George Gordon was born in 1913 in Dornoch, Sutherlandshire the son of Alexander David Gordon and Lily Munro, he was a schoolmaster at Skerray School at the outbreak of World War Two. He was called up by the Army, joining the Royal Artillery as signaller/radio operator and once he had completed his military training he was sent to the 155 Field Regiment (Lanark Yeomanry) Royal Artillery.
In early 1942 the British High Command in the United Kingdom sent reinforcements to Singapore to try and stem the Japanese attacks on Malaya. Japanese forces had attacked Malaya on the 8 of December 1941,one day after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour and were pushing British and Allied Forces towards Singapore. The British Commander in the Far East General Wavell gave the order that Singapore was to be fortified on its north coast and to resist an enemy invasion.
The Allies reinforced Singapore with Australian troops from the 6 and 7 Divisions A.I.F. the 18 British Division and the 17 Indian Division. The 155 Field Regiment arrived in Singapore with the 18 Division and began to set up defensive positions to meet the expected Japanese attack. On the 31 of January 1942 the last British troops pulled back across the Jahore causeway in to the city of Singapore and dug in facing the victorious Japanese Army. The causeway was blown up as the British commanders received orders from Winston Churchill to hold the island of Singapore at all costs.
During the night and early morning of the 9 of February the Japanese assaulted across the Jahore Strait into Singapore. The Allied troops were completely overwhelmed by mass enemy bayonet charges into their positions as 4,000 Japanese troops were landed by assault craft, they were soon joined by 26,000 more troops and the fate of Singapore was sealed.
The Allied troops fought on valiantly for the next six days, but the situation was hopeless, until on the 15 of February the British Commander Lieutenant- General Percival surrendered his garrison to the Japanese commander General Yamashita. There were now 130,000 British and allied troops prisoners in Japanese hands, total losses of weapons and ammunition were huge. When the Japanese finally took Singapore they were almost out of ammunition, the captured stores of ammunition would have lasted the defenders of Singapore at least three months. Around 50,000 of the captured prisoners were placed in Changi military barracks and left there with little food, water or decent sanitation until the Japanese High Command could decide what to do with them. The Japanese troops treated their captives with utter contempt, believing in the “Samurai” values that to “surrender is dishonourable when it is still possible to fight.” There were many acts of brutality committed against the prisoners, wounded men in hospitals were executed with bayonets and 200 wounded Indians and Australians were beheaded. The Japanese now had thousands of prisoners in prison camps all over South East Asia and did not really know what to do with them. It was decide to put them to work on building a transport infrastructure to re-supply the Japanese Forces fighting in Malaya and preparing to invade India.
In the early 1930’s a railway link had been attempted to try and link Malaya, Burma and India but had been abandoned before the war. The civil engineers found the country to tough to cut through; the high mountains, malarial jungle and high temperature proved too much for the workers and casualties were heavy. In 1942 the Japanese now had thousands of workers locked in prison camps and decided to carry on the work began the decade before.
British, Australian, American and Dutch prisoners of war were moved in September 1942, from all over Japanese occupied Malaya to a transit camp near the village of Thanbyuzayat. The prisoners were then set to work on a section of railway from Moulmein to Bangkok; hundreds of them died from malnutrition, sickness, brutality and misery. It is said that for every railway sleeper laid on the “Burma Death Railway” an allied prisoner gave his life. Conditions on the railway were terrible as the prisoners worked 18 hours a day from dawn to dusk, with little rest and on the most basic of rations. The main diet was a cupful of rice supplemented with fruit or vegetables bought from the local tribes people, Japanese and Korean camp guards were also extremely brutal handing out beatings or worse for the minor breaches of the camp rules.
The camp guards loathed the prisoners and camp duty was looked on as the lowest task in the Japanese Army, the guards were also treated badly by the rest of their army. The guards had total power over the prisoners and often beat men to death for no reason, Allied soldiers who stood up to their tormentors were executed by beheading after summary Japanese court martial. Disease in the prison camps along the railway were rife and the prisoners, denied basic medicines by the Japanese died in there thousands. The Japanese had refused to sign the “Geneva Convention” on the treatment of prisoners and therefore did not care what happened to their captives. Prisoners died from many diseases in the camps with malaria, “Beriberi” and dysentery killing the malnourished men daily.
The camp at Thanbyuzayat was abandoned in June 1943 as the prisoners followed the railway line through the jungle to keep up with the work. The camp at Thanbyuzayat became transit area where prisoners where processed before being sent up the line and the hellish working conditions they had to endure.
Gunner George Gordon died during the building of the Burma “Death” Railway on the 21 of August 1943 he was buried beside the railway by his comrades. His body was moved to its current resting-place when all the graves from beside the railway were moved to large cemeteries at the end of the war.
Men who survived the years of captivity at the hands of the Japanese have never been able to forgive their captors for what they did to them. The survivors were found in prison camps all over Asia and in Japan in a terrible state, so weak and ill it took them years to recover from their ordeal. The survivors today still suffer from the terrible cruelty and deprivation inflicted upon them in the jungles of Southeast Asia fifty years ago