In 1941, the advancing Japanese army captures a lot of British civilians in Malaya.
The men are sent to labour camps, but they have no plan on what to do with the women and children, who are sent on a forced march through Malaya.
For years they wander from village to village on an aimless trek, longing for the haven of a prison camp to wait out the remainder of the war but never allowed to rest in one. The pathetic little procession, trailing suitcases and carrying babies, winds its way through the paddy-fields, jungles and swamps and over the mountains.
The group are inadequately fed and without medical assistance and, one by one, the women perish because of malnutrition, sickness, disease or exhaustion.
Their guard, an old-timer sergeant (Kenji Takaki), gradually comes to admire their perseverance just as the women come to respect the old man’s quiet determination to keep helping them to survive.
Told in flashback from the point of view of one of the women, secretary Jean Paget (Virginia McKenna), meets Joe Harman (Peter Finch), an Australian soldier (also a POW) who sneaks food and medicine for the women from the Japanese.
Jean eventually returns to Malaysia after the war and discovers what happened to Joe.
The 1981 tv series Tenko followed a very similar storyline.
Tran Van Khe
Mrs Dudley Frost
Vu Ngoc Tuan