AUSTRALIAN WAR CRIMES BOARD OF INQUIRY
VX28397 LIEUT ALEXANDER GORDON WEYNTON, sworn and further examined:
I have already given evidence before Mr Justice Mansfield. I have read the transcript of that evidence, and except for some minor alterations and additions which I have made in ink there to the facts in that statement are true and correct.
In the evidence I gave before Mr Justice Mansfield I stated that we arrived at Kuching on the morning of 2 November. I remained in Kuching gaol until I was subsequently tried on 29th February 1944.
Until about the last week in December 1943 we were kept the Kuching gaol without any questioning being done. We were inspected once or twice by Japanese staff officers, but it was not the last week in December, when we were taken in parties from the Kuching gaol to the Headquarters of the Kempei Tai, which as a convent opposite the radio station in Kuching, that we were questioned. During the transfer from one place to another we were handcuffed.
We were questioned there by a Japanese Captain and an interpreter, who went over the evidence, which consisted of a large dossier. He did not deal with it as a complete item, but used to pick out certain sections and question me on that section. I would point out that this dossier was signed by me in Sandakan gaol, but, although I asked to have the document read over to me before I signed it, my request was refused. The document was written in Japanese characters.
The questioning officer, who turned out to be the prosecuting officer when the trial came on, took down further depositions made by me, some of this being an attempt to correct previous statements taken in Sandakan.
It appeared to me that Osawa, the interpreter at Sandakan, had deliberately misinterpreted statements made by me to the Kempei Tai officer, the object apparently being to make the position seem worse than it really was. In the statement made at Sandakan he also made it appear that I had incriminated Major Fleming, 4 Anti-Tank Regiment, who was at the time C.O. of the camp at Sandakan .
At no time had I mentioned Fleming’s name to Osawa but he appeared to believe in his own mind that Fleming had something to do with it, and attempted to distort the evidence to that effect. Despite the fact that I denied these statements, I do not think any notice was taken of the denials I made. They questioned me closely with regard to items of news that I had received, and were very taken with the heavy naval losses which the Japanese had sustained in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. They also questioned me closely on the station that I had listened to, and they seemed rather surprised that I had not listened to or taken any notice of Tokyo broadcasts but preferred the BBC broadcasts.
I was not maltreated during the questioning by the prosecuting officer at the Kuchina Kemoai Tai.
with regard to the gaol itself, the meals in the Kuching were three per day, consisting of a handful of boiled rice, approximately 1 1/2 spoonfuls of vegetables on top. We had our own own spoons to eat with but the plates weer provided by the gaol staff. Washing facilities were twice a day and we were to wash our clothes, but the gaol was infested with bugs and lice; I complained very bitterly to Colonel SUGA, the commandant in charge of Prisoners in Borneo; and also on several occasions to prosecuting officer at the Kuching Kempei Tai.
We had our own bedding – a blanket. The result of these complaints was only that our food was cut down. The Jap sergeant charge of the gaol appeared to object when these complaints were made and had the food ration cut down. It was cut considerably. I also complained to the prosecuting officer regarding a man named Sapper Keating, of 2/6 Fd Park, a West Australian, who was dying at the time; although the Japs did send him to the Kuching hospital for treatment on several occasions, he was being treated by a civilian doctor named Taylor who also was a prisoner, and Keating died in December from dysentery and starvation.
I might mention further regarding facilities in the Sandakan Kempei Tai. After the escape of one native policeman during one night, in September 1943, we were not permitted to go to the lavatory after dark. We had to urinate through the open Window of the room in which we were locked up.
From the time I arrived in the hands of the Sandakan Kempei Tai I was compelled to sit up to attention – from 14 August 1943 – to sit with my arms folded across my chest and with my knees and legs crossed, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. , every day. The only break periods were above five minutes in the morning for so-called physical culture, and a similar one in the afternoon.
If you were caught leaning back or not sitting up to attention properly, you would be taken out of the cell and beaten up. actually that sitting to attention lasted for about seven months, daily. There were just small breaks here and there for interrogation, and going to the lavatory, or to the ablution-block.
Although we were sitting to attention like that in the same room at Sandakan, and in the same cell at Kuching, we were not allowed to speak to one another. Of course, we did so; but we would be beaten if we were caught.
