Wednesday, 5 February 2020

WWII: Jack Victor Mudie---Teacher, Soldier, P.O.W., Poet, Peacemaker

WWII: Jack Mudie—Teacher, Soldier, P.O.W., Poet, Peacemaker[1]

Jack Mudie, one time resident of Warrimoo, had a significant part to play in the inauguration of  this memorial  'Peace Park' and statues at Naoetsu (Joetsu) in Japan.
Jack Victor Mudie OAM, considered once to be Australia’s oldest surviving World War Two ex-prisoner of war, was born at Windsor on April 10, 1907 and spent the early years of his life at Warrimoo. The Mudie family moved into a house on Railway Parade in the 1920's and from the outset, Jack’s father, William (Bill) Mudie played an active part in the growing local community. He was the President of the new and active ‘Warrimoo Progress Association’ and was busily agitating for electricity connection, better roads, and park facilities for the fledgling community.

According to his sister, Maisie (later Maisie Lupton), Jack enjoyed the rugged bush life around Warrimoo and helped maintain the flourishing 'swimming hole' in the valley not far from the Mudie household. Jack had studied to become a teacher and was employed in that capacity at St. Marys Public School where he happily worked until the outbreak of World War II. There are no war memorials at Warrimoo because there were not many young men to enlist, but Jack Mudie's story is an outstanding one...


John Jack Victor Mudie enlisted for service in World War Two on July 3 1940 at Paddington and was drafted into the newly raised 2/20th Infantry Battalion with the rank of lieutenant. He was 34 years-old. The 2/20th formed a part of the 22nd Infantry Brigade of the ill-fated 8th Division, comprised mainly of men from the Sydney, Hunter Valley and north coast regions of NSW. The battalion’s basic training was undertaken at Wallgrove in western Sydney and later at Ingleburn near Liverpool, later transferring to the Bathurst military camp in November 1940. The 2/20th Battalion embarked at Sydney aboard the troopship “Queen Mary” for service overseas on the morning of February 4, 1941 and set off on an unknown journey that would ultimately end at Singapore, not the Middle East as had previously been thought.

After disembarking at Singapore, the battalion was transported by train to the Malay peninsula before moving to Port Dickson on the west coast where jungle training was carried out. In August they moved to Mersing on the east coast of Malaya where they constructed defensive positions against a possible Japanese seaborne attack. Mersing was considered to be strategically important because it could provide a short cut to Singapore and the Australians were left to block this possible route. Japanese landings were made further north in early December 1941 and they were unchecked by British counter-measures.

Fighting on the Malay peninsular was a constant retreat due to Japaneses outflanking movements. This ambush by Australians on a key road at Bakri was successful, but lack of air support and naval power  always created the danger of being surrounded and cut off...

By mid January 1942 it was clear that the Japanese attack would be land based and several encounters with the enemy had already taken place, most resulting in outflanking, defeat, and retreat of the British-led defenders. By late January the strength of the Japanese forces was such that the Australian troops were being withdrawn to the southern end of Malaya

Australian troops arrive in Southern Malaya after efforts to stop the Japanese drive southwards. Other than the Papua/New Guinea campaign, the Malayan campaign saw the greatest loss of life by Australian troops in World War II.

Following the complete withdrawal of Allied forces onto Singapore Island, the 2/20th Battalion was positioned defensively in an area adjacent to Johore Strait where the battalion, facing extensive mangrove swamp, took the brunt of the major Japanese assault on the night of February 8, 1942 with more than four hundred casualties. Jack Mudie is recorded in Volume IV of Australia’s official Second World War history (Army) as being one of the 2/20th Battalion’s company commanders at the time of the Japanese landings on that day.

Defenders' view from Singapore Island near the Causeway to the Malayan  mainland. The tall building in the distance became General Yamashita's Command Post.

Jack Mudie commanded a defensive post facing  mangroves across Johore Strait, but the posts were too thinly spread to stop concentrated Japanese attacks at night. Forced to retreat towards Singapore city and the Harbour, the defenders found shortages of fresh water and ammunition, with no air or naval cover!

Stunning pic of Japanese soldiers crossing Johore Strait on outboard-driven boats.

Japanese naval presence, air superiority and land-based success on the island was unstoppable. The surrender of the British forces on Singapore occurred on February 15, 1942.

The remaining men of 2/20th Battalion, along with many other Australian, British and Indian troops became prisoners of war and while many were consigned to spend the next three and a half years in Singapore’s Changi prison, others were put to work by the Japanese in one or more of the many working parties sent out from Singapore. These included the various ‘Forces’ that were assembled to work on the ‘infamous’ Burma to Thailand railway and the Sandakan airfield in northern Borneo. There were others who were transported to Japan on “hell ships” and then forced to work in coal mines and metal refineries.

