SELAMAT DATANG MATI
Welcome to Death
Lim had calmed down enough now to be able to ask Chung Kha, was he so desperate for a woman that he would have used the girl, but Chung was in no mood to talk about his desires past or present. “I think we should have insisted that the girl come with us” said Lim, he had been feeling guilty ever since they had left her on the river bank. Having little food themselves they had given her a half of what they had before continuing their journey north. In the distance the ever sound of battle increased and decreased in volume dependant on the direction of the wind. After travelling for several hours they came to the remains of yet another small deserted kampong, but this one appeared to have been untouched by the Japanese, apart from the use of the cooking area in one of the houses, there was little of any value. After cooking a meagre meal of rice and squirrel meat, they both lay back to rest before continuing their journey.
Chung Kha was the first to hear it, the noise of men and machines travelling through dense undergrowth. He shook Lim awake, at the same time raising a finger to his mouth to indicate silence. There was no mistaking the sound, they were tanks. Collecting their few belongings they hurried round to the rear of the kampong, from where they were able to look down a small gradient, below which the narrow jungle road was being forced open by the pressure of small tanks.
“Come on this way” whispered Chung, indicating a small path to the right. They had hardly walked ten yards, when in front of them were hundreds of Japanese soldiers advancing in groups. There was no discipline, each group followed the one in front. Lim pointed to a small hill up to the right and followed by Chung ran as quietly as possible toward it.
Once on top of the hill they were able to look down, but could only see the tops of the trees. Looking north they were able to see masses of Japanese troops, some on bicycles, some on the back of motor vehicles, behind them heavy type guns. “We wont stand much chance of getting through that lot” said Lim “It might be as well if we were to stay here and wait until they have all passed” “No chance of that” replied Chung, pointing to where several Japanese were erecting some rectangular tents. “It looks as if they are going to make camp here for the time being”.
Lim pondered the situation for a while, then “Why not get in front of them, then head back to Bentong, we can send a message from there. informing of the situation”
Chung did not need time to study the idea, he was the first down from the hill
Although there were masses of Japanese troops moving in and around the area, there did not seem to be any attempt by the British to bring any form of artillery fire on to them. There had been very few Allied soldiers to be seen, and to both men it appeared that the British were in full retreat.
Lim began to feel very depressed as they hacked their way through the undergrowth. “What’s the matter with you?” asked Chung, “You look to me as if you are about to face the executioner” Lim tried to smile and pretend that there was nothing wrong, but he could not hold his silence forever. “I just can not understand why it is that the British soldiers are making no attempt to stop the Japanese.” He stopped walking, “Do you think the war is over and that the Japanese are now in power?” he asked. Chung shook his head,” I don’t think that there is any chance of that, the British and Australians have too much to lose, and they will defend the peninsula for as long as it takes”. It seemed to Lim that Chung was just trying to cheer him up and he continued to walk with his head bowed.
To the rear they could hear the sounds of war, but not the sounds of battle, which they had anticipated would happen when the Japanese reached KL. As the sun began to settle below the tall trees, the temperature also began to drop signifying rain to come. Both men began to hurry, hoping to find shelter for the night. As the first drops of rain began to fall, they ran for cover under a rocky outcrop, once there they found that the outcrop overshadowed a large cave, and without further comment they lay down to rest just inside.
They had not been resting for very long, when they heard the sound of footsteps and a great deal of talking. “They are Japanese”, Lim whispered to Chung,” Lets get out of here”. Standing at the mouth of the cave, he could tell that the Japanese were coming toward them from the north, along the path which they had come. Lim felt Chung pull at his shoulder and followed the direction he was taking, hoping that the Japanese would take advantage of the shelter that the cave would offer. Quietly they moved along, until it was possible to be able to talk above a whisper.
“The jungle must be swarming with them” said Chung,” come on we can’t afford to rest any more until we see some signs of civilisation” . They plodded on without speaking, until the first signs of dawn appeared, at the same time they reached a narrow metal road. Looking up at the sky, Chung estimated that they had been travelling south west and had now reached the road which runs between Lipis and Raub. “I think we might be in luck” said Chung, “If my guess is right, we are now on the Raub road, if we continue, we will meet the cross roads and the railway station at Lipis. From there we might be able to get a lift into KL”
Chung had guessed correct, but on arrival at the station they found that the track had been blown for several hundred yards. They would need to turn round and walk back. It was a further two miles to the main road but with a bit of luck, they might be able to flag down a passing car.
Passing the cross roads once more, Chung was undecided whether to go toward Tembeling, or continue on toward Raub. His moment of indecision was his moment of luck. The sound of motor vehicles coming from the north caused them both to stand off the road until they could identify if they were Japanese or Allied vehicles. Four cars were approaching in convoy and it was not possible to ascertain if they were friendly or enemy. Chung walked out and waved his arms as the first car approached. The driver slowed down but did not stop. The passengers were a mixture of European and Asian, but they were not Japanese. The second and third car passed and their hopes were being dashed, until the last car slowed down and a voice in Chinese shouted “Hurry hurry climb in” The car barely stopped long enough, but just time for the two men to scramble inside.
“Who are you and where are you from?” enquired the voice of the man who had shouted for them to hurry. “We are miners from Jerantot and we are trying to get to Kuala Lumpur” lied Chung, We tried waiting for a train, but the Japanese seem to have blown up the northern sections”.
The man listened then replied, The Japanese have over run the Allied defences to the north and are now massing at Taman Negara southwards. We were the last to leave Kuala Krai several days ago, we were on foot until yesterday when we managed to procure these cars at Gua Musang just before the Japanese invaded the place”. “Are there any Allied soldiers at all in this area?” asked Lim The man shaking his head replied “No, The Allies retreated some time ago, mainly down the east coast. We held on at Kuala Krai, expecting the allies to counter attack, but when nothing happened. For several days we anticipated the worst, and we certainly got it. Every member of every Chinese family was taken out and shot. Most of the men of military age, immaterial of nationality, were also taken out and executed. I and my friend managed to keep ourselves hidden for some time, then when we thought the time was right we ran into the jungle. We left Kuala Krai three weeks ago and wandered in the jungle for most of that time, always managing to keep just a few paces in front of the Japanese.”
The car was moving fast and as they rounded a bend it seemed that the driver would lose his grip and they would all go flying over the top
Lim and Chung had taken a seat at the side of the driver and it was some time before they realised that there were three other people in the back, each silently holding their breath. The other two were young Malay men, from the looks on their faces, they were extremely frightened, or they had witnessed some appalling crime.
“Where are you heading for?” asked Chung. “Kuala Lumpur” came back the reply, and Lims heart skipped a beat. “Do you mind if we stay with you instead of getting out at Raub?” he asked. The driver nodded at the same time that the voice from the back agreed.
Another two or three hours thought Lim, and I will be able to see Cynthia. Although it had not been so very long ago that he had left, he had missed her and was looking forward to their reunion. It was more than he could do to contain the excitement. Later as they crossed into KL, and came closer to the station his mind was full of memories of the past, even though it had only been thirty days since he had left. Some of the shops had not removed all their Christmas decorations, yet it felt like he had been away for a number of years. Then just as a reminder that there was a war in progress, he noticed that the people who had been walking, were now running for their lives. The driver brought the car to a screeching halt beside the Klang river and everyone ran for cover into the nearest monsoon drain. As Lim landed in a huddle at the bottom of the drain, the first stick of bombs sent out their crescendo of explosions, aimed mainly at the station and the offices around. The sound of breaking glass and the noise of steam escaping added to the clangour of the fire engine bells. It was not the first time that he had been in the thick of an air raid and he knew that there was nothing that anyone could do, except wait until the planes had gone away.
The raid had probably lasted about three minutes, but it seemed like hours until the final explosion and it was possible to peep over the top of the drain. Soon the stench of cordite, steam, and the smell of burning wood and paint. Added to the sound of screaming and moaning. Firemen and policemen shouting out their orders and the wail of a train as it gingerly approached the station from the south.
At the first opportunity, Lim stood up and motioned to Chung,” come on lets get out of here and I will take you to my house” Chung seemed hesitant and Lim pulled at his arm, “Come on, we can have a wash and a change of clothes, I am sure that you and my father are the same size”.
Lim took the route which he usually took when he had finished work, but as he turned the corner which led to his home, he knew instinctively that something was wrong. There had been a row of terraced houses,
then a gap before the next row, which included his fathers house,
But now there was just a skeleton of bricks and masonry where the houses had once stood. He ran to the far end which had been his fathers house, but there was very little remaining. He recognised bricks with the wall paper pattern on them, the paper which had been in his room, pieces of broken furniture and a battered chair, which had been part of part of the front room furnishings. A tear began to well up in his eye and he brushed it away with the back of his clenched fist. People passed by without noticing, each with their own personal suffering to contend with, walking hurriedly, but like zombies travelling from A to B with the least comprehension of life around them.
