An important race meeting in Chungkai POW camp

Recently I  spent a couple of days with friends and family at the races at Scone (NSW), part of the magnificent Scone Horse Festival.  In my book “Pounding Along to Singapore” I reported on an important ‘race’ meeting which was allowed by the Japanese guards in Chungkai POW camp on the Burma – Thailand railway  in March 1944.

Doctor ‘Weary’ Dunlop wrote of the preparations-

21 March 1944. There is keen competition and interest at present in the extraordinary human race meeting to be held on 23 March. The idea is to make money for the hospital and provide amusement. The owners enter a horse at approximately one tical each to give prize money and the bookmakers pay 10 ticals for a stand on the course. Various enclosures have entry fees. A tote to pay 10 per cent. I am entered under the name of Manfred by Bill Ongley, an astute racing man. Secret trials are being held. My jockey being ‘Punchy’ Powell. It is believed that a good time for the 100 yd will be 18 seconds. My trials up to date are about 19 seconds but I have malaria and am not trying very hard. A terrific weight of Australian Bookings has promptly pushed my odds down to evens, starting from 5:2 – most amusing nonsense is going on about trials and times.

23 March 1944 Spring Meeting of the Chungkai Race Club. The first race was at 1830, the tote opening at 1800. The course was the dry dusty area of Group II lines, fairly flat going with a few depressions. A very large crowd consisting of most of the camp population. Various enclosures and some important looking race officials. There were six events: The Canberra Maiden Stakes, 75 yd: The Officers’ Stakes 100 yd; The Stayers’ Stakes 150 yd; The Chungkai  Invitation Stakes 100 yd; The newcomers’ Stakes 100 yd; The Thailand Stakes 75 yd. The affair was conducted with considerable pageantry. The ‘horses’ and jockey’s first parading around the course, the ‘horses’ wearing numbers, the jockeys very diminutive and for the most part in suitable costume, peaked cap and colours etc. As ‘Punchy’ Powell had his tobacco factory on me, he withdrew as a jockey and I was presented with a new boy, a little over 7 stone. Much amusement from the crowd during the parade for the Officers’ Stakes including Bill Gayden [sic] and Captain Hetred, RAMC, with me backed down to evens with a terrific load of A.I.F. money in particular. I got slightly left at the start but won easily in a time of 15.25 seconds. As usual I started to shake with laughter in the middle of the race. McMullen, the camp bugler, won the Chungkai Invitation Stakes with the same jockey in the sensational time of 14.25 seconds for the 100 yd. Otherwise my time stood. Much A.I.F. jubilation and ‘Waler’ Davidson told me he had won 100 ticals on me. I’m afraid I got a little tiddly on the local brew.

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