Wartime experiences of Lt. Jack M. Vance who served the A.I.F during World War II. He was also an employee at Sunshine Harvester Works

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Lt. Jack Vance was working at the Sunshine Harvester Works' Accounting Department. When war was declared, Lt. Vance joined the Australian Imperial Force which he served for six years. During this time, he spent three and a half years in Japanese prisoner of war camps in Singapore, Burma and Thailand. He was captured by Japanese soldiers during the fall of Singapore in 1942 and spent three months in Changi Prison. Lt Vance then spent 20 months in Burma where he worked on the notorious Burma-Thailand railway. He remembered working on the railway from daylight to darkness with other prisoners as they shifted five yards of dirt per day under close scrutiny from Japanese guards.

In January 1944, Lt. Vance was transferred to a camp 60 miles north-west of Bangkok where he spent 19 months. He was able to track the war's progress through smuggled newspapers and radios. He recalled the friendliness of the Thai people, particularly Boonpong Sirivejjabhandu a local merchant who saved thousands of prisoners' lives by smuggling medical supplies, money and food into the camp.

During his three and a half year prison ordeal, Lt. Vance endured serious hardship. In an interview with the Sunshine Advocate in 1945, Lt. Vance recounted the beatings prisoners received from their Japanese guards on the Burma-Thailand railway. Punishment was also meted out to detainees for minor 'offences'. He remembered how prisoners resorted to consuming dogs and rats to avoid starvation. In addition, Lt. Vance's weight dropped significantly from 76 kilos to around 44 kilos.

Relief came on August 16, 1944 when a Japanese officer announced to prisoners Japan's defeat. The Dutch, American, British and Australian prisoners responded by gathering together and singing their national anthems.

Lt. Vance returned home to Sunshine in October 1945. By September 1946 he was re-employed in the Sunshine Harvester Works' Accounting Department. He continued to work for the company over the next two decades. In 1966 he became the firm's Director of Finance.

'Prisoners of War', 1943, Sunshine Advocate, 7 May, p.1.
'Grubs, Snake-flesh were Delicacies', 1945, Sunshine Advocate, 26 Oct, p.1.
'Sunshine Golf Club', 1946, Sunshine Advocate, 12 April, p.5.
Massey-Ferguson Outlook 1966, 'Major Staff Appointments', no. 19, pp.1.
Sunshine Review 1946, 'A Pat on the Back', vol.3, no.8, pp.4.

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