Chung seemed to know when to offer his support and when to remain in the background, and this was one of those times as he stood and surveyed the carnage which the Japanese bombers had created. Even though it had happened some days previous, the horror was just as complete.
After a while, Lim seemed to pull himself together and with Chung following close behind, he headed back toward the railway station, which seemed to be full to capacity with milling people anxious to get away. There was also the possibility that Cynthia might still be in her office, and she would know something of his father and Choy. Frasers where his sister worked was one of the shops which had been hit and he wondered what had happened to Choy.
The station was just as chaotic as the streets outside, all the civilian staff had left and the railway was in the hands of the army. The wages office, where Cynthia worked now contained several army beds and pieces of army equipment. As he was about to walk inside to make enquiries, a gruff voice shouted “.Barenti dilarang masute” (Halt, you can’t go in there) The sound of broken Malay, was a sure indication that it was coming from a European, and Lim scowled as he turned to the owner of the voice. “I was employed here, and I am looking for some old friends” he said. Hearing Lims near perfect English, the man replied in like manner. “I am sorry but this place is out of bounds to all but Allied military personnel”. Lim was about to ask a further question, but the brusque manner of the soldier made him realise that he would be better off going to the peoples club and asking his questions there. “Lets go to the CWP” he suggested to Chung, not realising that Chung had never been to Kuala Lumpur before. and as Chung hesitated, he realised that he had been taking everything for granted and apologised.
Come on said Lim, I will take you to the hut where I met my comrades and we were issued with rifles, maybe there will be something there.
a message or even something to eat. They turned to walk toward the station exit .
From the noise coming from within, Lim assumed that there would be the usual crowd of people playing mahjong and various card games, but the noise he had heard was the noise of displaced persons, who had moved into the club after their own accommodation had been destroyed.
He looked around trying to see if there was someone he could recognise, but there seemed to be only women and children. He approached one of the younger women and asked “Do you know where the people who were bombed out of the Tuanku Abdul Rhaman road area, have moved to”. The young woman shook her head, “many many people died there in the first air raid and afterwards those left were taken to the central market hall.”
Lim took a last look round and then accompanied by Chung he made his way to the central market and as he approached he remembered his encounter with the Soldier just before the war had started. There were no soldiers now however, just a mass of beds and clothing belonging to the people who had been made homeless. Wandering through the market, he 1 finally saw the face of someone he recognised at last Meng Chen one of his friends, also a member of the CWP. As soon as he looked into Mengs face, he knew that some thing had happened to his family. They greeted each other like brothers, then each allowed their emotions to flow without embarrassment”. What happened?” asked Lim. Meng stood back, “It was the night of the first air raid”. Lim’s mind went back to the time when they were waiting in the jungle, when they watched the planes going overhead and later hearing them drop their bombs on Kuala Lumpur. Meng continued,” the whole of the block was hit, I was working that night. When the raid ended we were all told to go home. It was not until the next morning that I realised that your house had been demolished, and that your father was killed. They never found out what had happened to Choy, she must have been blown up”. Meng stood crying for all the world to see and Lim patted his shoulder before leaning on Chungs shoulder, and left the building. “What shall we do?” asked Chung. Lim was about to answer when shells and small bombs began to fall around them and it was only at this point that he realised that there were no Allied soldiers around, there was no answering fire to the shells obviously coming from the Japanese. “Where are the British now?” Lim asked, but Chungs mind was too busy trying to figure out their next move. “Come on” shouted Chung as he began to run toward the railway station. “Maybe we can get a lift away from here” As they ran it seemed that the Japanese were firing mortar shells at them. At first just the occasional plonk plonk, then a full scale barrage as they managed to run behind the balustrades.
The station was now crowded with people of all nationalities, everyone wanting to go south, knowing that should they fall into the hands of the Japanese their lives would be forfeit. The lone British soldier was yelling at people and telling them that there would be no more trains that day, blissfully unaware of the closeness of the Japanese. That was until a shell or mortar dropped onto the station roof, making everyone run for cover. Chung followed Lim as he made for the shed where Lim had obtained his first introduction to the men who he would be working with. As they reached it a machine gun started to fire in their direction and suddenly they were in the middle of a full scale attack on Kuala Lumpur. It was the 12th January when the first Japanese soldiers began to enter KL, the war had commenced just five weeks previous and the Japanese had stormed down Malaya as if there was no resistance.
Inside the hut, Lim pointed out to Chung where the party had stored its arms, nothing ventured, Chung lifted the floor boards and jumped down into the hole. “Here” he said, throwing a British army rifle and a bandolier of ammunition to Lim. then handed out a revolver, a compass, and the remains of an atlas. “These might come in useful later” he said.
They waited until sunset, while all around the sounds of firing, with the occasional scream. At Sunset the heavy firing subsided, but in the distance and locally could be heard the occasional sound of machine guns firing.
Walking quietly they followed the railway line, in the same manner that Lim had done just a few weeks ago, heading in the direction of Batu Caves. “If we can reach the caves, we might be able to join up with others and find out what is happening” said Chung, but he did not see Lim nodding his head in agreement. A single bullet from nowhere hit him just above his right ear. Lim watched him fall and assuming that he was taking cover, he fell too. There was no further sound and he whispered to Chung “what is it” he repeated the question several times and finally crawled over to where Chung lay. Even though he shook Chungs shoulder, Lim knew that his one and only companion had paid the sacrifice without knowing why. He also knew that he had no time for sentimental good byes, Chung was dead and there was nothing he could do to alter that. He had no idea of where to go or who to contact, so pushing the rifle and ammunition into a rain gully by the side of the track, he slithered toward the river bank, and into the water allowing the current to take him away from Kuala Lumpur.
After floating and paddling for what seemed like hours, he finally emerged from the river several miles away from the shooting, and finding a place with foliage cover, he lay down to try to think out his future.
With his mind in turmoil he allowed sleep to overtake him, and it was the feeling of the warm sun on his legs which awoke him early the following morning, he looked around for Chung, forgetting for a moment that he had been killed. And as realisation dawned, he began to ponder if should he try to find his brothers, There was no way that he would be able to find the rest of the group, then suddenly Cynthia came to mind, That was it, he would make his way to the big house, the men there would help him. He could detour from where he was and make his way north of KL. Not having had any food for some time he washed quickly and drank copiously from the river before swimming to the far side in order to travel west away from the Japanese approach and then move back east and north.
Within a few kilo’s he came to a small kampong totally deserted, and he scavenged around for food, some dry rice from one hut and some dried pork from the next. After finding a small container, he built a small fire and cooked the rice. After eating as much as his raving stomach could take, he wrapped what was left in a banana leaf and tucked it into his pocket. Now he had satisfied his hunger, ideas began to take shape and his mind became just that bit sharper. Now that he had no rifle or equipment to carry, he could travel much quicker, and the Japanese, should they stop him, would not know that he was one of the Chinese peoples party, If they should ask, he would say that had been working in Johore, and was making his way home to help his family because of the damage to his fathers house. It all seemed so simple and while he was thinking the time passed very quickly and he was amazed to realise that he was only a few miles away from the big house.
Coming toward him along the track were several Chinese and Malays, who were chattering excitedly, “Apa Mow” (what is happening) asked Lim as they approached there was a brief silence, then everyone wanted to answer. “The Japanese are killing everyone” they said “They are taking the women and making them into prostitutes” said another and a further remark, “they are shooting all the young men”.
“How did you get away from them?” asked Lim, of what seemed to be the eldest man. The man shook his head and pointed back where they had come. “We all live in the same village, and last night we ran into the jungle and watched as the Japanese soldiers brought men into the jungle and shot them. Others took women and young girls and exploited them, the screaming was terrible, not having any guns there was nothing we could do”. Are there many Japanese?” asked Lim, hoping that there was a slim chance of getting through. The man shook his head,” there are many soldiers and anyone would be a fool to try to get past them”.
“There are more Japanese than there are blades of grass in the jungle” said another
“Could you direct me to the big house from here, without me having to pass through KL?” asked Lim. The man looked surprised, “why do you wish to go there now?” he asked.
“My girls friend lives at the house”. replied Lim.
The man shook his head once more. “The Japanese now live in that house”
“What happened to the owner and his family?” Lim asked.
“They moved out two days after the first air raid, I was@
@à€0`FÀM€ @` told that the place was the headquarters for the Communists and that they had gone to the north”
Once more Lim’s hopes were dashed and he asked, ”do you mind if I travel with your group for a while?”.
