BUILT IN A JAPANESE PRISON CAMP

by R. Bradley,A.M.I.C.E. ENGINEERING Magazine 7 ,1949 January
(ReprinteO wittr Permission)

A SMALL LATHE

hands from The author, as an officer in the Royal Artillery, was a prisoner of war in Japanese with some engaged During that time,_he.was 1945. in August, to the capitulation February15,1942 of and construction design including the work, engineering fellow prisoners on much useful lathe, made a small he secretly for these tasks a workshop artificial limbs, and in order to equip in Figs. I and 2. Visitors to the Machine Tool and which is illustrated, with some accessories, remember seeingthis in August andSeppqber, 1948,_Tay Engineering Exhibition at Olympia gallery. The overall length is in the ENGINEERING lati'e, which was exhibited on the standof ggp, 5-V4" in t_he is 4" the bed, over The swing is 17", and the distancebetweencenters 6-718". The for l-5/8". the topslide for 2-314" and traverses and l-5/16" over the saddle.The cross slide 360 rotated through it positions, can be and in of 3 any topslide can be fixed to the cross slide lbs. l, 30 in Fig. weighs illustrated degrees.The lathe,togetherwith the accessories

After nearly a year of captivity, which had included servicein two working parties in the town of Camp o.nthe northeastside Singapore,the author found himself back in the Changi Headq-uar:ters imprisoned. - Much had first been prisoners, he had fellow of SirigaporeIsland, where, with prisoners had learnedto how the must to show suffice happenedin that yetr, but one short story guards. seizeopportunitiesand outwit their while out with working parties, A few officers had systematicallystolen tools from the Japanese, to have to hide them whenever inconvenient it so and had smuggledthem back into camp, but was a workshop. to establish in the hut that it was decided a guard appeareA -A Japanese \C.O., who persuaded parade, to draw and roll-call a after conversation acied as an interpreter, was engagedin "man", "dog", "tree", "house",etc; the word "workshop" was representing characters the Japanese

156

was moved into the camp hospital area. which had a link-motion insteadof a hinge in the knee. the author was engagedin camp routine duties and managedto occupy his time lecturing small groupson engineeringsubjects. Enquiriesrevealedthat there was some 3" x 3" steel in stock in the Japanese workshops. The workshop was equippedwith a 3-U2" backgeared screwcuttinglathe with a7" 4-jaw chuck. The GeneralspokeEnglish very well. in addition to heavierjobs such as turning 4"q rolls for rice-crushingmachines.however. The workshop was staffedby 12R. It was copied onto a piece of wood. and a week or two later sent in a few hacksawblades. It was important. that the essential A sturdy bed was the first requirement.manufacturingparts for an ingenious machine which made nails out of barbedwire. An endlessstreamof jobs poured into the workshop. and parts should be madequickly while somemachineswere available.that the proposedmachine should not be seenby the Japanese. twist drills.with the result that he visited the shop himself. therefore. Only six artificial limbs had beenmade. and jigs and templates were prepared in order to facilitate production. and it was possibleto turn the conversation to put in complaintsor requestsas insffuctedpreviously by the British Staff. During an astronomy lesson the General was informed of these activities. This useful contact with a seniorJapanese officer lastedfor severalmonths.and at the sametime experimentswere being ca:ried out with an artificial leg designedby the author.and he decided that a small and reasonablyaccuratescrewcuttinglathe.while anotherdug up and gavb the author some artillery instruments(known as "transceivers")which had been part-of the coast-defence guns.the sign "Workshop" was hung up in the officers' hut. Unfortunately. from them someprecision gea"rs and stainless-steel shaftswere obtained.Severatlarge partieshad been sent out into Thailand. and some light-alloy sheetingremoved from crashedaircraft. a small hand bench-drill. The workshbp was extremely busy'and the number of surgical instrumentswhich had to be made increasedweek by week. would fill a growing need and would in any caseallow much essential work to be continuedif at any time the Japanese were to take away the larger machines. and making componentsior many other laboursavingdevices. and more were expectedto have to go to work upon the Burma-Thailand railway scheme. and a few vises and hand tools. Much useful scrapwas handedin to the workshop. that it shouldbe-smallenoughto hide and transportin a canvaspack. and the tools neatly arrangedso that the new guard found a small joiner's shop functioning and took it for $anted. a small repair workshop which had beenequippedwith a few tools found in the area when it becamea prisoner of war camp. The author had giy-enmuch thought to making the best use of the small precision gears. navigationand astronomy.U2" lathe. tradesmen.therewere no change-wheels for the lathes. and through the Japanese Generala drill presswas obtained from another workshop gnAel his control. After the last round of the guards. Meanwhile. that it shouldbe capableof fairly heavy work on large diameters.A. and of the difficulties occasionedby the shortageof tools and materials.C. to making specialsplints.but when the details arrived for the dispatch of more labour the author had the good fortune to be orderedto remain in the camp to instruct a Japanese General in astronomy. The patient was able to walk with the new limb. and severalweeks eJqpged before the workshop was established again.and permissionwas obtainedfor a small piece to be brought into L57 .O. Everyone learnt to improvise. On" officer brought along some gear wheels which were part oi a set of change-rvheels and were found to fit the 3.easily included and the characterwas carefully noted. a portable forge. with a large range of accessories.and the author was put in chargeof it to make artificial limbs and surgical instruments. and also a simple_ grinding spindle. After the return to Changi. and the next changing of the guard awaited.files. Both latheswerefnstalled. a quantity of aluminum rivets. They varied from repairsto cooking utensils from repairsto microscopes to making sewing machineneedles. and to salvageanything_ that could be of any conceivable use.when orderswere receivedto move the hospital. but it was recognisbdas part of the camp establishment and called the "Artificial Limb Factory".

