Sunday, 13 November 2011

Story on fall of Singapore survivor Alistar Urquhart

SECOND World War hero Alistair Urquhart from Broughty Ferry has become a television star - at the age of 92.

Mr Urquhart, a former Japanese prisoner of war, became a surprise publishing sensation with his book ‘The Forgotten Highlander’, a number one bestseller and international hit in 2009. It is his account of torture, death and slavery on the Bridge of the River Kwai.

Mr Urquhart celebrated his 92nd birthday on Tuesday by watching a film of this extraordinary story of survival entitled ‘World War Two’s Luckiest Man’ which was screened on Channel 5. He revisited locations from his childhood in Aberdeen for the film, which was an episode of the ‘Revealed’ series.

He enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders in Aberdeen and was sent with his battalion to Singapore where he was captured by the Japanese when they over-ran the colony in 1942. He then spent 750 days in slavery working on the Death Railway in Thailand where 120,000 people died. Mr Urquhart was finally moved from the prisoner of war camp but while being ferried by a Japanese ‘hell ship’ to mainland Japan, a US submarine torpedoed the vessel.

At this point weighing less than six stones, he swam for hours through an ocean ablaze with burning oil until he found a raft, then he drifted on the shark-infested China Sea for five days.

Though he has no recollection of being rescued, somehow he found himself alive on another hell ship, this time bound for Nagasaki, where again he was imprisoned until the US dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan, ending the war for good at the cost of 80,000 lives.

Mr Urquhart said it is not everyone who gets to make a film in their nineties, but he did find it very tiring. One of the reasons for taking part, he stated was so more young people would learn how much the British prisoners of war suffered at the hands of the Japanese army. For many years Alistair kept his astonishing tale to himself only to publish his memoirs in his 90th year. He feels that the response to his book was amazing.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The amazing story of fall of Singapore survivor Fergus Ankorn

Fascinating video of Fall of Singapore POW survivor Fergus Anckorn. Amazing story - amazing man! Well worth watching.

Tributes paid to fall of Singapore POW Geoffrey Clarke RIP

Framlingham: Tributes paid to fall of Singapore survivor and later leading businessman

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Singapore 1942 Pilot Art Donahue

Article on WWII Pilot Art Donahue who was injured by anti aircraft fire during the battle for Singapore and turns out he was from Minnesota

Former POW pays his respects - Taipei Times

Former POW pays his respects - Taipei Times:

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Evacuation of nurses from the Singapore Alexandra hospital 12th February 1942

The last minute evacuations before Singapore fell was was a disasterous and uncoordinated mess that resulted in the loss of many lives. I came across this account on the web by Sister Catherine P. Maudsley which makes for interesting reading:


Account by Sister Catherine P. Maudsley, Territorial Army Nursing Service. Catherine Phoebe Maudsley initially trained in Fever Nursing at Grove Hospital, London, between 1931 and 1933, and later completed her general nurse training at Smithdown Road Hospital, Liverpool, from 1935 to 1937. Her home was in Wallasey, Cheshire.

Sisters’ Mess, B.M.H. Bangalore, South India

Madam - May I have the honour to recount some of the experiences of Q.A.’s in Malaya, especially those who arrived Singapore November 28th, 1941.

We arrived at Keppel Harbour, Singapore, and were welcomed by a Military Band playing on the dockside, after a few hours we disembarked, seven of us being billeted at the Adelphi Hotel, the rest going to the Alexandra Hospital for accommodation; one week later, four of us from the hotel were posted up country to Tanjong Malim; of the remaining three, two were posted to Taiping, much nearer the border than Tanjong Malim; within ten days of their arrival in Taiping, the hospital evacuated and they found themselves five miles south of Kuala Lumpur.

The 17th Combined General Hospital at Tanjong Malim, consisted of a British and an Indian section, the I.M.N.S. staffed the latter section. We arrived two days before the Malayan war started, and were there for three weeks on temporary duty. Almost immediately, the convoys of wounded began to arrive, when the 20th C.G.H. at Taiping evacuated, we were the nearest General Hospital to the fighting area, doing from 14-16 hours per day, and on call at night for any convoy that might arrive. By December 23rd, all the patients had been evacuated, the hospital completely packed, and ready to be entrained. The four of us who had been there on temporary duty were permanently posted to No.1 Malayan General Hospital, Johore Babru, leaving Tanjong Malim December 24th arriving Johore December 25th. While waiting for our connection at Kuala Lumpur, we found that K.L. was being evacuated of all British and Oriental women and children. We finished the journey on one of the evacuee trains to Singapore, getting off at Johore Babru.

