On Saturday, 7th December 1941 at 21.15 hours, Japanese planes bombed the Naval Base and the City of Singapore, there had been no declaration of War, land Ack Ack and Ack Ack from the Royal Naval ships, including Prince of Wales and Repulse engaged the enemy.
British troops entered Thailand. Japanese troops were engaged and force our troops to withdraw. Prince of Wales and Repulse sail to prevent the Jap's from landing, they are engaged by torpedo carrying aircraft and sunk. The Jap's advance down Malaya towards Singapore very fast: mostly by infiltration by sea and jungle. Practically all the Allied aircraft have been shot down. Japanese land on Singapore at Kranzi and the Naval Base. The Coastal Defence guns at Changi and Blaki-mati are used as land guns: engaged Jap's at Johore, Puli-ubin, Bukit Timah, Kranzi and Seletar.
February 12th, situation is critical, the Coastal Defence guns are demolished by explosives. Changi Garrison is ordered to evacuate: marched the 14 miles to Singapore where we arrived at the Indian Recreation Ground at 01.30 hours, 13th February 1942. The Unit is formed into an infantry Battalion: Companies used as support troops, the Battalion H.Q. being situated at Tek-Ho Hotel. The civilian casualties are very heavy; the water shortage has been caused by the reservoirs being in Jap hands. Singapore is being battered by aerial bombing, artillery fire, trench mortars and machine gun fire. The Medical Officer's are unable to cope with the increasing number of wounded. The dead lie unburied.
Type of propaganda leaflet dropped by the Japanese over Singapore
February 14th, Battalion H.Q. is moved to the White House Hotel. The Jap's enter Alexandra Military Hospital and under the pretence that Indian troops had used the Hospital and grounds as a strong point, shot or bayoneted most of the wounded, doctors and orderlies. They then paraded most of the remainder and throw hand-grenades amongst them. (It was later established that some 320 died in the attack including, I believe, five of their own, injured, Japanese soldiers who had been captured. Of these 230 were patients, the rest were Medical Officers and Nurses. The Murderers, for such they were, were of the Japanese Imperial Guard, taking retaliation for the losses incurred upon them by the Australian’s in the previous days).
At 16.30 hours, on the 15th February 1942, the Allied Troops are informed, that all fighting must cease, Singapore has capitulated to Japan. The Island Fortress was no more.
16th February 1942; Japanese troops enter Singapore. The Allied troops are granted one days rest.
17th February 1942, Allied Prisoners of War, including Civilian internees, (women and children), are marched from Singapore to Changi, a distance of 14 miles. The British go to Robert's and Kitchener Barracks area, Australians to Selertang Park area and the civilian internees to Changi Civil Prison - the women and children entered singing 'There'll always be an England'.
Roberts Barracks was to be used as the P.O.W. Hospital, the Japanese H.Q., ordering that the Officers would remain with their own units, and would be held responsible to the Imperial Japanese Army for Administration and Discipline of the P.O.W.'s in accordance with I.J.A. Regulations and Orders. The conditions here were quite favourable, but overcrowded with the wounded from Singapore being evacuated to Roberts Hospital.
All the Chinese who fought with or who were employed by the British, were rounded up by the Jap's, taken to Changi and Blaki-Mati beaches and machine-gunned.
Japanese Prisoner Tag
My Unit was moved to "E Block", Kitchener Barracks, from the Searchlight Sheds, the total accommodated in one block 738, peacetime accommodation 80. The P.O.W.'s were ordered on to Jap Rations, 16 ounces of Rice, 2 ounces of Meat, 2 ounces of Flour Green Vegetables, Sugar, etc..
Dysentery is increasing, the deaths are mounting due in part to the shortage of water and fuel, and so parties were detailed for tree felling and the drawing of water. Because of this situation some of the Troops started to break the Bounds in search of food. Many were caught and after severe beatings, were forced to stay on open tennis courts for two to three days without food, or were made to act as servants to the newly formed 'Indian Nationalist Army".
In March 1942, three P.O.W.'s, Gunners Hunter, Jefferies and McCann, broke camp, and proceeded to Singapore in search of food. They managed to enter Singapore, but found that they could not get out again, so they changed from uniform into civilian clothes and hid up for four days. They were eventually caught and lodged in Changi Jail, Court Maritaled by the I.J.A. and sentenced to be shot, for "Escaping from a P.O.W. Camp with the purpose of Espionage". Appeals against this sentence were made, but were rejected by the I.J.A. The three condemned men were made to dig their own graves and they were then shot. [Their average age was 21 years]. After this the I.J.A. issued an order to the effect 'That if the breaking out of camp did not cease, severe reprisals would be taken".
The cases of dysentery and cases of Beriberi, [caused through the lack of vitamins] were by now much more acute, the death roll was increasing.
Working parties were detailed for Singapore, i.e.: - Kranzi, River Valley, Havelock Road and Bukit Timah, the work entailed: loading and unloading ships, clearing bomb damage, the building of storehouses, barracks and the building on Bukit Timah Heights a Shrine to commemorate the capitulation of the British Forces at Singapore and in the memory of the 95,000 Japanese who lost their lives in the occupation of Malaya and Singapore.
Atrocities committed against the Chinese whilst we were there included, beheading and the placing of these heads on the tops of railings, the bodies being left and placarded. Many Chinese being publicly flogged, this included women and children.
All the Officers, Colonel's and above were separated from the other P.O.W.'s and were sent to Formosa.
