Saturday, 3 November 2012

18 km march to Changi Prison

Today at the Singapore rugby 7s tournament the Sandbaggers group stood in the pouring rain at the start of their Padang to Changi Prison march to follow the path that the POWs would have taken 70 years ago after the fall of Singapore. The crowd stood for a minute silence before the group matched off on their journey.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Former POW William Mundy visits the Changi Museum

William Mundy on his visit to Changi Prison last month sharing his amazing story of how he established a bee hive while interned (bee keeping being his hobby in the UK) and every two weeks the 1/2 inch high honey in a jar would be donated to the hospital to be used for dressing wounds. One of the those fascinating stories within a story of Changi Prison.

Java FEPOW Tour with William Mundy by Andrew Glynn

Java FEPOW Club Tour, Java/Ambon/Singapore

In late September, local Singapore businessman of Mr. Andrew Glynn assisted the Java FEPOW Club with their tour throughout Java, Ambon and Singapore. They met with David Hope for an interesting lunch at the Singapore Cricket Club.

One of the UK’s strongest surviving Far East Prisoner of War (FEPOW) clubs, the Java Club has over 90 veteran members mainly those who were captured when the Dutch Surrendered to Japan on the 8th of March 1942; as well as numerous associate and family members.  It boasts among its patrons Dame Vera Lynn and the Countess of Wessex.

The trip was lead by Club Chairman, Lesley Clark whose father was imprisoned in numerous camps in Java and also Ambon. Several other children of former prisoners joined the trip.

We were fortunate that POW veteran Mr. William Mundy, an agile 91 year old, who was accompanied by his son Bryan, attended every stage of the trip. He may well be the last UK FEPOW to visit the remote Ambon area.

RAF Aircraftman William Mundy sailed from Gourock in Scotland on 3rd December 1941, bound for Kuala Lumpur, but as the Japanese made rapid advances through Malaya he was re-routed to Batavia.

He was captured at Garut, and later spending time at Glodok Prison (now demolished) and Tandjong Priok.  After surviving Typhoid Fever he was shipped with 1000 other men to Ambon, to work on a Japanese airfield construction at Liang in the North East of the Island. More than two thirds of these men were destined to die in Ambon or on the Hellships, such as the Suez Maru and Maros Maru, used to transport them back to Java a year later.

William said “I think most people would ask why on earth I would want to go back to where I had such a traumatic experience. There are the war graves, where some of the 775 out of the 1,000 who didn’t survive are buried, and I would appreciate the opportunity to reflect on their sacrifice”.

“Visiting the graves would also provide an opportunity to thank Almighty God for his grace, mercy, love and preservation which brought me safely back to the UK”.

Mr Mundy’s friend died on the Maros Maru and is commemorated at Kranji.

By the time William left Liang in a sick draft for Batavia he had advanced Beri-Beri, and was blind from Pellagra and glare from the white coral airstrip.  In mid 1944 he was transported to Changi Prison in Singapore where he set up a bee colony and lectured on bee keeping to fellow prisoners. A dedicated hobby apiarist before, during and after the war, Mr Mundy still lectures on bee keeping at local colleges.

Although the honey wasn’t used for food (there wasn’t a separator for the Queen), it was excellent as an ointment for treating skin diseases and especially tropical ulcers. Honey is hygroscopic so dries out wounds.

At least one of his students from Changi POW Camp set up an Apiary business when he returned to Australia.

The tragic experiences of the POW’s had a big impact on their families too. Take for example Mrs. Hazel Wilson, whose last recollection of her father James Goode, was of him leaving the house in uniform when she was three. Her father didn’t return, and died when the overcrowded (6520 POW’s and Javanese labourers) Junyo Maru  was torpedoed on route from Java to Sumatra in September 1944 by the British submarine HMS Tradewind. 5640 souls perished making it the largest loss of life for any ship sinking in the Pacific.

Mr Glynn of Agspec, said the highlight of the trip was “being able to locate many of the significant camp sites from the war period. Many have been demolished, but with the help of the Port Authority we were able to get to the Tanjung Priok camp site. The main camps in Bandung are still intact and the Indonesian Army was very helpful in places that are now controlled by them. In Liang, Ambon the Camp is also gone, but we were able to locate the site using WW2 reconnaissance photos and current satellite images. It was still possible to locate the airstrip at Liang which is now covered with stunted bushes”.

While in Jakarta the group enjoyed afternoon tea with the Reverend Jon Cox of All Saints Church where the original painted glass windows from the Tanjung Priok camp Chapel are housed. They were joined by the British DA, Colonel Phil Thorpe.

The group enjoyed a finale dinner at Rumah Jawa with Agspec’s Indonesian team and representatives of the British Chamber of Commerce.

