Title: Papers of Dr C R B Richards MBE OAM ED.
Date range: 1942-1984.
Reference number: PR01916.
Extent: 7 boxes.
Location: Private Records collection, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.
Abstract: Dr Rowley Richards served as medical officer to the 2/15th Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery during the Second World War. The collection comprises Richard's diaries and notebooks covering 1941 to 1944; meticulous medical records on the condition of unit members in POW camps in Changi, Burma, and Japan; personal correspondence and records; post-war medical reports and nominal rolls; records relating to Richard's post-war career, including President of the 2/15th Field Regiment Association; photographs and research materials related to the writing of the The survival factor. Post-war material includes a prisoner of war subsistence claim to the Defence Department, for which Richards prepared the medical section.
Provenance: Donated by Dr Rowley Richards in September 2001. As President of 2/15 Field Regiment RAA AIF Association, Dr Richards also donated their records (AWM PR01966).
Processing and collection guide completed in 2004.
Restrictions on use: Copyright of materials described in this guide is governed by copyright law in Australia. Dr Rowley Richards retains copyright on his personal papers. For further information contact the Curator of Private Records, Research Centre.
Preferred citation: Papers of Dr Rowley Richards, AWM PR01916.
- Papers of Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, AWM PR00926
- Papers of Gunner George Sprod, AWM 3DRL/3110 and AWM 3DRL/5040
- Papers of Brigadier A L Varley, AWM 3DRL/2691
- Papers of Lieutenant-Colonel William Jeater, AWM 3DRL/3589
- Papers of Lieutenant Norman Martin White, AWM PR00410
- Papers of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Henry Kappe, AWM MSS1393
Subjects: Prisoners of war; Prisoner of war camps; 8 Division; 2/15 Field Regiment; Medical records; Diaries; Correspondence; Surgery.
Dr Rowley Richards was the medical officer for the 2/15th Field Regiment in the Second World War. He served with his unit in Malaya and Singapore and subsequently as a prisoner of war in Changi, the Burma-Thai Railway ('Anderson Force' III Group), Saigon and Japan. Dr. Richards was taken prisoner on 15th February 1942 when Singapore fell to the Japanese. For the next three and a half years he served as a medical officer, and during this time he kept comprehensive diaries and meticulous medical reports on the condition of unit members. Following the war his experiences were published in the book The survival factor. From 1946, he was president of the 2/15th Field Regiment Association and is currently Life President of that Association.
Scope and content note
Dr. Richard's personal diary commences on 7 December 1941 with the receipt for the order for the Regiment to proceed to battle stations in southern Malaya. The diary was kept in a small, loose-leaf notebook and carefully wrapped and concealed in Dr. Richard's pack. It covered the period in action, capitulation, Changi, Tavoy in southern Burma and the Burma-Thailand Railway.
The second section of the diary covers the period 25 December 1942 to 28 January 1944 at Tamarkam near Kanchanaburi on the River Kwai in Thailand (Siam) and covers the construction of the railway.
On arrival at Tamarkam on 14 December 1943 everyone was thoroughly searched and the first part of Richard's diary was found and confiscated by the Japanese without major repercussions. The second part of the diary was not noticed.
Prior to leaving Tamarkam on the 'Japan Party' fearing that they would fall victim to United States submarine attacks, Richards left the second part of his diary with Major John Shaw who carried it in the false bottom of a billy can. He returned it to Richards in Australia in December 1945.
Richards did however, carry a six-part summary of the diary and a table of rations and illnesses which he buried in a bottle under the cross of Corporal Gorlick on Paulau Damarlaut, an island off the south west coast of Singapore Island on 11 August 1944. The summary was subsequently recovered by the Australian War Graves Commission and returned to him on 15 February 1947, just two and a half years after it was buried.
A one- page condensation of the summary was secreted in the tubing of Richard's stethoscope but was lost when theRakuyo Maru, on which he was travelling from Singapore to Japan, was sunk on 12 December 1944 in the South China Sea. Eighty Australian survivors, including Richards, were rescued by a Japanese frigate and transferred to a whaling mother ship which carried him to Japan. He spent the last twelve months of the war in Sakarta on the north west coast of Kyushu with 28 other Australians and 281 British.
During the period in Sakarta Richards kept medical records on his men and some personal notes but did not keep a diary.
With the end of the war, Richards helped prepare a medical report, nominal roll and other reports relating to the Sakarta camp. He kept a personal diary from the period 15 August 1945 to 12 September 1945.
A major strength of the collection is Richard's meticulously kept medical records and reports. These include medical records of Anderson Force Burma from 1942 to 1944; a dysentery register compiled in Changi in 1942 and weekly Tavoy medical reports; Burma-Thai Railway medical reports; detailed graphs and tables of rations and sickness on Burma-Thailand Railway; Sakarta medical reports 1944-45; 'A-Force' death registers and certificates for 1942-44; and medical reports on Sakarta and Japan relating to subsistence claims.