includes interviews and family perspectives from some of the descendants of Chinese Anzacs. The film is designed to accompany the Department of Veterans’ Affairs publication Chinese Anzacs, which sheds light on the individual experiences and challenges of being a soldier of Chinese ancestry.

Roy Cornford – Prisoner on the Burma Thailand Railway

TRANSCRIPT: Roy Cornford – Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru – Part 4

The [USS] Pampanito happened to come up to have a look around and spotted these rafts with people on them. They didn’t know who they were or what they were. They came up and they mounted machine guns on the deck and they came over close to one of the rafts. By this time all the rafts were five and six hundred metres apart, or two kilometres apart, and we’re all black with oil of course. One bloke had fair hair and he sung out “You sink us and now you want to shoot us!” And the sailor sung out “Who are you?” And he says “We were Australian and English prisoners of war.” And he sung back “Well, we’ll throw a rope and the man with the white hair only grab it”.

He grabbed the rope and they pulled him aboard, and they were smartly satisfied that they were prisoners and they radioed, and another submarine surfaced straight away. The submarine that first spotted us, it cruised around picking up prisoners. It had a crew of 72, and it picked up 73 [survivors] and I was one of the prisoners that it picked up. I was on the second-last raft that they came to. We had two rafts joined together and we did have 18 prisoners on the two rafts but eventually when we were picked up there was only nine of us still alive.

Roy Cornford – Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru – Part 4

TRANSCRIPT: Roy Cornford – Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru – Part 4

The [USS] Pampanito happened to come up to have a look around and spotted these rafts with people on them. They didn’t know who they were or what they were. They came up and they mounted machine guns on the deck and they came over close to one of the rafts. By this time all the rafts were five and six hundred metres apart, or two kilometres apart, and we’re all black with oil of course. One bloke had fair hair and he sung out “You sink us and now you want to shoot us!” And the sailor sung out “Who are you?” And he says “We were Australian and English prisoners of war.” And he sung back “Well, we’ll throw a rope and the man with the white hair only grab it”.

He grabbed the rope and they pulled him aboard, and they were smartly satisfied that they were prisoners and they radioed, and another submarine surfaced straight away. The submarine that first spotted us, it cruised around picking up prisoners. It had a crew of 72, and it picked up 73 [survivors] and I was one of the prisoners that it picked up. I was on the second-last raft that they came to. We had two rafts joined together and we did have 18 prisoners on the two rafts but eventually when we were picked up there was only nine of us still alive.

Roy Cornford – Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru – Part 3

TRANSCRIPT: Roy Cornford – Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru – Part 3

On the first day on the raft, the water was very calm. And when you sat on the raft, the 18 of us, the raft used to go about this far under the water but then the life jacket you had on would take your weight and you’d just float up and down with the rise of the current.

Well we just talked of good things back in Australia and what we’d so when we got home and all this. No one talked of death or not being rescued or anything. And then on the second day we noticed a couple missing. We spotted a Jap – dead –you used to see lots of prisoners floating in their lifejackets that were dead and we’d say “Oh, there goes so-and-so and there goes so-and-so”.

Then I spotted a Jap come close to us and he had a water bottle around his neck. And I says “Well, I’ll get that water bottle.” So I dog paddled about five metres to it, got the water bottle and I was flat out dog paddling back to the raft. They pulled a stick from under the raft, we’d been shoving sticks under the raft and bits of plank and that under the raft to help hold us up higher. They poked the stick out and pulled me aboard and we got the water bottle, it had no cork in it and was full of salt water.

That was I think the second day, and then on the third day it rained. Well, we put our hands up to our mouths like this, and I’d say everybody would have got a couple of good mouthfuls of water. It was still very calm and the water was warm and the nights were warm and the days were warm. Well, they were hot the days, because you got badly burnt. All my arms were burnt right up here and right up there. And where you were in the water all the time your skin had gone – you only had skin, you got practically no flesh under the skin – it had all congealed up and sort of come in to look like big scabs.

On the third night, we still had about 16 of us on the raft. When daylight come the next morning, there was only nine of us left. I never saw one of them disappear. On that third night I got into the middle of the two rafts that we’d joined together and took my lifejacket off, tied a strap to my arm and lay down in about six inches of water and had a sleep. And I slept very well, because we were very, very tired I’ll admit and knocked about, we were only skin and bones.

And then the next morning there was only nine of us on the two rafts and we were floating around and we saw this, looked like a small fishing trawler, going to rafts about four or five kilometres away from us. Someone kept saying “Oh, it’s a small ship”. And then it started coming closer to us, and we’re waving and waving, and when it got closer we realised it was a submarine.

