Sketch by Jack Chalker

Singapore Falls

John MacMillan

diary

Into Captivity

December 1941 - February 18th 1942

 

1941

December

Wed 31st.

Hogmanay celebrated in a quiet way by the Argyll’s and Gordon’s, who are at present stationed out here, The outbreak of hostilities with Japan spoiled all their plans.

 

1942

January

Thursday 1st.

Spent very quiet New Year in contrast to one at home. Heavy air raid during the night-large fire in centre of town. Enemy still advancing on all fronts-no reinforcements here as yet.

 

Friday 2nd.

Speaking to Stevenson during the middle. Heard of  Mewse and Birch’s (Leonard Mewse, Tel DJX 160004  and Joseph J Birch, O Tel CJX 258890) escape from Port Swettenham.

Considerable numbers of Dutch airmen now operating from our airfields. Had our emergency rations issued today. Fear the worst.

 

Saturday 3rd.

Had first quiet night for some time. Received some pay today (10 dollars) - expect at least other 10$. Cost of living dear here – 3/- goes as far a 1/- at home.

 

Sunday 4th.

Ashore in Singapore with Stubbs and went as usual to the pictures. Leave now from 1 till 6.30, ample time, is not much to do. Japs reported using two men submarines.

Memo

Convoy of troops arrived today with 5 transports, which should steady our position. Hope to receive some mail from home soon.

 

Monday 5th.

Usual air raids during the night. The searchlight crews are excellent and as a rule always pick up the planes. Daylight and darkness equally divided here-12 hours each during summer and winter. Have 2 summers and 2 winters each year.

 

Tuesday 6th.

Russians now advancing on all fronts and we have captured Bardia (Al Bayda/Bardayah in Libya), thus freeing Cyrenica of enemy. Japs now landing on west coast, south of our positions coming from Penang. Wrote to Mairi and Barker.

 

Wednesday 7th.

Convoy of four merchant ships arrived last night. Hope they have some mail. Japs have now captured Kuantan drome, thus less than 200 miles from Singapore. Small tanker caught fire during the night-sunk her to put it out- result was oil burning on water all over docks.

 

Thurday 8th.

Most of the women and children now evacuated from Singapore to India and Australia. Fear this will be another Hong Kong unless they buck up.

 

Friday 9th.

Natives now becoming a bit alarmed and ready, more or, less to give up. Some reported to refuse to fight up north, thus Penang was left intact. Stevenson now left CDO.

 

Saturday 10th.

Heard there was some mail at FSA (Fleet Shore Accommodation) for us-hope to get some, if that is the case. Gordie Cowan left CDO for Nanking. It is a shame the way they are shoving the survivors about without kit. Plane shot down.

 

Sunday 11th .

Galatea sunk in Med. On 10th. By U-boat. Struck by 3 torpedoes at close range and went down in three minutes. Only 120 survivors out of crew of 600. Many of my pals would also go down.

Memo

Japanese propaganda talking of these kilted devils from Argyll. 1000’s of dollars worth of money burned at Penang. Most of P. of W. ratings sent there managed to escape and now back at FSA.

 

Monday 12th.

Had 6 hours daylight air raid. Some of our fighters shot down by AA fire. Reports received that Kuala Lumpur has been captured, which opens the way south now to Singapore. 125 Jap planes.

 

Tuesday 13th.

Another daylight air raid - long day raids now the order of the day. Slowly, but surely Singapore is being surrounded and cut off. Convoy of 4 merchant ships arrived tonight heavily escorted.

 

Wednesday 14th.

Argyll’s arrive back from the front -130 is all that is left of a whole battalion. 100 of them to hold a 30 mile front. Some hurricanes arrived with convoy, should now hit back a bit harder.

 

Thursday 15th.

Had air raid as usual, all forenoon and some stuff dropped. Heard there is definitely some mail at FSA for PoW. Very heavy rain today. Now in middle of wet season.

 

Friday 16th.

QE left yesterday after taking convoy of troops. Aussies now in action. Dutch ship caught in minefield and some 70 lost. Enemy over during the forenoon, 3 brought down, dropped number of mines in channel.

 

Saturday 17th

Air raid today by 80 planes flying in perfect formation in clear sky. Dropped bombs – lay on ground for safety. No fighters up. Large fire started in town. Life now a bit grim. Enemy still advancing – fear the worst for Singapore.

 

Sunday 18th.

Air raid as usual, large number of bombs dropped – down in trench and heard them whistling past and exploding all around. The feeling that each is a personal one certainly shakes us.

Enemy now only 150 miles from Singapore, so the siege will soon begin. Wrote home today.

 

Monday 19th.

Had raid during the morning. Feel a bit squeamish today so visited the doctor and sent to Alexandra hospital, next morning by ambulance.

 

Tuesday 20th.

Entered hospital today in middle of intense air raid. Feel none too grand and suspect that I have malaria, or dengue. Had bad night and very restless.

 

Wednesday 21st.

Temperature today 104.2F and feel extremely helpless. Can scarcely eat or, stand. Blood tested for malaria-result negative. Got violent attack of dysentery.

 

Thursday 22nd.

Much better this morning and feel fine. Although a military hospital run by nurses, I get the best of attention and put on a special diet of soups and puddings.

 

Friday 23rd

Much better now and feel normal although temperature over 100F. Enemy still advancing, especially against Aussies. The crash does not seem very far away.

