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The War Diary of 3859081 Lance Corporal Eric Wallwork,
2nd Battalion, The Loyal Regiment
Voyage to Cape Town
Approximately 60 Loyals left Silverwell Street, Bolton on 27 August 1941 - the Sunday prior to August Bank Holiday Monday. Destination top secret although we marched through Bolton with topis attached to our packs.
We were then taken by train to Liverpool. On arrival we boarded the RMS Orion, setting sail on Bank Holiday Monday, 28 August1941, joining an African convoy. We travelled several days with this convoy but as we approached the African coast, we sailed Southeast to Freetown, North Africa. This was just to re-fuel. We were not allowed off the Orion but were entertained by the natives diving in the sea for coins etc, which we threw overboard.
After several hours we set sail for Cape Town, where we stayed for close on to three days, during which time we were taken to civilians’ homes and dined and wined very well.
We were sorry to leave Cape Town and soon we were on our way to Bombay. On arrival here we marched to the Test cricket ground. Here we slept on the steps of the covered paddock. Although this was covered it did not stop our kit being washed down to the track during a cloud burst. The following morning, the playing pitch was covered with wet kit drying out.
We received invitations to concerts and dances on several occasions. During the daytime we had a look round Bombay. Top priority of course - the out of bounds areas! Our stay here was the better part of two weeks.
On arrival at Bombay we had to take our all kit ashore. The reason for this, we left for Colombo aboard the RMS Stratheden. Our stay here was brief, just one night on the town then on our way to Singapore.
Returning to the journey on the Orion, this, to me, was enjoyable and very profitable. The majority of passengers on the Orion were civilians returning to India - some first class, the others second -with no entertainment at all until we discovered a part set of drums. As a semi-pro dance band drummer, this was a Godsend! Amongst the troops were a number of Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders who included a pianist and an accordionist, so the three of us got together and played for dancing in the Second Class Lounge. We did not ask for money but a collection was taken every session. As the weather got warmer, children’s afternoon tea dances were arranged on deck. Trouble - second class were being entertained - first class not! Result - alternate evenings with a combined get-together the eve of our arrival in Singapore.
The following message was received from Major General Keith Simmons.
8th December 1941
War declared in Malaya. Japanese forces landed at Kota Bahru, North Malaya. Singapore was bombed. The Loyals first move was to send “B” company over to Blakang Mati. “A” company detailed to round up Japanese who were working in Singapore. As far as the Loyals were concerned, the War so far did not affect very much, as we were still allowed in town in pairs. The first serious news we received was the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and the Repulse whilst in Malayan waters, this later on appears to have been the beginning of the end. After staying a short time in Gillman Barracks, the Battalion had to move to Tyersall Park.
19th December 1941
The Battalion moved by transport to Tyersall Park. We stayed here approx. 3 weeks hearing news from up country that wasn’t too good. Owing to the increase of air raids, reveille was made 1 hour later, as a lot of sleep was being lost. During one of these raids, Baller Camp, a few miles from our camp was hit. Whilst at Tyersall and while we were Fortress Reserve the Battalion prepared defences at Jurong. These according to our CO should have been done long before the War started. During our stay here the Battalion moved out one day in search of a wireless set which was reported as being used by fifth column. The news that came from up country was very surprising and very discouraging, although it did not stop us from having a very good Christmas dinner, and in all a pretty good time considering there was a War on, but this was soon to finish, we being the only Battalion left on Singapore Island we got the order to move up country.
11th January 1942
At approximately 22.00 hours, the Battalion received orders to move up country. Although we didn’t seem to know what time we should have been on Singapore Station we arrived there by transport very early on the morning of the 12th.
12th January 1942
At approximately 04.30 hours, we moved out of Singapore up to the front with one company under strength. On our journey north nothing of importance happened. The journey seemed very long and boring. On arrival at Labis the train was held up owing to the lines having been damaged by Japanese bombing. Here we had to get out of the train and get into the side of the road, as the Japanese were making an air raid a few miles up the line. As we had stopped just outside a small village we managed to get a few biscuits and several drinks of coffee from the natives. This tasted very good after having nothing all day. The amount of vehicles coming from the way we were going made it appear we were the only ones going up. Later on we moved farther north only to return later to Labis again, and here we stayed on the train until about 05.30 hours on the 13th.
13th January 1942
On the completion of our journey, which was about 140 miles, we got off the train just before dawn, and here we got a good send off as it was pouring down with rain. From here we marched a few miles, whilst on the march we noticed again all the transport appeared to be going in the opposite direction. As we marched along this road it seemed to be going through everyone’s mind what we were going to find and what was in store for us on arrival at Segamat. Later on we were picked up by transport of the AIF (Australian Imperial Force). Giving credit where it is due, these fellows and the officer in charge certainly knew their jobs as it didn’t seem to take many minutes to get us into the trucks and then into Segamat. Here we were billeted in what had been civilian houses. Our first job was to try and dry out our clothes on charcoal fires, although a lot of the fellows kept themselves busy in - using an army phrase - looting. There were certainly some good places to do this, as the occupants seemed to have left in rather a hurry. As time went on we got the reason they left, for here we had our first experience of dive bombing and machine gunning but as we received no casualties we were very fortunate. I remember some of us got quite a shake on because we got covered with earth after a bomb had dropped a few yards away. Whilst at Segamat the Battalion again were weakened by our Armoured Car Platoon being taken away from us, but they were still under the command of General Barstow (later killed) who was commanding the 9th Division. Their first operation was to go to the help of a platoon of armoured cars belonging to the AIF who had been in action and still were north of Gemas. Later on they were praised from Headquarters for their devotion to duty. We were told our job at Segamat was to defend it to the last man and the last round, but as we later experienced, our Brigade and Divisional Commanders seemed to change their minds (from another rank’s point of view) far too often, for our stay at Segamat was too short to defend it with our first round, saying nothing of the last one.
14th January 1942
After having spent another day in Segamat, that day being spent in digging trenches for someone else to use, we got the order to move that night to Jementah but someone changed their mind again, causing us to stay in Segamat another 24 hours.
15th January 1942
Nothing of any importance happened during the day until we began to pack up about 22.00 hours, the order having come through for us to move again. At 24.00 hours, we set off on what proved to be a nightmare of a march. The distance, we were informed, was 9 miles. Personally I think they missed the 0 from behind! A few of the fellows admitted they were actually dozing whilst on the march. Anyhow, we arrived about 04.30 hours, and it was pitch black which made it difficult to find a suitable place to sleep, but as it was only for an hour and a half it didn’t really matter. We learned later that the Royal Garhwal Rifles were going to move back into the positions we had dug at Segamat, and we had been sent to Jementah to relieve them, so we took up a defensive position, “A” Company being put out well forward against a tank trap. Here the company was issued with a box of Molotov Cocktails. Nothing very exciting happened here, although a party was sent out by transport in the direction of the enemy, they returned several hours later having seen nothing of the enemy. It was then decided to send one platoon of “A” Company well forward by the side of a small bridge. During our stay here aircraft troubled us very little. Just after our evening meal we had to withdraw about three quarters of a mile. Here we settled down for the night, but we soon got disturbed by having to unload the ammunition truck, and after this had been completed again we tried to settle down but soon got up again as someone had fired his rifle. After inquiries had been made the reason was one of our sentries had challenged someone several times and never got any reply, so he fired one round which hit one of our own fellows who happened to be deaf, it wounded him pretty badly so he was transferred to hospital. That was the last incident that happened in this position apart from the fowl and pig we killed and ate. After having spent about a couple of days here, we had to do another small withdrawal.
17th January 1942
Still being attached to the 22nd Brigade under Brigadier Painter we had to withdraw to a new position by the side of a bridge that went over the River Muar. “A” Company here was on a small footpath on the bank of the river, “C” Company now being the forward company; they reported they had seen some of the enemy dressed in civilian clothes. It was in this position we heard that the RAF and Royal Artillery had put out an enemy column at Gemas. We stayed in this position for just over 24 hours.
18th January 1942
On the night of the 18th we again had to do a small withdrawal, we seemed to be getting quite good at withdrawing now; of course it should have been the practice we used to get at withdrawing on our own schemes before the War started. After having all marched over the bridge it was blown under the direction of one of our own officers Lieut. A B Cleator, later, missing believed killed. From here the Battalion moved back a bit and slept that night in the ditch along the side of the road, just before dawn a position was taken on the bank of the river, this position was held for about 9 hours.
19th January 1942
At 15.00 hours, we had to withdraw again, “A” Company going first, marched for a considerable distance to where transport was waiting for us, and here we received a couple of bottles of stout each. This was very welcome. We soon moved from here in transport, passing again through Segamat which was by this time blazing away through enemy air activity. We moved along through Labis and debussed at Yong Peng and here we became attached to the 11th Division under General Key and the 53rd Brigade was under Brigadier Duke. On arrival at Yong Peng on the night of the 19th, we learned that “B” Company had arrived and had already been in action and at present cut-off from the main forces. We got rather a surprise here, as Yong Peng was supposed to have been on Wavell’s Line we saw very few troops. At about 01.00 hours on the morning of 20th Jan we moved a bit farther along the road which was on our right running in a Westerly direction, here we met the Punjabs who went farther forward on our arrival, and the 6th Norfolks the latter having been abroad two weeks, they also being farther forward. Here we took up a position and dug trenches for the use in air raids.
21st January 1942
On the 21st the Brigade received the order that they were to attack a hill forward of our position, namely Bukit Payong. We were to try and make a passage for an AIF Artillery Brigade, who had been cut-off, to pass through. The Norfolks had already had one attempt but failed, with the loss of one company. Someone again decided to change their mind - the so-called Brigade attack was now to be a Battalion attack by the Loyals. The order came through at 14.00 hours that we had to make the attack at 14.15 hours. This was impossible as we were actually a few miles away from our target, so again it was changed, and now it was put back approximately two hours. We got into transport at 15.00 hours, were taken half way and then brought back again. The attack was cancelled again; it was now to be at dawn the 22nd.
22nd January 1942
Reveille was 04.30 hours. After breakfast we got into transport and them moved along for about three miles. We then covered the rest of the way on foot through the Punjabs’ lines and on through very uneven ground. On arrival at the appointed place, this being the bottom of the hill, two of the companies were missing but later they turned up. It had already been light for about one hour. The plan of the attack was for us to get to the foot of the hill, which we did, then at 07.00 hours the Royal Artillery should have fired a few sighters on the top of the hill and then give us covering fire while we went up the hill. The first thing to go wrong was that the sighters failed. They were practically as near to our lines as they were to the Japanese. Anyhow after they had been informed of what was happening, they said they would have to re-register their guns, but by the time this was done the Japanese planes began to dive-bomb and machine gun us, our cover being about 18 inches of grass. This carried on for about four hours. The planes came so low we could see the gunners machine gunning over the side of the plane. Here the Loyals received their first casualties, 6 being killed and several injured. After 4 hours the attack was finally cancelled. It was confirmed after the capitulation that the Japanese were watching all that happened from the top of the hill we should have attacked. They had also been watching all our movements the previous afternoon. We can thank our lucky stars we never made the attack. From this position we moved back a few miles to take yet another position up and relieve the Norfolks. The Loyals seemed to be the make-up Battalion relieving every other unit but never being relieved ourselves. We just managed to get into position before dark, but we only stayed one night.
23rd January 1942
As soon as it began to show daylight we set about digging more trenches but we never used them, the reason being we had to move back to Battalion HQ. The order had been received that we had to withdraw at 12.00 hours. After half the Battalion had commenced to withdraw, the order as usual was changed. The time of the withdrawal was now to be 14.00 hours, but only two companies remained: “B” and “D”. Whilst in this position we lost quite a few fellows including one or two officers, probably taken prisoners of War, for at this time the Japanese seemed to have closed in on us. The way of the withdrawal was very hard having to cut our way through the jungle for a considerable distance. The Battalion at this stage appeared to be very tired, and whilst making our way back (in any kind of order) everyone I think was hoping we would be given a rest, but this was not to be so. After having marched all day we were given another position to hold, the time now being about 17.30 hours, and the Battalion all at sixes and sevens, some still landing in from the march. At 19.00 hours approx. it was realised we could not hold the position given to us, so again, with food a thing of the past, we began on yet another withdrawal, the rumour being, we were marching a short distance then being taken farther south for a short rest, but this was soon smashed, the order being given to us while we sat outside an RAF post that we were to line the side of the road, and we had to give cover whilst an AIF convoy passed through. They had withdrawn from round about Gemas district. We stayed in this position overnight.
24th January 1942
At about 01.00 or 02.00 hours, we managed to get some food sent up to us. I remember it being tins of steak and kidney pie, and a drink of whisky and tea, and this was more than welcome. After having eaten this the convoy at last began to pass through, after which we began to march on again to take up yet another defensive position, arriving here and being put on top of a small hill just before dawn. At about 10.00 hours, machine gun fire was heard coming from the direction of our forward company, so of course this definitely called for another withdrawal, which began at 11.00 hours. The Battalion in this position was again weakened owing to the fact that at the sound of gunfire some of the fellows began to run, causing some of our best men to be killed or taken prisoner of War, of which so far nobody has any idea. Our withdrawal began by making a roundabout way onto the road which we marched along for a mile or two, arriving at our new position just after noon. Here we hung about for an hour or two. Nobody seemed to have any idea what was happening or what was going to happen. Anyhow, later on we were told the positions we had to take. “A” Company were put out on top of a hill on the opposite side of the road to the remainder of the Battalion. So up the hill went “A” Company, sixty strong. We had already lost approximately seventy men. The way up the hill was very hard owing to the thick growth but our objective was finally reached before darkness fell. On examining the surroundings, to our rear of the hill was a swamp, on our right leading to the road was a very thick growth of bushes etc. In our front somewhere and probably having a good view of us were the enemy. Before going up the hill we were told no messages would be sent or received during the hours of daylight, so that our position would not be given away by the person delivering the same. The first thing the CC did was to put out into position what remained of the company, using what remained of our arms, as a lot had been dumped by some of our clever people at various stages. After this was completed we settled down for the night, after having a meal of bully beef and cold water. Our next worry was a steady downpour of rain. We were now attached to the 27th AIF Brigade (Brigadier Maxwell).
26th January 1942
As far as the weather was concerned, today was the worst day we had had during our period up country. We were drenched to the skin owing to the fact we had no shelter and the majority of us no ground sheets, so here we sat with shells whistling over our heads from our RA and landing further in front and their mortar bombs whistling over and landing just in our rear. As the day went on this appeared to be breaking a lot of the fellows’ nerves. It was like waiting there to be shot, not mending matters very much was reports sent into us from our different posts that they had seen slight movement to our front and on our left flank. To these reports the CC did not seem to pay very much attention. Anyway the only thing that happened was the rain ceased. Just before dusk a runner came in to tell us the enemy were coming up the hill, but he hardly got the words out of his mouth before they were actually on top of us. Then the fireworks began, we were forced to the bottom of the hill where we received another shock, the sixty had now become twenty, here the CC ordered us to make a bayonet charge back up the hill but twenty wasn’t much use and we were soon forced down to the bottom again, after having received a few casualties which included the second I/C. Lt Cleator who was brought down the hill by Cpl Wailess, one of our stretcher bearers and two more, Cpl Wailess having since been awarded the Military Medal. After Lt Cleator had been carried away we made yet another bayonet attack, but as we were now being attacked from behind it was a failure. So what was left of us had to get back the best way we could, this above anything else I shall never forget, as we had to crawl back through a very thick swamp, but two of us through more luck than management found some more of our fellows, who told us to keep marching along the road, along which all that remained of the Battalion were walking, some wounded others extremely tired, just walking along in twos and threes at their own speeds. Even at this stage we had to walk about ten miles before being picked up by transport, which we learned were taking us back to Singapore, this sounded very good.
27th January 1942
After having done a few miles in the transport we halted and went into a plantation, where we got bread and butter, a tin of meat and vegetable and a drink of whisky and tea. This was certainly a Godsend. When our small meal was over we continued on our journey to Singapore arriving at Bidadari Camp about 08.00 hours, with a very much weakened and tired Battalion. It was nice to realise we could sleep on a bed and have a good shower for a short period. Our stay here lasted for 3 days but it was most enjoyable as we managed to have a trip down town and a well earned rest.
1st February 1942
Today we were again ordered to take up another position, but this time in Singapore, on the Singapore end of the causeway, our job being to cover the causeway whilst the remainder of the troops who were still piling in from up country came across. We stayed here for close on 3 days without any action, apart from our troops machine gunning some old tubs that came floating down the water. It was thought that they may have been giving cover to Japanese trying to make a landing but this was a false alarm. Whilst in this position we were the Command troops.
3rd February 1942
Battalion moved back again to Bidadari, here we stayed for one meal, and then the Battalion was split in two. HQ. “B”, “C” and “D” Companies moved over to Blakang Mati whilst A Company, MT and carriers went back to our own barracks, Gillman. Here we were billeted in Preston Road and the children’s school, as our barrack blocks had been turned into a hospital. After having been here a day or two Lt McNaughton arrived back from up country after having come through the Japanese lines in Johore and then across what still remained of the causeway. He certainly had had a good experience. During our stay here we were Fortress Troops under the command of Major General Keith Simmons, our job being to go down town if any rioting began among the civilian population. The most important happenings during our stay here were the few English civilians that were still on the island being evacuated - where to they did not know for certain, not forgetting the evacuation of our huge Air Force - although a couple of rowing boats would see them off the island. Air raids these days were getting pretty serious. They had already done a considerable amount of damage and of one raid we had a good view. That was the dive-bombing of the convoy bringing our re-enforcements, and we had a good view of the sinking of the “Empress of Asia”. Our next blow came when the news got around that the Japanese had done the impossible by making a landing on the island. Everyone seemed to have an idea that the end was near. Already the Island and surrounding small islands were well alight by enemy action. We also knew we would soon be back in action.
The order came for us to move into position, at Reformatory Road two or three miles from Barracks, the strength of fighting troops being at the most 100. We couldn’t understand why we should have to go into this position with not even half the equipment and men that should have gone into this position, by the amount of troops that were supposed to be on the Island. This seemed very funny. We later learned our Australian friends were all along the docks trying to make their own escape. It is said they actually refused to go back into position. They were already the cause for our move to Reformatory Road. The Japanese had broken through the Australian lines, who at once disappeared leaving behind all their equipment etc. A large part of the Indian Army had also decided to have a nice withdrawal of their own, so the Loyals again were the makeup Battalion. On arriving at Reformatory Road “A” Company were put out into a position that covered a very large area but during the night the remainder of the Battalion arrived from Blakang Mati, and took a position up in our rear. The Indians had also been rounded up downtown and marched back again. The Malay Regiment were also withdrawn from their position and put in alongside the Loyals. The first night nothing serious happened although there was machine gun fire to our front, the reports also being that the Japanese were advancing down the centre of the Island.
11th February 1942
Early this morning we were fired on by our own troops, the Indians and Malays who had withdrawn and thought we were the enemy, but this was soon corrected. We were next attacked by the enemy. This caused us a few casualties, the Japanese snipers were very busy at this point, of course this caused another withdrawal farther back, nearer to our Barracks.
12th February 1942
Nothing of any importance, only heavy bombing and mortar fire happened causing several more casualties. During the night we had to withdraw another 100 yards or so owing to our own Royal Artillery fire falling short of the enemy positions. Here “A” Company sent out patrols who came in contact with the enemy.
13th February 1942
Today we withdrew approximately another mile, being bombed and shelled again very heavily. The Malay Regiment were now on our left holding the ridge which had been heavily shelled. During the afternoon Japanese tried to get round the ridge through “A” Company position, which caused “A” Company to retire and losing more men, on arriving at the Gap the situation seemed to be in a bit of a heap. After dark the Battalion withdrew back into Gillman Area taking a position along the Alexandra Road. The whole Island now appeared to be on fire. During the night the enemy mortar fire quietened down which enabled some of the fellows to have a sleep.
14th February 1942
The day began with very heavy mortar and artillery fire on both sides, the strength of the Battalion had decreased from 800 to 150, as the Battalion had now withdrawn into the grounds of Gilman Barracks which had by now been changed into a hospital. It gave the Japanese every right to shell the hospital which they later began to do. Today the situation looked very bleak, the enemy had already cut the main water supply off, the result being the only water available was that which still remained in the pipes. This morning I had the job of smashing all the typing machines belonging to the Battalion which had been left in No 2 Preston Road after already having burned all documents, maps, pamphlets and any other reading material that may have been useful to the enemy. Apart from heavy mortar fire no actual fighting took place today, although the way the Japanese can use their 4” mortars it certainly keeps your mind occupied, and reminds you that they are not very far away. After dark on the 14th gunfire was heard well over to our right, but this didn’t affect us in any way. What did affect us was when a Japanese patrol penetrated our lines and killed 3 of our mortar section also wounding 1 or 2 others. On their way back they were fired on by “B” Company. After this the remainder of the night was pretty quiet, although the whole island seemed to be on fire.
15th February 1942
By this time the enemy had moved round our left flank and were seen to take up a position in the Brick Works. “D” Company, after attempting to dislodge them, suffered many casualties, and by this time the whole Battalion with the exception of “A” Company, who were now in reserve, were being heavily attacked and losing many men. “A” Company stretcher bearers were kept quite busy bringing casualties into our HQ from the other companies. The attack was so heavy the Battalion were forced to withdraw through “A” Company lines, who were now doing rearguard. From here we retired to Marlborough Camp, approximately two miles nearer to the town, leaving behind where we lived before the War started. More casualties than at any other position we had held. On arrival at Marlborough Camp, “A” Company whose strength was now only 35 men strong were now ordered to take up a position 1000 yards forward of the Battalion on Mount Washington. After attempting to take up this position we were forced back again by very heavy shellfire, but round about 18.00 hours we made another attempt which was successful. On arrival at the top of the hill the company, now just a platoon strong were put into position with only, apart from rifles, two Bren Guns and one TSMG (Thompson Sub-Machine Gun). This was done just before dark. Our first message we received was that the enemy were moving round on both our flanks which meant very soon we would be cut off. So, here we sat wondering what to expect next. About this time things went very quiet, no gunfire of any description could be heard, and everyone thought the enemy were about to put in a heavy attack, but this was not to be for a message came through at 20.30 hours, that Singapore had capitulated. Two things to remember, “A” Company were the last to fire in the Battle of Singapore, the second thing is it is believed never before in history has a Battalion had to fight in and defend its own Barracks.
REMEMBER THESE LADS
AFTER THE CAPITULATION, IN POW CAMPS 15th February 1942 - 15th August 1945
Things to remember and study:-
After the capitulation we remained where we were for two more days. We were lucky to finish up here as we found a large amount of food and clothing which happened to be very welcome. On the first morning, the 16th, all our arms had to be dumped, and after this we did nothing until the 17th, when the Japanese ordered us to move by march route to Changi, a distance of 16 miles, and on this day we got our first real look at the Japanese Army. On this march we expected to be taken by Japanese guards but this was not so as we had to make our own way there. As we marched through the town itself we saw the damage caused by the War. Some buildings seemed to have been hit very badly and there must have been many casualties. As a matter of fact although it was two days since the capitulation, bodies were still lying in the roads. Although it was a long march I never heard of anyone having to fall out, we probably had the Japanese to thank for this as they had supplied transport for all our kit, and this also enabled us to get food along as well. We arrived at Changi just as it began to go dark, so no organisation could be done until the following morning. On arriving at this camp it was amazing the amount of troops that were still on the Island, goodness knows where they were when the fighting was taking place, for anyone would have thought there were only a couple or so Battalions on the Island before the capitulation. The first morning was spent organising the camp, and this was a big job, but in a day or so everything was straightened out. As far as food was concerned, for the first two or three days we were fed by Battalions from the supplies each Battalion still had, so the food was very good, but this was soon to be changed owing to the fact all food had to be handed into the RASC (Royal Army Service Corps). This was an order from the Japanese, from now on, through the RASC the Japanese were going to issue food daily to Battalions, from this time food began to go worse but this was to be expected to a certain extent.
With reference to exercise, a short period of PT daily was organised and we were allowed to go swimming in the sea. Usually we went into the Hangars. Later on this was stopped and we were only allowed one period per week. For the first month or so the only work being done was just regimental fatigues, but on the 9th March a working party was sent down to Bukit Timah. At this time the monotony of being a prisoner of War was beginning to tell. As far as health was concerned the main trouble was flies, already there were 1000 cases of dysentery in the hospital that was just being organised, with an average of two per day dying, so everyone got busy getting rid of the flies and paying particular attention to sanitation arrangements. This in time put a check on dysentery cases and for the patients to recuperate, a diet centre was organised where they went on special food for about a fortnight. The troops’ food at this time had gone down to practically only rice.
On the 1st April, guards for the first time were placed around the camp. These to our disgust were Indians who, during the operations, had been supposed to have been fighting with us. The guard consisted of Sikhs and other free Indians. On passing these sentries they had to be saluted. The officer in charge of these troops was Captain Dhillon. Everyone is wondering what will happen to them when this War is over. During the first few weeks, orders of every description were issued both by the Japanese and our own officers. They dealt mostly with people trying to escape. On our Battalion orders it appeared, after one of our fellows had tried to escape, that anyone else attempting this would be tied to a tree in the Battalion lines. The majority of the Battalion were shocked at this order, but the Japanese by this time had consented to discipline and punishment being left to Battalions and Brigades etc. So I suppose they were quite in order publishing this punishment.
At the beginning of April the Japanese consented to canteens being organised inside the camp, but owing to the number of people trying to escape and one already having been shot attempting this, it was believed they may wish the idea of canteens out, but this remained to be seen. During our first couple of months our Educational Corps had got together and organised different classes during the day for anyone interested in any of the subjects. They were English, Arithmetic, Shorthand, Book-keeping and many other useful subjects for civilian life. About this time a football tournament was commencing between different units, these later on became very entertaining, and they used to pass a night on. Speaking of entertainment, a concert was being arranged to be given each night in the open air C------Y. The first night was the 14th April and this was certainly a huge success. Each unit were allowed to go on nights allotted to them. This was a real good night’s entertainment and was something to look forward to. Apart from these few things life in Changi was the same day after day with very little to do to help pass the time on although on the 15th April another party moved to Kranji. They were supposed to be going to make a road leading to a Japanese War memorial. On the 19th April the first canteen requirements were drawn up, but the issue was so small hardly anyone felt the benefit, as so much was issued in bulk to each unit it made it impossible for any individual purchasing to take place. Round about this time, owing to no unit owning up and recognising the body of the person who had been shot trying to escape, the Japanese sent an escort for the Fortress Commander, Major General Keith Simmons to escort him to Changi prison. On the 29th April POWs. received their first official holiday, as the Emperor of Japan’s birthday is on the 29th. During the next few days large parties were detailed to unload and stack rations, the rumour said the Japanese were trying to get a month’s reserve rations into the camp. The Loyals were also sending 20 men daily on working parties into Singapore.
After the capitulation all the women and children were put into Changi prison. The personnel who had friends or relations taken here had began to wonder how they were being treated, but at the beginning of May they were pleased to learn they were reported to be being treated well. They had electric lights and were allowed to do shopping in organised parties. Everyone in the prison had pooled their money and the amount collected was said to be about a million dollars, this would help their food situation on a bit.
On the 3rd May the orders were received from the Japanese that another working party had to go down into Singapore on the 4th, the strength of this party being 1700 and included the majority of the Loyals. Reveille on the 5th was 05-00 hours and at 07-15 hours the party set off from Changi to Caldecott Hill Estate by march route, the distance being about 15 miles. This march wasn’t really as hard as one had anticipated. One of the reasons was we had no kit to carry. The march took us till 17-00 hours to complete. During the march nothing of importance occurred, only we found out who our best friends in Singapore were, these being the Chinese. On the route they gave the troops bread, ice, and coconuts which were very welcome. I remember one small point whilst marching by some Chinese houses, the door was wide open and someone on a piano was playing for all he was worth “When the Lights of London Shine Again”. Hearing this seemed to encourage one, for it was certainly being played over and over again for our benefit.
The only complaint about this march was, owing to the amount of kit that our officers still had, (after just having come out of a War) a special truck laden with nothing but this kit had to be towed the whole distance by a party of the troops, although in time to come this was just a minor detail. On arrival at Caldecott we were billeted in new modern houses some of which had been slightly damaged by enemy action. It seemed a shame that such houses should be used for such a purpose. These houses were situated around the Malayan Broadcasting Corporation. One peculiar thing was, in the next house to the one we lived civilians were still living there. Danish people they were - husband and wife and two children just carrying on what appeared to be their normal life. After having a day or so to get settled down, working parties were organised, the work being making roads at Bukit Timah golf course leading to a Japanese monument that was being built. The work was very easy - the hardest part being the four mile march there and back. On the return march each man had to carry a piece of wood back for the cookhouse fires owing to the lack of fuel in the district we lived in. Although the War had been finished nearly three months, working parties were still finding bodies and burying them on the roadside. As soon as working parties were working, the canteen - under Chinese contractors - was opened. From here you could buy bread, sauces, cigarettes, tobacco, biscuits and several kinds of tinned goods.
After about a week’s work so many got a holiday in turn, but this didn’t go on for long. On the 17th May round about dinner time all tools had to be handed in at once and all men had to return to camp. This made everyone wonder what was happening, but anyhow the day after we found out the reason. The Japanese troops were being relieved, by what we were told, were fighting troops. This seemed to upset all the Japanese organisation and for the first time sentries were placed around the camp area.
On the 21st May there was still no work being done, this being the third day off. It was learned that some of the fellows were breaking out of camp and going downtown, where they received tins of food, bread, cigarettes and money from the Chinese people. They returned to camp with kit bags full of food. As far as the Japanese were concerned, as long as you saluted them in the streets, they never bothered you; the only trouble was getting in and out of the camp. As this went on for a few days the Chinese got wise as to what was really happening, and they began to organise things a bit, they must have contributed to some kind of fund and from this fund money and food were sent to Chinese eating houses, and on going in these places the troops got good meals. After this had been going on for five days the Japanese got wise and on the fifth day they went round and got hold of some of the fellows and escorted them to the police station. Here they were told they may be shot, but nothing happened to them, only they were returned to camp and put in detention for seven days on rice and water. The most surprising thing about the last few days was the way the Japanese let the POWs parade round town, a thing that had never been heard of before. There is one thing - the Chinese, rich and poor, deserve all the praise they can get for the way they looked after and treated the English troops during those few days. They certainly put the Malayans in the shade but when one comes to think, the majority of Malayans appeared to be pro-Jap (our trip downtown etc.)