Roy Cornford – Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru – Part 2

TRANSCRIPT: Roy Cornford – Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru – Part 2

The submarine surfaced. The name of the submarine was the [USS] Growler and it attacked the destroyer. Luckily they fired two torpedoes at it head-on and one of the torpedoes hit it. That caused a fire and a lot of damage to start with, then the second torpedo they fired blew it up. Well, I was on deck when the first torpedo hit it and there was only a bright flash from that. And the Japanese guard near us says: “Oh, a fire on the island.” And when the next torpedo hit that destroyer and it blew up he never said anything. But the prisoners near us said: “Hello, the island’s blew up”.

And then the panic started. That destroyer – that submarine pulled out of the chase then. As it surfaced to dodge depth charges they lost track of the convoy and the other three submarines attacked the convoy and they sank a transport ship near us. I was on deck and we saw all this. Then they sank a transport ship on the other side of us. And then there was an oil tanker about 500 metres from us and they sank it. But before it sank you could see the Japanese sailors trying to run along the deck in the burning oil and [then] it exploded. Then they sunk an oil tanker on the other side of us.

And then we copped one. Luckily the first torpedo hit the hull on the forward part of the ship which was full of rubber and that took most of the shock, but the big splash of water that came up over the deck washed us and roughed all up against the deck cabins and things like that. And the people down in the hull, the water poured down on top of them and of course they were screaming and panicking.

And then the second torpedo was only about 10 to 12 seconds later than that and it hit the engine room. And when it hit the engine room the ship sort of just dropped about 10 feet. And it sort of laid over on its side a bit like this a bit. But then all the Japanese were getting into the lifeboats and getting away and we were tossing rafts over. So many men were getting on each raft. And we got down to there was only one raft left and there was eight of us. And we said ‘Well, we’ll have a drink of water first. So we went and got a belly full of water and we tossed that raft over and we all jumped in the water and got [on] the raft.

We’d only got about 100 metres away from the ship and another Japanese naval boat came back flashing lights everywhere, and then it got torpedoed. And the concussion of those torpedoes hitting the ship affected our stomachs and I got as sick as anything and lost all the water I drank. Well then we got on the raft, eight of us, and we pushed our way away from the ship a bit, and all the rafts kept coming in close together and we were all pretty close together.

Roy Cornford – Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru – Part 1

TRANSCRIPT: Roy Cornford – Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru – Part 1

Then the next day it was all men, pack and they marched us down to the docks. And when we got down to the docks there was two ships there. And one ship was to take 1500 prisoners, another was to take the other 800. Well there was about 750 Australians I think. And we were supposed to go on the ship that was to take the 800, but they marched us onto the wrong ship. So they had to make up the number of Englishmen on the same ship as us. And the other ship just had the 750 Englishmen on it.

When we eventually sailed, when we went aboard, we had to go up the gangplank and first they took on heaps of young Japanese people, injured Japanese soldiers, and then a heap of Geisha girls, and then they took us up. As we were going up the plank the Geisha girls were spitting at us.

We were taken on board, and first they put us all down in the hold. But as you went on board you had to carry a big tube of rubber. This was about 18 inches by 18 inches and it had a handle on it and they told us that was our life preservers. But as you went up they packed all them down in the hold. Of course that hold was full of rubber.

They put us all down below, and you had about two foot square for each prisoner and the bit of gear that you had. But after the ship sailed they relented and allowed so many hundred up on deck and I was one of the lucky ones that was up on deck. Well, you never got any better treatment or anything. It just meant more room for those down in the hold.

And you only got one cup of water a day, but luckily on the second night it poured rainin’, it just fell down. Everyone caught rain in their dixies and had a good wash and a good drink of water. And other days, to have a wash, they had a salt water hose going all the time and you’d go over there and get under that.

Derek Holyoake - HMAS Hobart under fire

TRANSCRIPT: Derek Holyoake - HMAS Hobart under fire

So we sailed out of Sydney Harbour on the 20th June 1941 at 10pm, sailed out of that harbour, and to what we were going to go through I didn’t have a clue. But anyway we finally finished up in Port Tewfic [Egypt] and we stayed there for a day. Well I think we were there for about two days. That was pretty hectic because we had a very, very heavy air raid on the night from about 12 o’clock til about 4 o’clock and that was my introduction to World War II.