Repairing the Padang after the Japanese surrender of Singapore

The Old Ford Factory on Upper Bukit Timah road is the site of the
British surrender on the 15th of February 1942. Now preserved as
a museum it is well worth a visit. One thing that struck me on a
recent visit were some of the images that I had not seen before and
this photo was one such example. It shows the surrendered Japanese
soldier repairing the Padang and the Singapore cricket club can be
in the distance.
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BBC News - Eric Lomax: The Railway Man author dies aged 93

BBC News - Eric Lomax: The Railway Man author dies aged 93:

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Aircraftman 1 William Mundy

It was an honor to host lunch at the Singapore Cricket Club with William Mundy 91, his son Bryan and avid historian Andrew Glynn who was escorting William and Bryan who were out in the region from England. William's story was that with the RAF he sailed from England bound for Kuala Lumpur in 1941 but as the city had been taken his ship was diverted to Java. Some 3 weeks after disembarking he was captured at Garoet and his subsequent camps were Boei Gllodok and Tandjong Priok in Batavia (Jakarta). In April 1943 he was taken to Ambon where, as one of 1000 men , he was marched across Ambon to build the camp and an airfield out of coral at Liang camp.

When returned to Java for 5-6 weeks he should have then been sent to the Thai-Burma railway but being unwell the MO on board arranged for William and another POW to be transferred to Changi hospital where he remained for 6 months. He tells the story how being an avid bee keeper in England he managed to set up a bee hive in Changi prison that produced a small amount of honey every 2 weeks which was used by the hospital as a form of dressing. After Changi William was transferred to Kranji in Singapore to dig tunnels in the granite hillside for the Japanese but the surrender came before they were ever used. William was in the region with a group from the Java Far East Prisoners of War Club 1942 and it was terrific to see him in Singapore spritely and fit!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Daily Mirror 16th of February 1942 - SINGAPORE LOST

Andrew Glynn shared this fascinating front page of the Daily Mirror dated 16th of February 1942 announcing the loss of Singapore - "Singapore Lost: Churchill Warning". Unfortunately for the POWs at the fall of Singapore for many the real war for survival was just about to begin!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Fall of Singapore original newspaper

At the recent Singapore Heritage Society fund raiser this original newspaper was donated by two journalists from their personal collection of historic newspapers, It is a framed original copy of a newspaper dated 12 February 1942, reporting the Fall of Singapore. The newspaper is The Star of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel that was then under German occupation. The newspaper was used as a mouthpiece of the Nazi occupiers – hence the triumphalist tone in reporting the defeat of the British. The fate of The Star foreshadowed what would happen to the Straits Times in Occupied Singapore. It, too, would be commandeered as a mouthpiece of occupying forces, under the Synonan Shimbun/Times masthead.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Old Malayan Railway

Last year the historical Malayan Railway that crossed Singapore was dismantled as part of a deal between Malaysia and Singapore to move Malaysia's station and customs control from Tanjong Pagar located adjacent to the old Empire Dock where a lot of the evacuation ships left Singapore. Sad to see it go with a lot of the old infrastructure demolished. This photo shows some remnants recovered and preserved. One of the bolts has 1928 stamped on it. The old line crossed several old battle sites.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Now reading

The Real Tenko by Mark Felton. Well written so far and the start of the book relating to the fall of Hong Kong is fascinating. Look forward to getting through the rest of the book.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Gas mask unearthed by the Adam Park (TAPP) project team

The Adam Park project excavations continue to make amazing discoveries as part of their investigative work around one of the last  battle sites in Singapore. The latest find being gas masks as seen in the photos below from Jon Cooper's Adam Park Facebook page. It is a fascinating story and encourage taking a look at the photos and videos he has posted on facebook

70th Anniversary Remembrance Walk Saturday 3rd November 2012

Great to see this initiative being organised in Singapore!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

WW2 maps Singapore

This was a fascinating map being a Japanese reprinted map captured in Rabaul in 1946 but the map re printed in 1939 before the attack on Malaya includes the area where the Japanese made their main thrust on Singapore island on the 8th of February 1942 .

WW2 maps Singapore

Fascinating presentation tonight showing a number of maps including Japanese German and Italian maps of Singapore. One interesting story was that as the invasion of Singapore started the command HQ ordered all the Singapore maps to be destroyed (numbers unknown) and then the day before the surrender apparently requested maps to be provided to HQ but of course there were none available to provide! Considering the confusion of the time it would not surprise me if there was some element of the truth in in this story. This is the first known presentation of Singapore WW2 maps so well done to the presenter and good to see a full house at the Singapore History museum.