“You are most welcome “ said the man waving to the others to proceed .
As they walked along, Lim took note of the people in the party. Mainly Chinese and Chinese Malay, with far more females than males and of the males there was only two young ones over the age of fifteen. The leader of the party had used his brains he arranged for two members to travel in advance of the main party, so that should there be any incident or a reason for being threatened, one of them would return to the main group and warn the others. So far there had been nothing to alarm them. According to the old man in charge, they were heading for Gemas and from there to Singapore, just over two hundred kilometre. Most of the party including the children carried packs of clothing and food Lim felt a little embarrassed having nothing to carry.
The first break came two hours before sunset, this would give enough time for those in the forward position to find somewhere to bed down for the night. At first Lim sat alone watching the children playing, but his mind was elsewhere wondering where Cynthia was and what had happened to Choy. Eventually the pictures in his mind created a restlessness and he walked away into the jungle to be alone with his thoughts. The sounds of war could be heard coming closer, and somewhere in the distance he thought that he could hear the cries and shouts of people in trouble, but it was too far away to be able to distinguish. With no knowledge of his present whereabouts he decided to return and re join the others, listening for sounds of the children playing to guide him, but everywhere was quiet .
He was sure that he had taken to right path, then cursed himself for not having made some kind of mark. It would be dark very soon and dark in this jungle meant total darkness. Eventually not wishing to strain his eyes any longer he sat down with his back to a large tree trunk and dozed off to sleep.
He was dreaming that something or somebody was hell bent on kicking the daylights out of him, and he closed his eyes tighter trying to visualise who. “Curha nanda baghero” (who are you, or explain yourself) The words being shouted by Japanese soldier soon shook him from his dream. Two Japanese soldiers were standing looking down at him. The one who had been using his ribs as a football shouted once more, at the same time raising his foot to once more kick Lim in the ribs. As quickly as his dull senses would allow, Lim moved sharply out of the way. “Nanda” shouted the Jap. (Explain) “Yu China ka?” asked the soldier. “No replied Lim” in perfect Japanese. The soldier stood back mesmerised, “are you Nippon?” he asked and Lim felt a smug feeling of sanguine satisfaction as he watched the changing attitude on the soldiers face. “No” he replied, “I am naturalised Malay, my parents were Chinese” “Why do you speak Nippon so well?” asked the Jap, the second soldier seemed to be in a hurry to move on, “kill the bastard and lets get moving” he suggested. But the curious one had better thoughts, “He will be able to act as our interpreter” said the first Jap, then turning to Lim he said “get up, I am taking you back to see our shoko”
As soon as Lim was on his feet the soldier pushed him in the back with his two clenched fists which were holding his rifle, ”Chioski” he commanded, continuing to prod Lim. After walking for a short while, they eventually came to the main road which runs from KL down to Seramban, at each side of the road groups of Japanese soldiers were standing or sitting around. From the direction of KL came the sounds of fighting, while overhead was the sounds of shell fire. The soldier directed Lim to a small clearing where a group were standing or sitting round a table. The soldier jumped smartly to attention and yelled out his request to speak, in the usual manner.
Suddenly there was a barrage of machine gun and rifle fire, and as the men escorting him dived for cover Lim ran back into the jungle. A voice was shouting in Chinese for him to run back the way he had just come. Half crouching he ran toward where the voice was shouting encouragement. A number of men most heavily armed were firing into the Japanese lines. An arm grasped Lims shoulder and a voice urged “follow me”.
Lim followed as the man led him toward the river where three long boats were tied. The rest of the party soon came along and Lim was pushed unceremoniously into the largest boat. His spirits rose as he heard the familiar voice of Yui Ming the secretary of the peoples party. “What are you doing in this area?” asked Yui Ming. and Lim wondered if the secretary would have enough time to hear his report. Instead he replied that the whole of the section he had been assigned to had all been killed, and that he himself had just arrived in Kuala Lumpur in time to see the Japanese coming in from the north. “How did you know that I had been captured?” asked Lim. “O you were not the reason for our attacking the Japanese,” said Yui Ming “Since the end of December, we have been making a nuisance of ourselves by attacking groups of Japanese , killing a few and then withdrawing. One of the section saw you being escorted by two Japanese soldiers and they made easy targets, I had no idea that it was you until now.”
“How is everyone?” enquired Lim. “Where is Cynthia and her father?”. “ Cynthia was sent to Singapore about a week after you left and Mr Aung Chen is at our base camp, where we are going now” said Yui.Ming As the boat sailed downstream toward Kelang, the sound of fighting came nearer, then suddenly they veered off to the left along a shallow waterway and into the shallows. Soon willing hands were assisting them ashore and quickly and quietly they moved through the jungle to where an encampment had been built at Jenjarum. “Follow me “ instructed Yui “I will take you to your quarters and when you have rested for a while, I will take you to meet AungChen.”
The camp which consisted of several wooden huts where the men slept, and others which were used as offices and stores had been built deep into the jungle and could accommodate around five hundred men. On the outside trip wires had been placed, with sentries totally hidden from prying eyes on platforms high in the trees. Lim was taken to a small cabin attached to one of the barrack type blocks, then as soon as he was alone, the full impact of his narrow escape suddenly hit him and he started to shiver, although he was sweating profusely. When Yui returned with a change of clothes, soap and towel, Lim was crying. Yui placed an arm round his shoulders, “come on, you are alright now, have a shower and clean up and I will take you to meet Aung Chen”.
The leader Aung Chen, lived in huts similar to the others, with the exception that a small room had been attached to use as an office. When Lim arrived several men in uniform were just leaving.
“Come in “ said Aung Chen to Lim, “come and have something to eat and drink. I hear that you were just about to be taken away by the Japanese” Lim nodded and was about to reply, but his emotions got the better of him. It was not just the feelings of relief at being rescued, it was also that Cynthias father was receiving him so casually as if he was one of the family. “Sit down and eat” said Aung Chen “and then you can tell me about what happened to the men of your section” Lim was dreading having to go into details of how each one had been killed and he was saved from the ordeal by the arrival of a messenger with news that the British had refused to accept the assistance of the Chinese government, offer to send in 500,000 trained men. Aung Chens face went blood red as he ranted and raved at the refusal. “They would rather the Japanese take Malaya and Singapore than accept help from China. The end of this war cannot come soon enough so that we can obtain rightful independence for Malaya.”. Several officers came into the room and Lim was left to his own devices. Finishing his meal he returned to the hut which had been assigned to him and lay down, trying to imagine what had happened to Choy, accepting now that his father was dead. There was a light tap at the door and two of the men he had met previously at the peoples club entered. Lee Fung and Harry Loy. The relief he felt at seeing two friends of the past was apparent as he clasped each round the shoulders. When they had completed their introductions and had settled down, Lim asked about Choy and his father. Lee remembered seeing both some time before the air raid which destroyed their home, but he had no knowledge about what had happened to either.
“Maybe we will be able to make enquiries later when we go to recover our supplies. We could volunteer to join the party, and it would give you time to go into town and make enquiries. This will be our last run so it will probably take a little longer than usual” said Harry Loy.
Lim sat upright at this suggestion, “I would volunteer for anything which would give me a chance to find out what happened. The conversation went on, to each describing their various escapades until it was time to retire to their respective quarters. It was several days later that the idea was once again mentioned when Harry Loy brought news that the Japanese had captured several members, among them were Kim Fat the quartermaster, Haw Min the tracker. and Mr Ho, and that they were being held in the Federal Administration building. Lim remembered them from the first day when he had joined the party. “Aung Chen has said that he is in favour of an attack on the building to release our comrades” said Harry Loy, “but the idea of a small group of Chinese attacking a Japanese held building does not sound appetising, especially when it means that to get into position they would need to travel across the town centre”. At the briefing however
Aung Chen had other ideas. which would involve two hundred trained men attacking from the north of the town, and a party of not more than fifty infiltrating during the day and hiding out until the attack commences. The leaders went into finer detail and finally asked for volunteers. The operation was planned for the evening of Friday the 16th after sunset .
Over the last few days, it had been noticed that the Japanese had repaired the damaged railway line to the north, and that they had been despatching forces from KL back to the north, an indication that they were sending men to attack Burma, and others going south to attack Singapore meant that their would only be a token force in KL
Lim was assigned to the party of fifty which would be infiltrating into the town, this would hopefully give him a chance to make enquiries concerning his family. At six o’clock on Friday morning, Lim who had travelled by road to the outskirts of the town, began to nervously make his way to the Sri Mahamariamman Temple dressed as a Hindu priest.