I was with Wells all of the time aft er my arrival. He actually was arrested before I was – on 24th July, and I was arrested on 29th July. He went straight to the Sandakan Kempei Tai, and I did not go there until 14th August.
He got the same beatings as I did. I saw Wells being beaten, and I saw him forced to hold his hands up and having boards placed across the back of his legs, and the seesaw.
I did not see the water treatment of Wells. He told me he had had it. The physical condition of Wells during July, August and September 1943 was quite good; but he went to the pack shortly afterwards. When he was taken there he had a good bit of weight on him.
He told me he had been forced to eat – he thought – about 1 ½ lbs of rice, uncooked; and after that, a small hose-pipe
rubber was forced down his throat and water was poured into stomach. He was kept like that for three or four hours, then taken out of the cell and beaten up. The Japs concentrated, particularly on the stomach – the stomach swelled up when the gastric juices and the water got to work on the rice, and he was beaten. He was considerably bruised about the abdominal regions and was in great pain, because his stomach was so distended. Possibly it interfered with his functions. On the boat coming down he complained to me that he had suffered very considerably his bowel movements, in Sandakan. I do not think he said his bowels were displaced.
I was in the same building when he got this treatment but .did not see it; he was in the cells downstairs for the first fortnight and was not brought upstairs until after that. That maltreatment, I believe, took place downstairs.
When I saw him in March last, he appeared to me to be quite normal. That was on the night after he came out of Outram road gaol. His mental state then was excited, with the sudden change probably from the gaol to the internment camp; his mental state seemed to be all there’ . He was to me quite compos mentos .
The Japs did not administer the water treatment to me. The reason why I d id not get it was that I was faced with the native depositions and the fact was quite obvious to me that I could not get out of it; I had to account for certain radio parts. I knew where they were. I was also up against certain statements in a diary that the Kempei Tai Japs had discovered – these statements in the diary set out quite plainly that I was involved in the radio . They also set our that two others were involved. I was just as much implicated as Wells – that appeared In the diary.
I think that Japs had given this water treatment to some if the natives, before Wells. I know that that was not exceptional; it was administered to other white people in other places – there was a Mr Roberts, a Red Cross chap at Singapore, who tried to escape; and Major Wyatt, of HQ AIF.
We now come to 29th February, 1944, the day of the trial. We were told about three days before that we going to be tried, and although I asked, I was not told of what I was accused. I took it that it was in connection with the radio but I was never actually told. I was marched into the Court Room together with four others at Kuching. The Bench considered of a Lieut-Colonel, a Major and a Captain. The Prosecutor was on the left and side of the Court Room looking at the Court, and the writer was on the right hand side. The interpreter was sitting below the President of the Tribunal. I immediately asked, through the interpreter, for a Defending Officer. That was communicated • the President, namely the
Lieut-Colonel; the request was treated in a jocular manner and refused. I don’ t know the names of the officers of the Court, but I know then again. I had not seen them before – at least, I think one of them may have been in one of the inspecting parties that came around.
The President of the Court put several questions to me. He apparently had extracts of evidence before him. Both the officers on the Bench did the same thing. Then after the questions were answered the Prosecuting Officer got up and addressed the Court at some Length asking that I be sentenced to eight years imprisonment. We had got used to certain phraseology
and certain number of words and I understood him to ask for 8 years imprisonment for me. After the address of the Prosecuting Officer and before the Court adjourned, I was asked if I had anything to say before sentence was pass ed upon me. I then stated I believed that the job I had done in Sandakan, although to Japanese regulations, was instrumental in keeping up morale of the camp, particularly amongst the sick, and that I only done what I considered to be my duty and they would have done the same under similar circumstances .
The Court then adjourned for a period of about 10 minutes then reassembled again when sentence was passed on me – 10 years penal servitude. I was then taken back to the Kuching Gaol.
There were four others with me – WO Rickards, CPL. Small, CPL. Mills and S /SGT . McDonough. WO Rickards got five years, CPL. mills two years, CPL. Small 18 months and S/SGT. McDonough six months .
The whole trial did not take any longer – including the adjournment – than 40 minutes. That was the trial of the whole of us.
