Colin Hamley enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in May 1940. He served with the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion as part of the 7th Australian Division in the Middle East.
Colin's battalion was embarked in Egypt for Australia but diverted to Java. Colin was captured after a 2-week campaign against the Japanese invasion of Java came to an end.
In 1943, Colin and other allied prisoners were moved to Thailand, where they were put to work on the infamous Burma-Thailand railway.
Prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians were forced to build the 415km railway connecting Thailand and Burma, allowing the occupying Japanese forces to bypass vulnerable sea routes. Colin remembers the starvation they endured and the rigours of working in railway cuttings, breaking and clearing rocks.
Colin's brother, Don, was also captured and worked on the railway. He did not survive. An enduring memory for Colin was a chance meeting when Don threw him a hatful of cigarettes as Colin passed by his worksite on a train. It was the last time the brothers saw each other.
On 20 August 1945, Colin was recovered by allied troops. In October 1945, he embarked for Australia. He was discharged from the AIF in February 1946.