During our short stay at Caldecott food became very good with plenty of meat and vegetables and, of course, rice. As far as pay was concerned we were paid regular at the rate of officers 35 cents, NCOs 25 and privates 15. Just before we left, working parties only worked half a day so in all everyone was having a good time as far as POW camps were concerned. This applies to the officers mostly for they had their own mess and cookhouse. They had as much living room for a dozen of them as the troops would have had for at least 40 or 50, and if ever they made themselves a nuisance it was during this stay at Caldecott. They certainly showed what they thought, this being ‘blow the troops as long as we are alright’ and they were usually alright, at our expense, not forgetting the guest night they had before we left for Changi.
On the 29th June we had to go back to Changi, and we left by trucks at about half past six. Here again the officers again had been grabbing easy chairs and other useful pieces of furniture. Of course these things took room up on the trucks causing the troops again to have rather a crowded and uncomfortable journey. Of course to them the furniture was the most important. Later on, after travelling a mile or so the trucks were stopped and inspected by the Japanese who on seeing the furniture began to throw it onto the roadside, what a laugh the troops had. The officers were causing the Japanese more trouble than the troops. Apart from this the journey went off all right. We arrived at Changi round about 9 o’clock. We got a shock on passing the cemetery - the way it had grown made us want to leave again at the earliest moment.
After having several weeks in Changi we soon realised that the food wasn’t a patch on what we had been having at Caldecott. It consisted of just rice with a weak stew of potato tops for supper, we got a meat issue about twice a week. We couldn’t get as much from the canteen as we had been able to at Caldecott so we settled down to losing some weight.
Whilst we had been away from Changi the strength of the Loyals had decreased again owing to another working party having gone up country. One thing about Changi, we got more entertainment. We had a football match nearly every night and whilst we had been away the concert party had carried on and were now giving their third show - “Pins and Needles”. The CO arranged for the Loyals to see this show on the fourth of July this being Maida Day. On this day we had special meals from the rations we had saved. We also had a draw for soap etc, so this day proved to be a change for us. On the day after, we were issued with our first cards to send home. This was the best thing that happened since the capitulation and I think everybody is now waiting patiently for a reply, although I suppose we shall have to be patient and wait a bit yet. I think this waiting and looking forward to things that will happen sooner or later is keeping everyone’s spirit up.
For the next few weeks, life at Changi was the same day after day, the main topic being food although it had improved since our return. As regards health, dysentery appeared to be dying down a little but an order came out we had to wear slacks and shirts with long sleeves owing to several cases of malaria breaking out in the camp area. On the 14th of July we spent an interesting evening listening to a talk being given by Captain Young, a marine officer in the Repulse, his subject being the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse on the 10th December, 2 days after the Eastern War began. Football at this time became very popular, the reason being a committee had been formed and they arranged combined football matches. Some of these were very good games and they were something to look forward to.
As by what I have been told happened in the last War in POW Camps, the same happened in this one - rumours. Everyday we heard fresh wild rumours, mostly good ones as to how the War was advancing and what we were going to do and have done to us. The only one of these I remember being correct was a rumour sent out on the 16th of July we were being moved to Japan on the 22nd of July. This of course was laughed at but we received a shock when we learned that about 1800 men were leaving for Japan and also that our Commanding Officer had volunteered to go. The party also including all officers including the Governor GOC etc and all above the rank of Lt Colonels and troops that were classed as specialties, so this caused a considerable amount of excitement. The following day two Loyals who had been Prisoners of War up country (KL) came down for this move. With them they brought the names of all the others out of the Battalion who were in their camp. There were 76 in all so this was a good piece of news knowing that these fellows were safe farther up country.
From now on all the talk was about the move, what it would be like when we arrived there, why we were going, what kind of food and climate would we have. I think the majority of the fellows thought this would be a move for the best as far as food, climate and health were concerned, and it would also get us used to the English climate when the day comes for us to return there. The first orders that came were informing us what we were allowed to take. We were allowed one kit bag, one haversack and a pack but no jewellery or indecent photographs. Each man was issued with a few articles of warm clothing. During our days we had waiting the concert party gave us a special concert. We also had a lecture from the CO about why he had volunteered for this move, and what we were to expect on our arrival there. Altogether we got some full information. After we had been told we were going to Japan and the day was to be the 22nd of July we got packed ready to go, (we had already had a medical inspection by the Japanese) but this date was cancelled and time began to drag. We didn’t know if it was put off altogether or what and this seemed to make things worse, keeping hanging on, and the food was terrible during this period. We also heard that the hospital authorities had forwarded to the Japanese twelve names of really bad cases who were recommended to be changed for similar cases of Japanese Prisoners, whether this comes off or not remains to be seen.
On the fifth of August more Japanese orders were published regarding personnel attempting to escape, and they said ten had already been shot. They were helped to get on the mainland by Chinese but on arrival there they had been given away by the Malayans. They also published that anyone else caught downtown would be punished by means of head and hand racks, this would be given by the Indian troops under the command of Captain Dhillon, a King's Commissioned Officer and not a Viceroy Commission as the majority of Indian officers were. We also learned at this time that shortly before the capitulation, a boat left Singapore carrying troops and Australian nurses, but was sunk by enemy action, by the help of a small craft, and a lot of survivors managed to land at Sumatra. On arrival here the men were separated from the women and later the nurses were marched into the water and machine-gunned. This story was told by a nurse who feigned dead and later arrived in Singapore. Another incident that happened just before the capitulation was a boat loaded with civilians and a few RAF personnel set sail for Australia. Here they remained for a short while and then set sail for England, but after a few days sailing they were attacked by a Japanese Cruiser so they finished up as POWs back at Singapore.
The main topic at present, owing to food being short was where the money we had taken out of our pay by the Battalion for messing was going to. We ORs were certainly not getting full value for it, but everyone had the same opinion as to who was getting the benefit. The officers also warned us that we were getting, in some cases, too friendly with the Japanese. On the 13th of August the move came to light again as we were warned for another Japanese medical inspection on the 14th. This was just the same inspection we had already had, and it led us to believe we would soon be moving, and on the 15th we were paid up to the 15th and ordered to move on the 16th. The first thing that happened was the QM was having a cleaning out of tinned food etc. This gave us a good meal for once, and such things as Tea, Butter, Sugar and Milk were given out to take on the boat, each man also received a jam pastie and another piece of pastry as a haversack ration, although we had been waiting for this move for several weeks everything seemed to be being done on the last minute.
Reveille on the day of the move was 05-30 hours and we marched to Culvert Gate at 07-00 hours leaving here for the docks by transport at 08-10 hours. The trucks as usual were very crowded, each truck carrying 29 men and 1 officer. I remember at least one third of our truck being taken up by one officer’s baggage. On arriving at the docks we hung about until 13-30 hours, and then in small groups we were marched onto a fumigation ship. Here our kit was fumigated whilst we had a good hot bath; this by the way was the first warm bath we had had since the day of the capitulation. With having to go through all this we naturally thought we were going to travel on some luxury liner, little did we know what a shock we were to receive. As each group got off the fumigation ship we were again lined up along the dockside, finally we began to move. At this stage it was unbelievable the amount of kit and bedding rolls that the officers had. It looked more like a queue for a summer cruise than a move of prisoners of War. After moving a little farther along the docks we saw the ship that 1400 troops had to get on. This number included such people as the Governor Keith Simmons and other suchlike people. The boat didn’t weigh more than 6000 tons, and it was nothing more than a cargo boat and an old one at that. Anyhow, at last we began to move onto this what appeared to be a complete wreck. Officers in seniority first on wouldn’t believe the time it took for them to get all their kit onboard, we began to think it wouldn’t hold the amount of kit they were trying to pile upon such a small vessel. At last it came time for us to move and on arriving on board we noticed the ship was equally as filthy as it appeared from the docks. Our living quarters were four holds; each hold had to hold 200 or the two larger holds round about 250, the officers having to settle in like the other ranks. When each hold had become full there was still a matter of 4 or 500 troops on the deck or still on the dockside. These unfortunate ones had to sleep there. At about 22-30 hours someone decided it was time we were given something to eat and so at about midnight we received a welcome meal of rice, Irish stew and tea, after this we settled down for a night’s rest, the heat being terrible. On the following morning the Generals etc. complained about the way they were being treated, and so 400 of what was named the special party were transferred onto another ship, but not until they had another meal. This we received at 13-00 hours, it was very amusing the way they had to issue this meal out, we had to form a queue round the ship down the gangway and along the dockside, this queue included everyone and it seemed very queer such high ranks having to draw their meals in such a way. After this we began to get things somewhat organised and in the middle of the afternoon we moved a few miles away from the shore and then about 19-00 hours we had a small concert going. About the only thing we liked so far was the tea, this we were allowed to have anytime of the day, as there was always two boilers full on deck. On the second day the Officers and Warrant Officers in each hold began to get a bit of a system going for such things as the distribution of meals and whatever fatigues began to crop up, we received our first meal at 09-00 hours which consisted of Irish Stew and Rice this meal was very good but as we began to have it every meal we soon got tired of it. The cooking at present was being done by the Japanese. To everyone’s surprise there was a cigarette issue of 40 cigarettes today, these were for the whole of the voyage. The only happenings of the day were the forming up of the convoy, the name of our boat being Fukai Maru. At 08-40 hours on the 19th we set sail, the strength of the convoy being three small ships. We were also told after a few hours sailing we were only allowed on deck three times each day, each period being one hour, although this order was never adhered to. At 19-30 hours we again sighted land and after making enquiries we were told we were passing Mensing. Our second day of sailing proved to be a most miserable one. It began to rain early in the day and increase as the day went on, this caused the boat to sway a little, the worst part was we had to have the boards and waterproof shutters over the top of the hold. This made our living quarters if one could call them that, very damp, clammy and dark, not saying anything of the heat of the place, it was almost unbearable, but like anything else we had to make ourselves get used to these discomforts. That is the way we spent our second day at sea. As a point of interest today we passed the place where the Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk.
Nothing more of any importance happened until the 22nd. At about 11-30 hours we arrived at Cape St John, this being approximately forty miles from Saigon. After supper we were given a small privilege, we had a concert on deck and the lights on deck were lit. This allowed us to remain on deck until 23-00 hours. During the concert a very amusing thing happened, a Japanese fighter plane would persist in flying very low over the boat and on coming over the third time the pilot was leaning over the cockpit waving a Japanese flag. We only stayed here for one day, for the next day the convoy lined up and set sail for Formosa at 14-05 hours. The strength of the convoy was now six vessels. One point about the last two days - the weather was warmer than ever I had known it to be, but on the following day, the 24th, we spent another day fastened down below owing to bad weather. The boat was rolling all over the place but it became much calmer after supper, and we were entertained by the three reservists who had been called up three years today (CSM Waters, RQMS Smallwood and CQMS Collier) and so that finished another perfect day, I don’t think. During the remainder of the voyage to Formosa the weather was pretty bad and sickness began to increase, the main complaint being what we had all been expecting, Beriberi. We also learned as a point of interest that one boat in the convoy carried German internees from the Dutch East Indies, also the boat we were travelling on was that that landed the Japanese troops at Kota Baru, I wondered after whether the reason for the successful landing at Kota Baru was good management or if their troops were as eager as ourselves were to get off this hell ship.
Anyhow we anchored in the middle of the harbour at Formosa at mid-day on the 30th. The entrance to the harbour was very noticeable by its size. On one side was a mountain of about 13000 feet. The other side was somewhat the same only the mountains were much smaller. On the day after our arrival here the majority were sent ashore on small boats to work in a government warehouse doing various jobs whilst the remainder stayed on board and helped to unload the ship. This kind of work went on for the whole of our stay at Formosa. It took six days to unload the ship and practically seven days to load it again with sacks of rice. Owing to two or three cases of diphtheria having to be taken ashore no-one was allowed to leave the ship, and so for the next few days everybody was busy loading the ship. Again, apart from two nights when there was a practice blackout on we were allowed the lights on deck. The main point at this time was food, although we have gone on three meals a day whilst we have been working, the food at this stage was terrible. Our breakfast and supper meals consisted of nothing but rice and what should have been stew but was nothing but flour and water, whilst our mid-day meal was just rice. Every other day we received a spoonful of sugar. Son the lack of food began to tell on everyone, as everyone began to look weak and show signs of beriberi. We began to wonder how long this would go on. Anyway, on the 15th of September at 08-30 hours we set sail. We were told our destination was Korea. At 16-00 hours we joined the remainder of the convoy, one light cruiser and eight other vessels. On going on deck we discovered we were going in the opposite direction and that we could see the coastline again. We dropped anchor just before dinner. Where we were nobody appeared to know although it was rumoured we were just outside the Naval Base at Formosa, but we were only here a few hours. At 17-15 hours that day we set sail again, the strength of the convoy now being 1 light cruiser and 9 other vessels, the voyage from here to Korea was very rough. The boat was thrown about something like matchwood. Two days before arriving at our destination, the afternoon of the 20th, the Japanese asked us to arrange a concert, this of course was done. This lasted for three hours, some of the crew sang and others gave exhibition wrestling. This was enjoyed by all as it was quite a change. After the show someone must have opened his heart for the entertainers were given pork chops and brandy.
On getting up on the 22nd we saw what we had been waiting to see for weeks, that being Korea and from what we could see of it from the harbour it appeared to be a very mountainous place. We were now at the Port Fusan. Soon after breakfast we were given a medical inspection, and then again at approximately midnight. We were told our next move was a 200 mile train journey to Keijo, this being the capital of Korea, and on the 24th of September at 10-00 hours we got off the Fukai Maru for the last time. On walking down the gangway we were met by at least twenty photographers, and from here we moved along the quayside where we were given a number and also had our kit inspected. The news reporters were very busy questioning the Commanding Officer. We were told we had to march to the railway station about a mile and a half away, but this was a lie, for as we marched into the streets they were lined four and five deep and we had to march all round the town and for this occasion the whole of the town’s population must have been given a general holiday. The crowd kept the mounted police very busy whilst we kept the photographers very busy. The march was so long we were marched into a school yard for a rest, but at 15-30 hours we finally arrived at the railway station, rather tired. On getting on the train we were very much surprised by the way we were to travel, the carriages being the corridor type and we travelled just as ordinary ciivilian people. We received three meals during the journey; these, although cold, were much better than we had had since leaving Singapore. We moved out of Fusan station at 16-20 hours. There isn’t much to say about the journey only the country we passed through was very mountainous. Another point - every station we passed through was lined by people waiting to get a glimpse at us. Even though it was dark on arriving at some of the stations, they were still there, and so at 12-30 hours on the 25th of September we finally arrived at our destination Keijo (Seoul). Here we were again met by photographers and sight-seers, but to our surprise we marched a short distance straight to camp, here we were marched onto the square and were introduced to the camp authorities, and we were of course given a lecture by the Camp Commandant (Colonel Y Nogushi) who cannot speak English.
The following are the instructions given by Colonel Y Nogushi, superintendent of the Chosen War Prisoners Camp, September 1942.
After this we were put into squads and taken to our living quarters, these being the usual Japanese type although they had been specially built for us. In each mans place, although it wasn’t cold on our arrival, there were four blankets and we were very glad to see them, and later on we received our first meal of rice, vegetable stew and much to our surprise half a loaf each of brown bread. A word about the camp itself, it is situated in the middle of civilian houses and by the main Chosen railway line and it is in the town itself. We have a four storey building as living quarters. The cookhouse, canteen, latrines and camp hospital etc are huts around the main building and of course we have the square for parades. Reference cooking. The Japanese supply the food and our own cooks do the rest.
On the day after our arrival reveille was at 06-00 hours and during the day we managed a warm bath, this being the second since the capitulation, so it was quite welcome, and our Commanding Officer took command. We were rather disappointed to find some of our fellows had got mixed up with the other party and had been sent to the other camp about six miles away. With reference to the weather here, although the temperature is 68 degrees it seems cold. One thing we noticed, the sentries were much stricter than they had ever been before. This, we found out later was due to a false report about us they had received. They thought we were rough and caused plenty of disturbance, but on a later date the Camp Commandant told us he was very pleased that so far we had not given him any trouble and that he appreciated the way that we had been behaving. After this the sentries began to get more used to us and to start conversations with us. During the first few days nothing of importance happened only we were put on a diet by the medical authorities and were given two pills after each meal. This was to try and check dysentery for already the hospital had several cases in. As a point of interest we were asked to write an essay on what we thought of the camp. They also wanted to know how much money we had. After a few days we began to have drill parades under the Japanese and to learn Japanese words of command. In future we have to number in Japanese, the CO complained about all this but it was found they were quite in order in teaching us this.
On the 2nd of October Pte Parkinson died through dysentery, and on the 15th through the same complaint Pte Metcalf in the town hospital.
On the 20th of October the Camp Commandant gave the officers another lecture telling them how pleased he was again with our conduct, and that he had only one complaint. That was the V signs someone had chalked in the latrines. He finished his lecture with his usual propaganda that England was practically finished. After this lecture the CO complained about the shortage of food. He said that this problem was a matter of life and death, and that the officers were willing to give some money in order to decrease the food problem.
On the 23rd of October, Working Parties began in a Government warehouse. The parties leave camp at 08.30 hours and finish work at 16.30 hours. The rate of pay is 10 and 15 cents a day. We received on the 8th of October some rather bad news - we heard that a transport ship carrying British POWs had been sunk by the Americans on the 5th of September. It was reported that the majority of the 1800 aboard had been lost, on the same day a party of sick personnel who had been left behind at Fusan arrived in camp and reported that six had died whilst in hospital, two of these being Loyals - Sgt Jowett and Pte Fishwick. Their ashes were forwarded to the Camp Commandant. The authorities here are blaming the conditions in which we lived on the boat for all the sickness and deaths that have occurred since our arrival here, and it is reported they are certainly making inquiries into it. It was also reported that the Japanese authorities are going to send the personal kit along with a letter of condolence to the next of kin of the people who have died whilst we have been here. For the next few weeks life in camp and working parties was the same although new working parties started in different places. Another thing, we were issued with another blanket making the total six with our own one, a pillowcase and pillow, greatcoat, SD, underpants, socks, gloves, boots and other small things such as soap, toothpowder, and toothbrushes. So as far as clothing is concerned we are very well clothed.
On the 30th October we were allowed to write home telling where we were, that we were allowed to receive letters and parcels and the state of our health etc. These were typed for us but we did not sign them until three weeks after. It was reported they left here for Tokyo for official censorship on the 3rd December. At the beginning of December the padre with the help of the other officers started a scheme, and they all donated so much money. This was for such things as sick people being paid, anyone wanting glasses or teeth, and if any money was left in hand it may be possible to buy indoor games.
On the 2nd of November the ashes of all the people who have died here were buried. The Japanese gave them such a good funeral that our CO felt it is his duty to thank the Japanese who attended the funeral and those responsible for the arrangements. On the 6th of November Pte Willcock died in hospital.
We saw our first snow on the 8th of November and on the 9th a party of 50 left for another camp further North, Mauckden in Manchukuo. They joined and travelled with just under 2000 American POWs from the Philippines. We heard some bad reports of how the Japanese had been treating the Americans. Two of our fellows who we left in hospital at Formosa travelled on the same boat here as these Americans. They told how 3000 out of 5000 had died since their capture owing to shortage of food and bad living conditions. The majority of those on the boat had to march approximately 120 miles. Those that couldn’t just make it were bayoneted or shot by the sentries. They told of how in their camps they were put into sections of ten. If one tried to escape the remainder were shot. Already nine sections had had to dig their own graves and were then shot through nine individuals attempting to escape. The two sick people who arrived in our camp told of the conditions on board the ship they came here on. The number on board was about 1700 Americans and 1300 Japanese troops. The POWs had no particular place to sleep, most of them had to sleep on deck or leaning against some wall or anything else that it was possible to lean on. For the first few days they received nothing but a packet of biscuits a day, but later on they got rice and a weak fish stew. All this caused a terrible lot of sickness causing thirteen deaths. One thing they could not understand was three Japanese committed suicide during the voyage. They said ours was a luxury cruise in comparison with this one. All of us in this camp have realised that the Japanese hate the Americans as much as ever they can. This certainly has proved it. When they got off the boat at Fusan they were treated a little better, all their clothing was taken off them and they were issued with all Japanese clothing including fur-lined greatcoats, but they received no boots and they were badly in need of them for the majority had no footwear at all, just pieces of sacking round their feet. All this made us realise that we had been and are being treated fairly well. To show the difference between the way we are being treated towards those, when fifty people left for the other camp, the camp commandant detailed all the people in camp to go and line the way out of camp. He also had the band play Auld Lang Syne whilst he himself shook hands with each individual whishing them good health and that we would all be together again soon. He said he was sorry they were going as the behaviour in camp had been excellent.
The 13th of November came on a Friday. We have already experienced some Friday the 13ths, but this proved to be one of the worst. Bert Collins was killed whilst out working. Cpl Patchett (later died), Pte Myerscough and Kingsley were badly injured and apart from this Co. Crook died in hospital. After supper the Camp Commandant gave us a talk saying he was very sorry that this accident had happened. He had been to inspect how the accident had happened and he was convinced that it was an accident and that everything was being done in the town hospital for those who had been injured. He also said we must be very careful whilst we were out on these working parties and that we must take it easy, he finished his talk by saying,” This is not just a matter of form but a sincere one”. At the beginning of December a complaint was made that people had been caught stealing from the warehouse. They said we were being treated as English gentlemen and they asked us to behave as such. The punishment for the people caught was two days with only two blankets and rice to eat. What shocked us more was one of our own W/O’s caught a fellow stealing; he reported this to the CO. The punishment he received without the Japanese knowing was a whipping. During November we had two more deaths, Col Dyson and Capt Whiteing. The padre, after asking the Japanese to get us some hymn books and bibles, had some given to him as a gift from the members of the Keijo Anglican church, so to show our appreciation a collection was made at Communion service for this church, the amount collected being eighteen Yens seventy five Sens.
At the beginning of December stoves were put into the barrack rooms, but coal wasn’t issued for several weeks and even then we were not allowed to light them unless the temperature in the room was less than 10 degrees centigrade, so we haven’t been able to light them up to now very much. The only other important things that happened before Christmas - we had three inoculations as a preventative against diphtheria and another important happening was we had a day’s holiday on the 18th of December to clean the camp, as a Japanese General was coming to look round. With him came two Red Cross representatives, believed to be Swiss, and so now we arrive at Christmas. I managed to get what I can call a Christmas box as the Japanese gave the band a new side drum, this came in twice for the camp concert on Christmas Day, and this proved to be a big success. Christmas Day began with a slight snowfall. Our breakfast meal was a good stew and nice. The dinner meal was a very nice change, the first meal without rice for ten months. It consisted of a cold salad made up of two slices of ham, boiled potato, carrots and shredded cabbage. Along with this was a bowl of Heinz Irish stew, a loaf and a small portion of butter, one apple and a small drink of Sake, and our supper meal was battered pork, stew and rice. These meals, along with what we bought from the canteen, such as apples, tins of herrings, cakes and a bottle of apple cider and not forgetting cigarettes, and so food was one thing we could not complain about. Next comes the church service and concert. It was the biggest service we have had since our arrival here, it was followed by Holy Communion and the whole service was photographed by civilian photographers. Next came the concert, the camp authorities allowed the bottom room, which is not used, to be turned into a concert hall. As the Japanese had seen rehearsals they must have thought it a good show, for the show was filmed and recorded, this was an experience for cast and band. At the conclusion of the show the CO made a speech thanking the camp authorities and the members of the show. This was also filmed and recorded. When the room was cleared the band were again filmed, and we also made a record of Christmas carols. All this was something I shall never forget. We are now waiting to see the film and hear what kind of a noise we turned out and so that was the way our first Christmas as POWs was spent. Under the circumstances everyone had a real good time, and we can thank the camp authorities for allowing this and so in a few days time we shall be at the beginning of another year. We are all hoping that this will have been our last Christmas under such circumstances and that the year 1943 will see us all back where we belong with these happenings just memories, although a lot of them will not be very happy ones, but we hope that those responsible will have learned something by them so that the same circumstances will not arise again and that in 1943,
Now we are at the beginning of a new year and wondering what it has in store for us, hoping it will be a much better one than last year and that we shall get our freedom. New Years Day, as far as the weather was concerned, was very bright and sunny although cold. We were given holidays on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th as the Japanese also celebrate at this time of the year. At nine o’clock the siren went - this was very strange as it would just be midnight at home; our thoughts turning to what kind of celebrations would be going on at home at this time. As a point of interest and so that we can compare it with next New Years Day meals our breakfast meal consisted of rice and seaweed stew and our dinner meal was just stew with the usual bread and butter and our supper meal consisted of rice, stew and battered fish. As not very much occurs in our daily lives I will give this book a week or two’s rest with the following verses in mind:
We are now at the end of the first month in the New Year, nothing of any real importance happened. The weather began to get very cold but like anything else these days we got used to it. They say it goes much colder next month but we shall have to wait and see. Our squad seemed to get the worst of the bargain as all squads had to change rooms. We moved from the top warmest room to the coldest one. We couldn’t grumble though, not as long as everyone gets their turn in each room. As soon as the New Year came in we began to rehearse for the next concert, this by the way kept me off working parties until the show had been given on the 20th. This proved to be a better show than the one we gave at Christmas. What I think was the most important thing during January was being able to write home again although we are all wishing someone would get busy and get us some mail here. It is thirteen months since some of us received our last letter. I don’t think anyone received any after December 1941. It should not be very long now before we see or hear something of the Red Cross.
With reference to working parties there are only about eighty out each day, so we don’t get a turn out very often. As we only get ten Sen a day when we go out to work money is very scarce, but we don’t miss it very much as we haven’t very much we can spend it on. The canteen is not such a success and that is where our money goes to. So far this year we have been able to buy one tin of fish and one piece of ham apart from cigarettes, but we don’t bother very much. We keep the motto in mind the Japanese gave us - that is “we must endure”. A funny thing about the weather here is it is very dry. We have been here now four months and we have only seen three very slight (as a matter of fact you hardly noticed it) showers, and two falls of snow. I have never seen as much dust in my life, the temperature by the way has been lower than 20 degrees below freezing. One thing we must be thankful for is that the health of the camp appears to be very good. All diseases seemed to have been checked apart from a few slight colds etc. A few cases of lice have been found but after a medical inspection very few cases were found. Speaking of inspections each man has had all his measurements taken, his height, head, nose etc., it is said anyone with these particulars and the fingerprints they took could draw each person even if he wasn’t them, goodness knows what they want all that for.
A few people in camp have started to give lectures in the squad rooms, these are proving to be a good thing as we learn by them and they pass a night on. This is the only, what you may call, entertainment apart from the occasional concerts we get. Speaking of concerts, the next one, which is to be a sketch, is already in progress, and now I come to the most talked of thing in camp, that is food. Just at present we don’t seem to be getting as much as of late, but we only need go outside to see that as far as some of the civilians are concerned we are living like lords. Of course we would grumble so how much we got, it is only natural but we are hoping soon to have the experience of :-
Among all the other rumours, one was all men over 40 years of age were being sent to a warmer climate, this had a certain amount of truth in it, as they have been issued with another blanket. Although we are not cold during the night as we all have six blankets each, they will be a bit warmer.
One point worth mentioning is the way the civilian population are living in this country, to us who are used to living in luxury makes it appear that these people are not living but just merely existing. It isn’t because they are short of money but that they have nothing to spend it on, as almost everything is strictly rationed. Their houses, if they can be called that, are very poorly built, mostly of wood and mud. The people who are definitely the worst off are the Koreans. In our short stay we have already seen two male and one female dead on the side of the road, died through starvation, and as we only go out occasionally there must be a lot more we never see. The sanitation arrangements are unbelievable, this nation who they themselves say are the number one, haven’t the faintest idea of sanitation, and by what we have seen they have a lot to learn or should I have said, a lot more copying to do from other countries. Just to prove all this is true, two fellows were up in front of the Japanese officers for a minor offence, the camp superintendent said this time I am going to let you off but if I have anymore of these ridiculous complaints I will punish you by treating you as the civilians are treated outside. When one thinks we are POWs that is a very strange thing to be told, and makes one wonder how these people are living, with the temperature as low as what it is and the shortage of food they must be suffering.
Again, mentioning the cards we sent home, it has been rumoured that the ones we sent last week were stamped with a French stamp, it was rather peculiar hearing this, as we heard the ones we sent before these went on a French ship named “LORENCO MARQUES” or they were sent to a town in Portuguese East Africa of the same name, this town by the way was the one where the internees were exchanged.
At the beginning of February it was suggested that the band go round into each squad room and play for about an hour after supper, so we got cracking and arranged a programme of light classical music and played a night on each floor and also in the hospital. Whilst on the subject of entertainment the next concert should have been a play but after a week or so practising they decided not to give it but in place give another musical revue. The lectures which I have already mentioned are proving a good thing and are very interesting of course. They should be as the persons who are giving them have actually taken part or seen what they are talking about. As far as work is concerned this year so far there has been very little, just fifty going out each day so of course money is getting very scarce although there isn’t much use for it at present.
On the 15th of February we finished our first year as POWs. On this day we had a pleasant surprise as the much talked about Red Cross parcels arrived. We were a bit disappointed though as there wasn’t any mail. I think nine out of every ten would much rather have had a letter than a parcel.
Along with the parcels seems to come trouble. First of all some of our fellows stole about half a dozen tins of bully meat whilst they were on fatigue, but later on the boot was on the other foot as the Japanese sentries were seen eating bully on working parties. This along with the evidence was taken before the Japanese officers. What punishment they are going to get remains to be seen. From when the parcels arrived to them being issued was a matter of eight days and during this period unrest seemed to set in camp. What we cannot understand is whether the reason the guards are becoming awkward on account of us reporting them or have they been detailed by their officers to act in that manner. What we think has happened is not that they have been eating the bully, but they have taken a bite of something more important that was much too big and is now choking them. This being in the international affairs. We have been told no civilians are allowed to come into camp with foodstuff etc. If this is so it must be that they know something of importance as far as the War is concerned, that will be good for us to hear. As a point of interest as to how they have changed they have stopped all lectures and band concerts in the squad rooms unless permission has been given by the Japanese. Now, back to the Red Cross issue. We were told by the Japanese that we had enough bulk food in camp to last us twelve months and that the individual parcels we have already got will be issued every two months. So as there are already six per man in camp, they will last twelve months as well. When more parcels arrive I imagine this will be changed.
The parcels contained the following:- ½ lb TIN BISCUITS, 1lb TIN CURRIED MUTTON, ½ lb TIN BACON, 10ozs (P.F.) TIN MEAT GELATINE, 10ozs (HUNTERS) TIN TOMATOES, ¼ lb (ROWNTREES) YORK CHOC, 2ozs (HUNTERS) BOILED SWEETS, LARGE (PINECONE) TIN NESTLES MILK, ½ lb (PASCAL) TIN MARGARINE, 12ozs (MORTONS) RED PLUM JAM, 2ozs (TWININGS) TEA, 2x2ozs TINS SUGAR, 3ozs (MORTONS) TIN BEEF PASTE, 2ozs (C&G) FARMERS WIFE CHEESE, 1 tab. UNSCENTED SOAP, 10ozs TIN TREACLE PUDDING. Pre-War price approx. 7s - 10d, about ten pounds in weight.
Within a week of the parcels being issued, trouble began as to what was going to happen to the bulk of the Red Cross foodstuffs. First of all we got a monthly issue of sugar and cocoa. This was very nice but the officers began to get issued with tins of bully, six to a tin. Of course everyone thought this to be unfair. After this had gone on for a day or two those who went out working were issued with one tin of meat and vegetable between five, so they brought it back saying it wasn’t fair to those remaining in barracks and so the following day a letter was put before the Japanese Messing Officer and all the squad leaders went before him. He said as the officers have lost weight they were given bully. He also said they should have a bit more than us as they were officers. He also said those out working should get a bit more at dinner time. The squad leaders understood all this but they told him everyone would rather have an equal distribution. The CO and Adjutant also agreed to this, so the Messing Officer replied that all the Red Cross articles were addressed to the Camp Superintendent and that gave him authority to issue it as he liked, but a requisition could be put into the superintendent, and so the day after the requisition was put forward. A point worth noting, with us saying we wanted equal distribution, they stopped the working parties rice balls. On the same day the requisition went in all squad leaders were again sent for, the result being the Camp Superintendent was hurt by us not trusting him and the Messing Officer, but it was pointed out to them that this was not the case. That we did trust and respect them but we would rather have an equal distribution of the foodstuffs and so they said this would be done. He said working parties would get extra and occasionally those in the barracks would. The officers were to carry on as they were. With reference to the parcels, each man would get one at intervals. The odd ones that were over would be used for the hospital patients and those who needed building up. So this appeared to be alright, but what the Superintendent wanted was a letter showing that all the camp trusted him. He said he was going to issue another parcel when all these complaints began to go in, so he cancelled it, and that they would be issued when he received the letter. This was forwarded to him the next day (4th of March). It is worth noting that the camp do trust and respect both the Camp Superintendent and Messing Officer. The Messing Officer said during the conference that as they could not speak English, there was a lot of misunderstanding but if he happened at times to lose his temper we must forgive him. They also pointed out again they were treating us as Internees and not as POWs, this has a bit of truth in it.
On the 4th of March we had a very surprising talk given to us by the 2nd in command Major HK Watkins. It was a very straightforward talk, he told us he was disgusted in the way we were talking about the officers over such things as the bully etc. He also asked had we ever stopped to think what the officers had done for us such as the comforts fund, the collections that they had had to buy people spectacles who were being troubled with bad eyes. This amounted to hundreds of Yens; he said this was just one thing, saying nothing of how they were asking the Japanese for things that were to our advantage more than to the officers and how they were trying to look after our small complaints and so he went on. He finally finished by saying that the cause of all this was put down to about twenty percent of the fellows in camp and that they were leading the whole camp anyway. He said if we were fed up with the officers, it was just the same as they were, fed up with the other ranks. A point worth noting is that the officers should not be in the same camp as other ranks as they are entitled to better living conditions and better food. The only fault about this speech was it was given about six months too late, but it certainly went home to those concerned. After this, all went well for a few days, but we didn’t get any issue of Red Cross articles, not until the Japanese found who was responsible for putting in the unsigned letter to the superintendent. This went on until the 11th of March when we got a tin of bully between four men. This was a pretty good issue; we also received another issue of 12oz of sugar and 8oz of cocoa, so with these and our other rations we are not doing too badly. The reason the Japanese are rather backward in issuing the Red Cross articles, is that they have got it into their heads that it has got to last us twelve months. They don’t seem to understand that we will get these issues from time to time. I think they are spellbound at the amount of food that was sent here. I don’t think they have seen such an issue of good food in their lives, but as time went on they began to issue it more freely. Since the arrival of these goods the Japanese seemed to have become annoyed at something and are trying to make things awkward for us by such things as stopping the band from practising, only one hour every Sunday afternoon. When we put an application in to give the concert they told us to put it in again in two months time. A certain sentry let the cat out of the bag by saying all the prisoners were too happy, even if they don’t know it they are giving credit where it is due for we are much happier than they are and they are what you may call at home of course. They are used to living this way and then again they are fighting to carry on this way, but to get us as miserable as the majority of them are will be a much harder job for them than winning the War but I think they have come to the solution that they can’t win this War and that the only place where they can have their own way over the Anti-Axis forces is in such places as POW camps. On the 10th of March we had a holiday as the Japanese were celebrating the Japanese- Russian War in 1904. For this we were given two packets of cigarettes each. The day after this I had a nice job along with Les, of typing out in the office a summary of evidence for the case where one of the fellows had hit a sentry. What he will get remains to be seen. Speaking of jobs and work, for the officers, who do not go out on working parties, gardens are being made so that they can grow flowers and vegetables. Major Lyddon is in charge of this which would prove to be a good thing for the officers.
On the 14th of March they decided to take out the stoves. We began to wonder as it still isn’t too warm if they have been taken out for health reasons, as a punishment or is coal getting too valuable for POWs to burn, but then again after having read the Japanese propaganda agents it cannot be the shortage of coal? On the 13th of March a few of the fellows became employed as camp tailors but at first they only did repairs for the Japanese and on the 17th of March the officers went to inspect their garden which is about two miles away from camp and is just over the size of a football field. With the help of some of the other fellows going out every day it didn’t take long for them to get moving and plant the vegetables. As all this was going on two men were employed in the camp, gardening, and the camp has already begun to look much better and we shall all benefit by both the gardens in and out of the camp later on. Mentioning the usual topic food again, the medical officer (Japanese) inspected the bread and condemned it and so we had rice for about three weeks in lieu of it. When it was issued again it wasn’t much better but we could make sandwiches with the articles out of the Red Cross parcels which are issued to us every Sunday at the rate of one parcel between four. Along with this we get a fair issue of cocoa and sugar every fifteen days. I must say this Red Cross issue was a Godsend to the camp as the food is pretty poor and not much of it.
At the end of March everybody was out working apart from the employed and sick. One advantage of going out, time seems to pass quicker but we are not allowed much entertainment. We received some instruments from the YMCA They included a piano, accordion, mandolin, trumpet and guitar but we are not allowed to play instruments or sing in the barrack rooms. The only time we can do this is for two hours in the canteen every Sunday afternoon. Our spirits have definitely beaten the Japanese we contact. Even whistling or singing whilst out working but if they think they are going to get us downhearted, what a shock they are going to get. Along with these instruments were two table tennis sets, draughts, snakes and ladders etc. and it wasn’t long before our table tennis league was started, this caused a lot of interest.
At the beginning of April two fellows had letters from relations. One from Egypt the other China, so we were all pleased to hear that our first cards had arrived home and we are all hoping to get a letter soon.
On the 5th of April we had to return from working parties early. This was for a lecture by Col Nugushi. He read out the sentence that had been given to Pte Lomasney for striking a sentry. The following was his statement:-
For the next few weeks very little happened but as summer came on work and working hours became more and longer and as far as entertainment was concerned, we didn’t get any. The instruments we received from the YMCA were only allowed to be used once a week every Sunday afternoon between the hours of two and five. The table tennis league was a great success until the balls were all used and then the camp would not let us buy any more, so that was goodbye to table tennis but we had made good use of it whilst we had it. The officers in particular were very keen on it. Another incident of us being too happy for these people was when we were stopped singing or whistling whilst out working. It also came from the Camp Commandant at the Chosen Command that the camp staff had to tighten up on us and to see that we worked harder but the last order was ignored as they said they did not agree with it.
On the 22nd of April W Whittle received a letter from his brother in Egypt, so everyone was happy to hear they had got to know we were alive at home. This arrived the day before Good Friday before parties went out. A church service was held on the square. As far as working parties were concerned I finished going out on the 10th of May and became employed in the tailors shop on the 12th. Our work is to mend Japanese socks, gloves, underpants and Jerseys. This is a very interesting job and time passes very quickly. When I first went in there were about 12 of us but the staff is now 25 strong so it must be a good paying concern for the camp.
The health of the camp is very good. We don’t know if the reason for this is the inoculations we get against disease about every week or not, but is very good although Pte Nightingale who only weighed 4 stone died with cancer. He was 24 years old.
The next big news was when a party of 144 left the camp for Osaka on the 18th of July. Before they left Col Noguchi told them they must be good as they already had been here under their own staff. Before they left he also shook hands with the squad leaders. In the middle of July the system of saluting changed, if we had no hat on we must bow. During the month of August the Australian RSM and two officers were taken away owing to a letter that had been delivered to a Korean but after the investigation the RSM and Mr Wardle came back but I don’t think we shall see the other again.
After the party left the camp it made the camp feel very empty and had to be re-organised. A few weeks later the remaining Australians and a few British left for another camp. I think it left the camp approximately 200 strong with rumours that it may be changed into an officer’s camp.
The next eighteen months will be very hard to recall as it all seems so vague. I, along with the remainder of our camp band were ordered by the officials of Tokyo to be transferred there and on arrival at Tokyo on the 7th of November 1943 I had this so-called diary taken from me by a civilian interpreter. He returned same on the 16th of August 1945, saying he could return it now that the War was over and so at the present moment I am trying to recall all the happenings of this last eighteen months.
As I have remarked we were told that the band was being sent to Tokyo on a special mission and that it was no use trying to get off the party as the order had come from Tokyo itself. We were told that we need not worry as we would have a good time and that we had finished with work, but we would be able to play music for the benefit of others all the time. So, although it meant leaving all our friends behind, we felt more contented and more or less welcomed the change. The move was to take place on the 5th of November 1943. That gave us two days notice. On the 4th we had to be issued with good kit. On the morning of the 5th we were inspected by the Japanese clothing officer to see that our kit was in good condition (most unusual). The time for our departure from camp was approximately 2-30pm by truck. On arrival at the railway station our kit was taken to the train on a luggage cart to save us the trouble of carrying it, then the train came in at , I think, 5o’clock. Our seats were even marked reserved for us (later we understood why we were being treated so differently, they were trying to make us believe they were treating us well, even though we didn’t see through their little game, then we soon discovered what they were up to).
