Sketch by Jack Chalker

Sunk off Manila 1st Time

So again I was alone and again I stared to paddle for the shore. After about three hours or thereabouts I got closer to the shore and there the Phillipinos were holding long bamboo poles out to us to help us ashore. I then lay on the beach gathering my thoughts which were broken by 'Curra'. There they were, Jap soldiers standing over me, good God, I thought, don't tell me I am recaptured, 'So be it.' They took me to a building and there I joined about forty other P.O.W.'s who had made the shore before me. They told me afterwards that some P.O.W.'s had been picked up by an American submarine and taken to Saipan, lucky sods! But all in all we lost around one thousand and three hundred P.O.W.'s on that ship.

Now the Japs refused to feed us after our recapture, but the natives volunteered to give us some of their rations. This was given to us in the form of a half of a coconut shell full of rice and soup. It was extremely meagre, twice a day, but it helped to keep body and soul together. As for night time, it got very cold and, of course, we had no clothes whatsoever, only what we stood up in, a pair of shorts, so to keep warm, we lay back-to back and tried to keep warm as best we could. How much can one's body stand' I thought. Well, we were there about a week, then transport arrived and we were taken to Bilibid prison on Manila, my first meeting with American P.O.W.'s from Battan and Corrigidor. Naturally their first question was 'Where did you come from?' We told them what had happened and they were overjoyed. They had visions that the American forces were on their way back and they would soon be free.

So I found myself behind bars in prison. God what was next.

Nevertheless, we soon became used to our new surroundings and this time, there was no hard work to do, just sit and wait for the next move.

This was the first time also we had different food. The same old rice of course, but cooked in a different way. The rice was made of some kind of pudding called 'Lugal', we seemed to get a good ration, but this of course turned to water and the loo was visited quite often.

Now here I experienced something new. In this pnson I met up with two men deported from America for certain crimes etc. The Japs had used Taiwanese to help with the guarding of us P.O.W.'s in this prison and I found out that these couple of guys were trading pills to the Taiwanese for more food. Now when we arrived in this prison these guys were very interested where us 'Limeys' came from, telling them meant their getting extra food, it was worth it.

Well, as I have said, we had nothing to do in the prison but watch the Americans play poker, pokey die and other such games. There must have been about two hundred Americans in the prison and the usual forty British. They treated us very well with what they had, because as I have said coming off a sunken ship we had nothing. Now and again we would hear machine-gunning and we would make for the barred windows and see the dog fights with the Jap Zeros and the American P38. This was a wonderful sight and it gave us more heart to carry on this miserable life. God knows how much longer one's body and soul could stand it, and again the thought of home came uppermost so it was a case of soldiering on.

The Japs did not bother us a lot here, we had nowhere to go anyway, only lay and loll about waiting for the next meal of 'Lugal'. Now we were here for about two weeks and then a rumour went round that we were again to be on the move, where to was anyone's guess. But it happened. We were put in trucks and taken to the docks in Manila and put on board another ship, 'Not Again' I thought. The forty British boys kept together in the hold the best way we could, right up in one corner, the remainder were all American P.O.W.'s. Also on this ship there were some Jap V.I.P.'s returning to Japan. It was on this ship that I saw one of the best fights I have ever seen in my life.

It all started again because of the ration of food. We knew we were not getting our fair share and with the majority of P.O.W.'s being American, I suppose they thought they were entitled to more than us British, so one of our buddies who weighed about seven stone went up to the guy issuing the ration and complained about the ration he had received. Well with no more to do, the American who was a big brawney chap got hold of this tommy and threw him across the hold, picked him up and challenged him to a fight.

Of course, the poor guy did not stand a chance against the American and declined, but immediately from the back of the hold, one of his mates came forward and offered the American his services. This challenger worked in the cookhouse in the P.O.W. camp and looked pretty fit, we learned afterwards he was the boxing champion of his regiment. Well part of the floor was cleared and the fight began, bare fists. I had never experienced anything like it, in the end the American gave in to the terrible onslaught from the Scotsman and was pleased to apologise to the other tommy who he'd thrown across the floor. At the end, they all embraced and everyone became the best of friends. But what a fight, where they got the energy from God only knows. The Jap guards were looking down into the bold and they seemed to be enjoying the show also.

After everyone had settled down again an extraordinary thing happened. Somehow or other, one of the splines in the bulk-head became very loose, we knew it needed a little help and eventually it came away altogether. On the other side of the bulkhead was a sight for sore eyes, cases and cases of tinned tomatoes were staring us in the face. The raid was on, this find was distributed all round the hold and boy what a great time everybody had, not a cheep came from anyone, they were all too busy eating tinned tomatoes, but the burning question was, what's going to happen when the Japs find Out? Never mind we would cross that bridge when we came to it and in the meantime, fill our stomachs and enjoy ourselves.

Now the funny thing was nothing was said about what happened to the tomatoes, we all expected a good hiding or something to that effect from the Japs but this did not happen, were they getting soft or were they aware they were getting beaten in other parts of the war, and were scared about what was going to happen to them when they were finally beaten. We always knew that this was going to happen, eventually, but for how much longer before our prayers were answered, please God let it be soon. In the meantime we were imprisoned in the ship for two days before we set sail. They gave us no water and the food they gave us came down in buckets, rice of course, the nearest ones to the steps were lucky, they had the lot and a riot started and there were fights all over the place, where one got the energy from God only knows. The Jap guards enjoyed this knocking the hell out of one another. Finally, we settled down and eventually we were on the move, this time we were immediately battened down and everywhere became very dark. The shouting and groaning became very loud during the night and one wished sometimes, that it would all end one way or another.

Then all of a sudden something did happen, there was a rush of water into the hold - we had been torpedoed by an American submarine. Good God, I thought, not again. This time we were only about two miles off the shore. The ship took quite some time to sink, so a lot of us got out, climhed down the rope ladders on the side of the ship and with the help of rafts made for the shore.

Again we were recaptured and put in an old tennis court to await our fate. There was no means of getting water to drink or cooked food, so we were given two spoonfuls of uncooked rice three times per day. This went on for three days, you can imagine the way we felt. How much longer, please God, how much longer?

 

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Sunk off Manila - 2nd Time