WW2 maps of Singapore

Photo of Major Gordon Bennett presenting to the press in January 1942 the month before Singapore fell. Questions around what map was used inspired the speaker's research

WW2 maps of Singapore

Lecture about to start

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Search for news reel footage

Carol Morgan writes 

I came across your website today.  My mother and sisters were evacuated from Singapore in early 1942, and  I remember seeing film of them coming down the gangplank at Southampton? on the UK programme "All Our Yesterdays" which showed 25-year-old newsreel week by week, so that would have been in 1967.  I have been unable to obtain a copy of this film, and it would be a big help in trying to trace it if you had details of the names of the evacuation ships at Singapore, and where they went, or where I might get this information.
 My father was evacuated on a different ship which was torpedoed or bombed, probably on the 13th February - he swam to the shore and eventually ended up in India.

Jane Reid survivor from the "Vyner Brooke" and search for information

Dear Sir

I wonder if you would be able to help me, my mother was a Civilian Internee of the Japanese in various camps in Sumatra, one such camp was Bangka, as my mother approaches her twilight  years she has shown an interest in trying to contact fellow internees of the camps she was held in and as such I am trying to find out sources who may be able to help me assist her in this. With this in mind I would be grateful if you know of any way I might be able to contact or put my mother in contact with her long lost childhood friends she made in the camps.

My mother will shortly be providing me with a list of the camps she was interned in, which i am more than happy to provide you with if this will help in anyway. The brief details I have at the moment are :

My mother name at the time of internment : Jane Reid
She was interned with her mother, grandmother and 4 siblings, Dirk, Roy, James and Erica Reid, sadly her grandmother died in the camps, they were originally captured after the ship that they left Singapore on was attacked/disabled, the ship was the “Vyner Brooke”, one of the camps they were in was immortalised in Paradise Road with the story of the vocal choir that was formed there. I also believe the surviving Australian nurses of the famous beach massacre at Banka Island were in one of the camps she was interned in.

Some further information i have is as follows

REID Mrs Marie wife of J.H. ‘Jock’ of PWD. Aged 38 in 1942.Palembang
women’s camp 1942. Sumatra internee with 5 children [Erica, Jane. James, Dirk & Roy],
Vyner Brooke survivors. Repatriated on Antenor from Singapore, arriving Liverpool 27.10.45.
To Paisley. Returned to Penang post war.

I hope this will help in starting to find my mothers dear friends.

Please let me know if you can assist or if you can point me in the right direction.

Yours Sincerly

Vincent Elgey

Friday, 31 August 2012

Talk on WW2 Singapore maps

Interesting talk scheduled for next week week on Singapore WW2 maps. I have been trying to purchase one for years but always very difficult to get a  hold of. Looking forward to it at the  Singapore National Museum

History of the 2nd Argylls

Saw this 2nd hand book online which was published in 1947 being the history of the 2nd Battalion of the the Argyll And Sutherland Highlanders during their campaign in Malaya against the Japanese in 1941 and 1942. Has anyone read it and would recommend it?
The History of the 2nd Argylls Malayan Campaign 1941 - 1942

New trail traces POW Experience

Great to see that a new 4.3 km trail has been established around the Changi area. Lots of history to see on the walk

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Question on ship SS Plancius

What is your name?
Alan Peddell
How did you find this website?
Internet search
Where are you from?
I was born in Singapore - I now live in Vietnam.
Please enter your comments?
Together with my parents and one younger brother aged 2 ( I was nearly 4), we managed to leave Spore on a small ship which took us to Djakarta and then we boarded the ss Plancius which took us to Colombo, where we stayed until the war ended. My father was an electrical engineer working on the Royal Naval Floating Dock. As both my parents are dead now, I would like to have any information regarding the ship that might have taken us to join up with the Plancius. I understand we were delayed from leaving because my father had to assist the demolition of the floating dock, and all other large ships had left Keppel because of the heavy bombing.

SS Grasshopper & the book the Judy Story

Andrew Miller writes from Northern Island
How did you find this website?
Internet search
Where are you from?
Northern Ireland
Please enter your comments?
Hi David, this is fascinating. My grandfather was on board HMS Grasshopper when it came down from Shanghai to Singapore in '39; he then left Singapore on the 13th Feb '42 with some 150 nurses, royal marines, women & children (in that order of priority, apparently) swelling their complement of 55 to some 200 on board. Let's just say it didn't end well, in fact he was sunk TWICE, the second time while being transferred back to Singapore from Indonesia in 1944. After 4 weeks in the River Valley Camp the 200 survivors were returned to Sumatra to work on the Pekan Baru railway and remained there until liberated by Lady Mountbatten.

I'd like to recommend the book "The Judy Story" by Edwin Varley, 1973, to add a little colour to the life of a matelot on the gunboats at the China & Singapore Stations, life for Europeans at the brink of war in the Far East, the subsequent evacuation up to the 14th Feb, and the imprisonment of military and civilian personnel after the fall of Singapore. As is often the case with FEPOWs, it is where our family had to go to get the detail of what happened to our grandfather as he and the dog were POW's together! It's an incredibly personal story interlaced with 'the bigger picture' at the time and our family hold it in very high regard for obvious reasons.

