Tom Hollis 3 RAR

This was written by Tom’s son, John, as Tom reminisced.

As you said Dad was captured on the 21-1-51. He was sent out on patrol behind enemy lines with LT Angus Macdonald, Cp Laurie Buckland, Private Ted Light, Don Buck and Dad. They were all Green Beret Commando’s except for Buck, the first three from the same Squadron from the Second World War. They were sent out as the Americans wanted to know where the Chinese were. They had been on their feet from 06.00 the day before and were then chosen to go on the Patrol. They were turning from the Patrol and came to a town called Ichon and 2 of the blokes weren’t feeling well as they had been on their feet for 46 hours. They came across a house on the edge of town and decided to rest up. Upon entering the house they came across a Korean and took him captive, not realising it was a 2 bedroom another Korean had slipped out and informed the Chinese who then came and surrounded the house and took them Prisoner.

They were taken back to what he thinks was a Divisional Headquarters they were put in a room which was on the front line where they stayed about a week, then they separated MacDonald, Buckland and Light and took them away. Dad and Buck were kept for about another week and were used to carry food down the Chinese Troops. They were then moved back because they needed further education, as they were taken back they were picking up more prisoners from a few didn’t countries. They finally go back to what they called the bean camp. ( Now this is where the story changes the Bean Camp was called the Gold Camp because it was on the site of an old Gold mine. They found that out as some other death marches were started there and the troops said it was called the Gold Camp. Now the prisoners in Dad’s group called it the Bean Camp because all they were fed was beans, till this day Dad has never been able to another bean). Over a period of time other Prisoners from other Countries were bought in, a lot of Americans etc. They were losing about 40 a day dying from one cause or another either from the wounds or starvation. Dad got paraded to the Camp Commander who spoke perfect English, he gave him a Cigarette and told Dad to sit down on his veranda where Dad asked him if they could mark the camp with POW so it wouldn’t be bombed. He said they couldn’t as they had done that before and The American Imperialist had bombed it. He then told Dad it wouldn’t be bombed because of the terrain, it had a hill here and a mountain there. Not long after that the camp was bombed by he thinks the South African Air Force flying P51’s. They fired 4 rockets and killed 38 prisoners and that was the reason they moved the prisoners north.

Now we are at the start of the Death March, on the first night they moved 350 and on the second night they moved another 350. That’s when they were all put together. Now they were put on a train that had open carriages and moved at night on the way to Sinuiju. As the morning approached they pulled into a tunnel and stopped because the UN having the superiority in the Air they didn’t want the train out in daylight. After a period of time the train was still running and they were burning wood instead of coal, with the wind blowing through the tunnel towards the prisoners it was blowing Carbon Monoxide and someone in an English voice said don’t stand up, don’t stand up. Dad stood up and after inhaling the carbon monoxide collapsed for a few seconds, they took him off the train and once he got down he was all right. There was one bloke who was called Pollock, Dad’s not sure if he was from Poland or an American of Polish decent. He collapsed and swallowed his tongue. They got his tongue and sewed it to his lip so he could breath with a big safety pin, he got over it but died at a later date.

When they got to Sinuiju Dad and 6 others were put on a small pickup truck as they were too sick to march. Out of that group 3 died on the way, when one died they just pulled up and through the body on the side of the road. Dad stayed at that camp Chungson (excuse the spelling). While in the camp Dad heard some music, whistling or singing, he looked around and saw a Battalion of British Glousters around 600 men marching into town. A short time after that he was moved to Camp 5.

You asked about friends he met, on the second day he met a Greek Soldier Antonio Sandorrinias. He couldn’t speak a word of English, he introduced himself as I am a Greek Soldier pounding his chest. Now Dad told him if he ever wanted to come to Australia to look him up. He and Dad tried to escape, they took off and Dad got to a rise and when he looked behind he saw another American he thinks trying to go with them. It all turned to crap and Dad ducked down and fell back into line. Later that night a Pommie by the name of Davidson a Corporal decided to try an escape again, they were all sitting down along a road to have a rest, they both ducked of across a paddock and got a fair way away. They waited till the other prisoners left and then they took off, on the second night they came to a village that had been bombed and there was a lot a movement going on so they back tracked. They came across a corn field and while going through it ran into a Chinese guard, he was grunting at them and Dad told him they were British soldiers and he took them up to his boss. In sign language he motioned to them asking if they were running away. They were put in a pig pen being guarded by one person, the next morning they were handed over to a Korean civilian who had a rifle and he took them to a group of Chinese. A Chinese guard started kicking Dad and then locked him in a Korean toilet for a day, the next day they where put back on the March. Davidson later died in Changsong. After arriving at Changson prisoners were still dying, when they stopped dying there was only about 150 left. As you know he got moved from there to Camp 5 Keith Gwyther was the first to arrive and after that Don Buck and Bob Parker weren’t far behind.