I was a loader on one of the four inch anti-aircraft guns and it was pretty scary because of the noise of the aircraft and the bombs and the flash from the muzzles of the guns as they fired. And of course that was my first experience but on the other side of the four inch gun was an old sailor who had been through it all before. I heard this weird, whining noise in the sky and I said “Hey, we’ve shot one down!” And he said “You silly bugger, that’s a bomb!” You know, that was coming near the ship.

But anyway after that of course, the Georgic, the motor vessel which had unloaded the Australian troops, was hit badly and set on fire and our medical people had to go over and help bring the wounded out and so forth. Then the Captain decided to beach the ship so it didn’t sink and ran into another ship called the [HMS] Glenearn and set that aground. So there was this ship blazing away during the night and early morning and then we had to tow the other ship off.

And then after that we had to go through the Suez Canal. That was a bit hairy too because the Germans had laid 13 mines in the canal at different intervals. We didn’t know what kind of mines they were. So we had to, when we saw the red flag, we had to stop making any noise and shut down everything we could, and everybody who wasn’t on deck down below had to come up and stand on deck and be very quiet while we just glided over each mine. So after 13 mines we had to anchor in the Great Bitter Lake. That’s where we assembled for the other convoy to come back through the other way. So the Captain said “All hands to bathe over the side”, so that was a great relief from that one. That was the start of our Mediterranean sojourn.

Derek Holyoake - Rescue at sea

TRANSCRIPT: Derek Holyoake - Rescue at sea

We were only a day out of Singapore when we came cross a little merchant ship that was being bombed by some Japanese aircraft. They’d set it on fire. Our medical staff went over to the ship and they brought back in their own boat a lot of Lascar seaman. Have you heard of Lascar seaman? They’re Asian [seamen]. The shipping companies employed very cheap labour and they were Indians and different races and that.

And because we couldn’t anchor we had to keep moving, because these aircraft were still flying around dropping bombs around the ship. Luckily they’d run out of their big ones and they were only dropping small ones. So we had to keep underway, and their boat came alongside with all these wounded people in it and the doctor standing in the boat injecting them with morphia. And being on the quarterdeck, which was about the lowest part of the ship, so we could actually lean over the rail and grab these guys under their armpits because you couldn’t stretcher them - there wasn’t time.

These poor guys were in a lot of pain and they didn’t speak English. We had them lying around on stretchers everywhere and as they were dying we were sort of burying them at sea. We took the ones that were still alive to Batavia [now Jakarta, Indonesia] but we don’t know what happened to them. They probably finished up as POWs, too.

Nesta Summerhayes – Cold in Korea

TRANSCRIPT: Nesta Summerhayes – Cold in Korea

There were a lot of burns emanating from Korea, burns on the actual soldiers who during the fighting time who had been burnt by exploding bombs. Also, Korea was very cold in wintertime and our troops were housed as best as could be; clothes and the uniforms were manufactured of material with the accepted technique in those days, so they weren’t really that warm and they really did suffer. And so there were a lot of pot belly stoves in use. Now they would sometimes explode. Other times through sheer, well it amounts to neglect but it wasn’t, it was necessity to get warm. These cold soldiers, you know you get up close and the feeling goes a bit when your extremities are very cold.

Nesta Summerhayes – Treatment of burns

TRANSCRIPT: Nesta Summerhayes – Treatment of burns

And so there was a particular Australian, a young Australian soldier who’d been burnt, in Seoul. He had been stabilised physically and considered well enough to be air lifted by the air ambulance wing of the RAAF. They operated between the two, to the Britcom [British Commonwealth General Hospital in Kure, Japan].

In those days, that would be 1954, the accepted medical treatment for burns wasn’t highly developed – the great strides that have been made these days in nursing or in caring for burns, healing burns – it was Vaseline gauze dressings called tulle gras. Which was basically just layers and layers, like a bed, of paraffin gauze and Vaseline. That strips of Vaseline soaked gauze was the healing product that had to be laid over the entire burned surface, left for three days, and then the procedure went through again. It had to be soaked off because the serum that oozes from a burn, you know, can become hard and sticky so that adheres to raw nerve ends. The only way to get it off in those days was to put the patient into a saline bath – actually a bath – and let them soak, so that when the dressing could be gradually lifted off. It was that stage, that I never get this out – the screams of pain. It wasn’t through carelessness or cruelty, that was the technique, his nerve ends were still raw and he had to be deprived of the hardening dressings.

So that went on and on and on and I’ve never ever forgotten that. Now he eventually became well enough to be shipped back to Australia. I can’t remember seeing him again but I am led to believe that he did recover.

John Brownbill – Stolen mine field

John Brownbill – Near miss

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