Thus. and if a large piece had been requested. (This would be aboutU4x25 tpi. in two weeks spile time the piece of steelwas reducedin weighi from about 33 lb. The work was marked out from a dimensionedsketch.and cleaned up with a fly cutter . The bed was then bolted to the saddleof the 6't lathe. The threadswere turned off a phosphor-bronzescrew to leave a piece of stock out of which the main bearingshad to be made. Th9 fapanesewould have been suspiciousif an exact length had been specified. The author had a word with the officer in charge qf th9 British personnelin the Japanese workshop.) The fitted screws were made with slotted headsto facilitate their insertion and possiblefuture withdrawal. with a rack and pinion from a damaged typewriter. straightedge.an operation carried out on a Sunday when the workshop was allowed to be closed. which were tappedNo. and with its aid the top of the bed was scrapedflat to receive the slides.0 B. all the surplusmetal. and the author drilled and chipped away with a cold chisel. stretcher.The leadscrewand a brassnut were made on a Sunday. It was built up so that the. When the fitted screws and some dowels were driven in and filed and scrapedflush. The rear edge was selectedas the "master" edge and checked for straightness.A.A.C. and its size governedthe diameter of the mandrel. were hidden until required. Split brass bearings for the leadssrew were made by hand.ctmp lor the use of the Artificial Limb Factory. These were made from a piece of good quality steel strip removed from an old R. and he had the piece cut to the required length. the top surfacewas very nearly flat and required little colTection. ffid when the headstockfixing studs were fitted the lathe bed was consideredfinished and work was resumedon the saddle.when the 158 . and although it had been annealedit was a difficult job for the only high-speedsteel lathe tool the workshop possessed.M. GBL.some weary prisoner would have had the task of carrying it. to 8 lb.dovetail for the cross slide could be adjusteddead square. in caseat any time it should become necessaryto jettison the comparatively heavy bed and to preservethe accurateslides and the componentsmade to fit them. The slides were now checked again and found to have warped slightly.without scraping.cut to length and then filed and scrapedtrue before being put asidefor a week or two while more drill and cold-chisel work was ca:ried out on a piece of plate which was to form the lathe saddle. and. but after correction they were marked out and drilled for fixing screws and used as templatesfor drilling the holes in the bed. The mandrel was machinedfrom a piece of a ffuck axle. The only availabletool suitablefor use as a surfaceplate was the groundface of a piece of heavy 6-ft.