 

Saturday 24th.

Hospital situated out in country in beautiful surroundings, but petrol tanks all round it, making it vulnerable to air attack.

 

Sunday 25th.

The Malays prove a treacherous band and sell us everywhere. They act as guides to Japs and desert in 100’s. The Chinese good fighters and at least loyal.

 Memo  

Air attacks now becoming more intense and on large scale. Still withdrawing according to plan.

 

Monday 26th.

Feel fine now and allowed up, but the dregs of dysentery still persist. Visited each day by Chaplin,(?Surname) Harris man, from Tarbert and takes a special interest in me.

 

Tuesday 27th.

Feel a bit weak after being in bed, but able to knock top off an egg so can’t complain. Fed well, all from tinned stores.

 

Wednesday 28th.

Got 40 cigarettes from Australian Red Cross which proved handy and kept wolf from the door. Mostly all malaria cases in ward with me so I must have been bad.

 

Thursday 29th.

Got mail from home and read it greedily over 3, or 4 times. This gave me great joy to hear how things are there. A letter is as good as medicine here.

 

Friday 30th.

Enemy still continues to advance and now threatens the island. Read through mail again with great delight.

 

Saturday 31st.

Heavy air raids during the day. Our forces withdrawn during the night from Johore, unsuspected by enemy, who left them severely alone.

 

February

Sunday 1st.

The Argyll’s were piped across the Causeway this morning(on 31st Jan.),, the last to enter the island. Causeway blown up (on 31st Jan.), so now the siege of Singapore has started. I fear it won’t be long unless reinforcements arrive, especially aircraft. Everything depends on fighters.

 

Monday 2nd.

Singapore now becomes a military town and the natives get panicky. Shops close down, labour hard to find, chaos sets in.

 

Tuesday 3rd.

Still in hospital. Expect to be discharged in few days. Enemy now preparing his positions in Johore and an attack may be expected anytime.

 

Wednesday 4th.

Oil tanks all over island burning fiercely. Naval base abandoned and more or, less destroyed, but an enormous amount of goods and ammunition left behind. Someone should pay for this neglect.

 

Thursday 5th.

Naval base shelled by heavy guns and for most of our positions on northern end of island. Gunfire heard in town.

 

Friday 6th.

Heavy pall of smoke now covers the island from the burning oil dumps. The enemy knows everything and undoubtedly we are being sold at every turn.(?spy, Heenan) Aussies commandeer Mata Hari.

 

Saturday 7th.

Heavy gunfire increases on both sides and the delayed attack of the enemy now seems to be imminent. The Aussies hold N.W. part and full of wind. Terrific artillery duel during the entire night-1000’s of shells.

 

Sunday 8th.

Enemy landed in force during the night. Aussies holding that part of the line let us down badly. Reportedly nearly all drunk. I fear now that Singapore is a doomed city. Chinese staff leave hospital and everything is disorganised. No doubt we have been sold every time.

 

Monday 9th.

Enemy landed in N.W. Singapore at Kranji Creek, in force. Our forces withdrew. Fierce fighting continues. Air raids every few minutes. Our air force leaves island and goes to Sumatra, so that’s our forces left without air support.

 

Tuesday 10th.

Oil tanks set on fire outside hospital. Town shelled and bombed continuously. Argyll’s advance 3 miles with bayonet!

 

Wednesday 11th.

Discharged from hospital to army MRC (Mixed Reinforcement Camp). Put in “B” Company, but left for Fort Canning. Fort heavily shelled all night and day but escaped any injury.

 

Thursday 12th.

Shelled and dived bombed all day at Fort Canning. Hear shells screaming over rock and crashing in town behind . Large fires all over town. Aussies roaming in town - leaving front. Army left to fight it out - no retreat.(Order)

 

Friday 13th.

Shelling now intense. Left Singapore at 8 p.m. in M.L.(Motor Launch) 432, (With 5 Royal Navy and 55 Army personnel aboard.) Consider date. Rammed Changteh (HMS Minesweeper –244t, sunk 14.2.44, by aircraft bombs) in the dark and crossed minefield. Singapore a mass of flames. Smoke like fog.

 

Saturday 14th.

Attacked in company with Grasshopper (River gunboat 625t) and Dragonfly (River gunboat        625t), by at least 150 aircraft. Both sunk. We run ashore for safety on an island, (Singkep Island) put 60 soldiers ashore and wait till dark. Ship high and dry at night.

 

Sunday 15th.

Singapore fell today at 7 a.m. Still on island and slept in open jungle with snakes and ants crawling around us. Motor Launch’s blades damaged and still unable to float her. Feed on coconuts and juice with bananas and hard biscuits. All water boiled before drinking. Slept again in open. Aircraft about all day. Bathing all day on sandy beaches.

Monday 16th.

Floated her at high tide. Expect to proceed tonight. Unable to contact soldiers in jungle. Queer tides around this coast - go out by day and enormous ebb at night.

 

Tuesday 17th.

Left island tonight at 7, for Banka Island, where intend to hide by day. Heavy sea running and she rolled a bit.

 

Wednesday 18th.

Captured at dawn by Jap cruiser (?Light Cruiser Sendai Class) and taken to Banka. Japs looted ship –all ships which left Singapore on 13th, I fear captured.

 

Captivity

 

 

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[John MacMillan] [Sinking of Prince of Wales] [Into Captivity] [Captivity]

 

 

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