I was not present when CAPT , Matthews was tried on the 2nd March; Wells was present.
When we were in the cell, we were given demonstrations a number of times how to lop people’ s heads off .They were quite convinced we were all to go and we were too. All three of us – Wells, Matthews and myself – all thought we were for it, and it was quite a relief when I discovered that I had only got 10 years.
I was sent back to Kuching Gaol, then on 8 March 1944 I was put on board a ship at Kuching and sent to Singapore. On the morning of 11 March, 1944, I was taken into Outram Road Gaol, Singapore.
I remained a prisoner there until 18 May, 1944, when I was taken from the gaol sick. I remained sick under the care of Australian Army Doctors until 14 April, 1945, when they could not keep me any longer and I went back to Outram Gaol and remained there until 19 August 1945.
As a result of my experience in Outram Gaol, I signed a charge against the Japanese major commanding the prison. That was approximately on 30 August, 1945. That charge was made out by myself, Major Slater, of the Royal Artillery, and several other British officers.
(Witness inspects charge sheet, held by Commission as part of Exhibit 4 ‘ ).
That is a copy before the Court. I think I was the only Australian that signed it. In that document, I charged the Japanese Major with being directly responsible for the deaths of 15 prisoners, f ailing to supply adequate medical attention and supplies.
During the period that I was there, people were dying in the gaol owing to the f act that there were getting insufficient food; they were dying of dysentery because they could not get any medical treatment. The dysentery was contracted either before or aft er their admission to gaol. They were also dying of cardiac arrest.
Although the Japanese may not have had any medical supplies in the gaol, they could have got some from Changi interment camp . Anyhow, there were facilities at Changi interment camp for the treatment of prisoners who were ill. Prisoners were transferred from Out ram Gaol to Changi internment camp when they were ill, but some people were left too long. The result was they died in prison. The Japanese Commander knew of these deaths; he used to go and see the bodies; he could see condition of the bodies. Also a Japanese Doctor would actually go to the gaol at the request of the officers commanding the gaol; he would look at the prisoners who were sick and apparently make :_-recommendations. Some of these personnel would be sent to Changi interment camp for treatment. Others would be left behind. It was quite obvious that the major in charge of the gaol knew what the condition of the prisoners was. The fact that these people died in gaol as a result of the treatment, was quite obvious to be that he knew what the position was.
At one stage, sometime in August, 1944, the Japanese Major in charge of the gaol was alleged to make a statement to the effect that nobody would leave the gaol unless they were dying. That practically was the position. Most of the fellows who were transferred out of Outram Gaol died at about that time; they were left until it was just touch and go.
The 15 men I refer to died in the gaol and their names be obtained from records kept at Changi. The Major was not only responsible for the deaths of troops in the gaol but he was also responsible for other deaths which occurred outside the prison.
I can charge the same Japanese with permitting sick prisoners ‘ rations to be reduced. Those of use who went out on working parties, either outside the gaol or within the precincts of the gaol, were given a small bowl of rice three time a day. Those who were sick would get only half this quantity. Furthermore, prisoners who were sick were permitted to lie down outside the gaol itself although still within the boundary wall of the gaol in an open hut, under the command of Guard No 52. This particular guard would cut their rations still further. He had a number of Indians there who were also prisoners but who were very much his way, and he would take the ration from the white people and give it to the Indians. If he caught anyone talking out there, he would not give him anything to eat at all. Yet, although the Major knew this was going on and the guards knew it as going on, nothing was ever done to overcome it.
Prison Guard No 52 stole medicines and food. At one time in May 1945 I was sick myself in that particular shed and under the control of Guard No 52. The medicine consisted of small quantities of what we called ‘rice polishings’, which were the husks of the rice that had fallen off during the process of Polishing the rice. We used to get about enough of this to go on two-shilling piece twice a day. That was to combat beri-beri. Very often, when the Medical Orderly would bring the stuff around, Guard No 52 would keep it himself because he also had beri-beri. Moreover, medicines in the form of raw vegetables – the vegetable being the native ‘ kangkong , which is a sort of Chinese spinach – used to be dished out to the prisoners, but he would keep most of that for himself because he, too, was suffering from beri-beri. in addition, a concoction which we used to call milk but which hardly resembled milk, was given to the prisoners twice a day. Guard No 52 used to keep the bulk of that for himself and some of his friends.
