In 1950 after I had said goodbye to the army to settle down in civvy street, I had time to consider if what I had experienced in my so far short existence had really been worth while. I was thirty years of age and I felt that I had already used up more than fifty years of my life, having assisted in the disposal of hundreds of the casualties of war, including many friends and comrades. Also witnessing the ugly head of jealousy and its resultant carnage, I had, similar to my friends and comrades, reached the bottom of the barrel of despair, my aim now was to try to tell the world about the Japanese and their vile insidious method and dispensation of cruelty. It was imperative that I get my imperceptible message across to the families of those men who in my opinion had been betrayed by their own government, into giving away their lives on the whim of a jumped up picayune Member of Parliament.
Unfortunately I had no means by which to do this. With just a council school education I left school when I was fourteen years of age, and apart from being able to count up to twenty without having to resort to taking my shoes off, and being able to read such books as Treasure Island, and Rudyard Kiplings book of poems, I was considered, and I also considered myself thick. Many times trying to put pen to paper and each time realising more than ever that I was never going to be able to fulfil this ambition.
Finally I obtained a second hand typewriter, and although it had seen better days, it gave me a new lease of purpose. So I settled down and compelled myself every day, to type at least one page. Using just two fingers and with no knowledge whatsoever about using the noisy machine, I struggled for more than a year to produce a rough draft of “One God Too Many Devils". And began hawking it around to the various newspaper editors and reporters, who in the main although being sympathetic, could never find the time to even look at the synopsis.
So my manuscript, such as it was, was consigned to an old set of drawers in the attic. And there it remained for several years while I attempted to get on with my life and trying to get rid of the ghosts of the past, but no matter how hard I tried, the faces and the ghostly reminders of those fine young men continued to reappear in my minds eye and more than that, in my nightmares. They say that time heals most wounds, however this was most certainly not true in my case. Each day, maybe in the morning or during the morning break, just a fleeting moment of reflection, hearing a certain song. seeing the clouds create a certain formation, the sound of a plane in the sky, and a whole scene of bastardy, devastation and waste would appear. On some occasions it would be the same scene reappearing, but mainly there was always a sickening jolt to my memory as certain happenings which I had long tried to forget, began to re-appear.
When I eventually recovered my manuscript several years later and having now basically taught myself how to put on paper what was really on my mind, I set about producing a more presentable manuscript, which I named “Squaddie”. A title which was later changed to “One God Too Many Devils”, I posted the manuscript to several well-known publishing houses, but without success. Finally my book was produced in November 1989, in what later became very distressing circumstances. During the period when the book was being sold I was caused on more than one occasion to reflect on the anathema in my choice of publisher, a local Stockport magistrate, named Dyer, who throughout my whole dealings with him was emphatic that his name should not be revealed. Although he had produced a presentable book, he had no knowledge at all about the means of selling it. I doubt that he ever read the manuscript, to him it was just a means of providing him with unearned cash. The first fifteen hundred books were sold at £14.95 each and I never received a penny for my work. Indeed after twelve months I was to find myself purchasing the balance of my books from the printers, just to have them pulped to ensure that my publisher could not continue with his thieving. It was quite like having my memories consigned to the knackers yard. After having been incarcerated by the Japanese for more than three and a half years, and after working hard for some considerable time financing, researching and putting on paper my every memory, I received not one penny for my endeavours, and in my mind I came to reflect that what I had put into the book was really true. There are obscure devils and I had found yet another one, a devious and cunning egotist, more or less a much smaller image of the great leader Churchill, but a devil never the less. I had been lulled into a false sense of security by the meaningless quotations and garble that the book would be a best seller and I have since thought to myself. If “One God” had been a best seller, what would the true story of Singapore be?
The British government, similar to most governing bodies have a distinct aversion to having their dirty washing aired in public, and to ensure that this does not happen they bring in official secrecy laws, in an attempt to block any revelations which might show our great nation in an uncomplimentary light. Although certain revelations might be true, a critical eye would be turned in the direction of the perpetrator, even though such incident might have occurred many years ago. The British are past masters in the art of cover up and whitewash. For instance Palestine, where murder was committed in the name of the British protectorate, where active service conditions were said to be good training for the men.
