Friday, 19 November 2010
While I was in the UK recently I had the good fortune to meet up with 90 year old Stanley Saddington. What an amazing man! Stanley was 21 when in Singapore in 1941 working for the RAF with the early and classified new radar technology that had been set up in Southern Malaya and later moved near Changi before being destroyed to avoid falling into enemy hands before the fall of Singapore. Stanley recalled how the radar picked up two large shadows over the ocean and when he and his colleagues went to a vantage point to investigate they saw the HMS Prince of Wales and the Repulse sailing Northwards. These two capital ships were sunk during that voyage of course and the rest is history. Stanley and his RAF colleagues were evavcuated on the HMS Tien Kwang on Friday the 13th 1942 two days before the fall of Singapore. After sailing overnight the Tien Kwang sought refuge with a second ship the Kuala off Pompong Island. However both ships sank as a result of a japanese air raid with a large loss of life. Stanley and a number of his RAF colleagues eventually made it to Padang Indonesia only to be captured by the Japanese after the Dutch declared it a open city. Stanley then saw out the war on the Thai Burma Railway. Of his many stories one of the most poignant was his description of how just before the end of the war when friendly fire dropped a large bomb on the prison camp that killed 18 of his colleagues ironically not long before surrender and certain freedom. For his age Stanley is incredibly sharp, well read and it was an honor to have spent several hours with him and his family. I was an experience I will never forget. Thank you Stanley.
Friday, 12 November 2010
It was a wet 11th of Nov 2010 but a special service at the Singapore Cenotaph with approximately 50 people in attendance and a special tribute by Jeya the Director of the Changi Chapel Museum. The service was made special by the attendance of 93 year old D. M Lea veteran of the fall of Singapore (3rd Corps Royal Signals) who had made his first trip back to Singapore since 1945 when he was released after being a POW in both Singapore and on the Thai Burma Railway. I had a fascinating chat with him after the service where he spoke about being on the Thai border during the invasion (Project Matador) but the folly of not being ordered to proceed with the plan until it was too late. He also spoke about the mix up in communications that left them stranded in Malaya at one point and how at Ipoh he caught Malaria and was transferred to the Alexandra Hospital in Singapore. Just prior to the fall he was working in the Fort Canning vicinity keeping communications lines open. He described one moment when he and a colleague started at a telegraph pole and walked in opposite directions with cable only to return to find the pole gone and a large bomb crater in its place as a result of the Japanese artillery shelling. Upon the surrender he was placed in the River Valley POW camp before being railed up to the Thai/Burma Railway. He said he got through it because he always knew that they would win in the end. Of gentle disposition but looking so well for his age he was an inspiring and amazing man and I feel honoured I had the chance to meet him.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
In February 1942, when Australian Bill Reynolds escaped from Singapore in a battered Japanese fishing boat, he had no idea that his nondescript vessel would be the catalyst for Operation Jaywick, one of the most daring missions taken behind enemy lines in WW2 - this is is the amazing story captured by historian Lynette Silver in her new book. One of my photos taken on Merapas island in the Rhiau Archipelago is on page 260 which shows one of two stone forts where Riggs and Cameron made their last stand against the attacking Japanese soldiers. It was taken during a memorable trip to the island in 2007.
Saturday, 6 November 2010
My mother, baby brother and I were put on a ship by my father VERY EARLY in December 1941 after the Japanese invasion. Possibly 10th December. Possibly 'Empress of India'. Most lists seem to deal with 1942 when the evacuation got moving. The word from the high-ups was that Europeans were to stay put to 'show the flag'. My father, Basil (BMB), O'Connell, (1900-1971), a police officer who had been following events for years, and had served in most parts of the Peninsula did NOT agree with their optimistic assessment. He had to stay behind and was in Changi (civilian internee) 1942-1945. We went to Colombo, ( then Ceylon). Thence to Durban. Eventually got back to Ireland. Being only five years old, I did not keep a diary!
Tuesday, 2 November 2010
I came across this amazing story about HMS Kuala sinking survivor Patsy Li that was published in the Australian Hobart Mercury newspaper after the war. By clinging to a suitcase at the time of the sinking the child Patsy Li was separated from her mother and was eventually found some 4000 miles from where the sinking occurred some years later. It appears to be a an incredible story related to the sinking off Pompong Island and if any one can help add any further to this story I would be keen to hear from you. If the full article can not be read from this page contact me and I can send you a copy via email.