March into Captivity
We were then marched the 15 miles to Changi Garrison. There was no mains water as the mains had been destroyed by the shelling and bombing. The boys were to be my responsibility in the prison camp, although it was to be difficult to keep them with me as the Japs might have other ideas. Work parties were the order of the day, and the officer who was in charge made sure we were kept back. My duties were to educate the boys for their Army General Certificate of Education. Naturally, my teaching days had only previously been in dancing so to teach youngsters in the confines of a prison camp was an onerous task. How does one start? No books. So my own ideas had to suffice. It goes without saying the lads hated the lessons, but the idea behind it all was to keep their minds active.
In the evenings wonderful sunsets. We would sit on the grass chatting and Freddie, the cheekiest one, would quiz about my girl friends, and Hazel in particular. What can you say to 14 and 15 year old prisoners of war from someone still only 22. The Brind boys were given the option of going with their family as a civilian but they said they had joined the Gordons and would take their chances as P.O.Ws.
All that could be done was to bolster their spirits as best one could, and it was not easy. All of us panicked as none of us knew what fate had in store for us.
From here on those of you who are nervous or squeamish should not read on.
During the course of this period concert parties were staged, orchestral evenings, a vivid memory of hearing Mendelssohn and Bruch played superbly by a violinist accompanied by a pianist, on a stage erected on a hill side, bright moonlight. It was a very emotional evening.
On 1st September 1942 we were asked to sign a declaration that we would not try to escape from the Japanese prison camps. The officers and the men refused so we, along with 17,000 others, were herded into my regiment's barrack square at Selerang and no facilities were available, you stood or sat wherever you could. The men in hospital at Roberts barracks were also ordered there. Japanese machine gunners were sited at the four comers of the square ready to shoot anyone moving beyond the barbed wire surrounding us.
"Land of Hope and Glory" became our theme song and probably sung with more fervour than ever before. By the third day on the square nights were cold, but by mid-day the sun was beating down on you. Men were dying and others were ill.
The Commanding Officer was summoned by the Japanese commander and told all men sign or we take all hospital bedridden and force them to walk here, two miles, at bayonet point. This would have meant hundreds would die so we were ordered by the officers to sign and by so doing we could not be court martialled as we had been ordered by our own commanding officers and had to obey. After a long drawn out process of signing we were told to return to our previous quarters, many of us suffering from dysentery, malaria, prickly heat and other ailments.
What food, stolen or otherwise, had to feed over 30, 000 men and one ate rice, weevils and all. The working parties taken to Singapore go-downs to load sugar, meat and vegetables was plundered by us, and if one was caught it meant a beating or worse, but we took our chances.
The officers did not show up in the best of light as they had pillaged tins of fruit, corned beef,
etc. which was supposed to be handed in for the good of all, but which they endeavoured to keep for themselves.
Classes were held during this time for Roy and Jim Brind, the copy of a certificate below:-
Boy Frederick Brind, Gordon Highlanders
The above mentioned has attended classes for:-
1st Class Army Certificate for the months of August, September
English and Mathematics and has passed with a high percentage
Shown great keenness and ability
Hours per week attending 8 hours + preparation time.
AK Urquhart Inst.
I taught both the fourteen year old Frederick and his fifteen year old brother Jim who’s father was a Prison officer at Changi Gaol before the Japs invaded, previously serving 23 years in the Gordon Highlanders. The boys were both born in India when their father was in service. The Colonel of the Gordons, offered the boys the option of going into civilian clothes, but the two boys said NO, they had joined the Gordons, and wanted to be with the regiment as POW's. The two boys Freddie and Jim, were sent up to the railway, and the last time I saw them, was in Chungkai Hospital Camp, but parted again when I was sent back to Singapore and onwards to Japan.
What a pair of heroes, those two, and when I got in touch with them, after 1945, these lads, travelled up from their home in Brentwood, to visit me , in Aberdeen, and attended the Gordon's Annual Reunion each year.
Alas Freddie, was in a bad shape of mind, and would phone me night after night, seeking solace, and really never, came out of the prison camp, and that was all he could talk about.Both Jim and Freddie looked upon me as a sort of father figure, a bond that lasted years, alas Freddie died at an early age, from the effects of the captivity and had taken to the drink, which did not help. Some years ago, I lost touch with Jim, and at that time he was hospitalised with Alzheimer's disease, and will endeavour to trace him, if I can, through the Museum.
Then came the day when the Imperial Japanese Army wanted volunteers to build a railway through Siam to Burma, with the promise of the work to be easy; three days work and two days rest in a holiday camp. Volunteers meant the camp commandant issued lists of the men to be on this draft of six hundred men, most of us by this time ill under normal workings.