Hintok Mountain camp

Accommodation in Hintock [sic] camp was extremely bad consisting largely of most defective R.D. tents often with only a single fly. Hospital accommodation was tents of this type with rough bamboo staging to keep the men out of the mud. During the entire monsoon season no roof could be erected over the kitchen. In general the overcrowding whether of fit or sick was extreme and many men were rain soaked throughout the 24 hours.

[E.E. Dunlop, 'Interim Report upon Experiences of P.O.W. Working Camps and Hospitals in Thailand', 14 September 1945, AWM54, 554/1/5.]

Hintok Mountain camp, (also known as Hintok Road camp, Upper Hintok and Hintok Jungle no. 5) was the northernmost POW camp in the vicinity of Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting) housing Australians, British and Dutch prisoners of war. Located on the road (now Highway 323) the camp also served as a staging post for other groups, such as F Force, passing through on their way to sites further north in Thailand.

The Australians based at Hintok Mountain camp were Dunlop Force and S Battalion and the headquarters of D Force. Lieutenant–Colonel E.E. 'Weary' Dunlop himself reached the camp in March 1943 after some weeks at Konyu River. He commanded the Australians (and some Dutch units) until early May when, as the burden of caring for the sick became immense, he persuaded Brigadier C.A. McEachern of D Force to take over administrative command at Hintok Mountain.

Although one of the better camps of the region, thanks to Dunlop's management, it had two severe disadvantages. Firstly it was some distance from the section of the Burma-Thailand railway, forcing the men to negotiate steep paths up and down rugged hills at the start and end of each working day. When the monsoon started the paths became treacherously slippery and a nightmare to negotiate safely.

Without boots many men cut their feet on sharp bamboo and rocks. Desperate to avoid injuries which could start tropical ulcers, the POWs would swing from one bamboo to another like trapeze artists, or use bamboo sticks to stop themselves from sliding. With raw, bleeding and ulcerated feet, many simply crawled back to camp, arriving at night well after mealtime and the roll call (tenko). Some slept or even died in the jungle.

In an effort to make the journey a little easier the POWs built bamboo and rope ladders over the escarpment to the south of the camp site.

A second disadvantage of Hintok Mountain was its distance from the supply route of the Kwae Noi. Although the mainly rice diet was sometimes supplemented by pigs and bullocks provided by the Japanese or purchased—and stolen—from local Thais, the road route became a quagmire with the monsoon. Supplies coming up the Kwae Noi were more reliable particularly since the Thai trader and member of the resistance V movement Boongpong Sirivejabhandu was shipping in food and medicine via this route.

However, Konyu River camp and Hintok River camp were kilometres away and the routes to them were again steep. The Japanese refused to provide trucks or release men from railway work, so supplies had to be manhandled up the slopes by carriers who included officers such as Dunlop.

The worst time at Hintok Mountain camp was the 'Speedo' in mid-1943 when some men worked without rest for more than eighty days. Under intense pressure from the Japanese engineers in charge of the railway construction the local Japanese commanders demanded that sick be included in the daily workforce quota. The protests of Dunlop and other officers were often ineffectual.

Work parades ultimately became a deplorable spectacle with men tottering with the support of sticks and carried piggy-back on to the parade ground, unable to walk, in order that fixed figures could be met.

[E.E. Dunlop, 'Interim Report upon Experiences of P.O.W. Working Camps and Hospitals in Thailand', 14 September 1945, AWM54, 554/1/5.]

Some men worked without rest for more than eighty days.

Cholera broke out at Hintok Mountain camp on 19 June 1943. Since the Japanese were terrified of this disease they provided vaccines and quarantined the sick at 'cholera gulch', a dismal flooded area a short distance up the road. Dunlop meanwhile pioneered in July 1943 the use of saline drips which arrested fatal dehydration. With saline being supplied from a still developed by Dunlop's fellow POWs it was also taken by runners to other camps in the area. However it was some two months before the cholera outbreak was brought under control.

In the five months from March 1943, 57 Australians died at Hintok Mountain camp. Nearly 2900 were admitted to Dunlop's hospital, the main illnesses being malaria (590), dysentery (558), enteritis (340), malnutrition (194), cholera (93), tropical ulcers (209) and skin diseases (221)1. As the illness rates soared, the Japanese agreed to some of the sick being evacuated by barge from the river camps to hospitals further downstream. Carrying stretcher cases over the rugged and difficult terrain proved a difficult and delicate operation.

For all the horrors of the monsoon period when the camp, situated in a mountain hollow, became a quagmire of smelling black mud, Hintok Mountain could be exquisitely beautiful. It was teeming with exotic fauna including monkeys, whose presence on the mountain behind the Australian camp led the POWs to speak of a 'baboon colony'. As Dunlop recorded in his diary:

Weather is fine again and the jungle is assuming a new coat of multitudinous shades of tender green. The atmosphere seems to have been washed ineffably clean and pure by the rains so that the sky is a serene, fathomless blue "¦ The morning and evening sometimes positively hurt with their beauty, especially the lovely quarter hour before dawn when the whole sky is aglow with brilliant crimson bands showing through the clearly etched foliage in a brilliant atmosphere and the softest of pale blue.

[4 April 1943, The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop, Melbourne, Nelson, 1986, 202.]

  • 1. E.E. Dunlop, Medical Experiences in Japanese Captivity, British Medical Journal, 1946, ii, 481.

Last updated: 23 January 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Hintok Mountain camp, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 22 January 2021, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/burma-thailand-railway-and-hellfire-pass-1942-1943/locations/camps-near-hellfire-pass/hintok-mountain-camp
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