The Rising Sun On My Back
“War is waged by men not beast, but there would be occasions when I could not distinguish the one from the other”.
Early on the morning of January 31st 1942 under a bright full moon the remnants of British units who had retreated the length of the Malay Peninsular, filed across the causeway between Jahore and Singapore Island to prepare for a siege defence.
At 19.50 on February 15th 1942 (two weeks later) Lt. General A.E. Percival, G.O.C. Malaya, signed the instrument of British surrender to Lt. General Tomoyuki Yamashito commander of the victorious Japanese 35th Army.
The news was shattering. The skies could have fallen more easily than the famed and boasted Fortress Island. Singapore was collapse, ceasefire, abject surrender.
A sense of shame has persisted and is implicit in the stubborn refusal of successive Parliaments to conduct an official enquiry into all the circumstances of the collapse. I, and I’m sure everyone else would like to know the truth. The surrender cost me three and a half years of mental and physical torture at the hands of the Japanese. It also, with many thousand more, after two years of hell, cost my farther his life. In the prison camps we swore there would be a reckoning when we returned to tell our story.
We were not to blame. We accused those in authority - The Government - the Generals. Churchill blamed us when he said “This is a disaster, the worst disaster and the largest capitulation in our history. The retreat from Dunkirk in 1940 was a heavy blow, but the heroes of Dunkirk had not surrendered” The answer to all the doubts and rumours would have been a Royal Commission while men who knew the truth were still alive. That opportunity is passing as more and more die, many of whom never ceased to suffer - soon it will be to late.
I have been persuaded to set down my experience and in the following pages I have attempted to record my story as readably and as faithfully as I can, the root of the story, dates etc. are based on an account that I wrote as soon as I returned home in 1946. I make this one plea - Remember the “yellow peril” and their lasting confidence that in the end they will prevail, even to a hundred years, it will be fatal for us to forget.