Many copies come up on eBay and for bargain prices as people clear their parents' houses out.

I work offshore and I am hoping to get detailed onto a project my firm is carrying out in Australia soon. If successful I would very much like to visit Singapore and Indonesia and see the locations that had such a great effect on my grandfather.

Comments questions and feedback on Singapore 1942

Hi Alan, My grandmother, Mrs Annie Clark, was also on the "Plancius' from Batavia to Colombo - you probably slept on a straw mattress down in the holds like many people on that voyage . One of the little ships which left Singapore and managed to reach batavia during that last week before the Surrender was the "HMS Scott Harley' the story of which is on the COFEPOW website under Annie Clark's name as well as the ships name. I would be interested in the names of all your family since I am compiling a pssenger list for the ship. on Royal Navy Floating dock Singapore

Hi - I've just found your site while trying to find out why Holy Trinity Church Seaton Carew, in Hartlepool in the north east of England, has a bookcase containing our memorial book, with the following inscription: To the glory of God a thank offering for a great deliverance s.s. “Empire Star” 12th February 1942. I am organising a church history exhibition as part of our 180th birthday celebrations and a fundraising appeal to restore our stonework. I'd be grateful for any further information that might indicate any links - are there any lists of survivors which might lead me to a link with a Seaton family? regards Julie Cordiner on Black Friday - 13th of February 1942

Hi, Does anyone have information on a family called Yeomans who left Singapore in 1941 or 1942. The mother Minnie probably got off the ship in Colombo while the children Irene, Enid, Phyllis and May continued onto Durban. The father Samuel Cecil Yeomans was imprisoned in Changi then Sime Road. He then took a ship to Durban. Thank you. onCivilian Evacuation list

I am searching for information on my mother's family. I am looking for anyone who could help me find any information on my great grandmother Minnie Yeomans and her children Irene, May, Phyllis and Enid who were put on a ship by my great grandfather Samuel Cecil Yeomans in 1941. The ship went to Ceylon first where I believe Minnie disembarked as she is listed as being in an evacuee camp in Colombo while the rest of the family went onto Durban. I know that my mother, her sisters, her mother and step father left Singapore on the Nestor. Samuel Cecil Yeomans was imprisoned in Changi then in Sime Road. After the war he moved to Durban but I have no information on which ship he took. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can learn more? Many thanks, Nikki on Maurice O'Connell from Ireland writes

Fascinating to hear about Jim Hutton, and of particular interest to me as I grew up at 160 Mount Pleasant Road during the 1960s and 1970s. The contrast between Jim Hutton's tranquil existence at Mount Pleasant Road and his subsequent experiences during the war could not have been greater. No 160 was damaged during the war and was subsequently divided into two residences. However, it's now one house again and looking very grand. I know that Australian POWs were living on Mount Pleasant Road for a time repairing the damage to various houses there (as well as finding the time to set up a secret radio in one of the buildings). Anyway,loved the blogspot - many thanks for setting this up. on Jim Hutton PWD on the Kuala

Hello, I have been investigating my girlfriend's family history for her, and they were involved in the evacuation. Adolphe Flinter (a diamond merchant in Singapore) left with his daughter Margaret on the 2nd of February 1942. I have no ship name. His wife Elizabeth left with their younger daughter Eva earlier, arriving in Fremantle, Australia on the 26th of January (again no ship name as I have no access to the detailed records) They also had two sons, Jack and Edward, who we think had been sent to boarding school in the UK some time before. Adolphe also had a brother, Moritz, who with his wife Lucy were aboard the 'Kuala' when it was sunk. Lucy was one of those who was killed in the first wave of bombing, but Moritz managed to escape to Pom Pong Island. He eventually made it to the UK on the ship 'Orantes', returning to Singapore in 1946 to resume his diamond business. on Civilian Evacuation list

Comments questions and postings on Singapore1942

My name is Wee Choong Seng. I am one of the passeger onboard the USS West Point 2gether with my father Wee Yong Thye and my mother Lim Swan Eng. My father worked in the Naval Base in the Battery Shed for charging submarine batteries. When the base got bombed, we were evacuated in Feb 1942. Is there a pax list to show our names during the evacuation? I was just more than a year old back then. Thanks on Civilian Evacuation list

Any hope that you may have a photo of the SS Tanjong Penang, who my Gramdmother was on as a Nurse -it was torpedoed I understand and all hands lost. Including Margeurite Collett. on Research regarding the Singapore evacuation ships of 1

Hello. Does anyone know where I can find the passenger list for the USS WESTPOINT leaving Singapore in January 1942. Many thanks. Nic on Civilian Evacuation list

