Bancroft, Arthur (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 23824
Department
Sound
Production date
2002-09-30
Subject period
Dimensions
  • whole: Duration 480, Number Of Items 16
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview
Creator
Category
sound

© IWM

Purchase & License
Object description

Australian seaman served aboard HMAS Perth in Far East, 1941-1942 including sinking 2/1942; POW in Java, Dutch East Indies and on Burma-Thailand Railway, 1942-1944; POW in Thailand, French Indo-China and Singapore, 1944; rescued by US submarine Queenfish after sinking of Rakuyo Maru in Pacific, 1944

Content description

REEL 1 Background in Western Australia, 1921-1940: family; education; degree of understanding of First World War; attitude towards British Empire and GB; life in Depression; initial volunteering for Royal Australian Air Force; degree of understanding of political situation in Europe including opinion of Neville Chamberlain; background to enlistment in Royal Australian Navy; opinion of wartime leaders; attitude to joining Royal Australian Navy and prospect of active service, 11/1940. REEL 2 Continues: Aspects of training with Royal Australian Navy in Australia, 1940-1941: reaction to first day in navy in Melbourne; attitude to being in armed services; training for funeral duties; attitude to Phoney War and subsequent events in Europe; pattern of training in Melbourne; role of HMAS Perth in Australian coastal waters and Mediterranean. Recollections of operations as seaman aboard HMAS Perth in Far East, 1941-1942: joining ship, 9/1941; action station; attitude to joining ship; messing arrangements; painting ship; relations with ship’s crew who had been in action; daily routine; reaction to Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 12/1941. REEL 3 Continues: attitude towards Japanese; relations with officers and opinion of captain; move to Sydney; convoying American troops; opinion of Americans service personnel; attitude to prospect of active service; convoy escort duties; action station with 4 inch gun crew; move to Fremantle; reaction to fall of Singapore, 2/1942; opening fire on Japanese aircraft in Tandjung Priok harbour; reaction to first action. REEL 4 Continues: results of Japanese attack on Surabaya harbour; confidence in combined Allied fleet; nature of engagement with Japanese ships during Battle of Java Sea; reaction to 8 inch shell hit on HMS Exeter; aftermath of action; Japanese torpedo attacks; confidence in Captain Hector Waller; refuelling and re-supplying after action; opinion of role of Allied ships in battle. REEL 5 Continues: confidence in ability of ship to get through Sundra Strait; anti-aircraft fire against Japanese aircraft; torpedo hit of ship; noise during night action, 1/3/1942; work of gun crew. Aspects of sinking of HMAS Perth and period in water, 3/1942: reaction to torpedoing of ship; orders to abandon ship; reaction to abandoning ship; reaction to sinking of ship; effects of explosions in water; period in water and finding place in lifeboat; fate of seaman who made it ashore; degree of awareness of situation during action; rescue by Japanese destroyer; treatment by Japanese on board destroyer; reaction to capture; transfer to Japanese troopship; sight of sailors fighting over cigarettes. REEL 6 Continues: Recollections of period as POW in Java, Dutch East Indies, 1942: move into camp at Serang Theatre; fate of electrician who escaped from camp; conditions in Serang Camp; presence of Jutland veteran in camp; morale in camp; description of Bicycle POW camp; attitude of civilians towards POWs; treatment received by guards; roll calls; concerts; removal from Serang to Bicycle camp; incident of Japanese guard wounding him in arm with bayonet; boxing tournament; daily routine in Bicycle Camp; working parties; incident of POW drinking pure alcohol; aid received from Dutch women. REEL 7 Continues: national composition of POWs in camp; degree of awareness of progress of war; concern over Japanese bombing of Darwin; contact with home; case of POW psychologically disturbed by incarceration; relations between POWs; status of naval POWs; clothing worn; unshaven appearance of naval POWs; bartering with American POWs; lack of interference by Japanese guards on running of camp; nature of work; relations with Japanese guards. Aspects of period as POW in Singapore, 1942: conditions on ship on voyage to Singapore; move to Changi POW Camp. REEL 8 Continues: conditions in Selerang Barracks; appearance of naval POWs. Recollections of period as POW on Burma-Thailand Railway, 1942-1943: conditions during voyage from Singapore to Moulmein; arrival in Burma; aid from Burmese civilians; speech from Japanese officer in camp at Thanbyuzayat; introduction of ‘Speedo’; importance of ‘buddy’ system; aid received from Australian Army POWs; work with Mobile Force; importance of