He spoke a little Hindu, but only enough to be able to convince the curious that he was indeed a Hindu Everywhere was quiet, and at the temple two helpers were busy washing down the walls and floors. Lim was quite familiar with the temple surroundings and made his way to where he remembered he had once seen a small shed built into the wall. It was still there, so walking to it casually he opened the door and went inside, it contained garden tools and other odds and ends. The sun was just beginning to increase the temperature as Lim sat down to wait. The attack had been scheduled for seven o’clock that night, so there was at least ten hours to wait, deciding to take a chance and walk into town, and with his nerve on edge he managed to shuffle to Frazers, where he could watch for signs of Choy. It was after nine o’clock, but the streets were practically empty apart from the few Japanese soldiers and the odd Indian soldier with a little yellow arm band probably to denote to other Japanese that he was a trusty. Plucking up courage, Lim walked to the front of the shop. The shelves and floors were still displaying Christmas goods alongside images of father Christmas. He walked round to the rear of the building. A door seemed to be partly open and he looked round to see if anyone was watching, then slid through it and into the shop.
Remembering that Choy had worked in the ladies clothing and accessories department, he made his way there, having no idea why except that it was where he knew that she had often stood. The cash drawer was open on top of the cabinet, underneath there were odds and ends belonging to the various sales ladies who also worked in that position, but there was nothing which he could truly say belonged to Choy and he sat down on the floor. He must have fallen asleep, and was awakened by the sound of thunder and the sound of rain hitting the remaining windows. It was close to five o’clock , so he must have been asleep for some considerable time.
Leaving the store by the same rear door, he watched as several Japanese soldiers passed. Allowing plenty of time for them to move out of sight, he made his way back to the mosque to meet with Lee Fung and Harry Loy. They were to wait until they could hear gun fire and fighting north of the town then they were to give support to a small group who’s job it would be to go into the Municipal buildings and try to release their comrades.
The sun was just dipping below the small hills to the west, and it was noticeable that there seemed to be fewer people about, including Japanese. Lim could still not comprehend how he had wasted a full day sleeping in the store and that he could have been found by anyone, including the Japanese to say the least.
Returning to the Mahamariamman Temple had presented no obstacle, his comrades of the morning had been joined by others already there waiting. After changing from the religious clothes he had been wearing, he quickly joined the others for a roll call and final instructions. They were to leave individually or in groups of not more than three, and make their way to the gardens opposite the Federal buildings. As soon as they saw the signal, they were to converge onto the building. Each man carried a weapon, mainly revolvers for close fighting.
The sun had settled and was now being followed by a moon less sky with dark clouds. The only power station had been destroyed some time ago by the Japanese bombers, which made walking in the dark very hazardous, but was an asset to the raiders. As each man or group left, they would indicate to the next one, until finally it came to Harry, Lim, and Lee Fung to leave, as they moved quietly out, Lim whispered “I’m scared Harry”. Lee Fung grabbed his shoulder, “aren’t we all?” he whispered pulling Lim along.
The streets were completely empty, in the distance to the south the sound of explosions and small arms fire, to the north, nothing. Bumping occasionally into unseen objects the trio eventually arrived at the gardens. opposite the Federal buildings. To Lim it was as if he was in a dream, it was as if the earth had swallowed everyone up, there was no sign of movement, and definitely no sounds. As they waited the temperature began to drop and they felt the chill of the night air. Each man looking at his watch and then at each other, trying to read what was about to happen. Suddenly there were a number of explosions to the rear of the building, followed by firing, then a single white rocket burst in the sky above the building..
This was the signal that they had been waiting for. Men appeared from nowhere, running toward the main doors of the building and Lim was one of these. Although he was running, he had no idea of what he was going to do. He had watched the others previously when they had gone on a particular raid to steal weapons, food and ammunition. But they were attacks on a small scale. This would involve a large number of men trying to rescue a few , and he could not understand the reason. His mind was so full of thought, that without realising he was with a group running through the doors and along a corridor with doors on either side. Men were pushing the doors open and where there was any resistance they flung themselves like battering rams at the offending door and fired their weapons. After covering the bottom floor, they ran up the stairs to the next, others went down to the storage area below street level, all the time there was a great deal of shouting and shooting going on. The involvement was such that Lim had completely forgotten about the risk of being shot, as he joined in the search, not knowing what exactly he was looking for. There were several large explosions and then voices shouting “out, out, everybody get out” he ran, not knowing which way to run, finally finding himself in the courtyard at the rear of the building. There was heavy fighting going on and he ran along the outside to where he assumed there would be a rear exit. Fortune was still with him as he tumbled over the bushes, then picking himself up he continued to run, The night was so dark that he had no idea where he was running to, but he kept on going until he was finally gasping for breath and flopped to the ground gasping in as much air his lungs could accommodate. After allowing enough time to compose himself, he started to walk in what he calculated was a southerly direction, occasionally still bumping into objects below his line of sight. The sound of firing was dying down now and he maintained a safe distance from it. Instead of going back to the Temple, he decided that it would be better to make for the river where the boats were, but after walking for some considerable time he realised that his judgement had been wrong. Coming to a small wooden building, he went inside, after feeling his way around he concluded that the hut was empty and sat on the ground.
The earth was cool and damp, so finding a corner, he began to dig and scrape a hole, into which he placed the revolver and two spare bullets then covered them over. If the Japs did find him, he did not want to be found with them. After a while he fell asleep with his back to the wall, facing the door.
The sound of the jungle once more served as an alarm clock and thin slivers of sunlight invaded the hut, to confirm that another day had dawned.
He cautiously opened the door, and was greeted by the sound of the birds as they sang and swished busily through the trees. He tried to make out where he was, but for the moment was stumped. There was very little movement apart from the birds and other creatures of the jungle, so plucking up courage he ventured out into the open, walking toward where he could see the sun was rising. Within a few minutes he came to a metallic road and once more elected to travel toward the sun, then as he turned a bend in the road, he realised that he was practically in Ulul Langat, and that Batu Tiga, where he wanted to be, was several miles in the opposite direction .
It was after noon when he arrived at the place on the river where the boats had been tied up, but they had gone. Sitting down on the river bank, he allowed despondency to take over, he thought back to when he had volunteered to join the Chinese Peoples party, the quick rush to get into the war, the journey up country with Sep San, Mr Sha, Haw Min, Cheong, George Wee, Lal, and Singh. Now they were all gone and apart from assisting in trying to rescue a Malay woman and some children, he had achieved nothing. It was in this state of mind that he forgot to apply the rules of keeping abreast of the Japanese and at the same time staying alive. The sound of heavy motor vehicles brought him from his reverie and he tried to conceal himself further into the ground. He watched as several of the vehicles contained some of his former friends, tied by ropes to each other were being driven back to Kuala Lumpur. There was nothing which he could do except watch and find out where they were being taken.
Keeping well away from the roads and main paths, he started the return journey to KL. The lorries would be in KL inside ten minutes, whereas it would take him at least sixty minutes if he hurried. There was no time now for pondering the past, he must try to find where they were being held and if possible get a message to Aung Chen.
On the way, Lim thought of a plan whereby he might just be able to assist the party. In order to find out as much as he could about the Japanese movements, he would offer his services to the Japanese as an interpreter, in this way, he would know what was happening and be able to pass on any information to the movement. It all seemed so simple that he wondered why he had not thought of it before. The Japanese headquarters were situated in the administration offices of Pudu prison, which was not far from the municipal buildings, he could have a look at that at the same time he thought. Once his mind was made up, he approached the headquarters building as casually as possible.
As soon as he became closer to the prison, doubts began to fill his mind, what if they should just shoot him out of hand, or what if hey should suspect that I am a spy and they torture me. Several negative thoughts came to mind , but plucking up courage, he decided to go through with it for the sake of the others.
As he approached the gates leading to the headquarters buildings, a sentry stepped forward and presenting the point of his bayonet at Lims belly shouted “Who are you and what is your business?”. Bowing low and in his best Japanese, Lim replied “I have come to offer my services to your commander as an interpreter sir” he said, once more bowing as low as possible.
The soldier looked at him in amazement, a Chinese speaking fluent Japanese and offering his services was a complete novelty to him. As he was about to ask a further question a car containing two officers caused him to stand to attention and salute. The driver braked stopping the car between Lim and the sentry. One of the officers leaned out and shouted to the sentry to clear the man away. Still standing to attention and bowing profusely, the sentry informed him that Lim was applying for work as an interpreter.
One of the officers got out of the car and approaching Lim asked” Why do you wish to become an interpreter for the Japanese, don’t you realise that we have many linguists in the Imperial Japanese army?”
Lim bowed once more before replying “I speak four languages, but as yet I have never had the opportunity to use them”
The officer looked him up and down. “If you are so gifted, why do you dress so poorly?”
