Sunday, 23 March 2014

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Adam Park Project Tour

I recently hosted a Saturday afternoon family event for YPO Singapore members that allowed the group get an insight history related to the last battle in Singapore before the British surrender to the Japanese forces in February 1942. Known as the Adam Park Project the Adam Park estate of magnificent black & white houses saw some of the 
fiercest fighting during the whole campaign that included house to house fighting. The site is not only a fascinating battle site that is being surveyed and excavated (as an example over 650 bullets alone have been found so far in addition to a wide range of military related equipment) but the estate also become a prisoner of war camp for 200 POWs after the fall of Singapore. The site has remained mostly unchanged since the war.

Over 30 members and family's started the event with a lunch at 7 Adam Park which coincidently was the original Battalion HQ during the battle. Over lunch we had the opportunity to browse through artefacts from the estate, maps, photos and books related to the battle. Our resource was the fascinating and energetic Jon Cooper who is leading the survey and excavation of the the battle site and compiling its story. Jon was recently featured in the History Channel "Hidden Cities" program about his work as well as many other local and foreign publications.

During lunch and straight after during the presentation overview of this historical site members were introduced to two actors in original period costume who shared their insights of what it would have been like to be a soldier on both sides during the battle and how their uniforms ammunition and fighting equipment tallied with some of the discovered artefacts on the battle site.

After the lunch and presentation the group were taken on a tour of the estate and through the expansive grounds of one of the houses the faced the brunt of the battle. It was a fascinating afternoon for all concerned!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

72nd anniversary of the invasion of Singapore island

Today marks the anniversary when Japanese forces attacked the North West side of Singapore after a heavy and sustained artillery barrage. A week later Singapore surrendered. The Straits Times ran an article yesterday of Singapore's WW2 related tours.


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Evacuation Vessel the Felix Roussel

Can anyone assist.......
I have been retracing my mother and grandmothers evacuation from Singapore aboard the Felix Roussel. I am presently in New Delhi where they eventually resided following their arrival in Bombay. Do you happen to know where they entered in Bombay?  I will be there in about a week and would like to retrace as much  as possible. Gratefully - Marianne Bouldin. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

101 Year old Singapore veteran to return to Singapore next month

I am very much looking forward to hosting Bill Frankland at the Singapore Cricket Club for lunch next month. I am told Bill was at the Cricket Club for 3 hours when it was a makeshift hospital on February 13 1942 which was two days before the British surrender. I found this article on Bill's last Singapore visit......

London Second World War veteran Bill Frankland, a renowned allergist and registrar to Sir Alexander Fleming in the development of penicillin was studying medicine at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School when war broke out. Bill accepted a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps and in late 1941 with the rank of Captain he joined a team of 30 doctors as they embarked on a two-month long voyage to Singapore.
Bill Frankland
WW2 veteran Bill Frankland, 100 (photo credit – David Devins)
Bill, who is approaching his 101st birthday in March recalls:“We were on our way to form a new general hospital in Johor Bahru. But when we arrived it was decided that there would be no new hospital and we would be split into two groups.
“I spun a coin and went to Tanglin Military Hospital and my friend went to Alexandra Military Hospital. It was three days before Pearl Harbour.”
Two months later on Friday 13thFebruary 1942, known as Black Friday, allied forces were in full retreat as the Japanese seized most of the reservoirs leaving the city with only seven days water supply.
Caught under constant heavy mortar fire Bill transferred his patients from Tanglin to a makeshift hospital in the Fullerton Theatre in the centre of Singapore.
When the Japanese invaded Singapore Bill’s friend and colleague was murdered along with nursing staff and patients, one in the middle of surgery, as the marauding soldiers, armed with bayonets, and ignoring a white flag of truce stormed the Alexandra Hospital on a killing spree.
Bill recalls: “The Japanese had no plans on how they would deal with prisoners. We were sent to Changi. It was an 18 mile march, but I went by lorry with my patients. There was a lot of dysentery and after six months we were all starving. I was looking after one of the dysentery wards and saw little of the Japanese. Our guards were mostly Koreans and later Indians.”
But soon the PoWs were being sent to work on the notorious Thai-Burma death railway.  Bill was transferred to a working camp, formerly a British Artillery barracks on Blakang Mati Island, known then as Hell Island, now Sentosa.
He remembers: “I never saw the sea, even on the island. In the camp there were 75 per cent Australians and men from the British 18th Division. In my working group I knew every man personally. We lived off meagre rations of rice and everyone suffered from gross starvation. All we could think of was food. When we could we ate rats, mice and dogs.”
Apart from chronic dysentery other tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and starvation beriberi were rife amongst the prisoners.  However, even this didn’t save them from the relentless forced labour instigated by their captors.
Bill visited Kranji Memorial in Singapore
Bill visited Kranji Memorial in Singapore
Bill recalls: “The Japanese kept us all busy. If my sick parade got too large a Japanese private, non medical would take my sick parade and put them to work if they were strong enough to stand.
“If the men’s behaviour was bad the Japanese would bash the officers. They would line us up and just punch us in the face.
“The best bashing I ever had was when I was knocked unconscious. I didn’t feel much but when I got up I realised I had lost a tooth.
“Once a soldier came up to me and said he was going to kill me and he tried but I survived it. I think at the time it may have been in revenge for some allied victory abroad.”
Those who attempted to get away ran a hazardous course with the Japanese paying local people 100 dollars to give up escapees.
He said: “I looked after a marvellous man who had tried to escape. He had ulcerated legs, dysentery, malaria and starvation beriberi. After two months he was getting better and I was about to return him to his unit when a police officer from the much feared KEMPI Military Police came round with an armoured guard of Sikhs.
“They ordered him to dig his own grave but he was much too weak to do it so the Sikhs had to dig the grave. They were then ordered to shoot him but only one hit him so the police officer finished him off with a pistol.”
In May 1945, Australian troops landed in Borneo and British, American and Chinese forces defeated the Japanese in Burma, while American forces also moved towards Japan, capturing the islands of Iwo Jima and finally Okinawa.
Bill recalls: “Each corner of the prison parade ground was covered by machine gun posts. There was a Japanese order that if the Americans set foot in Japan all PoWs were to be killed. This would include 120,000 in all.”
Bill paid respect to those who lost their lives
Bill paid respect to those who lost their lives
“When the atom bomb was dropped we thought the war was finished but the local Japanese command said it wasn’t and fired on the VJ planes coming over Singapore. Five or six days after VJ day we asked to see a Japanese officer. It was a very risky thing to ask anything from a Japanese officer but we wanted to be released.”
The next day they were allowed to leave Blakang Mati and went back to Singapore Island. It would be Bill’s first taste of freedom for three and a half years. Bill remembers: “I was flown from Singapore to Rangoon 12 days after VJ day.  There was this marvellous Red Cross woman at the airport who gave me sandwiches. It was the first time I’d had bread in over three years.
“Shortly after I was examined by a doctor who pressed my stomach and said I had an enlarged spleen. But I said ‘no ‘it’s bread!’ But he still had me admitted to hospital.”
Arriving back in England in November he recalls: “The first thing I was asked was whether I wanted to see a psychiatrist. I said ‘no, I want to see my wife’.”
Less than two months later Bill was back at work at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. A renowned allergist, whose achievements include the popularisation of the pollen count as a vital piece of weather-related information and the prediction of increased levels of allergy to penicillin, Bill is also a key expert witness in matters of allergy.
Recently making a Heroes Return 2 trip to Singapore with his daughter, he said: “I don’t think I would have gone without the grant. I went up to the Kranji Memorial to pay my respects to those who lost their lives. It was very quiet in November and I was all on my own. It was quite emotional.”

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Machine gun pill boxes at Labrador Park

On the waterfront at Labrador Park there are a number of machine gun pill boxes of which the one shown below is most prominent. They served as part of the costal defense strategy and similar pill boxes remain on Sentosa Island as well. A lot of these defenses were manned by the Malayan Volunteers but saw little direct action as the brunt of the invasion came from the North when the Japanese forces invaded Singapore from mainland Malaya.

Kranji Beach battle site

Scenes from the Kranji Beach battle site on the North West of Singapore where the main thrust of the attack on Singapore took place. The photo of the map is from the Kranji War Memorial.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Adam Park Project


The excavation project at Adam Park  continues to receive good media coverage with another quality write up on the Straits Times today. It is a fascinating project and the search is on for eye witness accounts that can bring the research to life. One of Singapore's last battles before the fall.