On 14 November 1942 in the village of Jinguashi, located on the northeast coast of Taiwan, 523 allied POWs began what was to be for some a three year ordeal as slaves in the largest copper mine in the Japanese Empire. In all more than 1,100 British Commonwealth and Allied prisoners of war slaved in this notorious Japanese POW camp called KINKASEKI from December 1942 to March 1945.
Kinkasecki POW Camp in Jinguashi, Taiwan
Marine Steve and I feel it is imperative to pay respects at POW, War and Genocide Memorials when traveling and pay respects to victims. We sadly knew nothing about Prisoner of War camps in Taiwan until an after spent in the Jinguashi, Juifen area.
Jinguashi Village had the largest copper mine in the Japanese Empire and November 14, 1942, 523 Allied POWs were brought from Singapore after the island surrounded to Jinguashi. More than 1,100 British Commonwealth and Allied prisoners ended up slaving in this notorious Japanese camp, subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment, until March 1945.
This is the story of the Japanese prisoner of war camps on the island of Taiwan (Formosa) during the Second World War and of the men who were interned in them.
The men had arrived in the camp after a journey of some three weeks on the hellship England Maru which brought them from Singapore following several months as POWs there after the island surrendered to the Japanese in February 1942.
The POW’s in this camp were forced to slave in the dark depths of a copper mine and were subjected to the most inhumane treatment imaginable. Conditions in the mine and the camp were as bad, if not worse in many cases, than that experienced by the POW’s on the now-famous Railway of Death in Burma and Thailand, which was made popular by the movie “Bridge on the River Kwai”.
As in all of the POW camps, the food was insufficient and this led to many types of dieases resulting from lack of food and vitamins. Dysentery, pellagra, beri beri, ulcers, pneumonia, diptheria and many other ailments took their toll on the men. Add to this the lack of medicines – and those that were available were often withheld by the Japanese, so that the doctors in the camp had a very hard time trying to keep the men alive. Many men died in the camp and when others became too sick and weak to work in the mine any longer, they were moved out to other camps and replaced by more fit men. This occurred several times during the three years the POWs slaved in the mine.
In early March 1945 the Kinkaseki mine was closed because the ore could not get out to Japan for processing as the allied navies were sinking all of the Japanese convoys.
The Kinkaseki Copper Mine had the largest output of copper in the Japanese Empire. It was a commercial enterprise, although run along military lines – with the foremen and staff wearing insignia denoting seniority or rank. The main mine head was situated one mile from the Kinkaseki Prisoner-of-War Camp.
There was no ventilating system whatsoever in the mine. Heat and humidity were intense throughout, but at the greatest depth, where the Chinese labourers refused to work, British prisoners were forced to.
Conditions were so extreme that many prisoners collapsed while digging in the chutes and had to be revived by their comrades. The temperatures at the lowest level ranged from 130 degrees F, and the sulphurous water – in which the POWs often had to stand while working – often exceeded this. Many men experienced a delayed asphyxiation owing to the lack of oxygen in the non-ventilated tunnels. In the very worst of the chutes, of the comparatively fit men, none could work for more than minutes without collapsing.