 Jack Mudie was one of 15,000 Australians captured at Singapore, along with a further 80,000 British and Indian prisoners. Changi prison was packed with more than 100,000 POW's, so different 'Forces' were created to work for the Japanese Empire elsewhere. Jack Mudie was in 'C Force' and sent, in the hell ship 'Kamakura Maru' to Naoetsu, 300kms north west of Tokyo

As a member of “C Force,” Jack Mudie was among 563 Australian POWs who were sent from Singapore on November 28, 1942 aboard the ‘Kamakura Maru’ to labour camps in Japan, arriving at the port of Moji nine days later on 7 December. On arrival “C Force” was sub-divided into two groups, and Mr Mudie was in a group of 300 sent to the No. 4 Branch Tokyo Camp at Naoetsu, 300 kms north-west of Tokyo, to work in a nearby stainless steel factory.

The work at Naoetsu consisted of endless, backbreaking, loading and unloading of cargo. The guards gained a reputation of cruelty to the point where Naoetsu became the worst of the POW camps in terms of  the ratio of prisoner deaths.

In March 1943 the prisoners were moved to new temporary quarters in the nearby village of Arita and in October the camp was again moved to a two-storey warehouse. While at Naoetsu Jack suffered similar treatment to that depicted in the recent movie, ‘Unbroken’, revealing the abuse of the American ex-Olympic veteran Louis Zamperini.

Mutsuhiro Watanabe, the main tormentor of  Louis Zamperini at Naoetsu, was never arrested nor charged with war crimes. He was allowed to go into seclusion after the war and refused to apologise to anyone for his treatment of POW's in the Japanese Camp system. He lived to a ripe old age.
Jack too, endured endless taunts, starvation, savage beatings and other cruelties from camp guards…

I saw and experienced a lot of cruelty and starvation… I came back a physical wreck…On one occasion a few of us were pulled out of the sleeping quarters to provide entertainment for the Japanese soldiers. We had to crawl around like dogs while getting belted until we collapsed…I lost about three kilograms that night.[2]

During his time as a POW Jack Mudie kept a diary which was later used as evidence in war trials against the Naoetsu Japanese soldiers and guards who were indicted for crimes against the POWs.

Photo of prison guards plus inmates from Naoetsu. Some of the guards have been marked for identification in their respective trials. Eight of the guards were executed. Jack Mudie's Diary was a key part of the prosecution of these offenders.

Return Home…

Australian POW's aboard ship on their way home from Naoetsu, gaining their first square meal in three and a half years. Throughout the war, Japanese civilians themselves were often on starvation rations. Prisoners, generally held in contempt, received paltry leftovers during their internment--Jack's lot was no different.

When the war ended and Jack returned to Warrimoo to his sister Maisie Lupton’s care, he was a shadow of his former vigorous self…

American Airmen Find a Camp
Lieut. Jack Mudie, who before his enlistment with the A.I.F. was on the teaching staff of St Marys Public School, was a very welcome visitor to the “Nepean Times” office on Tuesday. He was with the 2/20th Battalion when Singapore fell and for the past three years has been a prisoner in Japan. He looks well, though hardly at the poundage of pre-war days. He speaks appreciatively of Red Cross comforts when they arrived, which was not too often. The Japs claimed that in the air raid period the bombing was responsible for parcels not getting through. The location of the camp in which Lieut. Mudie was a prisoner was for a time unknown to the Allied forces but eventually they were spotted by American B29’s who thereafter dropped large quantities of supplies to them till they were released. Lieut. Mudie returned to Sydney on one of H.M.S. aircraft carriers with 42 other Australian officers. Also on the carrier were a number of British refugees from Hong Kong. Lieut. Mudie, who is at present staying with his sister, Mrs Lupton of Warrimoo, wishes to thank many friends who have been kindly inquiring about him.[3]

It took some time for Jack to recover his physical and mental stability. He was discharged from the army on November 12, 1945 and as part of his recuperation treatment he travelled to Canberra, where he met a nurse from the hospital, Neno Dorothy Wearne. They were soon married and looking for a home further afield from Warrimoo, at Baulkham Hills. But that was not the end of Jack Mudie’s story.

Being an educated man, Jack Mudie wrote nineteen poems depicting life in and around the prison camp. These were published in 1999 as a monograph titled “And Gum Trees Nodding Under Azure Skies,” with the first stanza of the book’s title poem beginning:

"The last of winter's snow still clings
Upon the distant slopes;
But spring has brought the warmer days
To brighten up our hopes."

He also wrote of the Japanese working women:

“Women toiling
Always doing
Double share
Sometimes dragging
Heavy carts
Human horses
Lions' hearts.”

Subsequently it was found that Naoetsu was one of the worst WWII Japanese prison camps in their whole system, having a per capita death rate higher than any other. Sixty of the Australian POWs in the camp died before the remainder were rescued by Allied forces in September 1945. Mr Mudie wrote the following lines in memory of those sixty Australians who died, overworked and underfed, in the sweat-hole at Naoetsu:

"With head bowed down, I murmur one last prayer,
To those I leave upon this foreign soil;
Whose frames consumed by cruelty and by toil,
Will never more breathe sweet Australian air.
When days were grey, their tired yet steadfast eyes
Would turn to golden sands and rolling plains,
To wheat fields kissed by gentle summer rains,
And gum trees nodding under azure skies.