“I worked for the Malay State Railways who do not pay well, and some weeks ago, my house was bombed and I lost everything I owned sir”
“Come with me “ ordered the officer, showing Lim to one of the rear seats. He then instructed the driver to take them to the office of major Kinjo Masako who was the local Kempitai chief.
Lim had often observed the building when passing, but had not realised the vastness of the place, nor had he anticipated that although at present he was not suspected, the events of the previous day when he had been picked up by two Japanese soldiers, was known to the major. The officer captain Hatashi Toshiko, briefed the major, then left the room.
There was complete silence and Lim could feel the eyes of the major burning through him, maybe this was how they began their interrogation he thought. Up to this point, although he had heard about the Japanese brutality, he had not as yet seen any evidence of it. Hundreds of Chinese families from KL had been massacred, but he had no knowledge of this.
“So, you wish to be an interpreter for the Japan Army?” said the major. It was not really a question, more a line of thought, and as Lim was about to speak, the major asked “Where did you learn to speak Nippon?”.
‘“I studied at school, where it was fortunate that we had a Japanese teacher, who also taught me in her spare time after school”
“What was the name of your teacher?” asked the major.
“Finato Kikuko” replied Lim. “She returned to Japan last year”
“Why did you wish to speak Nippon?” asked the major, and before Lim could answer,” what other languages do you speak?”
“I speak Canton, Mandarin, Malay and English”
The major seemed to snarl his next question, ”The English looked after you well then?” A gleam came to his eye, “you have pretty English teacher also then?” The major clicked his teeth each time he mentioned the English.
Lim was about to reply that he had in fact been taught by a Chinese male teacher, but the major interrupted “Tch, England dami (England no good) “I have not got any time for the English, they are a cruel barbarous race of people, who plunder the treasures of the Asian people” then paused, . “I will give you a chance to prove your loyalty and ability tomorrow when we hold court. Have you a bed?”
Lim shook his head,
“Then you shall sleep here tonight, and after we will decide what to do with you”. With that he swished his hand into the air as a sign of dismissal and shouted for one of the soldiers to take him to the room which had been assigned as quarters for the local kitchen staff and servants.
The soldier spoke in broken Hindu and Japanese, telling the man in charge to find a bed space for Lim, then left, locking the door behind him. The room would normally have accommodated five persons, but now it contained seven single beds, and the Indian cleaner pointing one out to Lim, “You will sleep here” he said The other occupants who were at that time either working in the kitchen or on other menial work, were either Indian or Malay Indian, and it was obvious whenever their paths crossed, they showed that they were resentful of Lims being there.
Early the following morning a Japanese soldier came along to collect him and he was escorted through many passages, and finally arriving at a large room which the Japanese had designated the prison court room. Apart from two large oak tables behind which would sit major Masako, major Adashi and captain Toshiko. There were three smaller tables at which sat other officers or civilians in top hats. Lim was directed to sit on a chair which had been placed immediately behind major Masako.
He had only just sat down when the clerk to the court shouted for all to stand, then in walked the three officers who would be the judge and jury.
Within seconds of being seated the clerk shouted for the first case at nine o’clock prompt, the first group of so called anti Japanese dissidents, were pushed and shoved down the room to stand in front of the major. They looked as though they had not had any food, they were dirty looking, which was especially unusual for Chinese. The women were in most instances crying as were the children, and it was obvious from the start that the whole trial business was just a sham. “What is your name?” asked the major pointing to one of the men. The man had no idea what the major was saying, he could only understand the people he had lived with and he looked at the major with questioning eyes. Lim anticipated being asked to interpret, but the major repeated his question. The man was trying to say something, when the major crashed his fist down onto the table, ”you will be sent to prison for ten years, all of you” he shouted “ get them out of here”. He then signed a buff official looking form and one of the orderlies passed it on to Lim for his signature. Lim started to read the form, but was interrupted by the sergeant of the court. “Why are you reading that document?” he asked Lim, “If I am to sign this report, I must know what it says” replied Lim. The sergeant ran from one end of the table to the other, where Lim was seated. “You are here to witness that each of these people have had a fair trial, now sign” Lim was about to refuse, but the major stood up and shouted “get that form signed and do as you are ordered or I will personally take you outside and chop your head off” There was no way that Lim felt like being a hero and he dutifully signed the document which sent a family of seven or eight to their deaths by firing squad. Lim had no idea that each day since the Japanese had entered Kuala Lumpur, hundreds of Chinese people had been taken to Klang port, where they were herded onto barges ,taken out to sea, and executed by machine gun fire, their bodies thrown into the sea. Or they were taken to the brick fields and executed, after which in many instances their heads were displayed on poles for all to see. Lim had not as yet seen any of this, and he signed assuming that not to do so, would result in a beating. In all he signed twenty four documents, which would average 250 lives, but more was to come.
On the morning of the fourth day, there had only been three groups to be disposed of and Lim by now had settled in to the routine of acting in accordance with Japanese custom, and manners.
It was after the major had returned from his mid morning break, everyone suddenly became interested in the next case. Major Katano shouted his instruction to continue .
There was a scuffle just outside the room, then a group of seven, consisting of four men and three women were pushed into the room. Lim recognised them immediately, Kim Fat the quartermaster, Haw Min the tracker and Mr Ho.. Kim Fat who had been bound to one of the women was now close to being unconscious, and he groaned and moaned as the woman tried to ease the position of both. Lims arms were soon pinioned to his sides as the sergeant asked “Are you one of them?” Lim looked at the four, who each in their eyes were telling him to say no, but he felt that he could not betray them, and he nodded his head, without realising that the whole conversation had been in Japanese and none of those present could understand what the sergeant was talking about. Although the others had by now recognised him, they would have rather that he look after himself and leave them to their own fate. It was now too late however and the sergeant ordered that Lim and the others be taken to the interrogation section in the base of the municipal buildings. Bound with ropes and handcuffs, they were beaten kicked and pushed from the prison to the waiting transport, which took them the short distance to the Kempitai interrogation headquarters.
There was little chance for any of them to offer either a greeting or condolence as they were kicked and pummelled into whichever direction the guards wished them to go. The instant one tried to speak, a Japanese boot or fist would land in the tenderest part of his or her anatomy.
The ride was soon over, with the Japanese guards standing or sitting on top of them, the only thoughts in their minds was how to relieve the pain , apart from the discomfort of the truck floor. On arrival it was the same procedure of kicking and hitting. With their bodies aching they were flung still bound, into a dark smelly room with barely enough space to breath. The stench was of stale urine and body odour, plus the remains of food which had been regurgitated by some other miserable wretch
After a while two Japanese soldiers came and cut away the ropes, but left the handcuffs on those who were wearing them, including those of the fourth man. Being able to stretch their limbs brought a short spasm of relief before the blood started to flow again, in itself creating further pain and discomfort.
As soon as the Japanese had unloosed them all, they left the room which was again plunged into darkness. Gradually one or other managed to say a few words, but it was obvious by the manner in which they spoke that it was an extremely painful exercise. “Try to be quiet everyone” said Mr Ho in a faltering voice, ”save your energy for later, we are going to need it” He started to cough and at the same time one of the women began to weep softly. “San Lee is dead” she whimpered . There was a rustling as one of the men tried to get to her, but in trying to pass,
he was creating so much pain to those he climbed over, that he had to return to his former position. Gradually they each fell into a painful uneasy sleep.
No one knew what time it was when two Japanese guards came along and dragged Mr Ho outside into the passage way. It must have been night because the men had a storm lamp and as they opened the door, there had been a tremendous drop in temperature.
They remained silently with their own thoughts for some time, until Haw Min broke the silence and whispered “Is that you Lim” and when Lim replied asked “What happened to Pak Lee Tam and George Wee?”
Lim hesitated for a moment trying to figure out if there had been a close relationship between Haw Min and the men he was asking about, then told him about the truck on which they had been taking the woman and children had been bombed and the two had been killed at some point in the journey. and it struck Lim, that he could not remember how they had died.
“Are you OK??” asked Haw Min
“Oh apart from severe pain in my chest and some cuts and bruises, I think that I will live” he hesitated “for now anyhow”
Haw Min tried to laugh but the attempt caused him to start coughing. “Take it easy” said Lim, “as soon as we are well enough, I will tell you the why’s and wherefore’s . There was a further silence until one of the women asked, “Do you think they will let me go to the toilet?”.
There was a long silence, then “too late anyhow” and there was a groan from one of the other women.
Lim could just make out Sep San, who had been bound back to back with him, who was mumbling something which sounded like “Why was you working for the Japanese.
Through swollen lips and with his jaw swollen out of all proportion,
Lim managed to reply “I was taken prisoner four days ago at Jenjarom and they ordered me to watch each trial and then sign my name.
