8x10 inch photo signed by former Prisoner of War Fred Seiker who was forced to work on the legendary Bridge over the River Kwai
Signed at an exclusive signing at his home in 2010
Fred Seiker was born in Holland in 1915. He served in the Dutch Merchant Navy after attending the Rotterdam College of Marine Engineering and during the war he served on the North Atlantic routes and between the Far East and the UK. In 1942 he became a prisoner of the Japanese after the invasion of Java and was transferred to Changi jail in Singapore. He was sent to work on the Thai-Burma railroad and was not repatriated to Holland until 1946. That same year Fred moved to the UK and has remained here since, pursuing a successful career in engineering. His poignant series of paintings depicting his experiences as a prisoner are displayed at The National Memorial Arboretum.
He describes the type of work he undertook:
Our group was soon put to work on the foundations for the Kwai Bridge at Tamarkan. We were detailed to work on driving wooden piles into the riverbed for the foundations of the concrete bridge supports. I would like to explain how this highly complex and technical feat was executed. Several triangular wooden pole structures were erected which carried a pulley at the top. A stout rope was fed over the pulley.
One end of the rope carried a heavy steel ram; the other end was splayed into several leaders, which were held by POWs standing in the riverbed. Straight tree trunks were obtained from the surrounding forest, transported to the bridge site by elephants or floated from up-country downstream, where a Japanese guard decided which ones were to be used for piling. The piles were hauled into position beneath the ram and we began pile driving, on the command of a Japanese soldier standing on the riverbank shouting through a megaphone the required rhythm at which he decided that piling should take place. You pulled in unison, you let go in unison. 'Ichi, ni, san, si, ichi, ni, san, si', on and on and on. Hour after hour after hour. Day in, day out. From dawn to dusk, unrelenting. On returning to camp at night it was often difficult to raise the spoon to eat the slop issued to us. Your arms protested in pain, often preventing you from snatching some precious sleep. And yet, come dawn you repeated the misery of the previous day. I often wondered about the miracle of the human body and mind. Believe me, it is quite awesome.
Other work involved building embankments from track level up to the top of the growing hill:
You carried a basket from the digging area to the top of the embankment, emptied it and down again to be filled for your next trip up the hill. Or you carried a stretcher - two bamboo poles pushed through an empty rice sack - one chap at each end, and off you went. Simple really. But in reality this job was far from easy. The slopes of the embankments consisted of loose earth, clambering to the top was a case of sliding and slithering with a weight of earth in attendance. This proved to be very tiring on thigh muscles and painful, often resulting in crippling cramp. You just had to stop, you could not move. Whenever this occurred the Japanese soldiers were on you with their heavy sticks, and beat the living daylight out of you. Somehow you got going again, if only to escape the blows. Also, the soil alongside the track varied considerably, affecting the volume of earth an individual could move during a day. At the start of each day a Japanese soldier would decide the total volume of earth to be dug out that day. By the nature of things, some finished earlier than others. The volume the following day was fixed by the fastest time obtained the previous day, thereby increasing the total workload of the entire team. It was a truly 'no win situation'. If a team was running late, everyone worked on until the volume for that day was achieved. This meant that the Japanese soldiers also had to stay behind. They relieved their anger and frustration by random beatings of POWs, sometimes resulting in serious injuries.
Bridge over the River Kwai prisoner/labourer signed photo
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