Corporal William Rafter
Royal Air Force
This is his story
Bill (Corporal William Rafter) was serving in the Royal Air Force at Seletar Air Base with 100 Squadron. This is his story.
We moved from here down the length of Sumatra, Java and Batavia, along the way we had collected various lorries and other vehicles and as we moved along so the Japanese were landing alongside us on the Coastal edges. One of our first meals I remember was a great plate of boiled rice with an egg on the top, this was totally alien to us and they had to go and find us some proper food, which they managed somehow. After we had been captured we were put to work in Batavia reclaiming land for the Japanese to build an airfield on. Eventually we were sent back to Singapore where we stayed for about 4 weeks doing various jobs around the Docks and the City. Eventually we were sent on a Japanese Troopship to Nagasaki where we worked in a mine.
When the Atom Bomb dropped I was in the Camp, which was about 8 miles from the City itself and protected from the immediate effects by a mountain between the Bomb and us. Even so, I had my back to it when it went off and the flash was like a thousand photographers Flashguns all going off together. The blast of the shock wave when it arrived blew me down a narrow passage where I was standing about 100 yards onto the base of a pylon, which was about 5 feet high.
Afterwards we watched long snakes of children and older students coming towards us from Nagasaki, they appeared to be dressed in ragged clothing and pyjama like clothing. When they got closer to us we could see that some were in rags but for many it was their skin hanging off their bodies and the designs of their clothing had been burnt into their very flesh. It was quite horrific.
Shortly after the Bomb had exploded a Silver B24 with a big sign on the side, flew over photograph the effects of the Bomb. Our Guards were horrified when we all ran out into the parade ground, waving our tattered clothes and blankets in an attempt to attract the attention of the B24. But the Guards did not try to stop us if I remember correctly.
The plane saw us and turned and flew round the Camp eventually flying underneath one of the electricity wires on the pylons and we could see the Perspex nose of the plane was full of cameras.
The next day this same plane flew over us and dropped ‘K’ Rations and notes telling us we were now FREE!
Later American Mustangs I think they were, with Tiger markings on their fuselage, flew low over the Camp and dropped First Aid Packs these were followed by more B24’s who dropped big black oil drums full of food.
Much later landing craft came into the bay, but only after the Japanese navy had cleared all the mines out of it, and ferried us out to a waiting converted Aircraft carrier and Tanker, which were used as Hospital Ships.
We then went to, I think it was Iwo Jima but had to go back out to sea to miss a Typhoon. It was quite funny really, because all the sailors were seasick and we lot, the POW’s were all fine!
From here we flew in the bomb bays of B29’s to Honolulu where the British Aircraft Carrier ‘Indefatigable’ took us to Canada. We wondered why we were going all this long way home, but it was to put a bit of meat back on our skeletal bodies. From here we went across country to the East Coast and then back home. We came into Liverpool and the train got struck in Crewe. Well we had been given a special Phone number to ring, which I did and eventually someone said, “What on Earth are you doing there? You should be home by now!” So we got on a special train all the way to Scarborough. When I got there I was met by seven or eight members of my family, who came and just threw my Javanese and Australian Carry bags out of the window for the family to catch.
I do remember that my mother was very upset when I arrived home that day.”
Bill is now 86 years of age (2007).