There were various people who deserve a mention for various reasons.
‘Flash’ Harris, was a Gunner in the 9th Coast, who had come to Singapore with a terrible reputation. I think it was one of those situations after War had been declared and Conscription brought in, that “you can have a choice, join the Army or go to Prison?” In some cases it was easier to send them to War than to send them to Prison. We had our share in the Regiment, most would turn out to be good soldiers, some would stay the way they were till they either gave up and died or managed to survive to the end of hostilities.
One such character was ‘Flash’ Harris. He was never off Charge, he would work out some way to malinger and skive out of every duty you could think of. Possibly the worst thing I can remember was in order not to have to do Parades, or Duty and with the possibility of a Discharge from the Army, ‘Flash’ took Sandpaper to his penis, and rubbed it raw and bloody, then reported to the MO that he had contacted a ‘New’ for of sexually Transmitted Disease which could not be cured! Just think of the pain, just to get out of work and Drills!
Another character was ‘Pinky’ Riley’, who was a Private when we arrived at Wampo, he was very quick to learn and was soon promoted to Sergeant and worked alongside Capt. Pavillard as his assistant. I had personal experience of his ‘gentle art’ when I contracted Tropical ulcers. the treatment was quite simple, you reported sick, you were placed on a bamboo bench in the ‘Medical Section’ two of your mates held your shoulders and another held your leg. ‘Pinky’ would approach, [he never seemed to have a sense of humour at the best of times!], “Right this is going to hurt a bit, but it’s better than having the leg off, ain’t it?” Would be his sort of comment, then out would come the desert spoon, plunged into boiling water then straight into the ulcer it would go. ‘Pinky’ would scrape away the puss and other muck and with a deft squeeze would run the juice of a lemon/lime into the wound,, with a “That’s better isn’t it?” he would then move on to the next patient, whilst you waited to come down off the attap of the ‘Hospital’ roof! But without ‘Pinky’ and the many other volunteers like him, many more men would not have returned home.
Lieutenant /Acting Captain
There were also those who could have crawled head first through a Dung heap and still come up smelling of Roses. One of these was the Lieutenant /Acting Captain, who upon the death in Singapore, of his immediate superior officer, promptly promoted himself to Major. He spoilt my love of cricket for the rest of my life. I could not bear to hear his smug, plum in mouth, self praising tones which brought back memories of his greed and selfishness whilst in Camp.
He had his good points, such as entertaining the Lads, with talks on Sport, for which he was well informed. But he would avoid, work, he invented ‘mystery’ illnesses’ and ‘wounds’ when ever it looked like he might have to be ‘involved’ with ‘the other Ranks’. He had a Batman as he was not ‘able’ to do any of the menial tasks himself. He had a Uniform, long after everybody else had just their ‘ Jap happy’. He was always the one with the eggs, but was never able to find it possible to give one or more to the Hospital, “they must have been stolen or broken before I was able to pass them on”. He just happens to stand out, but there were many of the Regular Officer class who were above themselves and did not have a clue as to the needs of the Men. They were incapable of offering the necessary support to their NCO’s, which would often mean that men were beaten for no just cause at all. Nor were they able to stand up and be counted when called upon, with regard to the Nip’s, as so many of the Senior Officers from the Territorial Forces were able to do. There is no wonder that they needed to be segregated from the rest of the men for most of their time as POW’s. There were of course many good Officer’s, many of these were included in with those who failed to return when hostilities ceased.