Could you please put me in contact wiht Michael Pether with regard to civilan evacuation lists. My relatives are Mrs Edna Jackman and Charles Jackman age 5. I am led to believe they were on last boat from Singapore Feb 1942. Also my great uncle Major Charles Jackman was captured in Singapore and was prisoner of war in Burma on the Rail Road and survived. on Civilian Evacuation list

I'm curious if you know anything of the British family by the name of King from Taiping? I heard they were evacuated prior to the war and then returned after the war. Any information about this family would be much appreciated. on The Malayan Volunteers Group

My great grandfather, Lt Albert Charles Carston, was the commanding officer of the MATA HARI and surrendered the vessel to the Japanese in 1942 just as your post states. From our records and other records we have found on the internet, he was sent first to Muntok, Banka Island to repair an airfield. In his post war report, he stated that he was returned to the Mata Hari on 20 Sept 42 to 23 Sept 42 for passage to Japan before being transferred to a Japanese vessel on 24 Sept. He stated that the First Lieutenant, the engineer corps and a few others had been forced to remain on board after the ships capture. The ship participated in the capture of Rengat and had carreid troops to Borneo. Once in Japan, Captain Carston was interred in a series of POW camps until he was liberated from the Hiroshima camp in September 1945. It seems that the fate of the Mata Hari after September 1942 is unclear. Great post! on What finally happened to the "Mata Hari"?

The passenger list for the Narkunda can be found online in the Australian archives on Civilian Evacuation lis

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Recent comments questions & postings on Singapore 1942

Am posting in the event anyone can help or I can help facilitate direct connections.....

I am trying to locate evacuation lists. I do not know name of boat the families I know left in 1942 were the Jones and scott families. Does anyone know of a list that includes these names? The ship they were on was headed for India or Ceylon. on Civilian Evacuation list

Sarah Dyne is your father still alive, as my mother was also on the Mata Hari and was interned in Palembang/Muntok and Lubecklingue (spelling). She's presently trying to find other survivors of the Mata Hari and the camps mentioned above, please feel free to contact me at regards Vincent on What finally happened to the "Mata Hari"?

Dear Sir, I wonder if you would be able to help me, my mother was a Civilian Internee of the Japanese in various camps in Sumatra, one such camp was Bangka, as my mother approaches her twilight years she has shown an interest in trying to contact fellow internees of the camps she was held in and as such I am trying to find out sources who may be able to help me assist her in this, With this in mind I would be grateful if you know of any way I might be able to contact or put my mother in contact with her long lost childhood friends she made in the camps. My mother will shortly be providing me with a list of the camps she was interned in, which i am more than happy to provide you with if this will help in anyway. The brief details I have at the moment are : My mother name at the time of internment : Jane Reid She was interned with her mother, grandmother and 3 siblings, Dirk, Roy and Erica Reid, sadly her grandmother died in the camps, they were originally captured after the ship on Civilian Evacuation list

Hi! My grandmother and dad (Mrs. Maurice (Viola) Bellemans and Paul Bellemans, age 5) left Singapore in 1942, arriving in San Francisco around April 1942. My grandfather was a Naval officer. The Oakland Tribune (April 22, 1942) says they came by way of Singapore, Java, Australia and New Zealand. I don't have the ship name but remember a picture from the deck where the life ring said Kobehaven... which I always thought meant it was a Dutch boat. I didn't see anything in your list on that. Anything you can share would be appreciated. on Civilian Evacuation list

I also have to thank Captain Carston for saving the lives of my Grandmother and father (who was 9 years old at the time) by his actions. We still have a letter that he sent to my grandmother in 1945. He clearly had a terrible decision to make re surrender and the letter shows he was a very great man. He wrote to all the survivors of the ship after the war - what a lovely repsonsible man he must have been - I would be happy to share the letter if anyone would like to see it. My father and his mother were interned on Bangka Island during the war and my Grandfather in Changi. They were very lucky that the Mata Hari was not bombed- my father remembers being ordered below decks on the Mata Hari. He said it was stiflinghot and terrifying as they could here gun fire all around from beneath the decks. On the way down below he saw a motor boat (there were several smaller boats accompanying the Mata Hari) bombed and completely destroyed by a Japanee airplane. on What finally happened to the "Mata Hari"?