The prison warders used to beat the sick prisoners, more during 1944; they did not beat the sick prisoners so much during 1945. The principal beatings during 1945 were carried out by good conduct prisoners, who were, of course, Jananese, and themselves prisoners. I would not say that anyone died directly as a result of the beatings but many died as a result of beatings and starvation, together with dysentery and berri-beri . Although they were sick and unable to get up, men would be beaten. Guard No 52 w as the worst exponent of this practice. I was beaten myself by No 52 although not to the same extent as other people were beaten by him. The worst three beatings I witnessed from No 52 were those administered to a Britisher in the Royal Artillery named Bradley, a Dutchman named Kris, who was badly beaten up while suffering from dysentery and beri-beri and later died, and another Dutch-Eurasian. Bradley also died; in fact both of those who died did so shortly after the beatings and within about a week in each case.
The beating of the Dutch-Eurasian, who did not die as a result but was very badly knocked about just the same, was almost indescribable. It consisted of a mixture of a wrestling match and a jujitsu display. He was thrown down on to the ground and his arms, legs, neck or any part of his body that was projecting, were screwed until he screamed at the top of his voice. He did not scream from fright, either, he was really being hurt. His face was rubbed in the dirt and he was badly beaten about the body.
Bradley was treated in much the same manner . He was given punishment by jujitsu first; that is to say, although he was unable to walk he was thrown about the hut, made to grovel in the dirt – he had his face rubbed in the dirt – he was badly bruised on the body and lost quite a quantity of skin. He was kicked in the ribs, in the face and in the groin, and several attempts were made to kick him in the testicles. The Japanese managed to kick one or two people in the testicles but most of us were wise to their designs and were able to cover up satisfactorily on such occasions; however, that was a favorite method of attack. This practice was carried out mostly by Guard No 52 although Guard No 66 also did a lot of it.
Guard No 66 maltreated Bradley on a number of occasions and I witnessed those beatings also. However, he was maltreated mainly by Guard No 52 and it was as a result of his treatment that he eventually died. The Dutch prisoner, Kris, also died as a result of similar treatment. Guards No 52 and No 66 were still at Changi when I left and records held there will disclose their identity.
I can definitely state that Bradley’s rations were cut down when he was sick. I was in the cell adjoining his when he died and I heard what went on. He was suffering a great deal of pain; gradually his groans and screams became weaker and weaker until he finally passed out. Nothing was done to help him; no medical officer was sent for and no advice was sought from anybody. The guards withheld water from him up to the time of his death.
The only distinction made between officers and other ranks was that officers was subjected to more brutal treatment than were the men. It was regarded more or less as a feather in the cap of a guard put in charge of a party of officers and how would treat them much more harshly than he would a party of other ranks. No distinction was made in the matter of rations or food.
The Dai Iki ‘ party (meaning ‘The Great Work ‘ ) were in digging funk holes for the Japanese and Singapore island. The Japanese in charge of the white prisoners working outside the gaol in the Bukit Timah rifle range was a sergeant. The white prisoners were engaged in tunneling into the side of the hill and digging holes for Japanese troops to hide in during bombing raids. This sergeant was particularly brutal, more especially when he could not be properly understood. he was also a drug addict and used ed to smoke some peculiar type of cigarette would change him from a nervous individual to a placid individual in a period of about ten minutes. He used to smoke about a dozen of these cigarettes a day. He was particularly brutal whilst the men were working under his direct supervision. He would. try to force men to carry huge loads of wood or timber because he could carry them himself. He was a very solid, type with huge, rippling muscles on his back and shoulders and if we could not carry loads that he could carry, we would be knocked about. I do not know his name or number or anything about him except that he was in charge of the prisoners working on the Bukit Timah rifle range.
The food at Outram Road gaol used to vary in quantity a deal for no apparent reason. Towards the end from April 1943 1 August 1945 the quantity and quality of the food deteriorated very considerably, until we were receiving a very small quantity of rice, a spoonful or so of vile smelling stuff was known as ‘ blachan’ , a paste made of decomposed crabs and prawns which was boiled and sprinkled over the rice as a flavouring agent, and a spoonful and a half to two spoonful of vegetables three times a day. You could smell the blachan from one end of the gaol to the other.
