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Sound: POW camp conditions in Burma

Audio file

POW memories: Camp conditions in Burma

Hear Eric Osboldstone discussing his experiences in Japanese POW camps.


There were guys in there- they had given up hope - and we found that in the cells as well. And they just got thinner and thinner. And we had a whole group of them that would bring out their rice sacks and lie in a row out in the hot sun. And just lie there and pull the thing over them and they just faded away...They'd come out - there's something peculiar about it. They'd lie down there and they'd pull this sack right over their face, about four or five or six of them, and they'd all lie in a row and they'd just fade away and die. They'd just given up hope, or they had some illness. There were a lot of people with illnesses, which was beriberi, which is a lack of vitamin B so it turns....And you used to get up in the morning and push in the fleshy part of your leg, and if it stayed in and only came out slowly you knew that you were getting beriberi. And so the first thing you did in the morning was push that in. It was pretty bad. There were guys, they would get waterlogged and die.

The Japanese did bring in what they called nuka, which was rice bran, and it was probably one of my early times that I started, I realised how food is so important to your body. And nuka was just the bran because the rice we had was white rice and ...the nuka... , some people kept their nuka in bamboo, you know how you can cut bamboo and sort of make a cup out of it...because ... they'd got some bamboo. And it was quite pathetic really because some guys that were dying, and even though they were taking their nuka, blokes would make their best friends out of them. They would be saying, 'I'm looking after you', and that sort of thing, and they'd be standing by them and sleeping beside them and be their best mate, but I don't know whether they did it for that reason, I'm probably being a little bit - what ever you might call it..- because as soon as they died they'd grabbed their nuka and their boots, if they still had boots, or their clothing....You often wondered if they were doing it out of the goodness of their heart or they had their eye on the thing.


Eric Osboldstone interview, 04.03.02, side 5

Image: Eric Osboldstone private collection

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Sound: POW camp conditions in Burma, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated