Sketch by Jack Chalker

Singapore 1942

Singapore

1942

 

February 15th

A terrific day, we knew the end was in sight.

We had a message to the effect of fighting to the end.  I was very calm.  Unnaturally so.  I knew that within the next 48 hours my fate would be decided.

I had a bayonet but somehow I could not see myself using it.  I just COULD NOT see myself using it.  The regiment’s guns were on the beach they could not retreat any more.

In the afternoon a succession of orders – fire all ammunition – fire all but one shell – ceasefire.  All sorts of orders and _____ _____ orders. Something was in the air.  About 7 pm we cleared up traces of our occupation, which was in a Red Cross area and moved to the Singapore Volunteers building and drill hall. Once there, Lt Col. Dyson read letter of surrender.  Silence. My first thought was   I’ll get more sleep, the future think about that tomorrow, at present sleep.

Jimmy Spencer turned up later.  He had been out with a wireless bug.

Well, to bed.  Cpl Pease and Coleburn missing.

 

February 16th

Saw first Japs in morning, what a sight they looked _____ , human orangutans, the Chinese called them the “yellow dwarfs of the pacific.”  How right they are.  The Japs did not interfere with us.

Went outside the gate with Collins, marched calmly down the road with the intention of finding my truck.  A Nip officer stopped us; fortunately he spoke a little English so we told him that we only wanted to bring my truck to the Singapore Volunteers depot as we had kit in it.  He said OK, so I drove the truck up to the gate. I found my kit but it had been looted, nothing of importance left.  I was really wild.   All my photos etc had gone.  Well, I expect we shall lose all our kit when the Nips start sorting us out.

The day passed by with heavy rumours of moving.  One thing is certain; we have to go to Changi i.  Up to present, our time of moving has been cancelled a dozen times, method also, walk or ride.  This evening Syd, Jimmy and I ate a huge 4lb box of chocs, which I had found in cold storage shop.  We said it will probably be our last luxury for a long time.

We have enough food at present but water is scarce.

 

February 17th

A very busy day.  About 11am we started for Changi, some 18 miles away.  Nips said walk but it was decided to risk a convoy.  A few of us, Sgt Hopper, Mullet, Syd, Jimmy, Anderson decided to hang on a bit and _____ a truck on our own, we thought a convoy would get stopped.  So we left late.  I drove the truck as fast as possible to Changi and did not stop for any Nips.  We just sat back and looked important.  Some trucks were stopped and lads had to walk. We passed thousands walking but I drove on.  Got to our allotted area in Changi i about 1pm or so.  The Regiment. had been given a 3-storey barrack block in the former Malay _____ so we were pretty lucky.

Syd, Jimmy and I went on scrounge.  Found bed sheets, kit, books etc and fixed ourselves up comfortable.  Afternoon about 5pm order came out that all trucks were to go to Gillian Barracks on the far side of Singapore. I overheard officer tell Sergeant Major that it would not be safe to go into Singapore and he was dodging the job.  So the Sergeant Major detailed a Sergeant. Good enough for me. So I set off alright in convoy and when I saw a good ditch I wrenched the wheel and landed in the ditch unhurt.  Waved the rest of the convoy on, drained petrol and smashed the engine. Japs would not use it but they would use the other trucks, which got to Gillian Barracks.  It’s been a long tired day good to see bed. 

 

February 18th

Today I found out what was going to happen to us.  Changi area to house British troops.  Still under our normal Brit army discipline and officers to remain organised in units same as we were in action.  Nips had agreed not to separate officers from men.  This was a request of our staff officers who believed that we would fare better with our officers.  Time will tell.  Busy day preparing kitchens _____ ,  water very scarce, none for washing.  Pipes smashed but Royal Engineers are helping Nips to repair them as fast as possible.

We have enough food for some 20 days going careful.  Nips have promised food and issued scale of rations.  Pretty good too.

 

February 19th

Still in the Brit army.  We held a pukka ii parade this morning, all the Regiment !  Really _____ too.

Things are being rapidly organised.

Corporal Pease, we have learnt, is in hospital.  Coleburn still missing.

All units in Changi South area today moved their rations to central store from which rations will be issued daily.  I found a carton of 2,000 Players, gave them away to the lads who were certainly glad to see them.  Cigs are going to be of great importance soon.  I can see that.

Had a walk at night when it was fairly cool.

Water situation the same but we are digging wells and Royal Engineers are working hard on the pipeline, which was blown up when the causeway was mined.  Too bad.

 

February 20th

Organisation settling down now.  Regiment’s parades in morning.  Fatigues detailed which is not a great deal _____ , we just pass the day away.  Rations still the same as most of the lads brought tinned food with us picked up en route to Changi.  They are not troubling about food very much yet.

Concerts and sports now organised.  Arthur B. Butler in great demand.

Billets washed out. 

 

February 21st

P. Herb went to hospital.  Dysentery.

On scrounge for a tin for washing in.  Making good progress with the well at the moment.

