Sketch by Jack Chalker




Our task was to work in the coal mines and at night I helped out in the makeshift hospital under a doctor (RAMC) who hailed from Paisley. We talked a lot late into the night and I learned a lot from him. One of the things we did to bolster up the sick was to inject subcutaneously distilled water and tell the patients this would help them.

By this time I had acquired so much patience, understanding and caring that I felt good within myself, even though I was skin and bone. The hair on my eyebrows started to sprout as did some head hair. One episode which nearly decimated the camp was when the Japs gave the cookhouse some seafood. All those who ate it, including myself, were seriously ill with food poisoning and a number of prisoners died in agony. The doctor was wonderful then and worked day and night to save us.

As usual, there were tortures going on. Someone had stolen sugar so the whole camp was made to kneel erect all night, the Japs hosing water on our legs which, in the sharp frost, froze them. The pain was something else. If you sat back on your knees a rifle butt in your back soon made you erect again. There were so many episodes it would take me forever to tell them.

Suffice it to say, we slogged along for another year until one day in August 1945 a 'plane, not Japanese, flew over the camp and that was the 'plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The blast from it keeled us over and there was a hint of panic among the Jap guards. Suddenly one morning we awoke and there were no guards. They had fled. The Japanese had capitulated on 15th August 1945 and in the event we were free, with nowhere to go.

Sadly, of the 2,800 prisoners that left Singapore for Japan only about 400 of us survived the cruel sea.

A week later the American Navy came to release us and take us to Nagasaki for de-lousing and fumigation. Oh, the luxury of a shower. A piece of soap was heaven to me. We were each weighed and I was staggered when the scales recorded 5st.l21bs. What a miserable bunch we were and must have looked. A terrible sight compared to the Yanks.

Following this I am moved to show below a poem written in honour of my comrades who perished that sultry tropical night in the South China Sea.


A real sultry tropical night

No stars to make the heaven bright,

No breeze to stir the heavy air.

You could feel a danger lurking there.

We must have looked a frightful sight

All crowded forward, awfully tight.

Some cramped up in the hold below

Worse than we would a cargo stow.

Some would moan or curse or swear.

Others would only sit and stare.

When suddenly the stillness broke,

The few that were sleeping soon awoke.

An awful tearing, rending sound,

As though the ship had gone aground.

That we were hit there was no doubt

And a flare from the bridge was soon shot out

Warning the others a sub was near,

And to alter course and then get clear.

Suspense was short.

Some hoped in vain

That the ship would right itself again.

But no. Those on deck would easy see

The ship a total loss would be.

An attempt to lower the boats was made,

But for us, no thought or heed was paid.

Once more under our own command

The lads on deck were really grand.

Flinging rafts and floats into the sea

When soon the order to jump would be.

The men below waited, calm and steady.

No panic, no rush, and all was made ready.

Some started to jump as it was quite clear

The end of the ship was very near.

Orderly, they started to come up the stairs.

Strange, but most of them in pairs.

The water was over the stern by now

With quite a grade from aft to bow.

Some lads were still waiting to go over the side

As under the water she began to slide.

Many a man said a silent prayer,

While many prayed to which praying was rare.

May God bless the souls of the men in their graves

Who found rest and peace that night in the waves.

And so, with humble contrite heart

Let us therefore do our part

And keep a memory of this night

To those brave men their glory and their plight.

Thank you God. To those who survived

To live another day, freedom was the prize.


Next Chapter




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