If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
Rest in Peace on Kranji Hill
We were still losing patients, if one could call them that because they were just skin and bone. It was a sort of blessing when they died because their terrible condition meant that they would have ended up as invalids, and who the hell wants to live as an invalid for the rest of their life? In Kranji, they were buried on the top of that lovely hill – and the strains of the bugle have haunted me many times since those days. Such a peaceful aura used to settle upon me whenever anyone was buried.
The horrifying numbers of deaths I have seen in those Death Camps have a strange effect on me. I want to kill every Japanese that I’ve seen on my return to England. I was very young at the time and I never saw an old man die in the camps. They were all so young – so very young. It is a mixed sort of blessing that I can say that I’ve never ever killed anyone.
During the last three months of our P.O.W. existence, we saw numerous flights of Yankee Super-fortress Bombers pass over the camps. The very first time we saw them, we all dived for cover – for what coverage there was anyway; sticks and cardboard, whatever protection that would have offered.
Obviously the Yanks would have known the exact location of the prison camps, and they would have certainly had bigger fish than us to fry. It did indicate however that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and our wireless told us that our release wouldn’t be so far away.
During that period, Yashata came to the camp and told me that if anything unusual happens, it would be wise for me to make my way into the jungle. He told me also that he didn’t know if he would ever be able to return to the camp to see me again. He asked me if I would write to him when I got home.
Always, I have tried to be straight with people and I told his interpreter that I COULDN’T write to him because of the atrocities that his Japanese counterparts had committed against my fellow countrymen. That alone forbade me to write to any Japanese. He was sad but he obviously understood my feelings. We shook hands and I too was sad – very sad.
Many was the good deed that man YASHATA had done for me and my football comrades and it was mainly due to the friendship of that man which enabled us to survive those hell-holes. But, the most haunting thing in my mind was the barbaric ways the Japanese had killed my poor colleagues. That alone outweighed the things that Yashata had done for us. I still wiped a few tears from my eyes as he walked away from me for the last time.
I started to look forward to my release.
Extract from poem ‘IF’ by Rudyard Kipling