which was always available. The workshop staff helped in the building of the hut. speeds. Before driving gear could be made. but after a few weeks the artificial limb factory was re-establishedin a newly-erectedhut thatchedwith atap leaves. to av sp ab fir ha gr oc fei 160 .which they suspected had been hidden from them. Here was an obvious production job for the new lathe. made a lead pattern of the peculiar thread within the sleeve. Two days later. the small lathe with its four-speedelectrical drive had24 spindle speedsbetweenabout 50 and 2. which seemedcalculated to annoy. the With the workshop in production again. and increasingnumberswere neededfor the maintenanceand alterations the many applianceswhich were in use by this time. and it became necessaryto proceed very cautiously to avoid beatings.the leads were the general wiring of the building and so conveyed to the office two 6-volt accumulators (sparesfrom the operating-theatreemergency lighting set) which were kept chargedup. kept on a shelf in the tool cupboard. and many petty restrictions.searches were furious if they uncoveredanything. and indexed by a suitable gear wheel pinned to the mandrel. A switch was made to control the motor field. There were no longer any aluminum rivets available. no matter how innocuous. In their searches of the camp for wireless which becamemore frequent as the war turned in the Allies' favour .which was wanted in connectionwith the development of their new aerodrome. were imposed on the prisoners. the Japanese orderedan early evacuationof the area. it was obvious that the small lathe would have to be completed quickly.and were designed mesh with a pair of 48-teethwheelswhich had beentaken from a cinema prdector when the lathe was first planned. British Headquartershad five handcuff keys and they were henceforth able to release "criminals" for severalhours a day. The 6" lathe and most of the heaviertools went to a new camp maintenance workshop. so if everyonewere orderedout on paradeat an unusual time the author left cupboard doors open with the toolboxes on view. and the countershaft was mountedon a timber framework built on heavy timbers driven into the earth floor. The l8-teeth pinions were made integral with the bronze sleeves. This sourceof power. rivets had to be made out of copper salvaged from overheadtransmissionlines. The 3-U2" lathe was first set up. and the section which was to havethe workshop was ordered to a site in the vicinity of the Changi jail. An officer of the British Staff managed to get possessionof the handcuff key for about half an hour and sent it to the author who measured it. The lathe was mounted on a wooden base and fastened down on the bench in contact with backstopsby a single woodscrew through the front of the baseat the headstockend. drove another car generator as a motor.an and an induction brake. The Japaneseused to punish prisoners for breaking rules by locking them up. and yet the arrangements permitted the lathe to be removed quickly in the event of a Japaneseguard coming into the workshop. clamped in hardwoodVblocks on the saddle of the 3-V2" lathe. Behind the motor was fixed a l2-volt car dynamo and cut-out (which appeared to the layman aspart "lost" among of the lathe driving Bear). Rations were worse than ever. and the motor spindle was fitted with an aluminum 3-step V-pulley made to match that on the lathe. andso the mandrel was bored right through 9132''4 (with a long D-bit made for the job) to clear the co Th mi pr( bu tur co an for fer an Pe re an st tel wi sq an thr Ar st in re an ttr cc ur A in w p( gr C rh m A fo cc ta to rh se th. The motor was pivoted on its fixing lugs. however. giving four "off' position. in a cell with practically no food. and the motor was fixed on a platform below the shaft. and although still lacking a backgearthe new machine could now be used. The hospital was divided into two. so that its weight kept the belt tight.and returned the key unmarked. The blanks were mounted togetheron a mandrel. handcuffed.This work had been spreadover a period of six months.000 rpm. After a few more hours fitting. and as rivets were required in the assembling to of the artificial limbs. and arrangements were made for installing the new lathe in a "toolroom" screened-offcorner which was to be ttre and office. The JapaneseCommand had been changed by now and the camp was completely reorganized. When not in use the machine was housedin a wooden box with a drop-front.the Japanese sets. and so one evening after roll-call the backgearpinions were cut with a fly to cutter. and experienceshowed that it could be whipped off the bench and moved about 4 feet into its box in a matter of seconds.

pome.intothe jaii with ro*" -Eairar "quif-"nt.utter was hardened and tempered and tha. Any temporary handles andleverson themachine werenow replaced by newonesmadeon it from stainless steel which had beenobtainedfrom ttre siiarti"g^-ii mechanism.nd !n".b1bfy-!ave iri"Ga in thecampb".lglrl afsles.somerefinementsintendedfronf.ttery weremadefor the materials 9xleft1and arrangements for the Plmary cells to be takEn.f a small table..^."'"-"0 to be unnecessary. Th. one or trretrioa"n AC-poweredradio setswasoperated u througha kno-thole in a hollowLam.ylo*".tap-er after hardening' wasgroundtrue. and a big {.al-l pafis to be made.the wireless operator hadm6relyto GnO oneof the wiris to a right 161 .99pperrod.dt"piuZing it with a consrant-mesh reversing geq.il improvement waseffected by removilg thetumblerreveir.axially and reamereO *ittt ih" $. at the first t^t8R of Allied activity. Tffi rolution was ro providethe 4-tool turret with an indexingplungerandto makea +-station tailstockturret. lathe.J"rt traving . ihr numberof rp*iur tools and accessories for the new latheincreased *ge\by week. tapped 5/g. Onceagain.ial taper reamer. andwlth it thJcirefully o.the beginningor trti'pi.pace with the demand. Permission was given for a pieceof metalto by the Japanese workshop.andwhenmachining thecomponents in the smallruttt". but it *ir not long U..gfiiriaiiaio n"*r-r"*ice. in anycas.Ind nto* aciessories hadto be made..oLft"t"d. components which hadonlv beenfiled wherenecessary couldiro* U" -achined i'n inil-V2. felt wiperswerefitted to itre saddle. the supplyof rivets. and one of the least -rumours gruesome was that."io"sly.be-arings wele scraped frir. Rations*"i" sui rurtheriedu""a.however.6asis of this gearis a smaliaiirrr"nrial.but it was a simplejob as a I-UZ.t inrfionounceo complete.8. Oia. the authorwaswrong. n"*1 morningT[" .abrasive wheel was available. they wereconsidered hardenough asIheywereandthec'huck wasassembled. supplyenabled him to work silentlywhenthe workshopappeared. setwastherefore des. -by screwdriver-pushed the authorwas ableto reducethe trblediameteiso that it could be mistakenforbut'in the new ser a wonn hole.thjogd lli". d. thenclamped baseto Uur"on ttreiaceptateand the left hand square threads cut in them..rnupra. and "right-hand" positions. andwith 2 diametral slots3/8" wide cut at .t eveningthe T-slotswerecut in the chuckbodt: rtre-ctruct:aws *"r" milled with u fly cutterin the srnatl-tathe.g cut off. the spindle-was drivenat. The author was consulted on the mechanical detailsof theiet.to tunethe set. uf..whitworth. {pm from u l-gJ wo6den abovethe lathe..o{Singapore would pi.tJn"rr..* machine with an efficientchuck. The half-nutlocking devic" *ui *oiineo.and also somesmall ball racessalvag{ f-il an instru*ni Wlil-.andallhough.andthe belt was a lengthoTgut .. . Therewere mtny of^whatwas in storef. the powersupplyto which at sucha time might havebeenthe means of receivingi-ponrnt instructions from the Allied forces.ral. Any bombarding.. The spindles of the main condensrr*O t i-r"ers (which complete occupieda space of only 4" x ?"'* 2") were bored.}oi" rhe new machinewas overloaded wi.. andmuchthoughtwasgivento theproblemof pto"ihingitt" n. with :ti$ing. Thereafter.A *?s made.h.iogs. il--.andr"uirut rp*r.arr. The buttonwhich releases the turretfor *anual indexing is just below the underside of the tailstock turret' Therewas a substantial increase in the quaniityina q""riqv oi *otfrhop as froiurtions.iir U"tti..they woulcibe herdedwithin the walls of changijail.pieces of steelwire aboutVl6" AialniO oneendhardened and groundto the sametaper.. a cast "shuP"d" steelr-slot cutter was on the 3-Vi" lath"e.j". evening afterroll-call parade. which hadto be ttous6a initt in rh. andthe -u.and as the F supplied resultof a quiet talk with a coueague the metalarriieo -on" tough mactri'n-eo. A toolpost grinder had to be made. andnearlyeveryman who was not actuallyin hospitalor crippledwastakento work us u nirouy on military defensive points. Allied bombers were now in evidence.so that. kept.. . Gi. taper reamerof about 3^deg. the.igned by qhe $ ba. and the Japanese reacted to the threatof invasionby imposingmorerestrictions on the camp.ttrt fi.* t'.el theycouldnot be harden6o in trre wortshop.. deserted.000 pulley on a fan motorfixed to a beam6 ft..91trt'"leadscrew.ittyidmovea from an old tennis racquet.i. without evenhiiclosert tiibrias suspecting that he had an! connection with trterbii"t *irir". madeof annealed high-speed steel.t had had to be refuied p.. and the shift lever visible in tfie ilustrations opgrates in a gatewith "tert-tancf niu. andtherewas no waiting f9r sm. A simple collet chuck and somecollet blanks were madeon the machineitself. Screws andhornbtocts weremadeto suit. suchasnutsfor the leadscrew and feedscrews' weremachined.d:.

