Sunday, 4 February 2007

Alfred Lawrence interned in Changi Prison

Alfred Lawrence arrived in Singapore in 1898 and worked for the Civil Engineer's Dept of the Singapore harbour Board. He reported to HK Rodgers, Chairman of the Harbour Board and spent his years in Singapore primarily focused on the building and construction of the docks in Keppel Harbour. This photo of GW Lawrence was taken around 1933 or 1934.

In the last days before Singapore capitulated he was given the opportunity to evacuate on the Harbour Board Steamer ferry the "Bagan" but refused to do so and made the personal decision to stay in Singapore which had been his home for some 44 years at that point. His son in law, WA Choppin who was responsible for the Dockyards at Keppel harbour (also reporting to HK Rodgers) made the decision to stay behind and not escape despite also being given the opportunity to also depart on the "Bagan".

Upon the official surrender both men went to one of the Harbour Board houses on Bukit Chermin Road which was tenanted by WA Choppin and waited for the Japanese to intern them. Both gentlemen subsequently spent the occupation years in Changi Prison where they shared the same cell and survived to see the liberation but I understand that Alfred Lawrence died not long afterwards having never being able to fully recover from the interment.

WA Choppin on the other hand returned to the Harbour Board after the liberation and continued to live in the same Harbour Board house on Bukit Chermin road up until 1949.

I was kindly provided the following information relating to Alfred Lawrence who was listed in the Singapore directories in 1933 and 1940:-

LAWRENCE A. [Alfred] Foreman of Works, Civil Engineering Dept , Singapore Harbour Board. Aged 62 in 1942. Changi and Sime Rd internee. Wife E. evacuated to UK.

I am looking for any further information on these two gentlemen and in particular any stories, accounts or photos relating to their interment in Changi Prison and Sime road and or during their employment with the Singapore Harbour Board.

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