Tag Archives: Michiel Schwartzenberg

RFHG Speakers

We’re getting close to our June conference! If you’re joining us, here is who from RFHG you can expect to see speak!

Missed out on our other announcements? Click here to see all the latest conference news.

Geoff Gill

Geoff Gill is Emeritus Professor of International Medicine at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the University of Liverpool, and a retired NHS Consultant Physician.

At LSTM he has been involved in the medical care of ex-Far East Prisoners of War (POWs), as well as extensive clinical research into their ongoing health problems – notably persisting malaria and amoebic dysentery, chronic worm infestations, hepatitis B infection, long-term effects of vitamin deficiency, and the extensive psychological aftermath. He has published extensively on these and other POW-related health issues. More recent research has involved the medical history of the Far East POW experience, in particular on the Thai-Burma Railway.

Meg Parkes

Meg trained as a State Registered Nurse in Manchester in the 1970s. Her father, Captain (later Dr) Atholl Duncan, was a survivor of captivity in Java and Japan. Following his death in 1997 Meg self-published his POW diaries.

In 2007 she joined the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) to undertake an oral history study interviewing Far East prisoners of war.  The resulting 67 interviews formed the basis of her dissertation MPhil.

Recent research has focused on the war art of previously “unrecognised” FEPOW artists. Most of the 69 British military artists uncovered were unknown to researchers. A Lottery Heritage Fund grant helped to stage the “Secret Art of Survival” exhibition in Liverpool, 2019-2020 (www.captivememories.org.uk).

Meg was lead author on, Captive Artists, the unseen artwork of British Far East prisoners of war, written with Geoff Gill and Jenny Wood. Meg was awarded an Honorary Research Fellowship by LSTM in 2014.

Michiel Schwartzenberg

Michiel Schwartzenberg has now become an independent and evening historian. He worked at the WW2 Netherlands Red Cross Archive up to 2020 and now is employed at the The Hague Municipal Archive.

He has just completed a book (in Dutch) about lesser known aspects of the Birma Siam Railway. One chapters will be presented at the RFHG Conference. The next book is going to move away from World War 2, but not the region. It will be on AFNEI, Allied Forces Netherlands East Indies, and the British occupation of Netherlands East Indies / Indonesia between October 1945 and November 1946. Told from British perspective and based on British archives. For the English a no-brainer, for the Dutch a novelty.

Emily Sharp

Emily joined the University of Leeds in October 2016 to study for her Master by Research in History degree, which focussed on how the Second World War in Singapore has been differently memorialised in Australia, Great Britain, and Singapore. She successfully completed her MA thesis in July 2018.

She is currently completing her PhD in History, also at the University of Leeds. This project aims to examine the cultural backgrounds of the men who were sent to fight in Singapore, and subsequently ended up in captivity as Prisoners of War of the Japanese, as part of the Australian and British forces. It will then compare these backgrounds and the actions/experiences of the soldiers during the battle and in captivity to see if the pre-war experiences had an impact on how each army behaved during the Second World War in Singapore.

Sharing Research REALLY helps! Collaboration on the ‘Flying Kampong’

By Meg Parkes, in collaboration with Michiel Schwartzenberg and Keith Andrews

Fourteen years’ ago, I began recording interviews with Far East prisoner of war (FEPOW) veterans for the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM). Sixty-seven interviews later, during lockdown centenarian FEPOW Bert Warne accepted an invitation to be interviewed.

I spoke to Bert, who lives in Southampton, via Zoom In early November 2020. Interviewing anyone of such a great age is a privilege. However, when relying on technology, it’s not without its challenges. Bert’s voice is strong, and he speaks quickly with a broad Hampshire accent, which when coupled with a fractional time delay initially led to some confusion. Regrettably, worried that he could not hear me, I ended up shouting at him!

Like thirty-seven of the previous interviewees, Bert was captured in Singapore and later sent to Thailand. Every interviewee has a unique story to tell, Bert mentioned something about the railway that I’d not heard before:

Well then what happened was, when we went from that camp [Konkoita] we didn’t go back on the barge and what we done we used to travel, when we built that railway you could only go so far on what you call a steam locomotive. The thing is they’re heavy see, they’re a terrific the weight you see. So if you’d have gone up country and put a steam train on, it’d have fell through you see, ‘cos it was green see [referring to the wood used to build it]. So, what the Japs did do, which I thought was quite a good idea, their diesel trucks, their lorries, what they done they converted the wheels from the trucks to go on the railway, you see. So, what we used when we were on the railway, when you talk about people being transported on the railway, they weren’t transported with steam locomotives, they were transported by lorries.

Puzzled, I emailed members of the Researching FEPOW History Group (RFHG) to see if anyone had heard about these truck trains. Without delay our Dutch research colleague Michiel Schwartzenberg, emailed:

“He is talking about the ‘Flying Kampong’ a diesel lorry adapted for railroad usage.

The diesel-powered lorries were very practical, and to the Westerners a novelty. The Japanese had to devise something that could move heavy goods along the railway, as there was no road or a dependable river…. There was another advantage as a lorry can move short distances. A steam train has to develop pressure, power and then can move long distances. Obviously, a train can move much heavier loads, but on the railway this was restricted to 10 boxcars”.

Michiel sent these photographs:

Archive photograph of a Flying Kampong at work in Thailand during captivity – Australia War Memorial Reference P000761.043
Archive photograph of a Flying Kampong at work in Thailand during captivity – Australia War Memorial Reference P000406.016

Keith Andrews also responded:

“They were certainly used in some sections of the Railway. Capable of pulling four of the specially built wagons they were excellent for transporting maintenance parties or Japanese troops. They had been used by track laying groups and were in use until the end of the war. I will see what else I can dig up”.

(NB Bert had mentioned that the trucks could only go about 40 miles before they needed diesel).

And he contacted Terry Manttan the manager of the Thailand Burma Railway Centre in Kanchanaburi, who added:

“The converted lorries (truck-trains or “flying kampongs”) were mostly used for short to medium distance movements of working groups of PoWs as they were much more versatile and more readily available for such a function”.

If anyone has any further information about the Flying Kampongs do please share.