“Who are you?” asked Lim, ”How did you come to be taken?”
“My name is Stanley Loy, I am a teacher, the Japanese took away my family and when I returned home I went to protest to the Japanese commandant for the release of my wife and children and her mother, they laughed at me and when I began to retaliate, they put me in prison along with these men”
“If you knew who these men were, I feel sure that you would realise that your luck is well and truly at rock bottom”
“Why, who are they?”
“Silence is the price of the future” whispered Haw Min,
The room became silent once more.
There was a shuffling noise in the passage way which led to the rooms where they were being held and they all listened as the shuffling noise passed .
The door was suddenly opened and three Japanese soldiers, one carrying a storm lamp entered the room and between them lifted and carried away the youngest and smallest of the two women . She didn’t even struggle, her defences completely at zero as they took her along the passageway in the direction from where the shuffling had come. They had left the door slightly ajar and although it was possible to see outside, it was too dark to be able to recognise anything.
Stanley Loy who seemed to be the least injured managed to crawl to the door and easing himself upwards, he took the key from the outside, then closed the door .
“What are you doing?” asked Lim
There was a long silence then “I have taken the key out of the lock and closed the door, if the Japs stay away long enough for any one of us to recuperate enough strength to escape, we can leave at our leisure. If however they do come back, our only hope is that they will not notice that the key is missing and assume that one of the other guards have it .
From the bottom end of the passage came the screams of a human being tortured or at best being beaten. The screams which were weak to begin with gradually died away overtaken by the sounds of laughing drunken Japanese.
The sound of the three Japanese returning along the passage, caused Stanley Loy to hold his breath, anticipating that one of them would try the door and find it open, but their minds were on other pleasures to come as they returned to their guard posts.
The sound of snoring from one of the men was the only noise as Stanley eased his way to the door. Lim watched through half closed eyes, he had neither the energy or enough will power to want to go, just at this particular moment. Without looking back, Stanley managed to go out into the passageway, pulling the door closed behind him. Then placed the key behind the wooden skirting boards, he crept along the passage.
It seemed like only minutes had passed, when there was a loud crash and a vast amount of screaming and shouting. The crash of a rifle shot reverberated round the passage, then silence. The deafening silence which arouses curiosity.
A few more silent minutes went by, then the door was flung open and the wounded body of Stanley Loy was unceremoniously thrown inside.
Lim who was the nearest crawled to him, before the light from the open door was extinguished. He felt for and found a slight pulse, and placing his head closer to where he assumed Stanleys head was, he whispered “ Are you alright Stanley” There was no reply, just a clenching of the fists.
Stanleys breathing was very shallow, with the occasional gurgle coming from his throat “The bastards” said Lim, “why did they have to shoot him?, he was no threat to their glorious army. He could hear one of the women crying and sniffling and wondered if she was crying out of sympathy for the man or for her own predicament.
“Am I the only one awake?” asked Lim
from the other side of the room came the voices of Haw Min and Kim Fat, in unison as they answered “No, I am awake”, said Haw Min and “How can anyone sleep in this pig hole” said Kim.
Lim was a about to suggest that they should dispose of the dead woman by taking her outside, making more space available, but he had hardly had time to think of a way to put it, when there was a further large commotion outside. The door was flung open and several Japanese soldiers rushed in and manhandled the three men and the remaining woman outside. The sun had not yet broken through the dawn, as they were pushed and shoved into a large room. Several Japanese kempitai officers were either seated at tables or standing around the room. Kim Fat was ordered to stand in front of an officer who appeared to be the top man, who in turn was surrounded by three or four grimacing guards.
“Your name?” asked the officer, Kim remained tight lipped. “I asked you for your name” repeated the officer, but Kim remained stone faced. One of the guards ran from behind the officer, and smashed his rifle butt into the small of Kim’s back and Kim sank to the floor without a murmur, blood began to trickle from his mouth.
Lim ran forward shouting in Japanese “There was no need for that”.
The Japanese guard brought his rifle up high, intent on bringing the butt down onto Lims head as he knelt beside Kim. Before he could strike however the Officer barked out a command telling the guard to stand away.
“So you speak Japanese” the officer enquired of Lim, apparently he had not looked at the notes which were in front of him. Lim stood up to reply “Your people know already that I speak Japanese, they know our names and most probably our histories, so why this charade?”
The officer, appeared mildly amused at Lim’s outburst and once more restrained one of the guards from attacking Lim, by waving his arm.
“There is a note here to say that one of you speak Japanese,
but since I do not know your names, how am I to know which of you that is?”
Lim had no intention of believing the officer and did not reply.
“Come over here” ordered the officer, and when Lim stood in front of him, asked, “Where did you learn to speak the Japanese language?”
Lim hesitated to consider if his reply would place anyone else in jeopardy. “My fathers brother married a Japanese school teacher in Shanghai and she taught me when I was quite young, after my family moved to Malaya, I studied at university”
“You speak very well, but why are you mixed up with these communists?”
“These men are my friends and they are not communists” replied Lim.
The officer whispered to one of the Japanese clerks sitting beside him, who in turn whispered to one of the guards. “Mr Ho Cha Tan, was he one of your friends too?” asked the officer.
Lim nodded his head, by way of reply.
“Well he confessed to being a communist” said the officer.
The guard came back into the room, escorting Rai, the man responsible for assisting captain Mitzutani the Japanese intelligence officer he looked as though he had been in several fights.
“This man knows you and your friends” said the officer “and he has given valuable information concerning your group, what did you call yourselves, The Cobra battalion?”
The surprise on Lims face was most obvious to all those in the room and he wondered to himself, who Rai was. Lim had completely forgotten that his group had been called the Cobra battalion and he wondered who this man was and what was his position.
Rai stood impassive despite his obvious battering.
“Is this man one of your group?” the officer asked and once more Lim shook his head in reply.
Once more the officer whispered to the clerk, who reached out to grab at Rai’s right arm, twisting it and pulling it into a position where Lim could see the tattoo of a Cobra on Rai’s forearm.
“That means nothing to me” said Lim “I am just an ordinary resident of Malaya, I work for the Malay states railway service, or at least I did until I was picked up by a group of your soldiers four or five days ago”
“Take him away” said the officer referring to Lim “ëI wish to question him further, but in private”
Two of the guards walked forward and grabbed hold of Lim’s arms, taking him to a small room behind the one they were in, at the same time Lim noticed that Rai was also being escorted away.
He was alone in a room, from which he could look out to see the traffic and people going about their usual business. The only difference was that now instead of seeing numbers of Allied service men walking the streets they were all Japanese or Indian. He was not altogether surprised to note that some of the Indian soldiers had deserted to the Japanese, certain Indian factions had been fighting for their independence for some time. Lim looked around the room, which had at one time been used as a store room, there were one or two old wooden filing cabinets and cupboards, a couple of chairs but nothing else of any significance. He walked to the door and was surprised to find that it had been left unlocked. He looked up and down the corridor to see that there were no guards stationed. and decided to take a walk, if anyone should see him, he could say that he was looking for the toilet.
With little or no effort Lim walked out onto the main street and into the sunshine. Once clear of the building, he ran all the way despite the pain to his legs and body, plus the heat, and he did not stop running until he was safe in the ruins of Chinatown.
Most of the buildings had been damaged by the bombs. but there did not seem to be anyone living in those tenements which had survived the bombing. Entering the back door of Bee Seng general store, he called out “Is anyone there?” His voice echoed round the empty building and up the stairs. The shop portion had been looted and ransacked, labels from various articles and bits of paper littered the floor, which itself was suffering the fatigue of time. There was a smell of animal urine and sewage coming from the drains outside. He climbed the squeaky stairs and examined the two rooms, one which had been used for storage was, similar to the shop littered with rubbish, however an old charpoy in the corner of the front room gave a place to sit and rest his now aching body,
As he sat and rested he listened to the usual noise of people going about their business outside. The street hawkers clanking their sticks together, others calling out their wares. After sitting for a while, he suddenly realised that he had not eaten any food apart from the rice slops that morning. Waiting until the sun had gone down before deciding to move out. He returned to where his own house had once stood, then surveyed the damage and wept. The whole of the block had been blown away, further down the road one or two of the houses were showing signs of habitation and he decided to chance his luck, tapping at the first door, which he knew was once occupied by the Teng family, he waited and hoped. His tapping was answered by an old lady, who informed him that the Teng’s had moved house some time ago.