railway for Japanese; importance of clearing camps on arrival; description of ‘Speedo’ period of work; contrast in working in wet and dry seasons; Japanese attitude to sickness; daily working routine; treatment by Korean guards; Japanese reverence to emperor. REEL 9 Continues: attitude of Japanese towards POWs and native contingents; incident of Korean guard breaking POW’s jaw; nicknaming of Japanese guards; treatment of puppy by Japanese guard; relations with Japanese guards; inability to keep clean; description of camp huts; use of rice bags for blankets; sick parade; first malaria attack; importance of keeping working; state of health; opinion of camp doctor; character of camp leader, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Williams; outbreak of cholera; deaths from combinations of diseases on railway. REEL 10 Continues: attitude of Japanese to POW rations and Red Cross supplies; reasons for keeping hidden diary; place of religion in captivity; POWs different attitudes towards survival; opinion of padres; attitude towards being a POW; importance of forming small groups; caring for psychological case; reads poem about rice rations; impressions of sunsets; bridge-building; working conditions during ‘Speedo’ period; activities at end of day; attitude to continual work. REEL 11 Continues: reaction to completion of railway; Japanese treatment of own troops; day off and concert after convincing Japanese that Melbourne Cup day was a celebration in Australia, 11/1943; leaving camp and move down railway into Thailand, 1/1944. Aspects of period as POW in Thailand, French Indo China and Singapore, Malaya 1944: conditions in camp; general health of POWs; decision of Japanese to move POWs to Japan; awareness of progress of war; Allied bombing of railway; nature of journey from Thailand to Saigon, French Indo-China; attitude to threat of bombing; move to Singapore; state of Singapore; issue of ex-Dutch uniforms; embarkation on Rakuyo Maru. REEL 12 Continues: Recollections of voyage on Rakuyo Maru and sinking in South China Sea, 9/1944: character of ship; giving advice on abandoning ship; reasons for not sailing from Saigon; choosing location in hold; attitude of guards to prospect of voyage; description of lavatories on board; sinking of Japanese escort and tankers by US submarine, 12/9/1944; reaction of Japanese guards; torpedoing of shop and how Japanese crew abandoned ship; freeing POWs from hold; eventual sinking of ship, 15/9/1944; conditions in water; rescue of Japanese officer by destroyer; reaction to Japanese destroyer not rescuing POWs; decision to swim to raft. REEL 13 Continues: question of survival; character of his group of survivors; lack of threat of sharks; group morale; loss of water bottle; question of chance of being rescued; use of sea water; confidence in survival; sighting of US submarine; discovery of melon floating in water; talk of food and life after war; disappointment of not acquiring rain water; night-time on raft; rescue of survivor from water; change in weather conditions; hearing USS Queenfishes’ engines and sighting of his group by crew. REEL 14 Continues: Recollections of rescue by USS Queenfish in South China Sea and return to Australia, 1944: story of rescue by USS Queenfish; treatment on board submarine; amusing story of rescue; hearing new recording artists; reaction to broken ice cream on board; seasickness amongst crew; depth charging of submarine; arrival on Saipan; hearing of Japanese soldier coming down from hills; reaction to sight of Lockheed P38 Lightning aircraft; treatment on Saipan; move to Guadacanal; reaction to sight of masses of food; medical check up; reaction to threat of submarines on voyage to Auckland, New Zealand; US personnel’s attitude to volunteering; transfer to US minelayer for voyage to Brisbane; attitude to life after treatment; arrival in Brisbane. REEL 15 Continues: de-briefing on arrival in Brisbane; examination by naval doctor; flight from Brisbane to Perth; reception on arrival at family home; re-union with former army POWs; sense of isolation on arrival home; parent’s reaction to his return. Aspects of period as seaman with Royal Australian Navy in Australia, 1945: move to depot in Melbourne; reasons for initially being ignored by class-mates; decision to remain in navy; move to Flinders Naval Depot; amusing story of clash with authority; reaction to being asked to work on naval depot railway line; state of health; discharge from navy, 6/1945; reaction to victory celebrations; adjusting to civilian life. REEL 16 Continues: problems during first employment; lessons learnt from naval service; civilian career in bank; attitude to returning early to Australia from captivity; attitude towards Second World War; reflections on value of experiences in navy and as POW; reads telegraph received from King.

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