India where the blatant mass murder of hundreds of followers of Ghandi was put down to terrorism. Malaya and Singapore supposedly the bastion of the British Empire, but written off by Churchill more than two years before the Japanese invaded Malaya. This was done without first warning the men and women whose lives were to be forfeit. It is not only the British who are capable of duplicity and perverse meandering policies however. The Germans with their non-Aryan attitude. The Japanese and their sanctifying but meaningless Samurai, Daimios and Bushido doctrine. Meaningless that is to anyone but themselves within their own depraved minds, who posture around in self adoration with proclamations of being future world leaders. But behind it all, the lust for the type of power which only wealth can procure.
As was once quoted to me by a most senior Japanese officer at Uttaradit Thailand in 1945 “To obtain world domination, one must first acquire complete economic superiority” (This acquisition having failed by force, has been the Japanese goal since the end of the second world war). During my researches I have needed to travel back to those places where as a soldier my orders had been to kill. No explanation was ever given as to why I should need to put to death several men I had never known, and who, had it not been for my being involved in the present situation, I would most likely never have even heard of. Our orders had been to kill with no explanation being given. Any hesitation or the quizzical lifting of an eyebrow would be deemed an act of mutiny, and when asking the question why, the reply was always the same. “Because it is your duty”. Nothing has ever changed. Even today, service men and women are never given the option to question why they should go to some foreign country and put their lives on the line. The only reply any would receive would be "because it is your duty". When I returned to Singapore in order to do research for my books, as well as meeting once again with the young interpreter Itu Nakahama, I was introduced to Akira Nagoya, a one time sergeant who had served with the Japanese Imperial Guards division, in Shanghai, the Philippines and Burma.
He had been one of those who had landed on the East Coast of Singapore on the 13th February 1942. On comparing notes, he was probably one of those who were in the attacking force at Paya Lebar where I lay in wait behind my machine gun. We met on at least two occasions and discussed the merits and demerits of fighting for a cause which was so vague. Each supposedly fighting for freedom, mine for democratic freedom, his supposedly for freedom of the Asians from colonial rule. We talked about certain of our comrades who had paid the supreme sacrifice to the Gods of war. Occasionally there was a lull in our conversation when the sergeant would mutter, “Yoroshiku-kyo-kichigai”, after which he would become silent for a short while. Before we parted to go our separate ways, I asked him the meaning of the words he had so often repeated, and he smiled at my ignorance. “Kichigai” he said . “Where are all the Madmen”. Then went on to explain that for any man to have taken part, or been involved in the many acts of violence and killing which had occurred in the Far East would most certainly need to be at least, part mad, and when I think back to those years between 1939 and 1945, I am inclined to agree.
I remained in contact with Nagoya and Itu for several years. In the meantime I told Nagoya that I was about to write a book, and would he have any objections to my use of certain matters to which he had related and he readily agreed. Later I contacted a young Chinese irregular I once knew Lim Hung who immediately before the fall of Singapore, was introduced to me as a former Chinese anti Japanese freedom fighter who also had a story to tell. These two stories combined with that of Chuck Stewart of the Manchester regiment would make a very interesting book.
Chuck Stewart had deserted his regiment in order to fight the Japanese, however when he returned to his unit voluntarily, he was charged with desertion in the face of the enemy. The fact that he had deserted to go and fight was no excuse. He had been awarded a court martial, deferred until the end of the end of the war. In September 1945 he was informed that the papers for his trial were never sent back to Army HQ.
Chuck Stewart went on to become a prisoner of war for three and a half years, working on the Bangkok to Rangoon railway, and when that was completed working in the mines of Japan. he was released in 1945, a broken man in health but not in spirit, he survived for eighteen years and died in 1963.
Lim Hung, who only wished to assist the Allies, was taken to Changi prison where he was charged with assisting the enemy and sentenced to five years. When the prison was emptied three days before capitulation he was released and went on to join the Chinese of Dalforce in Singapore. After the capitulation he travelled up country to Ipoh and joined forces with the Chinese communist party. After the war, he became a leader in the movement for the freedom of Malaysia and fought in many battles against the British, and today lives a modest life in Singapore.
Itu Nakahama went on from Singapore to fight in Burma until the end of the war, when he was taken prisoner by the British,. for three years he was held on a small island off Burma, and in 1949 was released, he returned to his home town of Nagasaki, to find that his wife Fujika and both their parents had been victims of the atomic bomb. The shock left him demented and he was confined to a mental hospital where he died in 1956.
The whole of this story is based on true stories related to me by Itu Nakahama, one time interpreter, who gave permission for me to substitute his name for a true one. Gunso Akira Nagoya of the Imperial Guards division. Lim Hung Fat, which is his true name. And my personal knowledge of Chuck Stewart of the Manchester regiment. To whom I owe my thanks.