A new dawn was breaking; capitulation was a new word in our vocabulary. What lay ahead!
Orders were issued to lay down our arms, and we had to assemble at a particular location near Company H.Q. with our equipment, which had to be stacked ready for the victors to collect.
A quick demolition job was done by many troops and from the noise coming from all over the island, it was quite apparent that after the initial shock that we had surrendered, and the lull and silence for a few minutes, reaction had set in, and the troops were not prepared to hand over guns and ammunition, lock, stock and barrel. As a matter of fact for the rest of that day and through the night, thousands of tons of ammunition of every description was being blown up, and the noise was as bad as the previous week or so when we were in action.
Holes were quickly dug, and all machine-gun ammunition was buried, as were bren-gun and rifle magazines. Vickers machine-guns were smashed to pieces, and I am sure the Japs must have been confused that no machine-guns came into their possession after the surrender, and yet they had had a harrowing time fighting against this type of weapon. Bren-gun stocks and rifle bolts were taken out and flung away into streams, ponds or the jungle, and it was a motley collection the Japs carried away.
We assembled on a large tennis pitch and sat in groups discussing our experiences, whilst cooks as usual showed their mettle, and provided tea and hard-tack.
The ultimate conversation was about our future, and whether we would be taken prisoners or be shot, and only people in that position understands how the nervous system reacts, but as usual there are always those amongst us who can lift the soul and this occasion was no exception.
The sun was belting down, and Bob Steele surprised us by explaining the Geneva Convention, and thought we could possibly have a reasonable time as prisoners, and with that thought consoling us as daylight turned to darkness we lay down in the open for a much needed sleep as no Japs had yet appeared to take command.
Many had the “sleep of the just” and felt so much better when wakening the following morning. Those marvellous lads, the cooks, had something for us to eat and drink, and as the tropical sun came up our thoughts turned to preparing ourselves for prisoner-of-war life, and collecting from around the area what we could find, we filled kit-bags and packs with clothing, blankets, grub and cigarettes, and each of us looked like a miniature Woolworths store.
At last the enemy personnel came into the area, and when you got a good look and saw their size, shape, clothes and carriage it was enough to make you howl with laughter, as they looked as much like soldiers as my Aunty Fanny. We were outraged that such a load of crap could have beaten us, the British Army! But beaten us they had and it was unbelievable. They were all sizes below five-feet two, and some were no higher than the rifle they carried. They wore a thin green khaki shirt and trousers with rubber boots split like a western mitt, their big toe separated from the rest of the toes, and putties wrapped around the legs from the ankle to high knee, and they had a little peaked close fitting cap on their shaven heads.
Their rank was shown on a little cloth type of bar on their breast with one, two or three stars for other ranks, and horizontal bars for Officers,
They were a sight to behold, but their military prowess in action had this time been superior to ours, and we were the defeated, heaven forbid!
In civvy street I loved to go to the live theatre, and especially the variety theatre, and the Palace, Empire, Grand and the Hippodrome, all in Newcastle were regularly visited with friends, and nothing was more enjoyable than a really good comedian, well, what we were about to witness, late morning of the first day in captivity really took me back to those days, and we laughed our heads off till we wet our pants, and what was the reason for all this hilarity?
You would never guess that it was the victory march into the city of Singapore by the victorious Jap army. They marched past our position in fours, irrespective of sizing off, such as the British Army would have done, there were little ones and smaller ones side by side with dwarfs, they were slovenly dressed in different coloured uniforms (if that is the word) some had sweat rags protruding from under their hats others had these shown above their shirt collars, but the funniest thing of all they were doing the goose step march. Their legs were so short that their backsides were nearly scraping the ground, and I am sure if a piece of straw had been in their way they could hardly have cleared it, and their rifles were slung at any angle, so long as it touched their shoulder, but their mates near to them were continually getting a “clout” in the earhole from a swinging rifle barrel. The show was so comical we ought to have given them a clap and possibly had an encore.
After drying our pants, things began to get organised for moving to pastures anew, and the first “Tenko” was held, that is the first count, and we had to stand in rows of threes whilst the Jap guard counted our feet then divided by two to find out how many of us he had under his command.
“Yotski” was what appeared to be the word of command for bringing us up to attention, and “Yasme” to stand at ease, and it always took two “Yotski” and one “Yasme” before the order “Bango” which was number from the right, and as the language was not understood, I feel sure the Japs thought we were a right ignorant lot, and not half as smart as their own soldiers, which we had just witnessed on the ceremonial parade, and from that moment we were actually worse at drill than they. The method of counting our feet and dividing by two must have taxed the intelligence of the Japs because during the next four years we were very rarely on “Tenko” for less than an hour, and we were counted and re-counted before they were satisfied. If one of our blokes happened to raise a leg off the ground during a count, the Jap used to get a queer answer, which meant another re-count.
They just seemed to be incapable of dealing with such arithmetical problems.