He met Elliott Sortillo, and Wesley Little in Camp 5. The first black soldier Dad met was at Changsong he was the only one there, he can’t remember his name but remembers him boasting that when he got out the Government was going to give him $10,000 and he was going to buy a Cadillac. The next time was in Camp 5, he thinks they were called the Black Company or something along those lines. There was 95 in total. Dad was living in what they called the United Nation Company because they were of mixed nationalities. One day the Head Chinese guard called dad up and told him the move in with the African Americans so Dad got his stuff and moved in with them. When it was feeding time Dad would line up they were supposed to get two scoops of millet seed, Dad only got one. This went on for about 4 days, Dad then asked one of the Black Soldiers dishing up the food why he was only getting half rations? He replied wake up to yourself we’re black and you’re white! Dad was a little naive maybe. He then asked a black Sergeant if he could do something about it? He said there’s nothing he could do as they would kick him to death, so Dad said bugger this and went and moved in with the Native Americans.

You asked about if Dad met any British POW’s: He befriended two, one was Fred Quivlle who used to ring Dad from England occasionally he’s still alive and Joe Kenworthy. Joe and Dad used to write and speak often. One day Dad got a call from Joe saying that his son had committed suicide, he was just shattered. Apparently his son was in the Navy and was charged with hitting an Officer, the case dragged on forever and Joe kept saying you’ll be all right. He jumped out of a window. Joe never recovered from the loss, he went into his garage and shot himself.

When Don Buck got sick in the Bean Camp Dad nursed him for 3 days and nights. Dad sat down and held Don between his legs because he was delirious. Dad was then taken away and he was left behind.

Black Americans were dying in the Bean Camp at great numbers. They were emaciated so badly that you could put two on a stretcher at once. They were buried on Boot Hill. Dad has a picture of camp 5 with boot hill in the background. After rain the bodies would wash down the hill and they had to rebury them.

I’ve already mentioned this, when Dad got to Camp 5 he was put in a dark room for 3 days. When he finally got out they were allowed to wash once a week. He went down and started washing himself, when he felt his backside it was gone, he could feel his bones. That’s when he thought he was in trouble.

In one of the camps they were all gathered for “Education”. The Chinese Soldier giving the class said “All Imperialist Countries have an American Base”. Dad not being able to contain himself said “not in my Country we don’t”. The Chinese shouted out “Who said that?”. Dad said “I did”. The Chinese said “Headquarters, Headquarters”. He was marched up to headquarters where the Commandant said you will agree with me, Dad tried to explain to him that Australia didn’t have one. He spat in Dad’s face and said you will agree with me. Dad said that was the actions of a pig, spitting that is. The Commandant said you will agree with me or I will see you starve. Dad said ok, I agree, I agree. He said you need to go away and think about it. Which he did.

Another one was they had a small dog and they some how trained it to bark when ever a Guard was coming. This went on for a while, he’s not sure if they worked out what was going on because one day the dog disappeared. He thinks they may have eaten it.


  1. Bob slusher

    I was given this ring it was supposed to be from a ex pow surviving the tiger death march I was told you were given a ring it is silver in color and the stone is a tigers eye. His name was Calvin c. Creesen ,. 24th div, 21st infantry iam trying to locate what camp he maybe was in , he was not at camp 3 , after viewing Johnson’s list also to verify the ring so I may turn this over to my local v.f.w. For viewing your help would be great thank you. Bob slusher north carolina

  2. Dear Mr John HOLLIS,

    I am writing to you on behalf of Oreste FANTACCI who is a Veteran of the UNO “FRENCH BATTALION” that fought under the command of the UNO American Army.
    In one of the issues of the magazine published by the Korea War Veteran Association,
    Oreste FANTACCI related how he was caught and held prisoner by the Chinese in February 1951 after the Battle of WONJU
    and how he first tried to escape in JUNE 1951 accompanied by two AUSTRALIANS : Tom HOLLIS and Donald BUCK.
    He is not mentioned in your account, but the facts seem to be rather corresponding.
    Oreste is still alive and if you don’t mind, he would be really very happy and thankful to be able to get in touch with your father and your family.
    Looking forward to receiving your answer.
    Yours friendly;

    Annie FLAGEY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *