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The Hell Pits of Sendryu

A POW story of survival on the Death Railway and Nagasaki

Authors: Jim Brigginshaw
(3 customer reviews)
01/Jun/2018
POW, WWII
188
Paperback
C Format
9781925520996
$29.99

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Jim Bodero spent much of World War Two in several versions of hell.  Taken prisoner when Singapore fell into Japanese hands early in 1942, he – along with thousands of fellow POWs – was conscripted as a slave labourer.

He was deep underground, in a coal mine near Nagasaki, when the US dropped its second atomic bomb, on 9 August 1945. The blast that obliterated the city and incinerated 66,000 people freed Jim from his living hell below the ground. But his struggles were far from over.

Badly debilitated by the daily privations of working in the mine, weakened by chronic starvation, as well as suffering from the tropical diseases he contracted during his time on the Death Railway and on nightmarish prisoner-transport ships, he was more dead than alive.

Jim was repatriated to Australia, but his war never really ended, its legacy a lifetime of pain.

Jim’s story reveals some of the darkest chapters of the twentieth century. His suffering at the hands of a sadistic enemy was extreme, but through those and all the subsequent years, he never lost his sense of humour.

His story is infused with it and, as such, is a glowing testament to the resilience that has sustained Australians at war, especially when the going got tough.

Jim Brigginshaw

Jim Brigginshaw

Jim Brigginshaw is a journalist who has held senior posts at nine of Australia’s biggest newspapers in three states, among them the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Sun, the Australian, The Courier- Mail, the West Australian. He was editor of leading northern New South Wales daily The Northern Star for sixteen years. He is the holder of several awards […]

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3 reviews for The Hell Pits of Sendryu

  1. It’s shocking to read that Jim Bodero, who spent much of World War Two in several versions of hell as a POW, was denied a Repatriation pension by an unknown public servant who did not think his injuries at the hands of the Japanese warranted consideration.
    Author Jim Brigginshaw worked with Jim Bodero when Bodero was a compositor/reader and Brigginshaw had taken over as editor of the newspaper.
    Peter Masters | July 15, 2019 at 10:38 AM |
    Tags: Brigginshaw, Jim Bodero, POWS, Sendryu, World War ii | Categories: Military History Books, Personal recollections | URL: https://wp.me/p3Ch71-M7
    Bodero’s treatment as a prisoner of war is a familiar story. He was taken prisoner when Singapore fell into Japanese hands early in 1942. He – along with thousands of fellow POWs – was conscripted as a slave labourer. He worked on the Thai-Burma railway and later volunteered for work in a coal mine near Nagasaki. He was there when the US dropped its second atomic bomb, on 9 August 1945.
    The blast that obliterated the city and incinerated 66,000 people may have freed Jim from his living hell below the ground.
    But his struggles were far from over. Badly debilitated by the daily privations of working in the mine, weakened by chronic starvation, as well as suffering from the ravages of tropical diseases, he was more dead than alive. Jim was eventually repatriated to Australia, but his war never really ended, its legacy a lifetime of pain. His suffering at the hands of a sadistic enemy was extreme.
    He died in Lismore in 1991, having first recounted his story to Jim Brigginshaw in extraordinary detail, which has formed the basis of this new book.

  2. Within a few days of arriving with 2/26th Battalion 2nd AIF in Singapore in February 1942, Jim Bodero became a prisoner of the Imperial Japanese Army and placed in Changi Prison. His story is written by a work colleague who met Jim almost 30 years after his wartime ordeal.

    Jim’s pessimistic prediction that the war would be a long time in ending, and the POWs would become almost unrecognizable by then was ‘right on the money’. In April 42 he penned quite a long poem on the outcome of the war and carried it through all his future travails. Despite his outlook, much of his story is about the characters, capers and humour that sustained them during three and a half years of incarceration as slave labourers.

    The capture and eating of a pig whilst in Changi, and the ‘Melbourne Cup’ held after arrival in Burma to work on the Thai-Burma Railway are excellent examples. [A pity there are two historic errors on page 68: The Governor-General does represent the monarch – it was King George VI at that time; and the Cup has always been held on the first Tuesday in November.]
    The physical conditions, the treatment by guards, the lack of food and absence of medical supplies endured by the prisoners both in prisons and transport by ship are quite clearly expounded without undue emphasis placed on them. There is always an included bright side to almost every scenario.

    In June 1944, 600 Australians left the Burma railway and went by train to Singapore prior to being shipped to Japan. Working on a dry dock in Singapore provided the prisoners with ample opportunities to sabotage the project. After an horrific month-long boat trip, made worse by the high possibility of sinking by Allied warships, they arrived on the north of the Kyushu Island and interred in Sendryu Camp. Their fate was to become coal miners.

    With extremely harsh living and working conditions, prisoners became even more emaciated. Jim was caught in a mine collapse and badly injured. There being no food allocated to sick prisoners, he continued to work in order to eat. The end of eleven month’s mining misery came with the dropping of the second atomic bomb on nearby Nagasaki on 9th August 1945 – its shockwaves being clearly felt by those in digging coal. A short time spent with a Nagasaki family post the bombing saw much of Jim’s antagonism towards the Japanese dissipate.

    After repatriation back to Australia on a British aircraft carrier, Jim’s body did not manage to recover – he remained extremely gaunt and incapable of eating a normal-sized meal. Despite a damaged a cornea and back injury from the Sendryu mine-fall, his claim for compensation was not recognised by the Repatriation Department: a resentment he carried for the rest of his working life.

    This is a very readable account that pull no punches, but it is humor that shines through. A tale that took so long for Jim to be prepared to tell, and the reader is the ultimate beneficiary.

  3. Author Jim Brigginshaw worked with Jim Bodero when he was a compositor / reader and Brigginshaw had taken over as editor of the newspaper. Bodero ‘s treatment as a prisoner
    of war is a fam iliar story. He was taken prisoner when Singapore fell ear ly in 1942. He – along with thousands of fellow POWs was conscripted as a slave labourer. He worked on the Thai-Burma railway and later volunteered for work in a coal mine near Nagasaki. He was there when the US dropped its seco nd atomic bomb, on 9 August 1945.

    The blast that obliterated the city and incinerated 66,000 people may have freed Jim from his living hell but his struggles were far from over. Badly debilitated by the daily privations of working in the mine, weakened by chronic starvation, as well as suffering from the ravages of tropical diseases, he was more dead than alive. Jim was eventually repatriated to Australia, but his war never really ended, its legacy a lifetime of pain. His suffering at the hands of a sadistic enemy was extreme.

    He died in Lismore in 1991, having first recounted his story to Jim Brigginshaw.

    Reviewer: Peter Masters, September 2019 | Australian Defence Magazine

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