'Together with 3 other Indo POW's Ferrie escaped the Japanese prison camp into the thick Birma bush. After a desperate run of days through a dark jungle they asked for sanctuary with the Karen tribesmen. The Karen chief told them the Japanese put a price on their heads, but vowed not to turn them in. For years they managed to stay alive as freemen, even attacking Japanese outposts.
When they were eventually caught the Japs believed they were infiltrators from British India as they did not think it was possible for camp escapees to survive for so long. The men professed their innocence when they were interrogated by the Kempeitai. The Karen chief Maung Mela collaborated their story. The chief was tortured and butchered but did not budge.
Maung Mela had invoked the power of the ancestors. He did not beg, talk or cry when the Japs poured gasoline over his body. Maung Mela had invoked the power of the ancestors. He did not even make a sound when the Japs lit his body on fire. When the chief burned the Japs could not help themselves and saluted the dying man. They stood there and saluted.'
We were working in Wagale. That’s where I bolted. Whatever gave me the idea to run off? Well, already back in Tavoy I’d been thinking: Hey, Tavoy, that’s close to Colombo, Ceylon – close to, that is, several thousand kilometres by sea – and maybe I can steal a sail boat. But the west monsoon was blowing, so that was bad. So I ended up working on the railroad. Once there, you were nothing but an animal. They kicked you, gave you no food, nothing. You were nothing, you had nothing. And I just couldn’t stand it there, with those Japanese.
That’s when I got my chance. The Japs had cows, for slaughter. They were looking for a cowboy. Now it so happened that my grandfather had been a butcher, so ever since I was small I’ve seen how they do that. I was thinking: hey, that’s something for me, then I’ll be done with that railway and I can look at our surroundings.
One evening in September 1942, our commander arrived. He’d been enjoying a few days of beatings with the Japs to make him sign a document promising that we’d do nothing against the Japs and wouldn’t run away. And he had to see to it that we’d also sign. However, if you signed and still ran away, then you were a goner for sure.