No.1 M.G.H. was staffed by our colleagues and M.O’s with whom we had left England; the hospital occupied the top floors of the new Government Hospital situated on the “Straits of Johore”. The view from the hospital was very similar to that from Netley; we had 500 beds, 180 surgical, 180 medical, the rest being officers, skins, etc.; also an annexe two miles away containing 200 beds, it was used for minor ailments, convalescent cases, staffed by orderlies only. The surgical cases were constantly being transferred in order to make room for casualties which were continually arriving. Our quarters were on the top floor of the “Chinese and Malayan Nurses Hostel”, like the hospital it was very new and modern.

During our spell in Johore Babru, the 20th C.G.H. for the second time evacuated, crossed over to the Island, opening up again at the Gillman Barracks, about half a mile from the Alexandra Hospital; leaving No.1 M.G.H. the only General Hospital on the Peninsula. We received most of the casualties, but not always the worst cases, also patients evacuated by descending C.C.S’s and patients from the Naval Base, which was bombed daily, although on the opposite side of the straits, we were their nearest hospital. Five weeks later, January 25th, we received sudden orders to evacuate, and re-open at the Gordon Barracks, Changi, Singapore Island. All patients were transferred to other hospitals on the Island, all hospital and mess equipment was packed, and by that evening, patients, staff, and most of the equipment had gone; six of us who had been left behind as a rear party, and to follow that night, were compelled to stay behind owing to lack of transport. We crossed over the following day; by this time the front line was very near to Johore Babru, and not many miles away. The Gordon Barracks, Changi, were modern, built 1937, made an excellent hospital. (Changi, sixteen miles from Singapore on the East Coast). We existed at Changi for 16 days, January 26th to February 10th.

At Changi, the Surgical Specialist, devised a new method of dealing with casualties; all casualties were classified in the Reception Room:-
A. Resuscitation ward cases, later for theatre, and then transferred to the casualty clearing ward for 24-48 hours, all colours and sexes admitted.
B. Admitted into the Casualty ward, for theatre, and returned to the C.C. ward for 24-48 hours. All colours and sexes admitted.
C. Acute surgical, admitted only from the C.C. ward, or cases from the Reception Room which did not require either (a) Resuscitation or (b) operative treatment.
The staff of this ward were then free from interruption.

All cases were transferred from the Casualty Clearing ward by 11 a.m. the following morning, leaving only isolated cases that were too ill to move, they then stayed a further 24 hours, and were then transferred to the Acute Surgical wards. From 11 a.m. on, the bomb casualties and gun-shot wound cases poured in; the C.C. ward had 60 beds, 50 in a large ward in rows of 25, 10 in a side ward for the more severe cases, troops of all ranks and colours were admitted, also any females, usually Malayan or Chinese, segregation of the sexes and ranks was impossible; at the end of 24 or 48 hours they were transferred to their respective wards or hospitals. The 17th C.G.H. at the R.E. Barracks, Changi, and ourselves, were two miles apart; in less than a week of reopening, we were again doing 16-18 hours per day, the orderlies sometimes doing longer than that, both hospitals were between the two front lines, the Japanese on the Island of Ubin about ¾ to 1 mile away, and our own 16 inch guns behind us; with the repeated and almost continuous air raids, the number of casualties increased, and our beds rose from 500 to almost 1,000 in one week.

On February 7th, the 17th C.G.H. were bombed and blasted out of their hospital. The next day we received most of their patients, and some of their staff for temporary quarters; also on the 8th, the M.O’s quarters of No.1 M.G.H. were hit, rendering some of the M.O’s homeless. They had to sleep on any empty beds we had in the wards. On the 9th we moved from our quarters (The Gordon Officers’ Mess) over to the hospital for safety. The mess was within mortar range of the Japanese, also, the Japs were aiming at hour heavy batteries behind the mess, as already mentioned. At 4 p.m. on the 9th, just as most of us had finished moving our luggage from the mess, the hospital and mess were heavily bombed, and the mess was damaged. Over in the hospital, the barrack square had craters in the four corners and centre, the administrative block smashed, the rear of the medical ward shattered, only one casualty, a V.A.D. who was out in the grounds at the time. The casualties rolled in that night from the surrounding camps, the day staff on the surgical section came off duty between 11.30 p.m. and 12 midnight, only to be called again at 1 a.m. to pack up the ward equipment, and reclassify patients, prior to our evacuation in the morning. The barracks were so designed that a blackout was impossible, the night staff having to work in complete darkness; during our 16 days at Changi, storm lanterns and torches were not allowed – had it not been for the reflection of the moon, I do not know how any of us could have managed after 7 p.m.

