Private Bruce H. Holland
Unit : "B" Company, 2/30 Battalion
Served : Singapore (captured).
Service No. : NX 26331
Camps : Changi, Kranji, Selarang.
The following is Bruce Holland's diary, written in Selarang and Kranji, describing, in Books One and Two, his experiences in Changi after returning from Thailand and the Burma Railway. Books Three to Six chronicle his earlieri departure from Australia through to the final days of the defence of Singapore.
Books One and Two - Changi, March to June 1944
Letter Home, Changi, 1944 (but not sent)
It is now more than 3 mos since I arrived back in Changi, and I will try to describe this interval. We landed outside the G & W area at about 1 am and were put into new huts on the padang, which we occupied until the battalion was reformed on 28/12/43. Many men went to hospital, and those of us that remained were a sorry bunch. It was estimated that we had 80% malaria and 85% scabies. We were infested with lice, rotten with the itch and in a very bad state of health generally. We still are, actually. Malaria became so prevalent that a special "Malaria Centre" of 5 hut capacity was installed and soon filled. I have just had a dose, and after an interval of 7 months since my last, I was hit pretty hard. They had to take about 7/8 blood slides before they isolated the microbe, and during this interval I could get no treatment, so that aggravated matters. The "Bug", as it is called, is a matter for amusement now, as everyone has it.
We found that Changi has changed in many ways. Wood was scarce, being supplied by contractors, canteen prices had soared, we had electric light throughout the camp and sewerage in the A.G.H. All money earned, and extra rations supplied, were pooled in the A.I.F., and hospital patients paid 5 cents a day. We were now required to register all dogs and watches and forbidden to sell anything without official permission. 8000 fowls and ducks were installed in pens all over the area (we grudged the rice that they ate) and rations were on a new scale. We had to conform to the regulations and dig 40 P.A.D. pits in our battalion area. The piggery was operating and we received several issues, generally about 40 lb of pork for the Battalion (250 men). The garden had produced 25 tons of vegetables for December, and fish or meat was a regular (if small) Jap issue. The boys were so hungry that special garden and kitchen pickets had to be posted and private gardening was strictly prohibited.
Workshops over the road were producing many amazing substitutes, including metal limbs, marmite, grass extract, yeast, darning needles from wheel spokes, soap and sandals. Tobacco was now 33 cents for Java and 25 for Perak - many of the boys preferred to buy cigars and chop them up. American "Zig - Zags" were still being issued (newspapers). Many men were employed in the gardens, and some also on a new aerodrome near Changi Village. The Javanese in the Dutch party had taught our cooks how to make many new dishes including "tempi" which consisted of soya beans wet and allowed to collect fungus, then fried. Clothing was scarce and as we arrived back with little or none we were, and still are, a ragged lot.
Many of our cobbers had departed in the "Japan Party" and others were with "H" force in Syme Road, Singapore. Concerts were still being conducted and we received tickets for shows at the A.I.F., Phoenix, and Little Theatres. Mail was awaiting us, but none for me. The American Red Cross had sent parcels to Americans in Singapore, and they being only 30 strong, the issue was spread over the whole camp. We received many good things, unfortunately in only small quantities, and the cook-house did a good job with them.
To illustrate how prices had risen, I will give a selection of them. Whitebait was $2 a lb, sugar 2.50, coconut oil 1.10, coconuts .40, tinned herrings 2.85, curried chicken 2.90, bananas .28, pineapples 25/30, pawpaws 25/80, sago flour .45, caramels 1.40, sweets 1.60, soap .30, onions 2.50, curry 1.10, peanuts 1.85, biscuits 1.20, garlic 3.50, bread .40, fish paste 1.10, etc. At 10 cts per day we could not indulge much, could we? I bought 1 lb biscuits with my first pay. Food was all important and the "back-up" list was our favourite reading. The cookhouse installed an oven and turned out some very creditable meals. By the use of tapioca and lily-root they made quite good pastry, and amenities (40/50 cts per 15 day pay) when procurable, added to their excellence.
We usually had a pint of bean gruel for breakfast, rice, bean hash, gravy and a "doover" for lunch, and 6/7 doovers, soup, stew, etc. for tea. The following is the best meal to date. (We have an extra special one every Sunday night) 5/3/44 soup, 1 pt, meat & veg gravy ¾ pint, sweet gruel (prunes, pineapple, banana) ¾ pint, 1 meat pastie, 1 meat roll, 2 fried doovers (rice & beans), 1 piece fried "Tempi", 1 ham & egg paste biscuit, 1 chester cake (peanuts, prunes & sugar), 1 fried potato, 1 cup of tea. Not bad, eh?
"Back-ups" or "lagis" as the English called them, were rigorously controlled and a printed alphabetical list was hung near the door, to be ticked off as each man received a breakfast, lunch, tea or "left-over" back-up. Two items of the American Red Cross issue stand out in my memory - one is the small cake of chocolate, about one inch square, the other is the small slice of cheese supplied with biscuit and butter. We had not tasted either for at least two years, so you can understand. I bought a jar of chicken paste for $1.10 and used all in one meal - it costs 4½d at home. Everyone makes extravagant promises of what they will eat when they return home, grilled steaks, eggs, milk, butter and nourishing foods coming first.