Battle for Singapore images

A fascinating rarely published photo of Japanese troops wading ashore Sarimbun beach landing landing in Singapore. Published on the cover of the Singapore WW2 heritage trail guide published this year in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Communication and contact on this website

Firstly thank you to everyone who has contacted me regarding this website and supported or contributed to the consolidation of information regarding the battle for Singapore and the subsequent surrender and evacuation stories. I need to apologise that I have not had the bandwidth to formally respond to everyone with all the contact I have received. Additionally I discovered today a whole list of correspondence that has been embedded in this site that I did not know existed until today and I will need time to work through this list and respond accordingly. For general information related questions I will post the questions on the site itself so that other interested readers maybe able to help as well. Anyway for those of you have been awaiting a response to correspondence I just wanted to extend apologies for the tardiness of response. Thank You - David Hope

Video footage of the first bombing of Singapore in 1941

Old newsreel reporting on the bombing of Singapore

Falling in love in a bomb shelter

One of the nicer stories from that time in this morning's Straits Times newspaper about a 96 and 91 year old couple who met during the bombing of Singapore.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Generals At War series - Battle for Singapore

Interesting documentary produced by National Geographic on the battle of Malaya & Singapore

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Overview of Book Singapore 1942 by Allan Warren

One of the last survivors of Sutherland's 125 anti-tank regiment passes away

The former Vaux worker always, however, considered himself “one of the lucky ones,” as he eventually made it back to Sunderland alive – unlike 197 of his 600 regiment comrades. “He was a wonderful man, a wonderful person, and will be very sadly missed,” said historian Alan Burn, who was inspired to write a book on the 125 Regiment after a chance meeting with John. “Japanese prisoners of war faced the constant threat of death, disease, torture and starvation 24-hours a day. They watched their comrades die in terrible circumstances, and helped to bury them. “They all stared death in the face – not once but many times. There was no counselling when they returned home, they were simply told to get on with their lives. To their credit, they did just that.”
The storm clouds of war were gathering over Europe when John, who had just celebrated his 20th birthday, enlisted in Sunderland’s new 74th Field TA Regiment of the Royal Artillery in May 1939.The unit became a full-time fighting force once war was declared, however, and renamed the 125 Anti-Tank Regiment. On October 28, 1941, the men were shipped off to battle in the Far East. But the voyage was to end in disaster. On February 5, 1942, just a few miles short of Singapore, the soldiers were forced to abandon ship after an enemy attack. They were captured to a man soon after.
John found himself interned in the River Valley Camp at Singapore at first, where he developed a bad case of dysentery. A stint in a hospital in Changi followed, before he was shipped off to Japan. Three other 125 men shared the journey and John recalled: “Before we landed, we were paraded on deck and a glass tube was pushed up our backsides, much to the amusement of many spectators.”
Further degradation, brutality and bullying was to follow. Upon landing at Moji port, John was marched three miles to an open space and ordered to build an airstrip alongside 500 other captives. “There were no diggers, no steam rollers, just picks and shovels. We had to demolish a hill not quite the size of Tunstall Hill. We were treated worse than animals,” said John in a 2008 interview. Five back-breaking months later, once the airstrip was finished, John and his fellow inmates were taken by train to a new prison camp – where they were forced to unload wagons of frozen iron ore.
“Our regular work, though, was to stoke the furnaces of a steel company for 14 to 18 hours a day, with only a bowl of rice,” he said. The starvation rations left him emaciated to the point of skeletal.No mercy was shown, however, in April 1944 – when a heavy iron ingot fell on John’s left hand. Two of his fingers burst in the accident, but the only sympathy he got was a rifle butt in the face.“They dipped my fingers in some powder and gave me a straw glove to wear,” he said. “I couldn’t work and got a rifle butt in the face for that; I still have a scar on my lip to remind me.”
Still suffering from his injury, John was transferred to another camp, Tokyo 4B, where he received a further beating for being too sick to work. After finally recovering, he was back to stoking furnaces. “If the guards thought you weren’t working hard enough, they would take the shovel off you, show you how it should be done and then ‘bang’ you across your back. They showed no mercy,” he said.“I had to go for a scan after I returned home, due to constant backache. The consultant asked if I’d had an accident; he could not understand why my bones were so badly damaged.”
The ordeal finally ended on August 15, 1945, when John and his fellow inmates were told there was ‘no work today.’ They were not released, but the beatings ceased. Liberation came ten days later. John, who was born in Hendon and attended Hylton Road School, finally arrived back home in October 1945 – four years to the day he had sailed off to war with the 125 Regiment.“I was one of the last back,” he later recalled. “There was no reception, as by then the war was all forgotten. But I was one of the ‘lucky ones’. I made it back to Sunderland alive.”
John, who made his home in Fulwell after the war, went on to rebuild his life with the help of wife Catherine. His death on July 4, at St Benedict’s Hospice, came just months after she passed away. Former 125 comrade Len Gibson, of West Herrington, said: “He will be very sadly missed by many people. Jack was a good friend, and a good soldier. There are very few of us 125 men left now.”
Sidebar: 125 Regiment
FEW ever fired their guns in anger – but all stared death in the face many times.
For every three of the brave soldiers of Sunderland’s 125 Anti-Tank Regiment who set sail to fight in the Far East in October 1941, one was never to see home again. Captured to a man on the fall of Singapore in 1942, they were to spend the rest of war as prisoners of the Japanese – forced into hard labour with starvation rations and brutal beatings. “Many left as boys, but soon became men,” said Alan Burns, author of A History of Sunderland’s Own 125th Anti-Tank Regiment. “Death and disease were their constant companions.”
As fears of a possible war in Europe started growing in the late 1930s, so the young men of Sunderland had eagerly answered the call to fight for their country. By day they worked in banks, offices, shops, shipyards and buildings sites; but by night they trained with the Territorial Army at Livingstone Road drill hall and the Garrison Field. Among the volunteers was former Bishopwearmouth chorister Len Gibson, who recalled: “Within months we had a whole regiment. This was a real credit to Sunderland, and the people of the town.”Disaster struck, however, when the Wearsiders were shipped off to defend Singapore. Just a few miles from the port, their ship was blown up and the soldiers had to swim for survival.
“Singapore surrendered within days,” said Alan. “Many felt they had been used as political pawns, to appease complaints that the British had not taken the defence of Singapore seriously enough.” As prisoners of the Japanese, the 125 men were trapped in brutal slavery. Many were sent to work on the Burma-Siam “Death” Railway, while others toiled in steel factories or coal mines. “I watched so many of my friends die when they shouldn’t have. They just needed better food and medical help. The conditions were absolutely terrible,” said Len, who worked on the railway. Almost 200 of the 600 soldiers of the 125 Regiment died during their three-and-a-half years in captivity. Their return home, usually in parties of one or two, went virtually unnoticed.
* A History of Sunderland’s Own 125th Anti-Tank Regiment, by Alan Burns, is published by Ouseburn Publications and costs £10.99.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Recreation of the POW Changi walk

Great to see that a group called the sandbaggers are organising a 28k city to Changi walk to retrace the steps that the POWs took when they were marched to Changi prison after the surrender. Believe this is being planned for September. Facinating

Singapore1942 twitter site

My twitter site that is connected to this blog website has now hit 300 followers and thank you to everyone's interest and encouragement preserving this fascinating history.

The Adam Park Project

TAPP continues to make some fascinating discoveries with their search and excavation around the old black and white houses at Adam Park in Singapore. There are some very interesting photos on the TAPP Facebook page.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

70th Anniversary memorial

This is one of the shots I took at the 7am fall of Singapore memorial service at Kranji War Memorial on 15th February 2012 - the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore. These were the Australian vets present who received a lot of media coverage back home during their time on the island last week. Would have been great to have had the opportunity to spend soem time with them but their schedule did not allow unfortunately. I am sure it was a very moving experience for them coming back.
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New Zealand Veterans

New Zealand fall of Singapore veterans at the 7oth Anniversary at Kranji Cemetary
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George Prior

A nice photo of George Prior at the Singapore veterans anniversary dinner held just over a week ago in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore. Captured in Singapore George ended on the Thai Burma Railway and maintains a cheeky sense of humour and looks remarkedly well for his age.
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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Fall of Singapore remembered by survivors

Australian war veterans Peter Dimopoulos, George Smith, George Butler,  Bill Ennis, Roy Cornford, and Derek Holyoake attend a service at the Kranji  War Memorial yesterday.
NOT many can make the journey now. Only a dozen ageing Australian survivors of the fall of Singapore stood when asked to identify themselves at the city-state's Kranji War Memorial yesterday during a service commemorating the 70th anniversary of perhaps the greatest military defeat in the history of the British empire. Veteran Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon announced the fast-diminishing roll call. While 14,792 Australian servicemen and nurses were captured by the Japanese in Singapore in 1942 ''only 520 of those brave souls are still with us,'' he said. ''We are fortunate some of those who survived sit with us here today.'' One of them, Bill Ennis, 89, of Sydney, said despite the passing of many of his comrades he believes the sacrifices made in Singapore will grow stronger in the minds of Australians when they are all gone. ''It don't know why but just like Gallipoli the young people are taking a much greater interest in what happened in these battles,'' Mr Ennis said. ''It's very sad that so many of us are passing but you just have to get used to it,'' he said. George Smith, 86, of Western Australia, who lied about his age to enlist in June 1941, said that during the solemn service held on a hill overlooking the graves of thousands of servicemen he remembered his many mates who were killed. ''Usually I try not to think about it - you get too upset otherwise,'' he said. Air Vice-Marshal Neil Hart, representing the Australian Defence Force at the service, said it was important to continue to speak about the stories and the sacrifices that were made 70 years ago. ''It is hard for those of new generations, those without the personal experiences of the veterans here with us today, to understand, to comprehend,'' Air Vice-Marshal Hart said. ''All these numbers, all the killed, all the wounded, had loved ones, had their own personal and unique stories; some of them known to us, some of them unknown,'' he said. Constituting only 14 per cent of the troops defending Singapore, Australian forces sustained 73 per cent of the battle deaths, about 400 people attending the service were told. Of the Australian prisoners, a third died in captivity, many of them in conditions that Mr Snowdon described as barbarous. Staff of Australia's Department of Veterans' Affairs have fussed over six of the survivors who were flown to Malaysia and Singapore for services marking the anniversary. The youngest are 86 and the oldest 93. According to the department, 326 Australians who were prisoners of war in Europe during World War II are still alive. But the department says there are 54,118 Australian World War II veterans still alive, the youngest of whom would be 85, if they lied about their age. The oldest are 100 or more. There are no survivors of World War of WW1. From the Age Newspaper
Peter Dimopoulos George Smith lay a wreath at a service at the Kranji  War Memorial yesterday.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Exhibition on the Adam Park Battle

