TSUKI KYO SHI
The Moon Riseth Lim was feeling the strain of the long slog through the jungle, unlike Lee Sen who had travelled many miles in this manner. They had covered quite a number of miles since leaving Kuala Lumpur and with nothing to occupy his mind, Lim was beginning to become morose and depressed, occasionally showing a streak of bad temper. He felt that he was entitled to some form of explanation as to why they were moving through the jungle when they could have been using public transport, not realising that the Japanese would most certainly have questioned their movements should they be captured, so he decided to confront Lee Sen at the next halt
They had spoken to no one for several days with the exception of times when they required directions. The silence maintained seemed unnecessary. He had tried to involve Lee in conversation several times, but Lee was not prepared to talk while on the move. All that Lim was aware of was that they were heading towards Larek, which was situated along the railway line which they had been following for the last three days. Lee had said that they would be resting when they reached Ipoh and Larek was just a few more miles north according to the very old maps which Lee carried.
As usual the sound of rifle and light machine gun fire could be heard from somewhere ahead. Lee San held up his hand to indicate caution as they stepped out of the jungle onto a small well worn path. They stopped while Singh listened for sounds of movement and examined the track for recent use. When satisfied he remarked that the trail had not been used for several days. “How can you be so certain ?” asked Lim
Quietly Singh pointed to the ground and said “ If you will bend down and look at the grass, you will see that it is fresh and unbroken, look closer and you will observe that new shoots are forming around the dead grass, allow your eyes to observe an area of two metres and you will see that none has been broken down. New grass requires three days to germinate and broken stems dry out in the same time and as you see, the grass is quite clean and crisp”. Lee removed his small haversack “We will rest for a short spell” he said, throwing his bed roll onto the ground. He walked into the surrounding jungle to where there was a stream, and started to bath. He was followed by Lim and Singh, who immediately began to douse themselves with the fresh running water.
After washing and drinking their fill from the fresh stream, Lee Sen suggested that they continue their journey, then as the sun reached its peak and after having walked through the dark wet jungle for so many miles, the feel of the suns rays on his body added a touch of brightness to the atmosphere making Lim a lot more cheerful, even though the sound of fighting could be heard in the distance. “My brothers work in the Larek Tin mining company which is just a short distance from here” reminded Lee Sen “So we will be able to take a good rest before completing our journey”. He had hardly finished speaking, when he heard the snapping of a tree branch, Lim froze in his tracks, while Lee Sen moved quickly into the cover of the jungle to the left of the path. Lim was about to follow his example when a voice demanded in pure Cantonese” What are you doing here, do you not realise that you are on private property” In the jungle Lee Sen started laughing, “yes we know who’s property this is and it is most certainly not yours my friend Tam”
The man who had spoken first walked out of the jungle, he was a young muscular Chinese youth, lean with a smile which could charm the devil, was Lims description of Tam.
“Allow me to introduce you to my friend Pak Lee Tam” said Lee Tan “He is the fittest and most charming young fellow in the group, but do not allow the smile to fool you. He strikes like a snake, runs like a deer and kills as deadly as a scorpion”.
Lim held out his hand, which Tam took smiling broadly with a look of benevolence and sincerity. “Tam served with the party in Tien Sen and I was his instructor, but now it would seem that he is probably more capable than I am”
The smile never left Tams face as he placed a hand on each of their shoulders and guided them in the direction of the mines office. The two old friends began to talk and reminisce as they walked along until they came to the bottom of a small slope, on top of which was a wooden structure which had at one time been the company store rooms, dining room, and sleeping quarters. Had it not been such a bright sunny day, the scene would have appeared drab and bleak. Apart from the sounds of war rumbling all around everywhere was quiet and still, and Lim shivered as he approached the main door. On entering there was a smell similar to that of a church or a little used building. Inside there was a large hall leading onto a passageway, along which there were a number of rooms. Inside the first room there were ten beds on each side, with a table in the middle, several chairs and one or two small tables. At the far end a door led to the rear of the building and terrace behind which was a large garden. Discarding his pack, Lim walked on to the terrace overlooking the garden, beneath him a grassy patch where the mine owners family had probably had picnics or entertained, it was interspersed with small Hibiscus shrubs, but here and there the jungle was sadly trying to reclaim the land, which human hands had tried to convert into a garden of beauty.
To the left stood the mine buildings and structures from pre- mining shafts. On an embankment was built a narrow gauge railway, which ran from the head to a slag pile and sitting forlornly on the line a small tank engine. Similar to its surroundings it was falling into decay, the paint stripping from its tank just like that on the metal structures of the mine.
“I hope you like our little home” asked Tam of Lim, “follow me and I will truly surprise you”. He led the way through the bushes, along a well used path and across a small expanse of sage bush, to the base of the slag heap, outside which stood a small hut. Just inside sat a Chinese man of considerable age . He had a white beard, wispy hair and a toothless grin which never seemed to leave his face. He was about to invite Tam to sit down, but Tam pointed to the old mans bed which stood against the wall, indicating to the man to pull the bed away. At first the old man seemed reluctant, but seeing the determined look on Tam’s face he set about pulling the bed away. As he did so the whole of the rear wall to which it appeared the bed was attached, swung open like a large door, revealing a stairway leading down. Giving the old man instructions to close the door once they were inside, Tam led them down. At the bottom of the stairs there was a long tunnel which smelt of damp earth, sweating bodies and urine. As they proceeded the tunnel opened up into a much wider area. From this point, lights were situated at about forty yard intervals. There were other small tunnels each about the same distance apart . Lim began to feel a little claustrophobic with an urge to run and find light and fresh air. The journey through the jungle and now this tour of the underground workings was beginning to effect his nerves, and he asked Tam where they were going “All will be revealed in a short time” said Tam, as they left the main passage and entered a much smaller one, at the end of which there was a door. Tam’s light knock echoed through the tunnels, and the door was opened by a Chinese youth, dressed in military uniform with the Chinese red star emblem in the peak of his cap. He stepped to one side to allow them to enter a room just as large as the reception room upstairs. At the far end there were two large blackboards around which were a number of desks and chairs in which were seated members of the Chinese peoples party.
The officer giving the lecture, quickly finished his dialogue as the three men entered, and came to meet them . First shaking hands with Lee San then being introduced to Lim and Singh he expressed the wish that they would soon find friends and comrades in the group. Captain Lo Yat was the leader of this particular section. He turned to the class and introduced them to Lim, Singh, and Lee Sen, before dismissing them for the day. The class then quickly and quietly left the room through a door behind the blackboards. As the door opened Lim caught the whiff of fresh air and he quickly filled his lungs. The captain and the others were in deep discussion concerning the war and Lim waited and listened. It was as well he did because the captain was informing them of the Japanese advance. First Patani, Khota Bharu, Singora, Kedah, Alor Star, Kroh, Sungai Patani, Lubok . The captain made reference to the speed with which the Japanese were advancing . With the sound of battle not very far from where they were now standing. He explained the orders, which applied to everyone in the camp, which was that they were to retire underground as the Japanese advanced. Everyone was to remain silent with the minimum of movement for twenty four hours. After which they would quickly build up their strength and attack the Japanese from the rear as quickly and as deadly as possible. He ended with the words, “Sabotage is the name of the game”. Talk continued as they walked along concerning the future of Malaya after the Japanese and the British had been kicked out. The captain seemed to relish the idea of kicking the British colonial pigs out of Malaya. “But first we must rid ourselves of the monkeys” he said referring to the Japanese.
“Our headquarters at Perlis is still intact, and they have informed me that your colleagues have arrived safe and are at Malako waiting for transport onward to Perlis. He stopped and looked at the relief on Lee Sen’s face, “I will send word that two of you will be joining my section for the time being. I have lost five men in the last few days, three deserters and two who blew themselves away when they tried to demolish the ammunition depot at Kangsar”. He turned toward Lim “You will receive excellent training while you are here, from some very good teachers” then abruptly he walked out.
Tam, followed by Lee Singh and Lim left the room immediately, but Lim was surprised that it was a further two or three hundred yards before they came to the door leading to fresh air. He followed the others to one of the rooms at ground level where he was given extra clothing and allocated a bed space, later he was given a blanket and rifle .
The captain had promised him that within a very short period of time he would be just as competent as the rest if he listened to Tam Lee Sen. All the men here with the exception of Tam and Lee Sen are volunteers like you, but in a very short time no one will know the difference.
Over the next couple of days, as well as the usual training with and without rifles, they took Lim with them into the jungle, close to where the sound of battle was in progress, and from hidden positions they could observe these human beings shoot and blast each other to death. Lim quickly learned the use of the rifle and how to also use the jungle effectively as a cloak and a friend. As each day passed and the Japanese got closer to the mine, they each reflected on how they would all be required to live like rats below ground until the Japanese had passed.
One day Chung Kha and Pak Yee had been sent out to check the progress on some outer diggings and took Lim along for the experience. The journey usually took about thirty minutes. While Chung Kha was showing Lim the excavations, Pak Yee went into the jungle to check just how close were the Japanese to their positions. Suddenly Tam came running and pointing to the excavations shouted, “Down, monkeys” and the three of them slithered down a ready made hole, followed by Tam, who pulled the camouflage cover across the entrance.
Lim noticed that they had dropped about six or seven feet down a shaft, at the bottom of which a tunnel about three foot diameter ran at right angles and led into a circular chamber, from which other tunnels radiated. There were five in total. One contained food and ammunition, two contained blankets and stores and another sloped deeper into the ground and was shored up with timber. From the jungle outside there was no sign. They sat and waited for the Japs to pass .
Tam whispered to Chung Kha “can you see anything?”
“There are three or four coming our way” replied Chung.
Tam edged his way past the others and entered one of the shafts, slowly lifting the cover, he spotted three Japs walking towards the position. They did not seem to belong to a large party, so taking careful aim Tam fired one round at the nearest Jap. All three hit the ground at the same time and lay still. Tam stood patiently watching ,with Chung kha and Lim closely watching him. It was nearly thirty minutes before the Japs plucked up courage to move, then one stood up preparing to move. Taking careful aim Tam shot him through the skull.
Tam continued to wait for further movement, but after an hour it seemed that the Japs had collected their dead comrades and faded back into the jungle. Tam whispered for the others to follow, and he led them back to the entrance and out into the security of the jungle. Darkness came rather suddenly as they walked back to the camp. It was nearly midnight when they arrived back, but they had not arrived unnoticed. Lim felt the cold nose of a Winchester as it touched his skin, and a cold calm voice stated emphatically “two more steps and you are dead” the reaction was the same from each as they froze on the spot, knowing that this was no idle threat.
Chung Kha was ready to hit the ground, as Tam snarled out “put your gun down you silly fart”. The air was electric for Lim as he half expected Tam to be blown away, but Tam carried on issuing instructions to the unseen sentry “I have just taken the pin out of a five second grenade, if you shoot now we will all go to hell”
There was a rustle of leaves as the sentry showed himself, who began asking “where the hell have you been?”. It was Kam Lai . “The captain going mad, he say you are all silly shit and hope you get bullet up backside” Kam Lai was part Mongolian who as well as being a little simple, was not yet able to speak Chinese or Malay, he missed out certain syllables and words. “Captain he said you should go see him fast” he led the way to the large room which they had entered when they arrived. Going to one of the doors, he knocked with the base of his rifle. “Come in” came the captains voice, and the four of them went into the room, Kam Lai leading “Pak Yee Tam” party returned, announced Kam Lai standing with his legs apart, his rifle across his chest, it was a stance he had seen on the cinema screen. He bowed and shuffled out of the room backwards.
Captain Lo spoke quietly but with emphasis. “Where the hell have you been till this hour ?” he asked, the question being directed at all three. No one answered .
“I asked you a question” snapped the captain this time looking at Pak Yee Tam, who jumped smartly to attention. “We have been killing Japs”, he managed to say.
The captain reached for his jacket, similar to the men, he slept fully clothed so as to be ready for any eventuality. Looking directly at Pak Yee Tam he asked “who instructed you to kill anyone?” Then he paused waiting for the question to sink home before continuing “My instructions to you were for you to show the newcomer round the perimeter and acquaint him with the area. You were wrong to engage the enemy without my authority”
Pak Yee Tam looked down at his feet as the captain went on. “You more than anyone else should know how necessary it is to keep our base a secret, the safety of everyone is dependant on each of us understanding how vulnerable we would be should our presence be made known .
Tam slowly regained his composure and apologised, he knew that the captain was right and he had always expressed the situation crudely to them “Any one who shits on his own doorstep, is more than a fool, he is a menace to himself and everyone else.
The captain looked directly at Lee “I do not wish to know of the circumstances, you will all go to your quarters and be ready to move at six thirty in the morning, I will brief you then”.
The three miscreants walked slowly away each with his own thoughts and views, each feeling a little guilty.
There was no need for an alarm call, the sound of enemy action and falling bombs shook them from their sleep, it was just six o’clock in the morning as the first bombs fell. At six thirty they met with the captain as instructed, who immediately led them below ground. Lim recognising that the entrance was the one he had entered a few days previous. The captain did not appear any too happy that the Japanese bombs had fell so close. In his mind assuming that they somehow knew where his headquarters were situated. He stopped for a moment listening, he could hear the hum of the generators which supplied light and power to the installation. Turning to Tam he ordered that he should go and turn them off, having estimated that the emergency batteries would be sufficient for the next few days.
He opened a door leading into a room about twenty five feet square, encased in corrugated steel, heavily supported by large wooden pillars. There was very little sign of condensation , but along one of the walls could be heard the distinct noise of dripping water. Spaced round the room there were six beds made from bamboo and rattan. Two of the beds were occupied by two Malay boys about six or seven years old. They had the gaunt appearance of those who had suffered shock or who had been subjected to harsh treatment, their bodies also displaying cuts and bruises. On a third bed in the corner lay a young girl about the same age, she had been shot in the chest. The bullet having passed straight through her had left a clean hole at the point of entry and departure. On a fourth bed close by the door, was a woman possibly in her late thirties. She had been badly beaten and although she had no obvious wounds, if anyone approached she would cower like a whipped dog and set up a wailing cry. Each time she looked at the children she started to cry clutching her arms to her chest as if trying to squeeze herself invisible.
“I want you to talk to this woman and try to find out where she and the children have come from” asked Captain Loh, addressing Lim. “I have tried, but she does not seem to understand me”
As Lim went toward the woman she let out a huge scream, which went echoing round the room and down the corridors. He tried speaking in Malay, but only the odd word seemed to register such as Loo, and Sia, (you and I) “I have tried Malay” said the captain “I have tried Mandarin and Canton, but she does not respond” Lim then spoke to her in old Dyak and the response was almost immediate. A flood of words came from her mouth, which she spoke so rapid that he could only grasp a few. He held up his hands telling her in Malay to slow down ”nanti, nanti sikit la”, ( take it easy slow down) he said . With a cup of toddy and just sitting by her side, Lim gradually acquired her confidence and she began to talk to him slowly, of how her village in the extreme north had been invaded by the Japanese, who although they were offered no resistance whatsoever, had begun killing the men of the village and raping the women, all the time accusing them all of being British sympathisers and spy’s.
She admitted that most of the younger men had joined the local defence units, but that they had left the village. The only men remaining were those out working and hunting for food,. The remainder were just old men and children. Most of the younger boys had run off into the jungle in search of their fathers,
The women immaterial of age were raped many times, several were tortured and executed. They had said that they came as friends, then they raped, looted, and stole all the food. Every ounce of rice was taken and I myself, was raped three times before they started to humiliate me and torture me in front of the children. After which they made me do things to my children while they laughed. One of them ordered me to follow him into the jungle, he was drunk I think and as he stopped to urinate against a tree, I ran, deeper and deeper into the jungle. I heard him firing his rifle at me, but providence was with me. After I had gone some distance and I could run no further, I stopped and sat down and tried to console myself. As I tried to clean the blood from my arms and body, two children came running through the jungle, a boy and girl. I could hear the Japanese coming as they fired their rifles. So we ran, the little girl fell down, so I picked her up and continued to run with the boy at my side. After running for some time I heard the sound of a child crying and directed by the sound came across another young boy from our village who had also run away. He was crying for his mother. I told him to follow me and, as it began to get dark we clung together and slept. I don’t know how many days we travelled but the last thing I remember was walking out across a made road. I saw a Japanese soldier in uniform and passed out. I don’t remember anything until I awoke one morning and there was a Japanese soldier by my bed”. (The man in uniform she had seen was captain Lo. )
Captain Lo was not a man to show his emotions in public, but when Lim had finished telling him the woman’s story, he blushed red, and a sign of a tear came to his eye as he shouted abuse at the Japanese and their Greater Asian Co Prosperity sphere. “I will personally cut the balls of any of these bastards who come into my domain” he shouted as he left the room.
Lim and the others began to clean up the children and brought water and towels for the woman, then left the room to allow her to clean herself up. Outside captain Lo had composed himself and was waiting, “I want you three to pack your kit and obtain enough rations for three people for five days and then come back here for instructions.
The captain was still waiting when they returned thirty minutes later. In his hands he held a black silk ladies blouse trousers and under garments, he knocked at the door and entered the others following behind.
The woman had finished cleaning herself and was attending to one of the young boys. She stepped back in surprise as they entered, even more so when the captain offered the clothing.
Looking round the captain muttered under his breath, “how the hell do I clothe this little lot”.
The little girl had by now awoke and although looking very pale, she seemed to be a little better, while the captain and the others were busy making her acquaintance Tam left the room, returning a short while later carrying three sarongs. As he came back the captain raised his brow questioningly. “Oh they were among the clothing which we found when we first came here”, said Tam “although they may be a little on the large side, I would imagine that the children can fold them to half the size”.
The captain invited them all to sit while he explained what was about to happen. “There are certain papers which I need to send back to Singapore and to do this I intend that the woman and children are taken to Kuala Lumpur, at the same time, the girl can be taken down to the hospital, and the others can be taken to one of the rehabilitation centres”. He looked at the three and continued, “It will not take you more than three days if you are smart, you will not be required to stay over in KL, just hand over the papers, the woman and the children and then return” Looking at Lim he went on “I know that you have only just come from Kuala Lumpur, but these things happen, if you do not wish to return there, I can have one of the other men take your place”
“But there is a hospital at Ipoh which is much closer” advised Lim “surely it would be quicker to go there” The captain seemed a little annoyed as he replied “No, the hospital at Ipoh is overflowing with sick and wounded, also to return these people to a place where there is every chance that they could be picked up by the Japanese once more would be stupid, If you have not already realised it, the Japanese are all round Ipoh” Lim sighed. “My apologies captain, I was only thinking of how close we are to Ipoh”. Without further argument the captain asked “I suppose you will want to visit your family and girl friend when you get to KL? “ Lim’s eyes lit up, “I will inform KL that you are on your way, go now and may you have a safe journey.
The captain left the three to get on with the project in hand, outside in the daylight several of their comrades stood waiting to accompany them on the first few miles of their journey. Two men carried the boys, piggy back style with two more carrying a stretcher on which was the little girl, the woman walked by their side whenever possible.
The first part of the journey passed very quickly, and once arriving on the outskirts of the mining district the parties split. The main body travelling east, those with the boys and the woman walked unaided and Tam Lee and Lim took turns with the stretcher. The one not carrying the stretcher went ahead for one or two hours, and every four hours a halt was called for a one hour rest.
Finally just before sunset, Lam went ahead to locate a place to rest for the night. Within minutes he returned to inform that he had located an empty kampong about five hundred yards ahead, this seemed to put a bit of heart into the youngsters, who although in a small way were enjoying the adventure, they were missing their parents. “There is always the possibility that someone from the kampong might return and take the children off our hands” said Lim hopefully, but no one was listening they had seen the kampong and were racing ahead to settle down before the sun set. .
The kampong consisted of just four or five small dwellings, which seemed to have been hastily evacuated, probably at the first sounds of war or sight of the Japanese bombers passing over. There was ample food and fuel, plus eating utensils which had been left behind as residents had quickly deserted the area. Chung and the woman began to prepare a meal of sorts from the store of dried beef and rice. Pak Yee Tam went foraging in the huts in the hope of finding something of value.
Leaving the kampong, he had followed the furrows left by the oxen carts. After a few yards the track widened, and at the far end he could see a small light burning and decided to investigate.
The light was coming from a small shack, inside which a man of about forty years was busy repairing a motor engine, which was resting on trestles. The engine was also suspended on a chain attached to an overhead beam. Pak Yee Tam was not a man to stand on ceremony and he boldly entered. The man, not totally surprised looked up and asked “what can I do for you?” Tam looked the man up and down not quite certain if he was Mongolian, Korean or Jap. “I was wondering why all the people in this area have run away, yet you are still remaining.. Is it that you are not afraid of the Japanese?. “ The man scratched his head with a greasy hand as Tam continued “What is so important that makes you burn the midnight oil?”.
The man shrugged his shoulders, he was a large man for a Chinese, “If it is any of your business, I own the land, the property and the business and no monkey is going to take it away from me without a struggle, and in answer to your first question, I do not see any reason why I should leave my own property on the whim of a rumour”. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his huge hands and continued, “I need this vehicle for my work carrying the deceased to their places of rest”. Then as an afterthought “I also own the grave yard”. He stood up with his hands firmly on his hips and looked Tam in the eye. “So you are the funeral man round here?” asked Tam. “Correct” replied the big man.
Pak Yee Tam was not used to anyone giving him an argument and he was about to issue forth with a stream of obscenities, when his brain suddenly slipped into neutral, closing his mouth just as quickly as he had opened it. A truck he thought, just what we need. He was about to ask further questions concerning the vehicle engine when the man said, “Might I ask what you are doing in these parts ?, you are obviously a stranger” He suddenly caught sight of the rifle slung over Tam’s neck. “I see that you are armed also, could it be that you are one of the bandits responsible for looting the villages in these parts?”.
Pak Yee Tam was annoyed now, no one had ever accused him of being a bandit and he took the rifle from off his shoulder and was about to give a demonstration, then thinking better of it “I am a scout for the British forces and my job is to search for desirable places to set up camp and at the same time get rid of undesirables in the area”.
The man was feeling a little non plussed and wanting to get back to work was about to accept Tam’s explanation, although he could not understand why the British would employ an apparent Chinese rebel to work for them in this manner. He shrugged his shoulders, thinking to himself that it was none of his business, his lively hood was looking after the dead, and there were enough of them to keep him going for some time to come.
“I will bid you goodnight then” said Tam, waving his arm in the air and backing out of the shack. Walking back to join the others, he began to mull over a plan which would hopefully provide them with transport to carry everyone down to KL.
Arriving back at the shack, he found that the others had finished their meal, the children were asleep in makeshift beds. Lim had assumed that Tam had been out surveying the next days move, and walked to meet him, followed by Chung Kha carrying a bowl of steaming rice and some savoury meat, which he placed on an upturned box. “Eat” said Chung Kha. They all waited as Tam ravenously despatched the food, not speaking a word. Then when he had finished eating “We will all get up early in the morning suggested Tam”. He looked round his eyes gleaming. “I have the beginnings of a very good idea” Tam placed a hand on Lims knee. “If we play our cards right tomorrow, we will be travelling to KL in comparative luxury”
“What has happened for you to make such a pronouncement” Asked Lim. Talking in a low whisper, Tam explained about the funeral wagon and its possibilities. “Why are you talking in whispers?” asked Lim” The woman and the children can not understand what you are saying and there is no one else about”. All three laughed at their own timidity, the children lying on the beds, hearing the men laugh, also joined in, not knowing what for. To Lim this was a good sign and he walked over to the woman and suggested that the children should sleep now, they would be required to wake early in the morning. Then he led her to an adjoining hut followed by Chung Kha gently carrying the little girl. In the hut there was the remnants of two beds and some bits of blanket. Lim indicated that this was where they should sleep.
The three men sat talking in whispers, discussing the plan put forward by Tam. Then after eliminating the obvious, they set out toward the funeral directors hut. Stopping at a reasonable distance but close enough to enable them to watch the mans movements by the light from the crude lamp, all the time their minds willing him to go to bed .
It seemed ages till they thought that tiredness had eventually overtaken him as he seemed to walk out of the hut. Suddenly the sound of an engine being cranked up echoed through the night. They waited and listened with baited breath as the engine coughed and spluttered then died out. Then again the cranking and the spluttering until finally it sprung to life. a little noisy and rasping, but never the less it had become alive.
The original plan had been to wait until early in the morning while the director was in bed. Then they would steal his motor by pushing it out of the shed and along the road until it was safe to start up the engine. But what they had now seen had put a different complexion on the matter. Tam studied for a short while “Why wait until tomorrow, we will take it from him tonight”. He started to walk quietly toward the humming motor. followed by the others, then loosened the rifle from his shoulder.
The truck was now situated looking out onto the dirt road on which they were approaching. There were no lights apart from the crude oil lamp in the shed. The director was standing to the rear examining the tail board as the three walked in. With Tam standing pointing his rifle at the man, Chung Kha climbed behind the wheel and Lim jumped over the side into the back followed by Tam.
The director rained curses on them, calling them rogues and thieving monkeys as he recognised Tam, and with the engine running, they waited for Chung Kha to start to drive. It had not dawned on them, that to steal a truck one must first be able to drive. Seeing their predicament, the director practically wet himself with laughter especially as each blamed the other.
He was about to climb into the truck, but Tam brought his rifle up and pointed it at the mans midriff. “You will drive” he commanded. The funeral director was not about to be dictated to by any man, especially as young as these three, and he refused to move, until Chung Kha pressed his revolver to the mans temple and clicked the mechanism. There is nothing more chillingly positive than the sound the chamber of a 38 revolver rotating behind ones ear.
The director gave up his protest and with a cynical smile he asked where they wanted to be taken. At the mention of Kualu Lumpur, the man began to shout and rave “My truck will never travel that far”. When Lim explained that they would be taking a woman and three children as well, he went into near panic, protesting that the vehicle would be so much over weight that he wouldn’t be capable of manoeuvring it.
Chung Kha took hold of the mans arm and directed him protestingly into the hut. “You make a pot of tea, while my friends collect the children and the woman, and let me warn you, that I will not hesitate to kill you if you do not co-operate.
The old man did as he was bid and it was not long before Lim and Tam returned, Lim carrying the girl, Tam the two boys, and the woman walking behind. While they drank their tea, Lim placed fresh bandages on the little girls wounds. Once completed, Tam placed two jerry cans of petrol behind the drivers seat and shouted for everyone to climb aboard. The reluctant driver took his place behind the wheel, with Chung Kha taking up the passenger seat and pointing a rifle towards the old man, who pressed the starter and the engine to sprang to life.
After driving along the rough jungle track for a couple of miles they eventually came to the metallic main road leading in the direction of KL. The sun came out from behind some patchy clouds, signalling that it was going to be another hot day. With little shelter from the sun, those in the back of the vehicle became parched and restless. Lim suggested that it might be a good idea to pull off the road while they made some sort of shelter from attap and the branches of trees.
The old man was about to apply the brakes when he spotted a few yards in front, the smouldering remains of what had once been a convoy of Allied trucks. Caught in the open they must have presented an easy target for the Jap planes. Gazing at the ghastly remains, Chung Kha shouted for the driver to carry on to a less open spot, so they continued they passed smouldering ambulances, trucks and half tracks, with the lifeless bodies spewing out from the vehicles. Others who had managed to crawl away had been sprayed with machine gun bullets. The stench of cordite and burning materials being wafted to their nostrils by the movement of the truck.
Tam shouted to the driver to pull over, and leaving Chung Kha to keep an eye on the driver, he and Lim went to recover the rifles and ammunition lying at the side of the dead bodies. In performing this harrowing task, they could not allow their eyes to gaze for too long at the methodical destruction of what had been an Allied ambulance convoy, each truck vividly marked with its red cross insignia
Lim felt that he was acting like a vulture by stealing from the dead, and he was grateful when Tam shouted for him to return to the truck.
Once more on the move, they eventually came to the main road, where they joined the steady flow of traffic heading south for Johore and possibly Singapore. At the cross roads about fifty miles above Rawang, Tam suggested a further rest, and the driver placed the truck under the shade of some overhanging trees. Considering the distance which they had travelled, the old truck had stood up to it all very well and everyone was congratulating the driver. Within ten minutes of restarting however the engine began to cough and splutter, blowing out clouds of smoke from the exhaust and steam from under the bonnet, then finally with a bit of a clanging noise it just stopped.
The funeral director took a look at the engine on which he had worked so diligently. Flinging his arms in the air, he started to cuss, rant, and rave Lim Tam and Chung Kha started to discuss their next move, should the director not be able to repair the engine. The two boys were playing behind some small bushes, and the woman was trying to get the girl to drink, when the sound of approaching aircraft caused Lim and the others to look up.
Coming from out of the sun were two planes, from their appearance and speed obviously Japanese. The first burst of machine gun fire caused everyone to run around in panic. Men began to shout and curse these invaders, the woman and the children started to scream. Especially the children, as they watched men and women from other vehicles which had come to a halt, screaming and pushing others out of their path . Lim part pushed part dragged the two boys and directed them to lie down beneath a large bush. Chung Kha who had been watching the woman, picked up the girl and pushing the woman in front of him made for some bushes. The woman broke away and ran to where the boys were hiding. Pak Yee Tam, snatched the little girl from Chung Kha and ran over to a group of palm trees. Placing the girl on the ground, he lay over the top of her, to shield her. Lim darted to where the woman had joined the boys, and had only just made cover as the sound of the first bombs began to fall. Thankfully they fell about four hundred yards away. He looked up to watch as the planes performed a kind of aerial ballet, swooping and diving, dropping their bombs then shooting into the air only to return once more with further cargo of death. Afterwards returning to spray further destruction with their machine guns at anything which resembled a target. Some of those who had run into the jungle, inched slowly forward from their cover to watch the deadly display. One or two began to regain courage and resumed their journey, trying as much as possible to ignore the planes. Others began to pluck up courage and began to follow the rest heading south. As the planes departed, the road became once more flooded with the migrating throng. Lim hesitated for a short while, a subconscious act which probably saved his life. Above the noise of the departing aircraft, was the sound of further raids south of where they were standing, then out of the noise came the sound of a plane in trouble, the engine firing and stopping in rapid succession. Lim looked up as the plane bearing the British red white and blue insignia came veering above the road, just several feet above the heads of the departing throng. A Japanese Navy “O” followed firing stream after stream of machine gun bullets. Its angle was above the British plane, and a number of the bullets were hitting the people below. The British plane then dived and crashed and bursting into flames among those who were trying to escape.
The Japanese pilot now turned his attention to the fleeing people, using his guns like a crop sprayer. A few moments later he was joined by two more of his brave compatriots.
Then it was all over and the sky was once more clear. The raid had lasted not more than five minutes, yet it had seemed like hours. Lim stood up and began to dust the dirt from his clothes. He looked round for Chung Kha, then saw Tam lying beneath the palm tree and called out to him. Receiving no reply, he went over and as he approached, he could see the reason why Tam had not responded to his shout. At least four bullets had found their mark and one or more had passed through him and into the little girl who was beneath him. As he looked down and even before he had managed to shed a tear, the red ants were continuing the work of destruction left by the Japanese. He cried as he tried to brush them off, not noticing the occasional bites which he was receiving in protest.
After a short while he went to collect a spade from the back of the truck, and as he walked he found one of the girls shoes which must have fallen off as they scrambled for cover, he picked it up, and holding it to his chest, gave vent to his feelings, he lay down on the grass and wept uncontrollably, and that was how Chung Kha found him moments later. Lim tried to apologise for his un- manliness, but there was no need, Chung Kha had seen for himself, he went on to explain to Lim, how he had helped the woman and of how she had run into the jungle after the boys. How he had gone in search without success. Between them they dug a hole in the ground, placed Pak Yee Tam in first and then the little girl.
They managed to draw a rough map so that if they could possibly return later they would give them a proper burial. Afterwards they searched for some time to find the woman and the boys, but it was as if the jungle had swallowed them. They found the director dead by the side of his truck, so after quickly searching through his pockets and extracting the few dollars from his wallet and the watch from his wrist, they sat and had a meal of cold cooked rice and salt meat.
After a short rest they began to systematically search the wreckage of the British plane, taking away the compass and the pilots revolver there was no sense in looting for the sake of looting. So before leaving, they dug a grave for the pilot, and just before filling it in, Lim noticed that the pilots watch which was still strapped to his wrist had stopped at 1046 am precisely. Picking up the rifle which had belonged to Pak Yee Tam.. “There’s no point in going on to Kualu Lumpur now”, Lim suggested to Chung Kha, who just nodded in agreement. It was now going to be the blind leading the blind, because neither had received much training in map reading or even self preservation. Lim would really have liked to go to KL, but at the same time he knew that he must rejoin the others. Placing his arm across Chung Kha’s shoulders he led the way along the main road leading to Tanjong Malim, so many miles away.
After travelling for several miles, it became apparent that a large number of people from the north were evacuating south. Lorries, broken down vehicles, held together with string and elastic, handcarts holding family possessions, followed by children holding hands. With always the same muttered conversation coming from the adults, suggesting that the Japanese were just up the road. After a while by mutual agreement, they decided to leave the road and try to find their way through the jungle, hoping that they would not run into the advancing Japanese.
They had walked for several miles in the steaming wet jungle when it started to rain. Within a short time the rain was cascading down from the upper leaves like miniature waterfalls. soaking them through in very short time and without either wanting to admit it they were lost, with only the clothes they were wearing, three rifles, and twenty rounds of ammunition.
“Maybe we will come to a kampong soon and we can ask direction” suggested Chung Kha. There was a long silence before Lim answered, “I suppose that there is that possibility, but with our luck I think it would be more possible that we will run into the Japanese army”. The rain was now cascading down in sheets, making a roaring sound as it hit the trees and leaves. It was so heavy, that neither heard the sound of a group of Japanese soldiers, heading in the opposite direction and just a few yards to their right and many miles from their nearest troops. As the two walked on, they came to a much wider path and decided to follow it. Within seconds, Lim stopped dead in his tracks and pointed toward the ground. Chung followed the direction which his finger was pointing. There just at the side of the track was the remains of a fire, scattered round it bits of dried fish and rice, but more obvious to Lim was several spent matches and an empty cigarette packet, the packet being Japanese. Lim bent down, and picking it up read out the name of the brand “Mount Fuji mild”. Easing themselves back into cover of the jungle, they waited and listened, unaware that they had passed within a few feet of the enemy. As the rain eased down into a slight drizzle, it became very dark. “I think they have gone”, said Lim “and we should be moving as well”. Chung Kha squeezed Lims arm as an indication that he understood, he did not wish to risk speaking, and they rejoined the wider of the two paths. Being wider, they were able to walk side by side and at the same time move a little faster.
After a while the path began to broaden out more, a sure indication that they were nearing a kampong or village. Then suddenly they were standing on the border of a kampong. Approaching with caution waiting at a point where they could just see the shacks. In the middle were the remains of a fire, still smoking, the fumes catching their throats, so that it was all they could do to stem the urge to cough.
Coming to the first hut, they could hear snoring coming from inside, beyond the hut, they could hear someone humming a tune softly. Peeping round the corner, Lim could see a Japanese soldier, apparently acting as sentry. Close by the fire were stacked several rifles and two small mortars.
Lim turned, and placing his finger to his lips, he grabbed Chung Kha by the arm leading him back into cover of the jungle, when they were far enough away, he whispered. “ I think we have run into a Japanese army. What do we do, stay under cover here and wait for them to move or do we make a detour?” Chung Kha was obviously not a decision maker “Whatever you think best” he replied. Lim weighed up the pro’s and cons, then deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, moved off making a detour of the kampong, far enough away to be able to run, but close enough to be able to listen for any movement from the kampong direction.
Leaving the kampong behind, they finally came to a small hollow in the ground. Putting the rifles in a secure place, they threw themselves down onto the damp grassy slope and in spite of the cold damp atmosphere, were soon sleeping.
The sound of nature wakening caused Lim to awake also, and with his bunched fists rubbing his eyes, he had momentarily forgotten where he was. The sound of harsh guttural voices soon brought him to the present and placing a hand firmly over Chung Kha’s mouth, he shook him awake.
Clasping the rifles, they slithered to the top of the hollow and from under the bushes they watched in silence as the Japanese came closer. From the sounds and the occasional words, Lim was able to make out that they were in a hurry, angry words were being exchanged and the occasional slapping could be heard although they had still not come into view. Above the voices now came the sound of men on the move, the clanking of mess tins and equipment, with rifles clanging against panakins. Soon they came into view, Lim and Chung watched in silence as they passed by just a few yards away. One man and then another slipped and slithered, hitting the ground with a banging and clanging, followed by a shout from the gunso and the laugh of ridicule coming from their comrades who had managed to stay upright. Just as the sounds had begun, they now began to diminish as the party moved further towards their destination. Finally the only sound was that of the bull frogs and the crickets.
Lim and Chung walked cautiously toward the kampong, from where it was obvious that the Japs had come. The fire was still flickering and all around was the typical trade mark showing that the Japanese had been there. Discarded cooked rice, meat, fish, fruit, cigarette butts and empty packets, all scattered on the ground in typical Japanese fashion, similar to the aftermath of a children’s party.
They stood close to the fire, trying to infuse some warmth into their cold numb bodies before making any further move. Once this had been acquired, they set about searching round the kampong, each with one round up the breach. The huts where the Japanese had spent the night were an exact replica of the Japanese life style, which was, if you don’t want it, throw it on the ground. The huts were filthy in comparison to the usual Malay huts.
Lim entered a further hut, here family portraits and ornament had been thrown to the floor and broken, images of Buddha and similar icons were scattered around, broken beyond repair. Each hut they entered had received the same treatment.
As Lim was about to enter a further hut, he heard Chung Kha shout from the far side of the village. Chung Kha was standing in front of a hut, that for some reason had a wooden screen around its base, similar to a store house or cellar. As Chung Kha led the way, Lim had the gut feeling of what he was about to see. The room was about twenty by thirty feet square, with rough round wooden posts supported the building at each corner and various points between. Secured to the posts were the bodies of several Malay men and youths. They had been tortured, bayoneted and killed. In a heap by the side of one wall were several bodies which appeared to have received similar treatment. The stench of death was so overwhelming that both men ran out side gagging for breath, and it was some time before either was in a position to tackle the remaining huts, which it turned out, although they had received the typical courtesy of the Japanese, they held no further surprises. After finishing their tour of inspection they sat by the fire, and having lost their appetite, settled for a cup of tea minus sugar and milk.
The stench from the now decomposing bodies permeated the air, a greater incentive for them to leave as quickly as possible.
Taking the track by which the Japanese had obviously entered the Kampong, they walked in single file Chung Kha leading. Something suddenly caught his eye and he suggested that they go back a few paces. Some yards into the jungle was a small clearing in the middle of which stood a large Tualang tree, its giant branches throwing a shadow across the clearing . Behind the tree were several bushes and clumps of bamboo. Attached to one of the bamboo canes a large piece of coloured material was fluttering in the breeze. It was the coloured material which had drawn Chung Kha’s attention. They walked toward the cloth, and long before they reached it they knew that they were going to find yet a further scene of Japanese atrocity.
The piece of cloth was from a female Sarong or Kabaya, scattered around beneath the beacon were the remains of several females, young old and children, to the Japanese age was of no consequence, they had invented the word pedophilia. The bodies were lying in contorted positions, and had been beat and tortured, bayoneted and raped. Their appearance was vulgar in the extreme and the stench which hovered about them was vile, polluted and obscene. Chung Kha had thought that the scene in the kampong had been revolting, but this surpassed all description of carnage. Several of the women had been staked to the ground. After the Japanese had completed their acts of debauchery. Lim scurried into the brush to be sick, his retching sending natures small creatures rushing for cover. The younger women had been used as comfort girls, but once the Japanese soldiers had completed their lust, they staked the women to the ground.
Then in true Japanese Samurai fashion, they urinated on each one, after which they scattered sugar or gula mallaca over them. This created a stench which would attract the ants and other insects. Once the ants arrive they sting and inject a debilitating poison causing pain and nausea leading to in humans a lingering painful death. As an added horrendous deed, the Japanese had fastened one or two victims over the young bamboo shoots, with the knowledge that the bamboo grows very rapidly until it is six foot tall, so that anyone surviving for several days would feel the bamboo invading their bodies. Some of the lucky ones, if they can be referred to as lucky, had been shot in the temple. Now they were all dead having been used by the Japanese warriors to practice all their vicious tortures..
Chung Kha felt totally inadequate, with the rage building up inside he had no idea of how to express his disgust and he felt the urge to want to smash someone’s head in. There was no way for him to vent his feelings as his colour changed from red to normal and back to red again.
Lim walked off into the jungle, with Chung Kha following slowly in the rear and as Lim turned to speak, Chung Kha burst into tears. Lim had never experienced seeing a man cry and he was a little embarrassed, then gripping Chung Kha’s shoulder, he eased him along towards the track, “Come on” he said, “there is nothing that we can do here, but one day God willing I intend to repay this debt twice over.”
Travelling as quickly as possible and remaining well away from anything which resembled civilisation, they travelled for about nine miles, which was a good distance for jungle trekking, and it was beginning to go dark once more, darkness came quickly in the jungle. The sound of a running stream seemed like an invitation to dinner, so they bathed and washed their clothes in the remaining light and by the time they had hung their shirts and socks out to dry, it was far too dark to see a foot in front of their eyes and they lay down where they were and allowed sleep to take over.
As soon as the sun rose they continued their journey, travelling adjacent to the path along which the Japanese had come. After a couple of miles, the aroma of cooking, possibly chicken. Chung Kha indicated to Lim to remain quiet and pointed to a spot ahead in the jungle where there was a wisp of smoke climbing lazily upwards. They moved slowly and cautiously, Lim making the motion of someone anticipating a cooked meal. As they came close to where the smoke was rising, they hid behind a small bush from where they could see the fire situated outside a small hut. There did not seem to be anyone moving about. and Lim was now feeling so hungry he could have killed a company of Japanese soldiers for a bowl of rice. As he crept closer he could hear someone singing and humming the song “South Of The Border down Mexico way”.
It has got to be an English man thought Lim. The song was the one soldiers sang in the bars back in KL, anyhow it could only be an English man who would light a fire for everyone to see, and sing while cooking a meal. Lim walked boldly forward shouting “don’t shoot, we are friends”. The singing stopped abruptly. To Lims ears came the sound of someone dragging one of his feet along the ground. Somewhere from the back of the hut an English voice shouted “Who the hell are you?”. Placing his rifle against the side of the hut, then moving quickly to the side of the fire, Lim shouted “Come on out, we are not armed”. There was silence and Lim shouted again, “come on out and allow us to share you meal, you are probably just as tired as we are”. There was a further long silence, then from the rear of the hut struggled a man in English uniform of sorts. He was wearing a shirt and shorts, both covered in blood and dirt. He was not wearing a hat and his once curly blond hair was now matted and unkempt. He had no visible weapons, and leaned heavily on a strong bamboo stick, to support his bandaged left leg.
“Are you English?” asked Lim. The man nodded and replied “I was with my company about three days ago, but we got shot up by the Japs”. Then he stopped suddenly “Who the hell are you anyhow?” he asked
“I am Lim Hung and my friend is Chung Kha, we are with the Chinese peoples party, fighting against the Japanese” Once more there was an abrupt silence as each sized up the other, then both started to speak at the same time, the English soldier gave way to Lim. “We are making our way to Larek where my uncle has a tin mine” he lied “and we are going to make sure that he is still alive and safe”
“If your uncles mine is anywhere near Lubok, you might just as well turn round and go back, because the Japanese have taken Lubok and massacred almost everyone”.