But now they dwell with dreams in realms of thought
Where Halls of Dawn are filled with angels’ song.
While we enjoy the freedom that they sought,
To bear the fiery torch they passed along.
God grant you peace, you souls who now are free
To join your forebears in Gallipoli.

After the war, at the Yokohama trials, fifteen Japanese ex-soldiers and camp guards of the Naoetsu Camp were found guilty of war crimes against the POWs. Eight of them were executed. Jack had played his part by providing clear evidence of the culprits, but one of the worst offenders, Corporal (later Sergeant) Mutsuhiro Watanabe, strangely evaded capture and punishment, despite his whereabouts being no particular secret.[4]

The Peace Memorial Park, Naoetsu, Japan

In 1978 a letter from an Australian ex-prisoner of war of the Japanese established a correspondence with some students learning English in Naoetsu, Japan. In 1988, at the former site of the Naoetsu prison camp a memorial service was held for the sixty Australian POWs who had died there during the Second World War. Those attending the ceremony were told about the Japanese POWs who were killed in the breakout at Cowra in central New South Wales in 1944 and about their reverent burial in the Cowra war cemetery. Six years later a group of local Japanese people who had heard this story formed a committee which aimed to erect peace statues at Naoetsu. In spite of many obstacles they succeeded in erecting the statues and two cenotaphs at the former camp site that had been transformed into a garden called “The Peace Memorial Park.”

Entry to the Peace Park and Exhibition Centre at Naoetsu (sometimes referred to as 'Joetsu', the general district surrounding the town). It was inspired by the Cowra Breakout  Cemetary/Gardens in honour of  dead Japanese POW's there. It must have taken Jack Mudie great resolve, generosity and forgiveness to come to the opening of this Centre in 1995 and speak to all in attendance.
A Japanese sculptor designed and created the statues of peace and friendship that dominate the gardens. Atop two pillars are two angelic figures forming a kind of gateway. The graceful figures are facing one another, one wearing in her hair eucalyptus leaves and the other wearing cherry blossom leaves – a rather lovely symbolism.

Now retired and living at Coal Point on Lake Macquarie Jack was at first understandably reluctant to attend, but Mr Mudie accepted the invitation to be present at the opening of the memorial and gardens on October 8, 1995. Thirty surviving ex-POWs and the relatives of some of those who died at Naoetsu were there. The mayor of the district of Joetsu, where the camp had been, issued the invitation and the Japanese covered all the expenses of those who were invited. Jack Mudie was accompanied by his Japanese son-in-law – a new generation helping to heal the wounds of war.

Mr Mudie gave an inspiring speech on behalf of the surviving Australian POWs, which included the following excerpts:

“Today is indeed a very historic day …. today when a demonstration is made to all the nation that a community like you wonderful people of Joetsu can establish out of the dark days of the prison that was once here, a garden that will shine like a beacon for years and years with peace and good will.”

“If you have children, bring them here to this park often. Tell them that this land now belongs to the people. Tell them that there once stood here a prison camp where 300 Australian soldiers were brutally treated, not because they did anything wrong but because they were men from another nation. And tell them that out of those dark days this garden has been built as a sign to all people everywhere that war must not come again…….”

“Look at these two flags. The flag of Japan has the sun on it. The flag of Australia has the stars. Between them day and night are united, which reminds us that the pledge we are making today will continue on through night and day for all time without ceasing…..”

“If our hearts are full of love, there will be no room for hatred. If our hearts are full of peace, there is no room for thoughts of war. If you visit Australia, we will welcome you from the bottom of our hearts as our friends.”

Jack Mudie addresses the gathering at the opening of the Naoetsu Peace Park in 1995. He was later awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his courage and devotion towards building understanding between Australia and Japan.*
In the 2001 Australia Day honours Mr Mudie was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) “For service to furthering relations between Australia and Japan through the development of the Prisoner of War Memorial and Peace Park at Naoetsu.”

Mr Mudie spent his final years living at Coal Point with his daughter Jennifer Walsh.
He is survived by daughters Lynette and Jennifer, son Raymond and their children.
He will be missed by the Newcastle Ex-Prisoner of War Association and all who knew him.  He has honored the name of 'Warrimoo' by spending his early life here. May he rest in eternal peace.

[1] The vast bulk of this entry is taken from an Obituary and Tribute to Jack Mudie by David H. Dial, OAM, the Honorary Military Historian of the Newcastle Ex-Prisoner Of War Association, delivered on March 2, 2007, and published in ‘Hunter River Forums’ by ‘Digger Dave’ on March 17th, 2007. Other, additional references are listed below, according to their source.
[2] TROVE. ‘Newcastle Herald’, September 6, 2006. ‘Sacrifices Honoured’ by Anita Beaumont
[3] TROVE. ‘Nepean Times’, October 4, 1945. ‘American Airmen Find Camp’
[4] WIKIPEDIA:>wiki>Mutsuhiro_Watanabe
* Warrimoo Historians would like to proffer an apology for the poor quality of the picture of Jack Mudie. We would desperately have loved to have had a clearer portrait photo of Jack, but could not glean any. If any blog reader could help out, please let us know in the 'Comments' section.