We have 2 cookhouses and Regiment Head Quarters. It is bound to stop us being jealous of others and claim that one cookhouse battery has more than the other. 

 

February 22nd

This morning started my trouble.  In breakfast queue I suddenly came over dizzy then vomited, then an attack of diarrhoea, I felt bad all day.  By this evening I could barely walk to the latrine.

In for a bad night.

 

February 23rd

It was a bad night, no sleep.  In fact I slept near the latrine.  Saw Captain Butterford on sick parade,   I had temperature.  He sent me straight to sickbay, which he had started this morning.  I was first in it.  Two days have passed now without eating. Just can’t look at it.  He insisted on a stretcher but I wanted to walk.  I felt  self conscious on a stretcher. 

 

February 24th

On starvation diet.  Water only.

M.O. (Medical Officer) says it’s intestines, all I know is that it’s painful.

The day passed somehow. 

 

February 25th

Same.

 

February 26th

Same.

 

February 27th

Some porridge in morning.

 

February 28th

Turning point, felt a lot better this morning now on _____ and porridge every meal.  Motions not so frequent. 

 

March 1st

Still improving.  Visits from Syd and Jimmy.

 

March 2nd

Feel very weak but diarrhoea finished.

 

March 3rd

Discharged with 5 days.  I felt good but legs hardly hold me.

 

March 4th

Rations finished now except for very small amount – we are on rice for how long?

Everyone optimistic by Christmas.  I am inclined to opposite view, I cannot see it.

I have lost my string bed.   Left it in hospital.

Nips start cigs issue.  40 each.

 

March 5th

The lads are finding it rather hard to get on to rice, we still have a little jam, salami and corned beef left, also cheese.  So we get a spoonful of one of them with rice.  The jam or salami is favourite because it flavours the rice and that is the chief object for the rice is tasteless.

Cigs now 5/- (5 shillings) for 10.  Black market is on the go.

Started swimming today in the sea.  A great treat. 

 

March 6th

Got sugar today, 1lb for 18/6.

Resting and recovering.  Fact illness on the increase _____ and dysentery.

Got a good few books so am alright.

Jimmy started on S area rumour _____ again big wash out of billet.

 

March 7th

Doing well.  Hunger making me eat the rice now with or without the jam etc.  We also get at night, stew with a little meat and veg, but very weak.

Concert tonight.

The well is in operation now. 

 

March 8th

Plans made for lectures and classes of all kinds under good teachers.  A Professor from Singapore College and Raffles.

Several working parties go into Singapore everyday for work.  They do well as they buy all sorts.

Charlie Pease came back from hospital.

Coleburn still missing. 

 

March 9th

Jimmy and I went to see Peter Herb in afternoon.  Almost impossible to recognise him, mind going.

Captain_____ also in hospital, he won’t eat but must have his whisky.

Tank dried up and water pumped in.  We now draw water from taps from tank. 

 

March 10th

On rations today, this a good ______.

We have an old tank chassis.

We draw rations at Naafi iii Centre which is on a hill a mile away by road, having loaded up with rice etc, we jump on chassis and coast down the hill, we still have the steering wheel of course and we have one sharp corner and do we screech round.  Four of us came of this morning as we nearly went over, no damage.  Small cuts etc..

Nips now giving us flour issue but very little yeast.  Some of the lads busy making oven and tins for bread.  Officers round cookhouse all the time.  In peacetime hardly ever saw them.  They are hungry now.  Private supplies running out. Lieutenant Colonel Dyson and Major _____ draw food from our cookhouse, other officers have their own.

Peter Herb died today.  Funeral tomorrow.

Rumours big anti _____ campaign under way.

 

March 11th

Did not go to funeral as it is a good way from camp and I did not feel like a long hike in the hot sun.

Bread experiments doing well.  Plenty of drinking water now.  So things improve, cigs 40 _____.

 

March 12th

Big parade today. All of Changi troops along the main road.  General Sugiyama iv going to gloat over his prisoners.  All lined up along roads in afternoon.  He passed by in open American car_____ with _____ _____ escorts and about 30 other large cars, all containing Nips officers like the Germans.  They like big parades waving to their prisoners with oriental smiles of satisfaction.  We soon forgot them for when we got back to (cigs offered for _____ _____) billets.

We had our first bread.  2 slices.  Slightly smaller than sugar _____ at home with a piece of cheese.  It tasted good after living without bread for a week or two. 

 

March 13th

_____ _____ yet with Jimmy at least he is on South area.  I on Regiment Office.  First day on morning, next day on afternoon and so on.  Helps to occupy time.

Making bread now with ground rice flour. Food much the same.  Meat every 3 days or so.  Green veg, stews and rice.  Slice of bread a day.

Jimmy, sore throat.

Football game at night, big washout.

 

March 14th

Jimmy into hospital today.  Septic throat or something.  M.O. not sure.

Concert this evening.  Arthur Butler in great demand but name down for _____ etc.

Gardens have been started for veg.

Sick list growing fast.

The swim at sea each day is good.  Sometimes we _____ _____ other times the sea.

Lads now becoming food conscious. 

 

March 15th

On job of collecting some _____ blocks for cookhouse.  Rackets on the move.  Cooks always have cigs, give sugar for some.  Big mess meeting today led by Corporal. Owen.  So now rations of sugar and tinned milk being put ______ cooking in bulk.  We demand it is served individually.  The amount is very small.  2 spoonfulls of sugar. _____ much the same.

 

March 16th

Went after coconuts today.  We grate the nut and soak in water then squeeze through muslin to get milk.

Went to hospital in afternoon to see Jimmy.  He is doing well.  Hospital still crowded.  Dysentery on increase.  My job going steady.

A. Butler crazy on costume making for big show coming off.  A proper theatre is being filled up.

Football at night.

A lot of trouble with Sikhs who guard at camp, they have beaten a lot of lads up and demand salutes.  They have made lads do press-ups and on the ground etc.  It is more humiliating than having to salute a Nip. Shandra Boss v.

 

March 17th

Cigs issued.

Lads getting walking sticks for _____ at night _____ _____ _____ _____.

Jimmy coming out tomorrow.

Luxury food growing scarcer and of course more expensive. 

 

March 18th

A raffle being organised by S.A.H.Q. vi  Money to help buy extra food.  Raffle took a few tickets, 1 dollar a time.

Jimmy returns to the fold a bit thinner but otherwise alright.

 

March 19th

A _____ day but this evening Jimmy, Syd and I went to top of Changi hill just in time to see Nip fleet sail past.  About 60 vessels.  It depressed everyone rather, it seemed so large, Nips seemed so much stronger than we believed.  No release by Christmas that's certain, or the next one. 

 

March 20th

When swimming this morning saw a Nip carrier going up straits to Kota Bharu vii and it was well smashed up.  The amount of rumours are terrific, even one to effect that Union Jack was actually flying over Singapore from Cathay building, release in a matter of hours.  How they start and how lads believe them amazing.

Big washout. 

 

March 21st

Got nothing in raffle draw.

Rumours of working party in Singapore.  I don’t mind.  They get choice of food and that is what is going to count in surviving.

Constipation the great worry now.  Syd, 19 days. 

 

March 22nd

Carrying on the _____ job.

Food about same.  Stopped bread now.  We get a bun or roll, so called.

Permissions not given in this Regiment. for growing beards but it has in Athens.  It is up to Regimental CO. There is still a parade every morning but some lads have no blades and won’t borrow any so go unshaven.  But Colonel says must shave.  At moment a deadlock.

Concert.

 

March 23rd

Barbers started with cut-throats.  So now no excuse.

We have our names down for working party if any - but rumour strong.

Jimmy going into hospital again.  Throat still troubling him. 

 

March 24th

Definite about working party.  1800 to leave on March 30th.  Syd and I on it.  Also Dickie Darlow, Sergeant Hopper, Carmen, Southall, Fortune.

 

March 25th

Inspection by S.A.H.Q. Officers, so plenty of cleaning this morning.

We still do plenty of fly swatting.  Flies are of course a great danger.

Finished H.Q. job. 

 

March 26th

Football .

Did some wood chopping.

Rumours of tattoo of Nip flag for POW forehead. 

 

March 27th

Big washout.

Parade today as we were arranged in parties.  Some 240 going from Regiment. Jimmy sorry he can’t make it.  We are in group of 50 with Sergeant Major.  Still we have got to march.

Concert tonight.

 

March 28th

Got 3 bread and tin of jam, tin of M.V. viii and tin of fruit, through black market – cost about 25/- so we had a good meal tonight.

All ready for more luggage by truck.  Did not expect this, it will help a lot.  We don’t know where we are going. 

 

March 29th

Syd had bad day today, his constipation.

Got to bed early a big day tomorrow.

 

March 30th

A day never to be forgot.  Up early.  Breakfast and haversack rations in way of flour, rice pancakes.  We all lined up along Marsh Valley Road and left Changi by same.  A great line of men, some 1800, we marched in regimented fashion.  Halt every hour for 10 minutes.  I had soaped my socks well and also carried small haversack with rations and another pair of socks.  Did well into Singapore.  There we were able to buy bread and tinned goods.  All of which was army stuff looted by Chinese etc after surrender but we were glad to get it.

Old Chinese woman fell into ditch in her excitement when lads crowded round her clamouring to buy bread.  Really funny.

By the time we reached other side of Sing. Lads beginning to feel the effects.  Orderly formation now broken.  Singapore prostitutes very good to the boys, food, cigs etc, even money.  Feet sore alright, but limbs stiffening up, so rest now is hardly worth it because when a start is made the cramp is terrible.  All formation now finished, we are just struggling along.  By the afternoon we were on Bukit Timah Road.  Many lads have fallen out _____ _____ one of the first after all his talk too.  Syd and I struggled.  By 5pm we were a good way up Bukit Timah Road but the Nips could or would not tell us where we were going.  A truck was on the go picking up men who fell out.  We were in a shuffle state now.  I did not sit at any of the rest stops now.  I was too painful in getting up, lads falling out faster now just exhausted.  Syd and I would look after each other then struggled on.  By 6.30pm we were in sight of Kranji Wireless Station.  Nip said our camp.  (was only a few Nips on cycles as guards)  So we made the camp and what a state.  We were billeted in the Kranji married quarters that is houses still with furniture, also some bodies, which had to be moved.  Found my kitbag.  Lucky, as did Syd.  It came by truck.  A meal was also ready soon after we got there.  Cooks had travelled with luggage.  It was agony walking to cookhouse.  After food just got down to it on bedroom floor.  Nips said we be up 5.30am ready for work in morning.  I said to Syd, doubt if I’ll waken for a week, and tomorrow as for work, impossible. 

 

March 31st

Came to with bagpipes playing reveille.  Dead Tired.  Struggled to consciousness, got to my feet after a struggle.  Not quite so bad as I expected, very stiff of course.  No wash, no water, breakfast in dark.  Fell in for work but _____ time soon up then we had to march 4 miles to Ford works and climbed to top of Bukit March Hill there.  The 2nd highest on Singapore Island.  We find out that the job was to rebuild a road.  A straight one from Bukit Timah Road right to the top of the hill some 450 feet where a memorial to the Nips was to be built.  The hill was the scene of a great fight before Singapore fell.  There were only a few Nips.  A Nip collared some of us for work. Our job filling shallow baskets with soil and lifting it over the side of hill.  Near the summit there was 100 foot flat stretch we were increasing the width by decreasing its normal height and _____ _____ over the edge.  Before we started a short shower of rain, which just made everything fine _____ good red muddy soil.  We had to fill baskets with our hands while the Nips stood over us with a Bamboo, _____ a _____ very stingy too.  So I spent my first day doing work under Nip supervision and I did not like it.  The great cry of the East, the white man can’t work in the tropics, well the Nips pushed it overboard.  We worked till 2.30pm when we had a rest of 10 minutes.  The Nip in charge was immediately christened Tojo.  At 2.30 the other half of the camp relieved us.  Well this was a good sign, working hours 7-2.30pm not too bad.  Fell in in _____ each led by one of our own officers, the officer carries a long pole some 9 feet high with _____ on rectangle board on top with section numbers and some _____ _____.  Strangely it struck me at the time of a similar affair at Strand when I got the train there all the _____ assembled in respective parties each headed by a cook now with similar device.  Is queer how I make the connection.  _____ to Singapore. 

 There was no water, but there was a small stream running at the bottom of hill on which we were situated.  We were all very keen to see and bathe our feet.  Last night examined my feet by candle light.  I discovered only one small blister which I _____. 

 

April 1st

Work has changed character today, we now work in pairs.  Syd and I naturally together.  We now have a rice sack, two corners of top _____ joined by a loop of wire with a small bamboo handle, similarly the _____ so forming a means of conveying a fair amount of earth.  The path has already been cut right through the rubber trees from the road to the top of the hill.  Our job is now to make a respectable gradient to the top.  The earth we dig out we carry up the hill and dump over the edge mentioned before.  So now the work consists of a great long trail of men in pairs carrying the earth up the slope with so many men filling the sacks.  Today’s work was not heavy physically in the way that it did not require strength or great activity, but the steady walk up and down became very monotonous and tiring, especially with the hot Malayan sun.  I have decided though as this work is going to last a while and vary very little a diary will be very monotonous, so I shall not keep it day by day but cover a few days at once picking out any highlights. 

 

April 3rd – 10th

In past seven days settled down pretty well.  Water turned on on the 5th.  Rations pretty good, much more meat than the Changi average of 3oz a day.

Working going on steady and I cannot say I have felt any ill effects.  Nips are not too bad.  Syd and I have taken a great dislike to one we call Rabbitface (he has buckteeth,  _____ buck teeth).  Syd surprisingly enough is very moody on the job, perhaps quiet is a better word, strange in one so generally boisterous and genial.  Syd is inclined to let his spirits drop if work or environment does not suit him.  If he gets work that he likes things are alright, but if work not congenial to him,  depression.  I lead the conversation all day into channels to suit him.

The lads have made themselves comfortable in houses.  Cutting up furniture of all kinds to make beds.  The Japs don’t worry.  We never see a Nip walking around billet, they do fortunately leave us alone.  Wardrobes divide into 2 by perpendicular piece of wood have been turned on sides, doors removed, so forming good bunks.  Noticed on march to work that Nips certainly push the Chinese around.  I always feel rather ashamed, _____ even when I pass any chinks.  I feel as if I let them down.  Silly, but there it is.

Syd and I buy bread every day at work site from an Indian _____.  Beet makes a great difference to our diet.  We have pooled all our resources of course and share everything, so life is going fairly smooth.  We can also buy coffee and pineapples at small Indian stall near the main road but we have to keep dodging the Nips.

The officers do not work, just accompany us there and sit around till we go back.  They try and amuse the Japs. Japs in good humour, work easy and less tension.  Aussies are working right on top of hill levelling it.  They stay at camp 4 miles from hill.

 

April 10th – 20th

Sure steady grind, making tea on the job now.  Sergeant Hopper one of the gang, all Sergeants of course.

The road is taking shape.  It is some 35 feet wide.  2/3 of the way up there is a fair hill so we will have to make a cutting there, if _____ we just go up and down and up and down every time we get to the ledge over which we dump the earth we stop and admire the view.  We usually see some shipping and usually leads to Syd and I saying “roll on, some day our ship” and so on.  Rabbitface always watches Syd and I.  We are aware of it when a bunch of clay smacks the ground nearby (his aim is hapless, like all Nips.) Sometimes he even comes up on us with his bamboo stick as we _____ get back to Kranji.  One of the boys slinking away from work found Whitley’s supply source, the eggs were only 10 cents, rather a bad show, an officer profiting at lads expense.  The officer had plenty of money too.  So we all ordered more than usual.  When we got back to Krangi poor Whitley could not get rid of them.  So he had hundreds of eggs on his hands, he probably did his best to eat them, he is like that.

So far weather has been as usual for Singapore, hot and sticky, occasional rain.  We stop work when it rains, if we carried on we would only create a road of mud, so we always stop and being a stop it soon rains off.

Poor Hammond, down with dysentery on 14th.  Died on 19th.  Certainly shook us.  A very good lad too.  Several others seriously ill _____ have now gone to Changi Hospital.

Cookhouse making _____ now rations the same as ours.  Cash makes a big difference of course.

On the 12th a great discovery, one of the boys found among the rubber trees several dozen barrels of petroleum jelly.  The Nips did not know its value and did not stop us taking it.  We greased out boots, hair and lads who had sores used it for same.  We took a lot back in old cans etc.  The M.O. said it was ok and used a lot for making up ointments for skin trouble.  But best of all we used for frying, just a little. Surprised the Nips not taking it.  It’s expensive, not easily come by.  Still, we did not tell them.

 

 

April 17th

Today saw a Nip take one of the boys a few yards into the jungle where he set on him with a leather belt.  The lad lost his temper and punched the Nip straight between the eyes.  I thought well here comes trouble for when a thing like that happens the punishment is great not only for individual but for entire camp.  But amazingly the Nip was so shocked he slunk off and incident finished.  It’s so hard at times to control oneself.  Nips have put up several fair sized tent tops, which do form a shelter of sorts, but they leak too much to be of any use.

 

April 20th – 30th

Steady grind, work still easy from point of view of physical strength but very fatiguing and we are always glad to get back.  We have heard rumours concerning war progress but all very vague.  Nips occasionally tell us some but it is all distorted.  _____ told on the 23rd the Australian _____ had been _____ I found it hard to believe and after considering it dropped the idea completely.

2 more lads died and were buried in camp.

We still have bit army discipline _____.  Riley got 7 days in clink for backchat to Captain Gibson, rather unfairly too.

 

April 23rd

Unfortunate day.  2 Gordon Highlanders picked up a hand grenade, which they found.  It exploded killing one and badly injuring other.

 

April 27th

A day of bad tidings.  We worked till 5.  No shift work now.  The former afternoon party are at work on the quarry now, preparing the _____ so our _____ it out greatly, still we carry on.  On the 21st Syd and I had our ground sheets stolen, also 2 loaves of bread.  The weather had been wet recently hence our taking the capes.  But Cameron thought he spotted the person who took them.  I watched them and in the afternoon when we finished and others were busy piling tools, I examined their kit and recovered our groundsheets.  They were a _____ _____.  It was funny to see their faces when they found the capes missing.  But they could not say anything without compromising themselves. 

 

April 28th

On the 28th when we had finished for the day, and we were preparing to go, Tojo could not account for one of his own guards.  He sent the others for him.  He was found in a _____ having coffee.  When he came back Tojo gave a terrible hammering, some _____ we enjoyed it for it was Rabbitface.

 

April 30th

On the 30th a day of excitement.  We got to work as usual, found only 2 Nips, Tojo and one other.  All we did was pack some tools aboard a truck and also the tents.  We were greatly puzzled.  We cleared the site of all tools, then back to camp, each man with a tool of some sort.  Great expectation as to the ideas, the Nip camp guard was also greatly depleted.  Something happening, but what? 

 

May 1st – 10th

During this period no work at all.  Apparently the Singapore Nip administration is changing.  So we stayed in camp and rested.  The draw back was the canteen was very short and rations were very short _____ rice only and poor rice at that, called Congo rice.  Chinese won’t eat it normally.

New Camp _____ camp on 9th.  We held a check parade.  First we have had.  They have been very slack in this respect and _____ trouble is with roll calls etc.

There has been a fair amount of sickness in camp.  Mainly dysentery and malaria.

During the last 10 days we have used 2 large wooden wireless masts for firewood.  Today, the tenth, a truck came from Singapore with vegs. driven by one Brit.  Coming from a Singapore camp he told us that for the past 10 days hundreds of the lads were loose in Singapore, hardly a Nip to be seen.  They wandered about the town fed by the Chinese.  They were soon roped in when the new Nip administration took over.  From what he told us we are pretty lucky.  Some of the other camps they supply with rations.  They say conditions are very bad.  It all depends on Camp General. Ours fortunately is very easy.  Start work again tomorrow.

On third, I woke up in the morning feeling bad and aching in every joint, even knuckles and toes.  I was sure it was Rheumatic fever, our small room was _____ _____ and inclined to dampness, I was off food too.  I decided to give it a day or so before going sick (fortunately we were not working) not that there was any treatment worthwhile.  It lasted for 4 days then gradually wore off.  Have now decided that it was of course Dengue fever.  Unpleasant, but it does not last long.

 

May 11th – 20th

Took the tools into work, found that Tojo was still there but a new officer was in charge.  Work carried on as before.  On the 14th we had a long _____ day due to the visit of a crowd of Nip officers etc.  When we got there in morning several large tents had been erected on the summit of the hill.  Well the Nip officer in charge wanted the road in fit condition to allow a procession of _____ to use it.  So truckloads of _____ arrived and we had to lay it as fast as possible so that by the afternoon there would be a presentable loose stony surface for the cars.  Think of it, hundreds of Brit troops dashing about laying _____ so that a few Nips could ride down the new road.  Their cars were to come up _____ road _____ top _____.  Nips held a ceremony at the top then they would go down by another partially completed road.  It was a busy day.  Eventually near 5.30 they arrived at the top accompanied by fanfare of trumpets.  Do they enjoy playing the white man.  When they were ready to leave we had to line the roadside.  The procession left the top, some 35 beautiful American cars.  The nips sat back gazing steadily at us as they drove slowly by.  I felt really wild – the podgy absent eyed yellow dwarfs.  Oh well, one day. 

 

It was near seven before we were ready to go.  The new officer gave us a short speech – which was translated by our interpreter – a big Jap fellow _____.  He said the ceremony was successful (why shouldn’t it be I thought) and the work for the great memorial would continue.  For the good work we had done he had decided to award us a tin (small) of pineapples between two to carry on working hard – the harder we worked the better the food.  It was near 8pm when we got to Kranji.  I was hungry and tired and glad to get into bed.  We have been getting Nip newspapers in _____ from Bulldog Officer. 

 

Separate entry for 11th - 20th

By the time the top of the hill had been levelled off it was now some 200 feet in diameter surround.  Finished some 10-15 feet from the top.  At this point a _____ flight of stairs were going to be built to the top.  But our road had a bend to the right, which went round the side of the hill and joined on to the _____ road on the other side which went around down and round to _____ works on 13.T. 

 

On the 16th we were on our way back to camp at Bukit Poyang _____ saw a bus loaded with Nip nurses – oh dear oh dear.  It was almost impossible to tell one from another.  Heavily made up and all exactly the same.  They just sat and not a word passed between them – no life – just dull _____ _____ women _____ _____ looks more alive.  They looked so browbeaten and submissive.  Imagine a bus load of our nurses seeing some Germans why there would be all sorts of cracks passed in talk – noise and even excitement, but Nip nurses just so _____. 

 

On 17th another surprise.  We went to work by truck and came back.  Why this great deed I don’t know.  We didn’t get there any quicker as we have to wait on trucks and they are always late. 

 

On the 18th the officer in charge had a brainwave.  He wanted the whole road wider also all the _____, which we put down on the 14th dug back up.  So we set to.  The road was widened some 12 feet.  Bulldogs not used now. 

 

On the 19th he _____ task work so many men to do so much as soon as finished back to camp. _____ _____ as usual expect no rain for over 3 weeks.

 

May 20th – 31st

Work going on steady some say on task more than others.  As usual on task work no real all _____ _____.  Rumours of going back to Changi.  Syd and I are for it.  On the 22nd and 23rd we did not go to work _____ we went to nearby deserted Chinese laundry.  We were to blow it up for we were going to move into same.  I did not fancy it one bit.  Dirty old Chinese huts, no water or light – bomb and shell holes (we had to bury several bodies still lying about from the Battle of Singapore).  Our money finished now except pay.  Since that new C.C. took over he has allowed what he calls foraging party of some 10 men to go out every day round the old _____ etc picking up any fruit or veg. they can find.  So far it has helped a bit – one day the lads brought back pigs but the Chinamen who traded them made such a row that the Nip guard said the pigs had to go back – still we almost had pork.  Most of us left some kit at Changi and as we needed it, especially boots, Nips got it.  Syd and I got ours all right.  Also a letter from Jimmy who would like to be with us. 

 

June 1st – 10th

Work going steady, strong rumours of going to Changi.  Not all of us but several hundred _____ on still getting papers from _____ still etc.  But news is so full of propaganda it’s hard to believe any of it.  Nips confident of going to London and New York.  Meanwhile we carry on.  The Nips have decided that on the 11th all the various groups will be given a task to do.  The first group to finish will stay, the others to go to Changi.  Our group are for Changi so _____ to the 11th that _____ _____.  Heard of Coleburn death.  River Valley Road. 

 

June 11th

The tasks were arranged on the summit.  Apparently the whole summit was _____ _____ in _____ by a _____.  The areas well _____ out.  At a green signal we all started off and some two hundred picks moved in unison for 4 or 5 strikes.  It looked really funny like a Walk Disney.  The shovellers filled up the baskets, which the carriers dumped over the side.  Capt. Williamson of _____, who was our officer in charge wanted to stay.  (The officers having plenty of money did very well).  So he also set to work – only because he would benefit if we stayed – he never worked at any of the other task works.  In the first 5 minutes, 7 men were hurt with picks – so many of us inexperienced and we were also very close – much too close for safety.  Anyway we made _____ _____ _____ pretty late.  In getting back to camp we were told no lunch tomorrow.  Back to Changi on the 13th.  My birthday.  I am quite prepared to go back.  The argument is; is it better to have less food and not work or have food and work in the sun all day.  I decided on Changi. 

 

June 12th

Prepared for Changi and so ends my first Nip working party.  Now what??

 

June 13th

Left for Changi by truck in the morning.  On arrival found that things there had altered considerably – not so many men.  Great numbers were now working in Singapore.  Only a few of 122nd left.  Rest at River Valley Road.  So we had plenty of room on top of the building and on the veranda.  Jimmy pleased to _____ he has been doing cook in the officers mess.  But the food situation is bad. 

 

June 13th – 20th

Settled down to a new routine.  _____ stopped now.  Rations poor – rice – very little veg (lads collect all kinds of bush leaves etc to make a green watery soup) meat about 3 ounces a man, once a week.  Saw my first Changi concert, apparently they have been very good.  I saw _____ a _____ and it was good. _____ _____ _____ being very good.  Rumours of another working party.  One larger party.  600 have already gone somewhere up to Mal  or Burma. 

 

June 21st – 25th

On the 21st official news of working party.  Nip want some 600 men for work somewhere up north.  Burma or Thailand, no one knows.  Officers asked for men wishing to go.  Syd, Jimmy and I volunteered at once.  We had argued that better eat more and work than rot in Changi.  So we have been fairly busy the past few days getting ready.  We have just heard it may be a 4 or 5 day journey.  So anyway we are prepared and I don’t know when I shall manage to write in this journal again.  But shall do so at the first opportunity. 

 

June 26th

It has been a day!  Dead tired _____ a _____.  I left Changi at 7am on trucks to Singapore after 1 hour at the station on train.  25 men to truck with kit so there was very little room but  _____ hit well sitting on some _____ _____ rest _____ _____ to make a seat and we 3 sitting on back door with legs dangling we made out _____ bearably.  But the heat was terrible.  It was impossible to lean against the side of the truck.  The metal was untouchable.  We had one meal at a station in N. _____ a good meal really.   Not much, but by far the best as regards quality _____ _____.  It was _____ by a nip army Malaya or Thailand from which we would be _____ - same food as travelling Nips.  This is what Nip interpreter said.  Anyway we won’t _____ for at every station and we _____ it every on - we were able to get plenty of bananas and eggs and cheaply also _____ coffee _____ it is going to be very monotonous. 

 

June 26th - 30th

In Thailand railway _____ _____ by Thais and it is pretty efficient too, mainly German engines.  Only one track.  The train took all these _____ _____ _____ uniforms and _____.  Everyone _____ to have a uniform.  _____ _____ _____ _____ look like a _____.  The Thais are surprisingly modern.  Thai town from what I saw _____ _____ _____ neat and clean _____ some respectable buildings _____ _____ _____ architecture.  The women dressed in a rough European style and they (some were dressed in very smart uniform – trousers, jacket and cap - same as we wear in the army) have magnificent hair.  But the average Thai women wore skirt and blouse.  _____ European style straw hat – modern handbag – quite good really – but oh dear oh dear poking from the bottom the skirt by flat feet without shoes.  Looked really funny.  Men _____ _____ or shirt and _____ hats.  Very smart on the whole. 

 

27th  –

28th  – 

29th  –

 

June 30th

I’ve arrived.  Destination a place called Ban Pong.  The last four days, well, very rough, but we are in high spirits – the _____ of the _____.  On 28th June managed a short swim when we all slipped over beside a large pond.  The Nip let us of course.  The other group of men who left Singapore on the 20th were in this camp – so the camp ____ held some 1800.  We were accommodated in 10 huts.  Well I would call them huts – one below.

 

The rough council of _____ _____ thatching _____ some thing like dry _____ leaves.  Huts have _____ _____ _____ with raised platform (made of _____) some 2ft from ground this was _____ bed.  The _____ many of planks of wood but some of bamboo.  Small _____ _____ split 4 ways then tied down flat and into a pretty rough bed.  The bed platform runs the whole length of the hut except for _____ for door _____ too forms the backside. 

 

At my station without trouble.  They were very lazy.  Most of us have had _____.  Regards food, we did very well indeed.  But the result was unpleasant.  The Nip had _____ all the bridges a very rough and ready job – but if successful we had to cross very slow of course.  I had a very embarrassing arrival at B.P. Just prior to arrival at B.P. I was really in need of a visit to the latrine.  I was doubled over in pain – so when the train stopped I scrambled down to the ground _____ I realised that the station only had a platform on one side – on the other side – as did many others when the train suddenly moved of to the siding to my _____ _____ I saw the platform ____ with hundreds of Thai’s that had gathered to see the arrival of Brit POW.  Anyway, we formed groups of 50.  We had Sgt. Dalby in charge and marched into town.  It was a small place but fairly civilised.  Shops and houses lined the streets _____ have and there was a concrete building.  Our camp was only 5 yards away.  It occupies a small area between main road and railway line.

 

Syd separated from us.  _____ in some battalion.  We got a meal about 7.  Good too. The officers arrived.  Say food good and work easy.  So it seems promising.

 

The diary stops here and picks up again two years later, in June 1944 at the time when my Grandfather was transported from Singapore to the Japanese mainland. In retrospect, the last sentence seems loaded with significance; “So, it seems promising.”  The two years that followed (July 1942 to June 1944) were the hardest years of captivity that my Grandfather endured.  Several factors prevented him from continuing the diary during those two years, among them a lack of paper and pencils and difficulties in keeping things hidden due to the conditions in Thailand and Burma.  Its discovery might also have meant death.  During the interviews, my grandfather talked freely about the time he spent in Singapore, up to the point he left for Thailand, and the time he spent on mainland Japan.  However, the two years in between was a time that he would not be drawn into talking about.  Some, but not many, details about those two years can be heard though, as he does mention things from those two years indirectly in some of the stories he tells; building a radio that was hidden in the bottom of a water canteen; being chased by a baby elephant and being quarantined outside camp one night when he was sick and told that if he was still sick in the morning he would be shot.  Memories of those two years usually only came out in those moments and those stories seemed to serve as polite deflections to direct questions about that time.   

 

Notes by James:-

_______ signifies a word which cannot be transcribed

i Changi – British built army barracks actually called Selarang Barracks.  Was near the village of Changi and Changi Prison.  The British Civilian population of Singapore were taken to Changi Jail, which was one mile away from Selarang.  For various reasons Selarang came to be known as Changi.

ii Pukka. British slang. In this instance meaning “good

iii NAAFI, Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, or NAFI for short, pronounced naffy.  This is an organisation that provides goods and recreational services needed by British Armed forces.  It runs clubs, bars, shops, supermarkets, launderettes, cafes and other facilities on British military bases.  It is traditionally for Non Commissioned officers and all those ranked below.  All Commissioned officers are supposed to use their own messes. 

iv Hajime Sugiyama, was Chief of the Army General Staff, and minister of war in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.  He was, as Army Chief of Staff, a leading advocate of expansion into Southeast Asia. 

v Subhas Chandra Bose, was a leader of an Indian Independence movement that fought the British and the Allied forces before and during World War II.

vi S.A.H.Q, Southern Area Head Quarters

vii Kota Bharu, is a city on the north east corner of Malaya on the border with Thailand.  It was where the Japanese first landed on December 7th 1941 when they invaded South East Asia, starting the war in the Pacific.  From Kota Bharu they swept south through Malaysia to Singapore.

viii M.V, Possibly meaning mixed vegetables.

Bukit Timah Road.

 Kranji Wireless Station was a Royal Navy military base and at the time of the Japanese invasion of Malaya was used to store munitions.  After the fall of Singapore, the Japanese military used it as a POW camp.  There is now a war memorial and cemetery at, or near, the original site.

 I am fairly certain that this is in fact Bukit Batok Hill as that is the hill nearest to the old Ford works factory and there is currently a war memorial on top, which is said to have replaced two older memorials and Shinto shrines built by Australian and British POWs in 1942.  The memorials and Shinto Shrines were built to commemorate those who died in the Battle of Bukit Timah, which was the scene of some the heaviest fighting on Singapore.  The hill was deemed significant as it overlooked the Ford Motor Factory and this was where Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival, General Officer Commanding, HQ Malaya Command, had surrendered over 125,000 British and Commonwealth troops to Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita on the evening of 15 February 1942.

 

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Singapore 1944

 

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