“We must go there anyhow, because there are other things to attend to” said Lim looking over the soldiers shoulder at the fire “What’s that you are cooking” he asked. “Pig” said the soldier. “I was just preparing some bamboo shoots and a few local herbs to add to it”. He paused turning to the fire, “I caught the pig yesterday, it was just lying there with its leg all busted and a bullet in its back side. Probably the Japanese had chased it, shot it and failed to drop it. At first I thought I might be able to fix its leg and then I thought, who the hell wants a pig with a damaged leg. Anyhow I was hungry “ The soldier stood over the jerry can boiling on the fire and gave it a stir. “There’s enough for the three of us if you would like to share” offered the soldier. He looked toward Chung Kha who it seemed had not understood a word of what had been said and deliberately looking at Chung he said “I have added a couple of sweet potatoes which the Japs had left behind” There was still no indication from Chung that he had understood, and Lim noticing the soldiers reaction related to Chung Kha what was happening and then turning to the soldier “I am sorry, but my friend does not understand English, he is from Canton in China”. Then turning back to Chung he asked him if he would scavenge around the huts to see if he could find anything useful to eat with. Pushing the embers of the fire closer together with his boots, he sat down on the ground and indicated to the soldier to do likewise. Seeing the pain on the soldiers face as he eased himself down he asked, “What happened to your leg?”
“Oh’ I got that in Kedah last week. I was with a line laying party just outside Kedah when the Japs came down on us. It was one hell of a fight, shit was flying all over the place”. Lim looked at the lad quizzically not having heard some of the expressions being used before. “What is your name?” he asked, “Ron” said the soldier “I was with a signals line unit, we had just finished running a line through to HQ, when they came out of the jungle from all sides”. He started twitching and his eyes became fixed as if waiting for someone to come running out of the jungle. “We gave as much as we got “, he muttered , “but there was nowt I could do and the old man shouted to us to f— off out of it and make our way back, so I jumped on one of the motorbikes and headed for Betong . But I must have gone the wrong way, because the sign posts said I was heading for Kualu Kangsar. The infantry had just finished building a road block there and I was told to make myself useful as the Jap was just up the road. I could have told them that the Jap was down the road as well, but he wouldn’t have taken any bloody notice”.
Within five hours the Japs were coming down in tanks, they just bulldozed their way through and one of them hit the lorry I was hiding behind and pushed the lorry and myself off the road and under a tree. I tried to get up, but I was trapped by the leg. There was a hell of a lot of fighting going on, then suddenly I was on my own”. Ron took a deep breath and a drink from his bottle then continued, he had a captive audience and he wanted to make sure that he got his word across as soon as possible. “What did you do then?” asked Lim, and without further hesitation Ron continued. ”I must have been pulling and trying to ease my leg out for two hours or more. Finally I got free. There was a Norton bike lying at the side of the road, it was a pig of a job to sit astride it, but I finally made it and headed in the direction of KL. I don’t know how many miles I covered, but after a while the bloody bike ran out of fuel, so I legged it into the jungle, keeping as close to the road as possible. I saw a couple of Japs so I moved further into the kudge and got myself lost again. I found a couple of sweet corn and a sweat potato, which I ate and then fell down and slept. It must have been a long time, because when I woke up the sun was overhead. I found that I couldn’t move my leg, so I managed to break a piece of the branch of a tree and use it as a crutch”. He paused “I came to this spot a couple of days ago, just as the Japs were moving out.?. He seemed to look more relaxed having finally told his story. Lim sympathised with him, “You seem to have had your fair share of trouble”, he said, then he noticed that the back of Rons shirt was covered in blood. “Do you want me to have a look at your back?”, he asked . Ron looked up at him in a puzzled manner, “Why, am I bleeding?”, he asked as Lim started to ease the shirt from his shoulder”. I suppose I must look like Robinson Crusoe” suggested Ron. Lim who had never heard of Robinson Crusoe, nodded his head. The shirt had stuck to the lads back in places, and Lim was able to see that there were several deep cuts along his back, with what looked very much like a bullet hole at the top of his shoulder. The blood had congealed and in places the whole flesh was black and ugly looking. “ I think the best thing would be to have something to eat, after which I will try my best to clean you up and put some bandages on your wounds”. During the time they had been talking, Chung Kha had returned with odd spoons and other table utensils, and they soon tucked in to the food which Ron had been cooking. True to his word, after the meal which they all devoured like starving animals, which indeed they were, Lim washed and dressed the wounds, then they sat a while and discussed the war in general, with Lim relaying the conversation to Chung Kha as they went along. The conversation then began to get a little hazy as each one started to doze.
It was only the drop in temperature as it began to rain, which caused them to wake and run for cover of the nearest hut. The rain fell for some considerable time, and Lim suggested that they were never going to be able to rekindle the fire, so they would be better off continuing their journey. He invited Ron to join them, but Ron scratched his head, belched wind from both ends at once and announced, “I have always been a bit of a loner, and anyhow the Japs would spot three easier than one, so if you don’t mind I will remain on my own”. He looked at Lim, and put out his hand “just point me in the right direction for home and I will take my chances. Don’t you think you would be better off coming with us to the next village, where you can have your wounds tended to?, and in any case there is safety in numbers” said Lim,
“Naw” replied Ron, “ I think I will be better off trying to catch up with the rest of the lads. Don’t worry, I’ll be alright” However eager his decision to go it alone, his good-byes seemed very long winded. And he walked away in the direction which Lim had suggested. Chung Kha then went round to the rear of the hut and retrieved their rifles.
After three gruelling days in which they climbed hills and crossed fast flowing streams and rivers, they came once more within the boundaries of the mine. Both men alert, knowing that apart from the Japanese, their own sentries would be well prepared to score a point in the commanders favour, if they could trap either or both. Knowing this, Chung Kha suggested that they take evasive action and try to score points off the sentries themselves. So feeling quite pleased, they crawled through the mud, crawled and slithered up and down culverts, travelled snake like across green open spaces, until finally they were within sight of the gates without being spotted. Lim was not so sure if he should be disappointed or pleased, if they could get through, so could the Japanese.
Arriving at the entrance to the main building, they began to realise that their concealment had been unnecessary. The camp was deserted. The feeling of well being and pleasure from finally making it back, turned to despair. Lim walked to the entrance to the underground barracks, but there was no sign of the old man although his bed was in the usual position.
Removing the bed, Lim went below ground and examined each room. It was as if the occupants had been spirited away, everything was in its usual position with the exception of rifles and equipment. Beds were made up, and everything was neat and tidy. Chung Kha who had followed behind, looked quizzically at Lim, and they each began to ask themselves and each other questions to which neither knew the answers. Finally they decided to have a bath, a clean change of clothes and a meal, after which they would set out for headquarters at Taiping, but first they needed to visit the local barber shop and have their untidy hair trimmed.
As soon as they reached the door of the barber shop which was situated in a compound close to the mine area, they came to realise that they had not been abandoned. Although they had searched all through the workings for signs, they had not thought to go to the admin. offices which were some distance away. Pinned to the door of the mine managers office a simple note read Batu Rich 16. Which meant that the group had left for Batu Rich on the 16th. The relief at seeing the note, took a great deal of pressure from their minds. “Do you know this place?” asked Lim. Chung Kha nodded his head “Surely this is the camp situated at the head of the river Rich about one hundred miles south of here.
