Jim Kerr, ex Prisoner-of War, Burma-Thailand Railway

Running time
1 min 30 sec
Date made
Place made

The 3-nine-39 radio and video series tells the untold stories of veterans, widows and family members from the Second World War.


And then as a result, Australia is also at war. 3-nine-39, the day the war became real for Australians.

Ray Martin:

I’m Ray Martin. September the 3rd, 1939 sees Australia enter the Second World War. Around a million people enlist, out of a population of just 7 million.

Jim Kerr, now 94, is one of the million. Jim was just 15, but puts his aged up and enlists to serve. He is one of 22,000 Australians taken prisoner-of war by the Japanese to work in labour camps. He is sent to hospital for treatment of malaria and that’s when Jim Kerr’s war becomes even more real. 

Jim Kerr:

I was 15 when I enlisted and I was gunner in the 4th tank regiment.

I was next to the ulcer ward. And the treatment in the ulcer ward was, that the orderly would come around in the morning and his treatment was a sharpened spoon.

So with a sharpened spoon, he would, scrape away all the bad flesh down to the good flesh, and you could hear these blokes screaming as this orderly was going on his rounds.

So, you imagine you're next in line waiting for this fellow with a sharpened spoon to come down until finally there was no other action but they'd cut the leg off.

I wouldn't know how many, but a lot of men lost legs because of ulcers. And there was no treatment.

The Japanese never supplied any treatment for that sort of thing, so the doctors had to improvise with what they could.

Ray Martin:

Jim Kerr is one in a million as 80 years on we remember the Second World War.

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