As the sun began to go down Lim returned to the shop, managing to obtain some scraps of food from behind the market stalls. Using the old charpoy as a bed, he settled down for the night. Tonight was going to be a time to rest and pull his thoughts together. Who was Rai, he wondered and how is it that no one seemed to recognise him. These thoughts and others gradually led to a deep sleep from which he woke in the early hours, refreshed and ready to face a further day. He was alone, with very little experience and no knowledge of where he might find others of the group,. Then he suddenly remembered having heard Batu Caves having been mentioned and decided to make his way there.
The streets were beginning to fill up with people, trying to get on with their lives despite the Japanese having taken over the running of everything. Trying to avoid further capture, he took to the back streets, but always trying to keep the railway to his left. Heading for Jiniang, then Kuang. Scrounging food from local shops and houses, but always keeping well clear of any uniformed man, At Jiniang he passed the ear of the main street, which was festooned with the heads of prominent men of the town hanging from poles and pylons. The main square had been commandeered by the Japanese as their ceremonial decapitation centre. The blood of the victims just visible beneath the swarms of flies and other insects feeding upon it .Quickly leaving, he headed for Kuang, here the mindless killings had reached a far higher proportion, there being no place to dispose of their victims, the Japanese had piled the bodies on top of each other in one of the monsoon drains. Lim had never seen anything like it before and his mind was gradually turning toward means of revenge. It took two days to reach the foot of the Batu hills. Now he must climb and try to find someone who would be able to direct him. The rain had caused small streams to become narrow rivers, which at times created a hazard, but grim determination kept him going. It was the fifth day after leaving the prison that he finally obtained a clue. Having climbed as high as possible, he sat to ponder the next move, looking at the scene below, he watched as two Japanese soldiers walked ahead of a large group. It was similar to watching a silent film as from somewhere to the right of the two men, there was a small puff‡ of smoke a slight crack and one of the men fell, quickly followed by further puffs of smoke and the fall of the second man, the crack of rifle fire being hardly heard from this distance. The large group had started to run, and as they did so further puffs of smoke followed by the shallow crack of a rifle firing.
Lim had seen enough to convince him that his initial impulse had been right in coming back to Batu Caves. The puffs of smoke were obviously from men of the Chinese peoples party and he must join them as quickly as possible if he wanted to survive. Following a track which would lead him in that direction he started to run, but the foliage and overhanging branches soon slowed him down to a leisurely walking pace. He remembered the first day when he had been initiated into the art of tracking, by Lee, and began to pick out certain marks and indications of the passing of people along the track. Every so often a clearing would divulge the scenes of nature which very few had ever observed, the giant Rafflesia flower with its gigantic petal each a foot long ,further in the thickest part of the jungle the sound of the Gibbon and the Saladang cattle. He had learned the names of the plants and animals at school. The quickly turned into a wide pathway, and it was obvious that many men had passed along this way fairly recently. The remains of several fires surrounded by the throw away scraps of a meal, the skeletal remains of monkeys and squirrels. Surrounded as usual by litter of all kinds, cigarettes, bottles and rusting cans. There was a peculiar smell coming from somewhere and as he walked it appeared to become stronger, the stench of rotting flesh, mixed with some form of iodine and as he walked he could gradually hear the sounds of someone either talking or moaning. Finally he came to a clearing where the Japanese had been encamped. Rubbish of all kinds littered the ground, on the outskirts had been dug several pits which had been refilled and protruding from them the heads of men, Chinese, British, Indian, men who had been fighting the Japanese. Cautiously Lim walked round, they were all beyond any help. He could still hear sounds coming from the jungle and became extra vigilant as he moved toward them. The sight which met his eyes was a scene from hell itself. Tied to trees were the remains of soldiers and civilians, men and women, they had all been killed and mutilated. The sound he had heard was coming from an Australian soldier who had so far managed to survive.
He had been bayoneted and slashed with a sword, his wounds were black with flies and blue bottles, completely covering the oozing matter which had been coming from them and Lim was sick, his stomach could take no more, having not had any solid food for some time made it all the more painful. It seemed to take a considerable time for him to come to terms with the scene. Walking over to the man making the noise, he tried to talk to him, but the only response was the continued babble and groaning coming from the dying man. He was so immersed in what he was seeing, that he did not notice any sound or movement until he heard the sound.
of a revolver being cocked for firing. “Don’t move” stated a voice cold and calculating, and Lim froze, cursing himself for not being awake.
“Who are you and what are you doing in these parts” questioned the voice, speaking in Malay.
Replying in the same language, Lim stated that he was a Naturalised Chinese Malay and that he worked for the Malay state railways. He could not see the questioner, even had he turned round it would not be possible as the man was completely hidden behind the trunk of a giant Tualang.
“Put your hands down and turn round” instructed the man, and Lim did his bidding, but still not able to see who was asking the questions. The Dying Australian gave a further moan, and at the same time a Kancil deer decided to run for cover. Startled the man with the revolver fired in the general direction his bullet entering the moaning man, who managed a last groan as his body finally fell downwards and forwards.
The man walked into the open, his gun pointing in Lim’s direction “What are you doing in this area?” he asked casually, “the place is over run by Japanese, yet you can casually walk through without a care”. Lim could now see that his inquisitor was also Chinese and speaking in Cantonese he said, “I am Lim Hung of the Cobra section of the Chinese peoples party.
“Show me your arms” ordered the man, and Lim held his forearms outward. “Where is your Cobra sign?” asked the man . Lim remembered that he had seen the tattoo on the arm of Mr Rai at the prison, but he could not remember any of the others with the same tattoo. “I was only joined the section at the start of the war” replied Lim “The only person I have seen with the tattoo was on the arm of one of the men the Japanese captured”
“How do I know that you are telling the truth?” asked the man as he pointed to a piece of tree trunk, indicating to Lim that he should sit. “Tell me the names of your comrades”. He sat down and took a packet of cigarettes from his top pocket and proceeded to light one, then offered the packet to Lim, to which Lim shook his head. He thought a while wondering if this was some kind of trap, or a means of trying to get the names of the men he had worked with. “How do I know that I can trust you with the names .Asked Lim, then realised that he could give the names of the men who had been killed, no one could profit from that. “I can give you the names of the men who were killed during an air raid, all members of the party” The man nodded. and Lim gave the names of those who had been travelling with him on the truck which was bringing the woman and children to hospital when it was bombed. The name Pak Yee Tam brought instant recognition and the man held up his hand. “My name is Tan Yee Tam”,
I am the younger brother of Pak Yee Tam. He came forward and held his hand out to Lim. “We must all be very careful, today it is important to know who is your friend and who is your enemy” Lim '
agreement then asked. “Are there any men left from the Cobra section?”
Tan shook his head slowly as he replied that apart from one man who was with the headquarters section at Perlis, Lim was the only survivor. Lim went on to tell him about the raid on the prison and the men of Cobra section including Mr Rai, who up to two or three days ago were in prison. The mention of Mr Rai did not cause Tan’s expression to change, which left Lim still wondering just whose side he had been on.
Tan stood up, “come, we must go” he said, leading the way through to a small track, Lim followed dutifully behind. On all sides were the scenes of carnage, the bodies of men of all nationalities lay rotting in the jungle and bleaching wherever the sun managed to fall on them. A further clearing divulged two large pits with the remains of bodies, partly covered by leaves from the trees, and lying in a grotesque obscene collage, displaying the code of Bushido. The track and the scene of devastation and debauchery seemed endless, until they came to a stream, above which there were several caves, to all intents empty. Lim followed Tan as they ascended a small slope toward the first of the caves. A guard shouted out a challenge, which was answered by Tan. As they walked toward the first of the caves, Tan leading the way walked past the entrance, to where there was an opening and a passageway between the first and second of the caves, which led to what had been a kampong, but which was now the quarters of the Chinese Peoples volunteer army. It was entirely hidden from prying eyes by the foliage from above and by the high hills on each side. Lim looked in amazement as he saw men drilling, others attending lectures, while a further group were going through a routine of physical exercise. Tan led the way to one of the huts which had been designated as headquarters, and on entering to the office of the company commander. Captain Wan Seng Yat. Seated inside was the captain and two of his junior officers. Tan who had been on a patrol of the area, which was a usual routine job, reported having watched Lim come down from the hillside, checked his identity and brought him back to camp, he was giving other details which went above Lims head as he stood and looked around. The camp might have been in the middle of the town, it seemed that everything had been acquired for its smooth running. After Tan had finished reporting its was Lims turn to be interrogated. “Tan has said that you were with the Cobra section and that you lost all contact some days ago Lim nodded and replied in the affirmative.