and he's very good at it. engine You can buy thesevideosthroughus. proven methodsthat can be applied to the repaq of crackedor broken cast iron partsexhaustmanifolds. on the metal. and saleable blocks. perhapsthe foregoing wlll the matter. practical instructionon the use of traditional materialsand equip. machineryparts.valve bodies.including a mishandled weldingtorch. : ( t ( I S \ t T T o I T b o tt A o F I\ a 162 . and save l0% over buying them direct.A special box-keysand spanners hollow mills. plus 2 hours of clear. engagethe taper and turn the wire. then after a while he does the same thing again. in terms of eye protection(there't_ryo whal it allows you to see while you are actually welding. one of the workshop staff made excellentsmall files by hand. simple. ahd for steelwelding. and in termsof for gas welding aluminum. The workshop taps and dies were in y"-ry workshop and many !t4 condition. and larger holes from other causes. pump housings. "aircraft" style welding of Master sheet metal man Kent White has been doing old time aluminum for about 25 years. Co. but it appears 1983). Also clearly shown is how to repairpinholes you ryay blow in the job while welding it.and anothermade the very necessary stainless cover for the leadscrew. boring tools. This 2" x 4-112"rec-tangular "Unigoggle" light-weight welding goggleheadgear. FOOTNOTE: If you've ever thought of building a small lathe.which is also availablethrough us. It's also goo-dfor. Mosr of the actual welding was shot through a specialgreen lens (see last paragraphbelow).An uncommon.. and in some cases. On this excellent I-314 hour video (VHS only) he explainswhat he's doing in a relaxed. valuable.If you should be inclined t9 R-urrye Power Model Supply from like to know about a sef of drawings(catalog# WE l28) available One would need the use of a larger lathe centerheight. also a simple indexing device made the drip tray in on the threadedextensionof the mandrel. r Magazinestartingat page 537 in Vol. which gives you an extremelyclear view of what is happening TORCH AND ARC WELDING OF CAST IRON is also now available. At the sametime. Kenr White has developedwhat is currently consideredto be THE BEST welding gogglelens orangeflare). you_might have provided some inspiration. Enginee t r f ( tr ( ( ( \ ( \ If you're interested in learning t HOW TO GAS WELD ALI.. the spiral flutes of which he filed out with speciallymade files. Seethe very last page of this book for ordering info. About 600 hours were spentby the authorin building the machine andits but it was time well spentin view of the many hundredsof hours of work carriedout accessories. It was fully describedin Model in order to make it.laid-backmanner.small cast iron green lens fits the excellent weldingjobs.even skill. When the Japanese (wrenches). and stainless-steel (not illustrated). drills.the lathe was equippedwith a large range of tools.. While this work was going on in secret.poke the pointed end through the "wormhole".angle. for a small lathe of about 2-518" to be a practicaldesign.Also by Kent White. 150 (Jan/June. and also many short twist drills.ment.JMfNLM. and on the little lathe quite serviceablereplacementswere made of U4-20 and 346-24 sizes. the new lathe was used to great advantagein the "toolroom" jobs were done. eventually capitulated. A member of the workshop staff guards pulley and the swarf and belt aluminum steel.get to seeit being done. on it in the two yearsit was in use. and you.so you get to qeg il more than oncel without having to rewind the tape. which fitted turer for the boring tools was included.

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