We officially surrendered to the Japanese on the 15th of February 1942. Our hospital was near to the Singapore Cricket Ground. I said to one of my colleagues; “How about going to the cricket pavilion to see what we can pick up?” Anything would be useful because we would soon be in a P.O.W. Camp. We knew that all the Divisions had been captured so anything and everything would be useful and many small things we may be able to utilise.
So, off we went. There was no-one about, or so we thought at the time. I saw a beautiful new pair of shoes and picked them up. All of a sudden a scream of “Kurrah!”. I nearly defecated in my pants (this was the only way I can explain the fear that came over me at that time).
The Japanese soldier was small and mean looking. Hearing that word made me think; “That’s it. The sod’s going to kill me.” My mate and I were standing to attention like two Grenadier Guardsmen, waiting for whatever he was going to dish out in the way of pain. His rifle was at the ready and I expected a bullet to rip into me at any moment. However, it didn’t, because all he wanted was the beautiful new shoes that I had just found. God only knows where those shoes came from but I am eternally grateful to the person who left them there. I immediately handed them over to him and he beamed all over his face. He thanked me profusely and wandered on his way. Funny creatures! I often wondered what would have happened had I refused him.
To have such a lucky escape, he must’ve been one of the ‘nice’ Japs – or he had never seen a pair of shoes like those in his life.
We knew that it wouldn’t be long before we were all rounded up and put into the P.O.W. Camps. We met up with some other of our soldiers and decided, one night, to go out and see what we could find. The idea was that things might be worth taking into the prison camps. The chaps I was with decided to break into a bank. I told him that money would be of no use to them because the Japanese would change the currency. I broke into a store and stole two kit-bags full of cigarettes. I was a non-smoker but I had seen what people would do for just one cigarette. The few clothes I took, with the cigarettes, were to remain my friends for the next eighteen months – either to share out with my mates or to barter for food.
I didn’t want riches or wealth, just food, and it was to give me many surprises in the way that people offered goods for just one cigarette. But I assure you that those cigarettes were put to good use, and many of my colleagues were to thank me for my foresight.
Our hospital was desperately short of food. Someone told me that the racecourse on the outskirts of Singapore had been a supply depot before the Japanese had invaded the island. A driver, a Eurasian girl (nurse) and myself volunteered to go to the racecourse and see what we could pick up. We boarded the ambulance and set off. We wore huge Red Crosses all over us because we’d heard that the Japanese recognised the insignia.
Halfway to our intended destination – again we heard that dreaded word “Kurrah!” Our ambulance stopped sharply and our driver came round to open the back door where we were. The Japanese saw our Eurasion nurse and they went crazy. Four of those pigs battered her from head to foot. They certainly didn’t like Eurasians. They crushed her pelvis with their rifle-butts. The poor, helpless girl bled profusely as they dragged her away.
That young nurse was incredibly brave and she cried out to me; “I will never see you again Nurse Sam!” We went to help her but again we heard that dreaded scream of “Kurrah!” and we stood rigid and felt that we were next to death’s door. They had eyes only for that poor unfortunate girl – no lust – just hatred, and their whole attitude was one of sheer brutality. What was one to do in that situation? We could only shrug our shoulder and get on with the job. Sounds callous, I know, but if anyone at all had interfered, they would have just shot them.
The Japanese soldiers were all alike – cruelty was just a way of life to them. They had no respect for human life – not even their own. One could sense that they wanted us to retaliate so that they would have an excuse to do the same to us. They wanted to know where we were going and luckily they understood our antics to describe the racecourse and they gave us directions.
We found the racecourse and we were given a load of edibles because we were Red Cross. The trip turned out to be worthwhile and the effort put into the exercise gave us much pleasure. But, the horror of losing that poor little nurse gave us many sleepless nights.
Upon arriving back at our hospital, we were congratulated for getting the supplies. But at such a cost.