In May 1942 we arrived at Haverlock Road, [The Civilian Evacuation Camp. The camp was in a filthy state, no water, no cookhouse or cooking utensils, disease was rampant, Dysentery, Beriberi, Diphtheritic Testicles and Ulcerated limbs. We pulled down the old Latrines the material being used in the erection of cookhouses, stores, Medical Inspection Rooms, etc.
During June several incidents occurred: -
1 A British P.O.W. caught outside the Camp was sentenced to ten days rigourous imprisonment, on rice and water, severely beaten openly every evening. Each morning he was forced to dig a grave in the vicinity of the Guard Room, and made to fill it in again each evening.
2 During the erection of the huts at River Valley, the Japanese Guard in charge, inclined to be friendly and used to spar with a certain P.O.W. One morning the P.O.W. hit too hard and laid the Nip out for the count. The Guard duly arrived and took the P.O.W. to the Guard House were he was mercilessly beaten, Court Marshalled, taken to a tree and tied by his neck, hands and feet so that he was standing on his toes, not on the flat of his feet. He was left there for seven days, without food and only small quantities of water; he had to pass both motion and urinated in this position, during the day out in the sun, with no shade of any kind. On the seventh day he was released and immediately admitted to Hospital in a pitiful condition.
3 Boots or footwear of any kind became worn out, consequently men could not go to work barefooted, [although some repair work was carried out]. This meant that working parties decreased in size, the Nips tried to enforce them to be sent to work, but after two or three days, men fell sick and were unable to walk. Twice during one week the Nips turned all sick and bootless out and made them double about seven miles round and round the Camp until men dropped out either through pain or physical exhaustion.
Through hard work, camps were made habitable, water both for cooking and for washing, etc., was laid on. Food was fairly good, meat and fish being issued, also 40 cigarettes every ten days, football was allowed and inside Hut Concerts were held.
In September 1942, the I.J.A. P.O.W. Commander at Changi, ordered that all P.O.W's accommodated there, would sign a declaration to the effect as follows:-
"That I, 1525123 R.Q.M.S. NELLIS A.E., do hereby agree that I will not escape or try to escape and will obey all I.J.A. Rules and Regulations" (or words similar to that effect). Signed A.E. Nellis, RQMS. Date."
The British Commandant refused to allow anyone to sign, as it was illegal to the Laws of War.
The I.J.A. immediately ordered that all P.O.W's in the Changi Area will move in to Selerang Park, (less the personnel in Roberts Barracks Hospital).
The Selerang Incident by Charles Thrale
15,019 Officers and men were herded into a space 250 yards by 150 yards, this space in peace time accommodated 800 officers and men, having seven barrack blocks with the parade square. The Parade Square was used for cooking, latrines, etc., the blocks for sleeping, ranks sleeping in three hour shifts, even using the roof, no rations were allowed, ranks feeding on the small amounts they had managed to bring with them. Water was very limited only a very few taps were available, and then only for cookhouse use. The Japanese posted guards with machine guns, which encircled the whole area. Conditions became vile, insufficient latrines, no water, very little food, chances of the outbreaks of dysentery or plague became very great, but the P.O.W's spirit was wonderful.
After three days the I.J.A. Commander stated that if the P.O.W's did not sign he would move into the same area, 3 to 4,000 sick, wounded and dying men from the Roberts Barracks. To stop this happening, and to save unnecessary loss of life, the order was given for ranks to sign the declaration, but only under duress. After signing the PO.W's were returned to their original quarters.
Late in September 1942, the first Red Cross supply boat arrived in Singapore. On the 10th October 1942 the following Red Cross supplies were issued as follows: -
To Cookhouses - Malbela Porridge, Flour, Sugar, Milk, Bacon, Dehydrated Soup, Jam, Tinned Fruit, Tinned Vegetables etc.
Per Person - One pair of boots, Socks, Handkerchief, Shirt, Vest, Shorts, Towel, Shorts Drawers (Underpants), 75 cigarettes, 4 Tins of Milk, 4 Tins of Meat and Veg, 3 Tins of Corned Beef, Vitamin Toffees, Biscuits and 1 Tin of Jam or Fruit.
On the 11th October my Battalion was ordered to stand by to move to an unknown destination, only personal kit would be allowed to be taken, (carried). Each man volunteered to carry extra Red Cross rations and Medical Supplies. The remainder had to be left behind, so most of the Red Cross issue of supplies were of no use or benefit to any of us.
The End of our Defence. Singapore.
On the 12th February 1942, we destroyed the Coastal Defence Guns and ancillary support areas Changi Garrison is ordered to evacuate. March the 14 miles to Singapore where we arrive at the Indian Recreation Ground on the 13th February 1942, being subjected to continual air attack. [The Nips always seemed to send over formations of 27 planes for some unexplained reason.] Here we are formed into an Infantry Battalion. Being used as support troops. We are located down Ayer Raja Road, away from the Admiralty Oil Tanks and close to the Alexandra Road Base Military Hospital. Our H.Q. is the Tec-Ho Hotel. We are being subjected to intense Artillery, Trench Mortar and Machine Gun fire. On the 14th February 1942, Battalion H.Q. is moved to the White House Hotel. Troops have been digging graves in the grounds of the Alexandra Hospital. 15th February 1942, we are informed that we have surrendered to the Nips. We are totally shocked, we had been told we were being ordered to ‘Fight to the Last Man’ and had prepared to do so. Why have our leaders let us down yet again? I have yet to see one face to face, although I have had lots of experience of ‘hearing’ their incoming munitions!