“If we go along the railway tracks as far as the river, we can drop down to the river bank and follow it to Po Lar village”. Chung paused and looked at Lim to establish if he was taking everything in. “We once built a campo there for the CPWE”. They entered the barber shop as Chung continued talking. “It would be best if we had a short break and a chance to clean up and refurbish our supplies”. Lim nodded in agreement and then lifting his nose into the air he began to sniff “I think you possibly smell more than I do, so I will let you go first”. Chung made a playful lunge as he made his way to the chair. The two had become great friends in the short period of time they had been together. Lim was twenty years of age and Chung twenty six. He had once had a young wife and daughter, unfortunately his wife preferred the bright lights of Hong Kong, so he had walked out on her and made his way to Malaya where he met and was befriended by Mr Yui Chee Ming the leader of the party at that time. From there he had joined the CPWE, before finally joining the anti Japanese wing.
Up to now Lim had never mentioned that his girl friend was the daughter of Yiu Ming. He had felt that it was something which he preferred to keep to himself until the time was right.
The cleaning and packing completed and after four hours undisturbed sleep, followed by a meal cooked by Chung, they waited until sunset before starting on their journey then in single file, then they walked silently out of the camp, down the lush grassy bank leading to the railway.
The sound of the birds settling down for the night the ripple of a stream making its journey south, were the only sounds. There was not even a slight breeze to ruffle the leaves . The sound of a twig snapping, sounded like cannon fire to them both and Chung indicated with his outstretched arm for Lim to move round the outside. Lim slithered toward the nearest bush, while Chung Kha moved in the opposite direction. Instinctively they both waiting to either pounce or shoot, hearts beating and breath tight, practically reaching bursting point. Once more the sound of someone picking their way through the jungle, creating a sense of anxiety. There was about ten yards between them both as the seconds ticked by and the silence returned. Then the noise of someone creeping again. Who ever it was had reached a position between them both but closer to Chung Kha. who sprang at the same time that the intruder realised that he was not alone. Whoever it was had realised their mistake and tried to return to the cover of the jungle, but too late, Chungs reactions were much quicker and his arms encircled the intruders body. “Apa Mow” (What’s happening) shouted Lim, but it was impossible for the culprit or the attacker to shout, they were too much embroiled in each other. As Chung fell to the ground, he brought the struggling victim with him, only to realise that it was a girl. Although Chung would not even consider attacking a female, the sensuous feelings of her body struggling to free herself from his grip, triggered a long forgotten urge within him, and he started to rip off her sarong, exposing her body to his now lusting eyes. It had been several months since he had even been close enough to even kiss a woman, and this girls struggle was stirring his sexual appetite.
Pinning her struggling body to the ground with his left arm round her neck and shoulder, he tried to thrust himself between the girls flaying legs and was about to gain supremacy, when suddenly the metallic sound of a thirty eight revolver being cocked at the side of his ear, quickly dispersed any further desire. He swiftly turned his head to the left, and Lim’s revolver caused a cut above his left eye .
Chung’s passion had now been replaced by venom and as he fell to the ground at the side of the girl he protested sharply, “What the F—— is wrong with you?, are we on opposite sides now or did you want to be the first you bastard?”.
Lim allowed him to exhaust himself of expletives, and still with his revolver pointing at Chung’s head answered “None of those things” he paused clicking the revolver back to the safety position. “I was only trying to stop you from becoming the type of animal we are fighting against. I didn’t want you to become like the Japanese bastards we decry so much”. Chung remained silent, because he knew that what Lim was saying was indeed true, it was indoctrinated into the Japanese army that rape and looting was their reward by virtue of the Emperor for being such gallant warriors.
The young girl lay weeping on the ground, her body exposed for all to see, her body was a mass of cuts and bruises, fresh blood as well as dried blood caked on her thighs and legs. She was obviously a Malay girl of between sixteen and twenty years, frightened and convulsed by all that was happening to her. As Lim bent to place the torn sarong round her, she immediately cowered away, trying to cover her nudity by clinging closer to the ground. “Take it easy” said Lim as soothingly as he possibly could “No one is going to hurt you”. But her body continued to shake with her crying, her mind tortured and tormented, not knowing if she should believe or trust.
“What the bloody hell is wrong with you?” asked Chung, “first you threaten to blow my head off, now you are acting like a bloody nursemaid”, He stood up to go, “come on leave her, she isn’t our problem and there’s a bloody war on, and its a hundred to one that she’s been got at by the Brits and the Japs and its more than probable that she will be used again, so just leave her and lets get going”.
“No one is trying to be a nursemaid or hero” answered Lim, “I happen to have a young sister and a girl friend about her age and it made me realise that she could have been either of them”
“She isn’t your sister or your girl friend, so come on lets get moving” Lim replaced his revolver in its holster, It was now obvious that Chungs sexual passion had run its course. “Suppose we ask her who she is” suggested Lim, “maybe she has information which could help us” Chung shrugged his shoulders, “she is most probably one of the women running away from her village and knows nothing” .
“Whatever she is running away from, the least we can do is to see that she is alright and help put her on the right track” said Lim as he took a seat on the ground by the side of the trembling girl. He spoke to her in Malay, which she obviously understood as her eyes gave a glimmer of hope at hearing familiar words. Then after drinking some water, she sat up and set about adjusting her sarong, as Lim offered her a piece of biscuit her eyes sparkled like a puppy looking for friendship. “Where are you from?” asked Lim, “what is your name”. Lim put several questions to the girl, but she was still too afraid to speak. With careful coaxing and persuasion however, he gradually gleaned that she was originally from Bagewan in Brunai, she was of the Christian faith. That her name was Muela. She had a father, mother, two younger sisters and a brother, and that her family had moved to Perlis three years ago.
The Japanese had attacked the village where she lived and almost everyone was killed. including her parents and her sisters. She herself had managed to escape with several other people. Then about two weeks ago they had been captured by the Japanese, the men had been killed instantly and the women were bound and used as servants and comfort girls. She had been raped many times, but could not remember how many. There had been fifteen women and girls from fifteen years to thirty years of age. Then the Japanese had started to get rid of some of the women by torturing them to death, while they were busy with the others, she had seen the opportunity to crawl into the jungle, where she had waited for a very long time before running away. Finally two days ago she had managed to pluck up courage to run. “That was until you and your friend grabbed me” she said..
“I thought at first that you were Japanese, especially as your friend started to tear off my sarong”. Lim tried to place an arm round her shoulders, but she pulled away instantly, pulling the sarong further under her chin and heaving a big sigh, then she relaxed a little.
“I am all right now” she said “I have made my peace with God, so if you or your friend wish to use my body, please do so now, for soon I will be dead, but please do not hurt me, I do not wish to live any longer and have no fighting spirit left in me, all I ask is that you shoot me and kill me once you have finished “Lim fell back amazed as the girl dropped her hold on the sarong and let her hands fall to her side. He was about to speak, but she interrupted “I asked the Japanese to kill me, but they did not understand and I am too much a coward to do it myself”.
“There you are” said Lim “an open invitation for you to have your way with her”, he was talking to Chung Kha, and Chung was holding his head down in shame. He stood up and walked to the edge of the stream “I feel bad enough as it is” he said “But while she was struggling she created a sexual tiger within me, then when her sarong came off I wanted nothing more than to consume her. Although seeing her now I doubt if such thoughts could ever enter my mind again”.
“Its typical” said Lim, “she has been raped by we don’t know how many Japs, her mind has been blown, and she is now one of the untouchables!. Come on lets move”
“What about the girl?” asked Chung Kha.
“That is up to her” replied Lim “I will make her aware of the situation we are in, and if she decides to join us we will take her as far as the next kampong. If she decides to stay, it will be her decision entirely”.