The patients were transferred to various hospitals in and around Singapore, and by 4 p.m. February 10th, the hospital had been completely evacuated, all the hospital and mess equipment being sent to the Cricket Club for us to reopen there (as we then thought). All our own luggage was taken to the Alexandra Hospital as we were going there for temporary accommodation only. As we had been without newspapers and the wireless set out of order for 12 days, we had no idea of what was really happening on the Island. On our arrival at the Alexandra Mess, we were amazed to find most of the Malayan Q.A.’s and I.M.N.S. there, in their units, and, like us, without hospitals. That evening, Miss West, our Matron, asked us if we were willing to go to Java and open up there. All of us agreed to go, but later that same evening, the Principal Matron called a meeting of everyone, told us the situation, and that we would be evacuated as soon as possible. A list of names would appear the next day of those who would go, the rest to follow later, so next day, February 11th, about 30 or so of us left, and sailed on February 12th, the rest sailed February, Friday 13th.

On the night of the 10th, the Alexandra Mess was very near to the front line, firing all night in the surrounding rubber, more of our heavy batteries once again behind the mess, firing intermittently all night. Next day, the 11th, continuous air-raids, dive-bombing, and machine-gunning, and hundreds of troops retreating, and lining the ditches. On our way to the docks, eight miles from the mess, we were constantly in and out of the “Singapore Ditches”, there appeared to be fires everywhere, the sky was almost completely hidden in smoke.

The ship which we boarded had many hundreds on board, including Air force, Australians, some civilians, even babies 12 days old. We were allotted one of the holds, and shared it with Australian sisters. We slept on bare boards, using gas capes, tin hats, or gas-masks as pillows. We only possessed what we stood up in and could carry. The Australian sisters, who had been on board for a day or so before we arrived, had all their kit, and food enough for a week. Our men shared their rations with us. The ship sailed at dawn February 12th, a couple of hours later from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. we were continuously dive-bombed by 100 planes, what lifeboats we had were smashed, and not one lifebelt between us. The ship’s gunners brought down one or two planes. A few of us from No.1 M.G.H. who happened to be up in the limited passenger accommodation at that time, started a C.C.S. in one of the cabins. Most of us had a fairly good supply of morphia in our pockets; it was most useful. Many men were blown overboard, plus 12 killed and 26 injured. The Australian sisters opened a small hospital, but after our C.C.S. had started. The ship itself received four direct hits and had a fire in the stern, but it still sailed on. Had it not been for the Captain and staff of that merchant ship, we should never have reached Batavia.

We anchored off Batavia the evening of Friday 13th, and disembarked on the 14th; as we were not expected, we sat on the dockside for four hours, while the military authorities found billets for us. Eventually we were taken to the Princess Juliana Convent where the nuns were most kind to us. Next day, the 15th, thirteen of us were put on board an evacuee ship bound for Ceylon. Conditions of board this evacuee ship, which could not be helped, resembled those of an emigrant ship of the last century. On boarding the ship, we were handed a plate, bowl and cutlery. Three times a day we lined up for food, having one meal per day which consisted of some kind of meat and potatoes. For breakfast and tea-time supper, we had one slice of bread and some sort of fluid. We were allotted to one of the holds, but after three days at sea, the Purser put some of the civilians out of their cabins and gave them to us.

After seven days at sea, the ship arrived in Colombo Harbour, February 22nd. The A.D.M.S., Ceylon, had been informed of our arrival, he came aboard, and within a very short time we were ashore, temporary billets being found for us at the C.G.H., Colombo. After a few days there, the twelve of us (the 13th being A.I.N.S.R., was sent to India) were sent to Kandy for seven days’ rest; eight of us returned to Colombo, March 5th, for temporary duty with the C.G.H. On our return, we met the survivors of our less fortunate colleagues who left Singapore February 13th. They had had varied experiences, some of them having been in hiding in native huts, also in native sampans on Sumatra Island. March 11th, six left the C.G.H. for India, the other followed at later dates.

I trust this letter is not too long, having only mentioned the main occurrences, and those fit for censorship.

I have the honour to be, Madam, Your obedient Servant, Catherine P. Maudsley, Sister, T.A.N.S.

Old window salvaged from one of the Pompong island ships

A couple of years ago I met a captain who was once in the salvage business. He told a story of how some 20 years ago he dived on an old wreck some 2.5 miles off Pompong Island that I am guessing could have been the Kung Wo. He said the ship's decks had all collapsed and it was a very difficult challenging and dangerous dive and there was nothing really to salvage. The only thing that they did bring up were two brass windows and one of them has now been converted into a window on a yacht that was originally based in Singapore. I am not sure if it still is. This a photo of one of those windows.