War vets to mark 70 years since 'largest capitulation in British history' in Singapore - Telegraph

War vets to mark 70 years since 'largest capitulation in British history' in Singapore - Telegraph War vets to mark 70 years since 'largest capitulation in British history' in Singapore

On this day 70 years ago on the 15th of February 1942

Surrender Singapore.<span class=
Singapore surrendered to the invading Japanese forces and Britain suffered its biggest ever military defeat. It was almost surreal driving past the site of the surrender location at the old ford factory on Bukit Timah Road this morning after returning from the 7am dawn service at Kranji War Memorial. A fateful day in history that will never be forgotten. Lest we forget

The fall of Singapore 1942 - the doctor without penicillin - ABC New South Wales - Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

The fall of Singapore 1942 - the doctor without penicillin - ABC New South Wales - Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

Learn lessons from forefathers' resilience during WWII Dr Yaacob - Channel NewsAsia

Learn lessons from forefathers' resilience during WWII Dr Yaacob - Channel NewsAsia

Singapore rediscovers its history 70 years after Japanese invasion - Monsters and Critics

Singapore rediscovers its history 70 years after Japanese invasion

The end of empire

The end of empire

Sombre return for the lucky few who escaped

Sombre return for the lucky few who escaped
Bill Ennis.

Malaya veterans recall dark and difficult days

Malaya veterans recall dark and difficult days World War II veteran Bill Ennis (centre) attends a  memorial service in Gemas in Malaysia yesterday.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Captured Japanese tank from the battle for Singapore

I was surprised to read today that the Bovington Tank Museum in England has on display a captured Japanese tank from the Malaya battle being a Ha Go Type 95. Very successful in the Malaya campaign The interior of the tank was cramped and uncomfortable, especially for anyone trying to operate the rear turret machine-gun, and it is interesting to note that the main gun could move independently of the turret. However the British troops did not have any tanks and these Japanese tanks were very successfully used during the campaign. The markings indicate a tank of 14th Sensha Rentai (Tank Regiment) in 3rd Sensha Shidan (Tank Division) around 1941. What is interesting is that this Type 95 was captured in Malaya and was examined in Calcutta before being sent to Britain. Surviving Japanese tanks from the Second World War are extremely rare and so this was very interesting to discover.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

70th Anniversary Battle for Singapore events

There are a number of events,commemorations and tours taking place in February and you can keep updated with these at I have also attached links to a number of these events on my @singapore1942 twitter site.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Winston CHURCHILL attempted to reinforce the RAF at Singapore in late 1941. No.232 Fighter Squadron R.A.F. arrived too late to significantly blunt the blows of the IJAAF. On 7 February 1942, S/Ldr. Lawrence N. LANDELS was killed in action and was succeeded by S/Ldr. Richard ("Rickey") E.P. BROOKER. "Rickey" BROOKER had the squadron leader's pennant painted below the cockpit of his No.232 Squadron Hawker Hurricane Mk.II, BE 208, "O." Flt/Lt. Arthur G. DONAHUE tells the rest of the story.

"The other flight had a combat (Sunday morning, February 8) with an escorted bombing raid, in which they brought down at least two of the enemy. Rickey was shot down in this engagement and force-landed on the airdrome, his machine crashing through the fence on the north side and out onto East Coast Road, where it shed its landing gear in the ditch on one side, slid across the road on its belly, and stopped with its nose in the ditch on the other side. Rickey himself was unhurt - except for his feelings." ("Last Flight From Singapore," The MacMillan Company, New York:1943, page 72).

See above for a photograph of Hurricane II, BE 208, "O." Note the No.232 Squadron insignia ahead of the windscreen. Sq/Ldr. BROOKER surveys the damage!

-Jim Lansdale
Photo Credit: Arthur G. Donahue, D.F.C.
Source Classicwarbirds