I heard of executions at Outran Road gaol, but I never saw any executions. I saw the people being taken out to be executed. I saw altogether about 17 Allied airmen taken out to be executed, and I saw about 15 Chinese civilians being taken out to be executed. The largest number of Allied airmen I saw taken out be executed was nine. The largest number of civil prisoners I saw taken out to be executed was eleven. The civilian prisoners were executed about June 1945 and the Allied airmen were taken out during May, June and July 1945. The civilians were Chinese. They had been tried. The Allied airmen were not tried. we had some contact with the Allied airmen who were taken out to be executed, as I was engaged on emptying sanitary cans from the cells and sometimes one might be able to get a word or two with them when guard was not looking. They were British, Australian, New Zealanders and Americans, who had been shot down over Sumatra and Malay. I do not know their names. I heard one or two names at the time, but I am afraid I cannot remember them now. There were 24 altogether who were unaccounted for, that is, we knew that they come into the gaol, we saw them go out under guard, the guards were equipped with rifles bayonets revolvers and swords, we saw the burial party which consisted of a number of Japanese armed with chunkels, or hoes, spades, picks, etc we saw the burial party back in a dirty condition as if they had been digging a lot, but the prisoners did not return. The burial party would be away an hour or an hour and a half. The largest party of Allied airmen to be executed consisted of nine men. That was in June 1945. They were in single cells and a week before they were executed They were put together in one cell. While they were in the one ell they were allowed to smoke, they were given extra rations and were given fruit and milk. Then they were taken out one
Saturday afternoon and that was the last we saw of them. When they went out they were accompanied by a number of guards who were armed and they were also accompanied by a burial party of Japanese. Some of the Japanese who went out in that party were good conduct prisoners who were in charge of use on the working parties in the Bukit Timah rifle range. Several days after they had gone out on this burial party a number of them told us that actually taken part in the burial of the nine people whom they called Americans. They admitted that they had had their head off; they admitted that they had buried them and one or two of them – expressed sorrow over the fact that they had to do the job.
Other people were taken out of the gaol without any warning and disposed of in a like fashion, that is, they either were shot or beheaded and subsequently buried. We understood that the actual place of execution was a deserted quarry at Bukit Timah about nine miles from where we were. Altogether we estimated that there were 24 people who were not accounted for, that is Aliied prisoners. Either 17 or 18 American airmen -crews of B 29 s – who were shot down over Malaya were released at the same time as we were. They were shot down during the period and January 1945, in raids over Singapore. I believe they were not shot because the Japanese had not finished questioning them. I think that was the reason for their survival. When they finished questioning them, it appears that they took them out and disposed of them, but they had not finished questioning these 17 or 18 airmen.
When they arrived it could be seen that they had been severely burnt. One aircraft in particular caught fire in the air and three of the crew were very severely burnt. One of those fellows died before they were captured. The other two came out to Outran Road gaol. They were not given any medical attention. they were just one mass of burns and were black from head to feet. How they survived I do not know. We first saw them during process of emptying the sanitary tins from the cells. When more men were due to come in, we had to go up and put sanitary in each cell. Those men were in there when I arrived back in April.
We knew when people were to be marched in or marched out of the gaol. If people were to be marched in, you would have to put that number of tins in the cells. If, say, five prisoners were leaving, you would be sent upstairs to collect five containers from those five cells, bring them down and empty them and put them away in the store. You would also have to collect five sets of clothes and five sets of blankets. You would know number going out by these articles.
One guard gave me an awful beating in April 1944 at Outram Road gaol. I do now know the name of the guard. He was short, fat, stockly fellow. I would know him again. He was welI-known there. He was a very sleepy sort of individual. He had a nickname, but I just cannot remember it. He gave me a very ever severe beating and kicked me in the ribs and on the thighs. I had broken skin down the left side on my hip for about three weeks. He did that to be because I happened to speak to the chap who was sitting next to me.
This is the 11th and last sheet of the evidence of Alexander Gordon Weynton taken and sworn before me at Sydney in the State of New South Wales this 27th day of November, 1945.
Chairman, Australian Board of Inquiry into War Crimes