Our journey South to Fusan was more or less under the same conditions as our previous trip from Fusan had been. We certainly had good food on this trip. We arrived at Fusan about 12 hours later. Our kit again being carried to the boat for us, most unusual for POWs but never the less it was true. We were then taken to a café in Fusan for our breakfast consisting of boiled rice, small pieces of cold fish and vegetables etc. After this we were taken to the boat. We noticed that the civilians were not allowed on the boat until our small party were on. As regards the boat, it was very clean and our travelling space was amongst the civilians but we were separated from them by a rope, so once again we travelled very comfortably. We slept most of the voyage, much to the surprise of the Japanese owing to a ship having been sunk in the same waters just a short time before. Strange the things that might at one time have worried us didn’t anymore. After an uneventful voyage we arrived at Siminosaki at I think 7 o’clock just after dark on the 6th. From the boat we went to the railway station. This was definitely the largest I have seen in my life. At this stage we had some food (sweet potatoes) and then we were handed over to a new guard. We left here at 10 that night and once again although these guards were much stricter we travelled comfortably to Tokyo, arriving at 7-30 the following day or should I say evening. From the train we went to another platform to get on an electric train which took us near to our new camp, arriving there a few minutes after 9, just after the lights had been put out.
This camp turned out to be what we judged as we approached it. We crossed a canal about 300 yards wide by means of a footbridge that shook at every step we took. At the other end was just a small island which had been re-claimed by our fellows whilst POWs. It had previously gone down below the water in the great earthquake that Japan had a few years before the War. The wooden huts were surrounded by wooden railings about eight feet high with a light burning every so far. The tide at the time of our arrival was lapping up against the railings. We approached the gates which were of course closed (outside stood a sentry who gave one the appearance of having been put there looking as weird as the camp itself). We were halted outside, were counted and then marched in, strange as it may seem straight to the cookhouse. Inside here we were given a piece or lump of stale bread and a drink, and then we were told that the happenings and daily life of the camp, which more or less shocked us and speaking truthfully frightened us. But as this is a book of my experiences, I will not report the happenings before we arrive there.
From the cookhouse we were marched to the Japanese office, where our kit was taken from us and put in a room until the following morning. Behind a table stood a Japanese officer and his interpreter. He began to chatter away (as only the Nippon can) but the interpretation was something like this:-
“I Lieutenant ------ do not know why we have to receive you in this camp or why you have come. I have been given to understand that you are here on a special mission ordered by our Emperor. If any of you happen to know you must not speak to other prisoners or you will be severely punished. Also during your short stay in this camp you will live on your own and not mix with other POWs”.
A rattle of chairs soared and the heels of a pair of high boots scraping along the floor (as he was not strong enough to lift them up) and he had gone, leaving us with the interpreter who then showed us to our sleeping places where we spent the night trying hard not to freeze to death and fix ourselves on two boards without any nicks between, so that we missed a bit of the draught.
After what appeared to have been a lifetime, morning came, all of us not being able to move for a few minutes owing to cramp in our legs etc. The first thing we heard was the ringing of a bell. This was the call for everyone to parade for roll-call, this also being the first glance of the other POWs. What a shock. I never thought I would see English men in such a state, pale and frail looking saying nothing of the bootless feet and clothing that was only fit for burning. Their morale seemed to be rock bottom. I think the same thought was running through all our minds, wishing we were getting out of this camp at the earliest possible moment.
This first roll-call was at 5o’clock straight on the square out of bed and here we stood on this bitter first morning waiting for the Japanese duty officer. When this parade was finally over and we were going back to our hut, we had the shock of our lives as we saw more members of the Loyals peacetime band. They had arrived a few days earlier from another camp on the same mission.
After our breakfast of three small boiled potatoes and a cup of lukewarm water, we watched the working parties parade for work. What a sorry sight it was. Ill-clad, some only wearing slippers, some of these without soles practically. Each man having a tag about four or five inches long hanging from the back of his cap with his number in thick Japanese writing written on. This was so if anyone did anything wrong, the sentries could get his number from a considerable distance behind him.
After the parties had marched off we were called up to the office. Here we had to get our kit and have it inspected. Myself being rather slow in letting them see this book, which they took, or should I say he took, a civilian interpreter named Onishi. He promised to censor it and let me have it back. When I asked for it a few weeks later he said that it was at his home and that he was translating it into Japanese so that he could make some money for himself, but he promised to return it when the War was over. This worried me a bit but I was comforted by the thought that our own commanding officer had read it and said everything was in order. So as I have already said, as this book was taken from me and not returned to me for nearly 12 months, the remainder of the book is just as true but perhaps not quite as accurate as the previous pages. One thing - I must give Mr Onishi his due, he returned this book the day after the War finished. If he was afraid I do not know, but that’s what happened. I noticed he had underlined the parts that he thought most interesting. Before I go any further I would like to say from this day on I got very friendly with this trumpet player that had come from the other camp. We stuck together and shared all we had until one day - but I will leave that till later.
So time went on, waiting day after day to be moved, but instead more artists, reporters and so on came to the camp. Then one day some of them were moved to the camp we were supposed to be going to. We were told they were getting the camp ready and that we would follow shortly. The senior officer to go to this camp was the Australian officer Major Cousens who had been on trial in Australia for broadcasting propaganda over the Japanese radio. Anyway to cut a long story short, the band never went to this camp. At first we were disappointed but when we heard it was not the type of a camp we were supposed to be going to but a propaganda camp, we thanked God.
By this time we had got into the run of our new camp. We used to grumble at the one we left in Korea, but that was like a holiday camp in comparison with this one, the Tokyo headquarters camp in the Omori district. As I have already said on our arrival in this camp we were told we had not to do any work as we were only passing through. All we could do was look at each other. The subject was usually food. This didn’t make things any pleasanter as the food was the worst yet. The breakfast consisted sometimes of two perhaps sweet potatoes with a cup of lukewarm water. Dinner time was a bowl of mixed rice and millet (as time went on the rice was cut out) with about a square inch of fish or maybe just the head. They don’t taste bad after the first few attempts. Normally in camp we had to manage without a drink at dinner time, supper was more or less the same only in place of the fish we had stew, consisting of tops of anything that grew in the gardens i.e., turnips etc. When we had a thick stew we had the bottoms. Apart from what I have mentioned we ate such things as seaweed, noodles boiled in water, or Wednesday mornings for breakfast at first was stew and bread. A piece of bread five inches square which was not too bad although you were fortunate if you didn’t have to cut some part of it away that had gone green. Up to our arrival in this camp, nearly two years after the Capitulation, those fellows (mostly Hong Kong people) had not had a full Red Cross parcel, needless to say they were in bad shape and our weight had already started to go down.
With reference to the camp and the daily camp life and the camp staff, the camp itself as I have said was built on an island which the POWs had re-claimed. Separating it from the mainland was a canal affair which ran round the camp into the open sea at the rear of the camp. The tide came up to the railings of the camp. From the camp we could see all round the bay. Yokahama, Kawaski and on a clear day we could see from the bridge across the canal the picturesque Mount Fuji. On one side of the camp the officers had gardens but our hosts had I should think, 80-90 per cent of this produce. As one went into the camp through the main gate facing you was the Japanese headquarters offices. All the buildings of course were made of wood with windows down each side which were very handy for light but a nuisance for draught. After walking round this building there were two rows of huts, five on one side and three on the other, the parade ground being on the side with the last huts. Further across the parade ground were the cookhouse and bathhouse and then the railings. Inside the living huts, on going through the front doors, there was a bunk on each side for two or three officers in each. Then, through another door into the other ranks quarters, on each side the whole length of the room were two platforms, just high enough from the DIRT floor to be able to put our boots under. On top of this platform were straw mats. This was our bed, dining room, reading place or anything else that you wanted to do. At the back over the window was a kit shelf. This bottom platform was about five feet seven high, not tall enough to walk along standing straight up. On top of this with a straight ladder going up to it was another platform or shelf where more of us slept and lived, more or less like monkeys, but this was only about four feet at the most high, so you can imagine the difficulty of living or crawling about up there, having of course to climb up with your food and so on, having your footwear of course at the bottom of the ladders. Nobody was allowed on any of these platforms with footwear on, which made it very cold in winter. As I have said we had a dirt floor and no fires. When it rained or snowed the floor inside soon became very damp, which after having been working in the rain all day, coming in wet through and sitting in your wet clothing all night made things pretty miserable and then on top of it all, having to put your sodden things on top of you whilst you slept and of course putting them back on the following morning. The huts were built to hold 100, but I have known 130 to sleep in them. This was alright in winter but in summer, well! I cannot say which was the worst at night time, the jumping sand flies, the bedbugs later on or the foul air, but it was jolly hard to sleep sometimes. Although we did our best to keep our things spotlessly clean, we could not get rid of the fleas and bugs. The fleas were in the sand and the bugs in the woodwork and to top it all in summer, with having our food in the huts, the ceiling was one mass of common houseflies which would persist in flying in your food at mealtimes, although needless to say we killed every one we could for our own benefit.
Washing proved a very hard job in summer. The water was usually cut-off for the biggest part of the day. This meaning we could never have a reasonable bath in camp. In winter the pipes were more or less frozen all the time but we were allowed two baths each week, Wednesday and Saturday. The baths consisted of two tubs about six feet square and two or three feet deep. You were allowed to sit in the bath. This was OK if you were in the first two dozen or so but if you were in the four hundreds you had about two inches of muddy water at the bottom, so that bath more or less finished up being a cold swill.
Next, I think, comes the Camp staff. In the main office we had the civilians working, some of them interpreters. One was a Japanese Prince. These people dealt with all the clerical side of all the Camps in the Tokyo area and a lot of the correspondence came through for camps all over East Asia. In the smaller offices we had our Camp staff, the Camp commander, and two interpreters, one of them was a pretty decent fellow named Sukarha , the other, who before the War, was very friendly with an American padre in Japan had only one name, The Pig. He boasted of being a Christian. He was only a first class private but he ran the camp. His word was final. His English was hard to understand and when he was in a temper, well, it was impossible to understand him. Of course this meant a beating for not obeying his orders. His weapon was a leather slipper or boot across the face. The slipper causing many a face to be disfigured. From him we go to the cookhouse. This is a concern of its own, run by a Jap sergeant and an interpreter (so-called). Of course the cooks were POWs…
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