The Library

Below are books and memoirs written by the men who were captured and forced to work and live along the railway. If there are any that i am missing feel free to message me and let me know so that i can add them to the list.

Books in English

"Sumatra's Fittest" follows the experiences of David Spero who was a corporal in the RAF. The memoirs start with Spero leaving Gourock, Scotland in 1941. He is captured in Java in 1942 and then ends the war working on the Pekanbaru Railway.

"The Sumatra Railroad" is the english translation of "Op Dood Spoor" written by Henk Hovinga. For this book Henk interviewed nearly one hundred former railroad workers and did painstaking archival research. The result is a moving book, richly illustrated with numerous authentic drawings of life in the internment camps, charts and photographs.

When Major Gideon Francois Jacobs of the British Royal Marines parachuted into the jungle of north Sumatra in the summer of 1945, he entered a world little known to Westerners. The narrative details the international forces that struggled for dominance on the island until native uprisings forced the establishment of the new Indonesian republic. The story is told by the very man whose assignment it was to take control of Sumatra from 80,000 vanquished Japanese troops and to oversee the liberation of all POW camps: G. F. Jacobs, a twenty-­three-year-old major in the Royal Marines.

This book detail the experiences of British former prisoners of war who were forced to construct The Pekanbaru Railway across Sumatra during the Japanese occupation. It is also the first study to be undertaken of the life-writing of POWs held captive by the Japanese during the Second World War, and the transgenerational responses in Britain to this period of captivity.

"POW of the Nippon" is the memoirs of Hans Luning, a civil servant in the Dutch East Indies. Hans was an army reservist and after the declaration of war with the Japanese he reported for duty. By March 1942 he was a prisoner. He was on board the Junyo Maru when it was sunk by an allied submarine off the coast of Sumatra and ended the war working on the Pekanbaru Railway.    

"NO BETTER FRIEND" tells the story of Air Force technician Frank Williams and Judy, a purebred pointer, who met in WWII and were POWs on Sumatra. Judy was loyal, and when the prisoners suffered beatings, she would interrupt by barking. She survived bombings and other near-death experiences and became a beacon for the men, who saw in her survival a flicker of hope for their own. 

"Never Forget", a book written by Jo Bailey contains six World War II stories compiled from interviews, Wartime diaries and written memoirs. One of the stories follows the Uljee family from capture to freedom, repatriation to Holland, and finally immigration to New Zealand. Bram Uljee was a captive of the Japanese and after surviving the sinking of the Junyo Maru was forced to build the railway.  

Claude Thompson, a member of the RNZAF wrote the memoirs for "Into The Sun" during the 1950 Christmas holidays after his friend insisted that he record what had happened to him. It follows his time as a prisoner after capture in 1942, an attempted escape, and finally working on the Pekanbaru Railway. 

"It Seems Like Yesterday" was written by Jack Saunders, a member of the RAF. It starts with him being called up to serve in 1941, his eventual capture in 1942 and finally his experiences on the Pekanbaru Railway.

"NO MORE TENKO" is scripted from the memoirs of Ray Smith, a young British Aircraftsman in WWII who was captured by the Japanese in 1942 aged just 18.  He was held in captivity in POW Camps on Java and then Sumatra where he helped build the Pekanbaru Railway.  The book is a moving account of daily life in the Camps, describing in detail actual occurrences, the brutality of the Japanese and Korean Guards, the cunning, ingenuity and resolve of his fellow POW's and his subsequent appointment as official camp Interpreter.   

Not quite a year after graduating from MNS, and just ten months into World War Two, George Duffy's good fortune came to an end, when his ship, the American Leader, was sunk by a German commerce raider. George and forty-six of his shipmates were plucked out of the South Atlantic Ocean by the Germans and taken prisoner. After being handed over to the Japanese he spent time in various POW camps before finally being sent to the Pekanbaru Railway.

In Traces of War, photographer Jan Banning takes 24 men back to World War II. Under the yoke of the Japanese military, they performed forced labor on the Burma and Sumatra Railways. Sixty years later, the scars of that past are still visible. Dutch former allied POWs, Banning’s father among them, and Indonesians posed for black and white portraits. The men also relate the story of their experiences during the war and how these have affected their lives, hesitantly, at times, but with telling detail. This book is also available in Dutch (Sporen van oorlog)

After being bombed and shipwrecked repeatedly while serving for several wild and war torn years as a mascot of the World War II Royal Navy Yangtze river gunboats, Gnat and Grasshopper, Judy ended up in Japanese prisoner of war camps in Sumatra. Along with locals as slave labor, the POW's were forced to build a single-track railroad through the most horrifying jungles and treacherous mountain passes.

"Survivor", a book written by Nicola Meinders tells the story of her grandfather Willem Punt who was a prisoner of the Japanese. He survived the sinking of the Junyo Maru and was then forced to work on the railway. This book is available in both Dutch and English.

Books in Dutch

The forgotten drama of the Pekanbaru railway on Sumatra, constructed by prisoners of war under the Japanese occupation. Both this book and "Op Dood Spoor" have been translated into english as the book 'Sumatra Railroad Final Destination Pakan Baroe"

"De Pakanbaroe Spoorweg" written by H. Neumann, and E. van Witsen, is an excellent resource and source of information for those interested in the Pekanbaru Railway if you are willing to do some translation. (1982)

The title of the book "De Poorten Der Hel" translates as The Gates of Hell. The  book follows the capture of the author from Batavia (Jakarta) to working on the Pekanbaru Railway. 

The forgotten drama of the Pekanbaru railway on Sumatra, constructed by prisoners of war under the Japanese occupation. Both this book and "Dodenspoorweg door het oerwoud" have been translated into english as the 'Sumatra Railroad Final Destination Pakan Baroe"

"De Sumatra Spoorweg" written by H. Neumann, and E. van Witsen, is an excellent resource and source of information for those interested in the Pekanbaru Railway if you are willing to do some translation. (1985)

"Survivor", a book written by Nicola Meinders tells the story of her grandfather Willem Punt who was a prisoner of the Japanese. He survived the sinking of the Junyo Maru and was then forced to work on the railway. This book is available in both Dutch and English.

© 2019 by Farrell Family

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