“Virtually a starvation diet”

Ta ra ra boom de ay
We’ve soup and rice today
We had it yesterday
We have it everyday
Aircraftman Ken Parkyns, RAAF, Zentsuji camp, Japan

Perhaps the greatest and most prolonged atrocity committed against prisoners of war was that they were always starved of food.

As soldiers, Australians had consumed about 4,000 calories each day. In Changi, they received about 2,000. On the railway, on Ambon, at Sandakan, and in many other places, they received far less. Slowly starving to death, they suffered a range of debilitating dietary conditions. It was no wonder that, for some, collecting recipes became a passion.

AWM P02569.132
Newly-captured prisoners had to adjust to a rice diet. “The first efforts of army cooks to cope with rice defy description. It appeared on the plate as a tight ball of greyish gelatinous substance, nauseous in its lack of flavour and utterly repulsive” (Sergeant David Griffin, 2/3rd Motor Ambulance Convoy).