“I don’t propose to use your services, until you have completed a diary of events since joining the section, after which I will decide what would be the best situation for you” the talk was brief and to the point and Lim was dismissed. Tan introduced him to one or two friends and then took him along to the quartermasters to collect a change of clothing and a bed to sleep on. This completed he was taken to a wood and attap hut, where he was allocated a bed. Before leaving him Tan gave a list of important times. Wake up at 6.00 am physical training till 7.00, breakfast until 8.00 and then he would be required to go to the administration offices to write down his report. Tan left the room, and Lim began to wonder. Some time later came the babble of voices as men who had been out training returned to their billets, and as each one entered he gave a quizzical look in Lim’s direction .before throwing himself down onto his bed. The room was built to accommodate twenty four men, but several men were away on exercise, It did not take very long to make the acquaintance of the men who were sharing the room. They were from various parts of Malaya, with two from Hong Kong. After the evening meal, the mahjong board was set up, and it was not very long before Lim was accepted as one of the party.
The sound of the section commander calling everyone to attention , roused Lim from the best sleep he had experienced for some time, following the example of the others he attended physical training and breakfast, then reported to the admin. offices. Where he was interviewed by three men, who wanted to know every last detail of where ha had been, who was his commander and so on. At some point in the proceedings he had mentioned that he knew Aung Chen, which seemed to cause a slight stir, enough for them to return to ask, how he came to know Colonel Aung Chen. When he said that Cynthia, Aung Chen’s only daughter was his fiancee, they stared in disbelief. “Did you know that miss Chen is now living in Singapore” asked one of the men. “No” replied Lim, “I searched for several days to try to find her, then I was with Aung Chen for a brief period when we attacked the Pudu jail, what happened to him after that I have no idea, because by the time I had managed to get free, the whole party had disappeared. He told them of the three who were prisoners with Mr Rai and Mr Loh, but could not elaborate on anything.
He was told to go back to his billet and rest until he should be required again and still wondering what was happening, he did as ordered and returned to the hut. There were a number of old newspapers on one of the beds and flicking through them, he was half able to understand that the Japanese had advanced down the Malay peninsula with great speed.
The latest newspaper date the 9th January stated that the Japanese had fallen into a trap outside Kuala Lumpur where they had lost many men, today was the 12th January. After about two hours, Lim was ordered to report back to the admin. office. He was addressed by captain Wan Seng Yat. “We have read through your report and we are satisfied that you are one of the party” he pruned his feathers “we have been trying for some time, to try to contact Aung Chan without success, Since you know Aung Chen, and he knows you, we have decided to send you and Tan with a message and some papers. After you have found him, unless he states otherwise, you must go to Singapore and rejoin the men at Serangoon
Lim was overjoyed at the prospect of travelling to Singapore and once again meeting up with Cynthia. The following morning could not come soon enough.
At precisely 6-30 am Lim and Tan collected a Norton motor bike and with Lim and their equipment on the back, started out for Singapore. Following the same track down to the jungle, before turning south and heading toward Kuala Lumpur. “Will we be going east or west of KL?” asked Lim. “Straight through the centre” replied Tan. Lim panicked immediately, “What’s wrong with that?” asked Tan.
“The Japanese will pick us off as soon as they see us” said Lim above the noise of the engine.
“I don’t think so” yelled Tan, “ we are carrying Japanese intelligence number plates”
“I don’t follow, what do you mean?” said Lim obvious terror showing in his voice.
“ The Japanese vehicles call carry certain identity plates, the intelligence services carry the letters and number F7K, or F8K dependant which branch you belong”
“What is our number?” asked Lim.
“F5K, we belong to the Kempitai field intelligence unit “
The information was staggering to Lim, he was so naive in such matters, everything had to be in black and white or completely rectangular to his way of thinking, to use Japanese plates was being deceptive, and would carry a heavy sentence if not execution of they were caught. “What happens if we are stopped?” he asked.
“That’s where your knowledge of the Japanese language comes in, so set about memorising what you are going to say if we are stopped”
The journey continued for some time without either speaking, until they arrived on the outskirts of the town.
“Go left toward Ulu Langat,” urged Lim, that way we can by pass the town and head for Kajang, Seramban and the coast road”.
Tan turned left as suggested and followed the main jungle track, keeping close to the main road as possible. Out of the corner of his eye, Tan caught sight of hundreds of Japanese soldiers riding along the main road on bicycles. occasionally several of them began to ring the bells. Tan slowed down until the last one had gone by and then shooting out of the jungle, he followed behind them, leaving a distance of several yards. On the pillion, Lim sat petrified, “Why are we following so close?” he asked
“The closer you get to the backside of an elephant, the less chance he has of seeing you” laughed Tan but his remarks did nothing for Lims trepidation.
At Labu forty kilo before Seramban, Tan turned to the right then stopped and watched the Japanese cyclists streaming down the road en- route to whatever destiny awaited them. It was early evening when they arrived at Port Dixon, which was streaming with Japanese soldiers and traffic, all heading south toward Muar Using the back tracks, Lan headed north to the fishing village at Chuan, where they were given accommodation on board one of the larger fishing boats, which the Japanese had not as yet confiscated. The owner Kim Kian Tham knew the sea around the coast like the back of his hand, and with a little persuasion from Tan, he agreed to put out at dawn and take them down the coast to Batu Pahat, where they would be able to travel the odd few kilo to Singapore.
After manoeuvring the motor cycle on board and partaking of a well cooked meal, they settled down to sleep and wait for the dawn. The swaying rolling movement of the boat was enough to wake Lim, who was sleeping on the deck. As he looked up, his eyes took in a caesious sky covered with a multitude of twinkling stars and for a moment he thought that he had gone to join his ancestors. The rolling and pitching however dispersed all feeling of tranquility and he began to feel sick. At his side Tan was sleeping like a log. To avoid the Japanese shipping which could be seen to be ever multiplying, Kim Kian Thim had taken the fishing boat well out to sea and was at that moment making ready to head for the shore at Batu Pahat or as near as he could possibly get. Japanese ships of all sizes were heading in the same direction, their urgency causing a lack in security, and it was this lack of security which allowed Kim, to bring his craft into the mouth of the river at Pahat, just before noon on the 14th January. They were assisted ashore by many willing hands, all desirous of climbing on board the boat hoping to be able to travel back to KL behind the Japanese advance, most of them had left their homes in the north as the Japs advanced.
Now they wished to return to try to restart their lives under the Japanese. The Allied soldiers had set mines along the road between Pahat and Keluang, so it was necessary to take to the jungle tracks once more heading for Kulai and Johore Bharu. The military had set up check points at every conceivable place and it was providence which had made them leave their weapons behind at KL. The journey had been to easy thought Tan as they approached yet another check point being manned by two soldiers, who commenced by calling them Chinks. “Come over here you chinky bastards” said the first one. Lim indicated with his eyes to Tan, not to show any antagonism. While one soldier pointed his rifle at them, the other asked for passes, not having passes, they then asked for identification, not being able to read either Malay or Chinese, the identification which was produced appeared unacceptable. The motor bike was immediately confiscated and with a rifle pointing into their backs, they were ordered to march. Lim was about to suggest to Tan that everything would be alright , but as soon as he opened his mouth the soldier barked “Shut up, no talking”, it was as well that Lim could speak and understand English, otherwise there might have been a small fracas. A machine gun post loomed in the undergrowth, behind it a group of British soldiers were standing waiting. but make way for the two culprits. “What have you there?” asked one of the officers. “These couple of Chinks just rode up on a Norton sir, and they have no papers sir”, said the soldier in true parrot fashion. The officer walked over and addressed Lim. “What were you doing riding a British army motor cycle?” he asked and was completely overcome by the perfect English answer. “We own the motor cycle, its ours, and we were returning to Singapore before the Japanese get here”. The mention of Japanese was enough to create panic. “Sergeant Mason” shouted the officer, a voice from the background shouted “Sir” in reply. “I want a truck, a driver and two men to escort these Chinks back to Singapore for interrogation”. “Sir” shouted the sergeant, which in British army language means confirmed. A fifteen hundred weight truck was quickly produced on to which Lim and Tan were quickly bundled, followed by the two man guard, the officer taking a seat at the front. “Shan’t be more than a couple of hours” shouted the officer “Sir” replied the sergeant and the truck set out for Singapore. If all went well, they could not have obtained a better lift had they planned it. As they approached Singapore the sky above was completely dominated by Japanese aircraft. At the same time shells were whistling over their heads as they drove. The sky was blood red with black smoke ascending from numbers of burned out properties. No one spoke all through the journey
At the Johore end of the causeway, large barricades had been erected, with machine guns pointing out from every angle. A military policeman flagged the truck down and requested identity from the officer before allowing the truck to proceed.
With both Lim and Tan sat wondering what their fate would be, The Japanese were killing and murdering anything which moved, and now it would seem that the British were just as afraid as the Japs.
The truck gathered speed as it left the causeway and headed for the east coast and Changi prison.