Guide to the papers of Dr Rowley Richards
Dr. Richard's personal diary commences on 7 December 1941 with the receipt for the order for the Regiment to proceed to battle stations in southern Malaya. The diary was kept in a small, loose-leaf notebook and carefully wrapped and concealed in Dr. Richard's pack. It covered the period in action, capitulation, Changi, Tavoy in southern Burma and the Burma-Thailand Railway.The second section of the diary covers the period 25 December 1942 to 28 January 1944 at Tamarkam near Kanchanaburi on the River Kwai in Thailand (Siam) and covers the construction of the railway. On arrival at Tamarkam on 14 December 1943 everyone was thoroughly searched and the first part of Richard's diary was found and confiscated by the Japanese without major repercussions. The second part of the diary was not noticed.Prior to leaving Tamarkam on the 'Japan Party' fearing that they would fall victim to United States submarine attacks, Richards left the second part of his diary with Major John Shaw who carried it in the false bottom of a billy can. He returned it to Richards in Australia in December 1945.Richards did however, carry a six-part summary of the diary and a table of rations and illnesses which he buried in a bottle under the cross of Corporal Gorlick on Paulau Damarlaut, an island off the south west coast of Singapore Island on 11 August 1944. The summary was subsequently recovered by the Australian War Graves Commission and returned to him on 15 February 1947, just two and a half years after it was buried. A one- page condensation of the summary was secreted in the tubing of Richard's stethoscope but was lost when theRakuyo Maru, on which he was travelling from Singapore to Japan, was sunk on 12 December 1944 in the South China Sea. Eighty Australian survivors, including Richards, were rescued by a Japanese frigate and transferred to a whaling mother ship which carried him to Japan. He spent the last twelve months of the war in Sakarta on the north west coast of Kyushu with 28 other Australians and 281 British. During the period in Sakarta Richards kept medical records on his men and some personal notes but did not keep a diary.With the end of the war, Richards helped prepare a medical report, nominal roll and other reports relating to the Sakarta camp. He kept a personal diary from the period 15 August 1945 to 12 September 1945.A major strength of the collection is Richard's meticulously kept medical records and reports. These include medical records of Anderson Force Burma from 1942 to 1944; a dysentery register compiled in Changi in 1942 and weekly Tavoy medical reports; Burma-Thai Railway medical reports; detailed graphs and tables of rations and sickness on Burma-Thailand Railway; Sakarta medical reports 1944-45; 'A-Force' death registers and certificates for 1942-44; and medical reports on Sakarta and Japan relating to subsistence claims.
SERIES 1: Diaries, 1942-1945 - This series comprises diaries written by Richards from 1942-1945, including a personal and medical diary. Entries cover rations, lists of soldiers who died during the building of the Burma-Thailand railway, and a handwritten list of medical supplies.; SERIES 2: Medical records, 1942-1945 - Medical records created and collected by Richards during his imprisonment. The records include admissions to Tavoy hospital, lists of rations at Tavoy and on the Burma -Thailand Railway and reports on the increase of cholera and malaria in the camps.; SERIES 3: Other prisoner of war records, 1942-1979 - Records collected by Richards during his imprisonment. These include a nominal roll of the 2/15th Regiment, a handwritten report about the sinking of the Rokyo Maru in December 1944 and newspaper cuttings on conditions in the prisoner of war camps.; SERIES 4: Personal correspondence and papers, 1942-1984 - Filed in this series are prisoner of war cards sent from Richards to his family, 1944-45, service documents including a military driving licence and post-war interviews and correspondence, discussing the possibility of Richards publishing a memoir.; SERIES 5: Post war reports and records, 1945-1963 - This series comprises medical reports on Sakarta and Japan relating to post-war subsistence claims; a transcript of a broadcast from Richards in 1945; a written report from Richards to the War Crimes Tribunal in 1948; and a report on a visit to Japan written as Commonwealth Medical Officer in 1960.
Dr Rowley Richards was the medical officer for the 2/15th Field Regiment in the Second World War. He served with his unit in Malaya and Singapore and subsequently as a prisoner of war in Changi, the Burma-Thai Railway ('Anderson Force' III Group), Saigon and Japan.Dr. Richards was taken prisoner on 15th February 1942 when Singapore fell to the Japanese. For the next three and a half years he served as a medical officer, and during this time he kept comprehensive diaries and meticulous medical reports on the condition of unit members. Following the war his experiences were published in the book The survival factor. From 1946, he was president of the 2/15th Field Regiment Association and is currently Life President of that Association.
Contact Senior Curator, Private Records, Australian War Memorial.
Open - Contact Senior Curator, Private Records, Australian War Memorial.
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2/15 Field Regiment; 8 Division; Medical records; Prisoner of War camps; Prisoners of War; Surgery
Correspondence; Diaries; Personal papers
Dr Rowley Richards
Medicine; World wars