Occasionally the Jap issue does not eventuate and the kitchen has to scramble for a meal. Such a one was yesterday's, when we lunched on green banana stew. We have no rations for today - will probably have to live on rubber nuts. Some men eat them even now, and declare that they taste like walnuts. Many extra acres of garden are being dug up to protect us from like happenings. Meat, when supplied, is about 65 lb for the Bn, and fish is the alternative. We have received sharks and porpoises as our fish issue. Housie is run for about three nights after pay to benefit amenities, and a raffle for a roast duck brought in $11 for the same. Ducks cost 4/6d, so we don't indulge in many duck dinners. Mess gear is not uniform, many men being obliged to use herring and pineapple tins. A factory has been established to make mess tins and mugs from the tins which contained Red Cross tucker.
I am at present on 30 days No Duty, and my days are very lazy ones. I rise about 20 minutes before reveille and shower after breakfast. I read or play cards till lunch at 1 pm, then the same till tea at 6 pm. Night-time is taken up either at a concert, visiting the hospital, or talking to the boys about food or home, the two most popular topics. 99% of our watches were "flogged" up north, so the time is rung hourly on a ship's bell in the English lines, and half-hourly in the Dutch lines. Our hut now houses 70 men and is slightly crowded as a consequence. Bugs are plentiful, and many types of ants annoy us as they hunt them in our gear. My wardrobe consists of 1 pr shorts, 1 pr underpants, 2 shirts, 1 pr socks, 1 singlet, 1 pullover, 1 hat, 1 handkerchief and NO BOOTS. I have become quite used to a barefooted existence, but must run the risk of hookworm.
My bedding is scanty but sufficient, a piece of canvas, a rice bag, and blanket to protect my bones from the wooden floor. The floor is not as comfortable as it could be as I have lost all my fat, weighing about 10 st on the canteen scales. We have a medical re-classification every 10 days to determine fitness for work, and I have never been other than light or no duties. When on light duties I was employed on kitchen fatigue - Sipper and Darcy are permanent cooks. Strange as it may seem we still have detention in Changi, a prison within a prison, and inmates have to work pretty hard. Books are getting rare, and almost every one has leaves missing. I was fortunate to recover my photos from my kit-bag, they are good to look at occasionally.
When not talking about food, the boys speculate on many things, and arguments rage quite often on diverse subjects. These include rumours of increase in our pay at home, how much leave we as prisoners are entitled to, how long we would be in convalescence or quarantine, whether we would return home in Summer or Winter, whether malaria would recur often in Australia, the possible Melbourne Cup winners, whether our letters got home and whether the casualty list had been published. Discussions were also held on raised prices and cost of restocking wardrobes. Many bets were made about the date of our release, to be paid in Sydney on return. I held the view that we would not be released until about March 1945, and was quite resigned to it. (12/3/45)
Since I last wrote in this letter our conditions have changed somewhat. Rations have been altered - we receive corn now instead of beans. We have received no vegetables for the past week, and have subsisted on stewed bananas, paw paws and beans. The Japanese issue only rice, ¼ of our bean requirements, tea, sugar, palm oil and vegetables, with meat or fish occasionally. Consequently, or Central Amenities Fund has had to buy $14,000 of towgay and $35,000 of beans. The English bought $5,000 of black beans and cannot eat them - they gave away gallons of them every day. New prices at canteen are Gula Malacca $2.75, Towgay $2.00, Soya Sauce .55c per pint, Sago flour $3.00, Tea .90c, Sweets 2 cts each, Vinegar 80, "Modern Girl" herrings 21 cts, boot polish 70, razor blades 25, Perak tobacco 60 cts and Temple Bar 70 cts. This book 55 cts (can't read last entry. Think it is almonds. JH)
Account now switches to book 2:
The boot polish, incidentally, is not bought by privates, though even the officers use the substitute, hibiscus flower, which is fairly plentiful in the area. The officers do not trust their cooks, because the cooks bake the pastry for the sweet cup, but the cups are taken to the officers' mess to have the filling added. Careful men!
Malaria knocked one of the chaps in our company recently. He went quite dotty and was eventually sent to the mental ward. He is now quite recovered, happily, and eating his head off while we go light. It is a wonder there are not more cases, as mental strain was intense up north. Lice have been found on the other side of the road - we are indirectly to blame and have been "disinfested" once again. I am afraid that we have worn out our welcome down here; some of the "stay-at-homes" have been heard to wish that we had not returned to alter conditions and rations. I wish I could give them a taste of what Thailand was like! Rumours have it that a party, said to be 400 strong, will have to return to Kanburi to bring down the men that were left there. Wild horses would not drag me back there, Changi will do me for the duration. We recently had to write an essay for the I.J.A. entitled "My Most Thrilling War Experience". I wrote my own and four others, all very similar. Since my return I have been surprised by the number of churches and chapels that have sprung up. The Dutch especially are very devout, they attend R.C. Mass daily. A Christian Japanese has been helpful in furnishing the altars. The Red Cross issue has petered out at last, it was very tastily served out to us - the cheese with biscuit and butter, twice, the pork loaf in a baked doover, bully beef likewise, and salmon in a fried one. The ham and egg paste was spread on a biscuit with butter, and jam cooked in a roly-poly. We had soup powders in the soup and meat gravy, pork loaf in 2 pasties, and a sweet gruel with prunes and pineapple. A chester cake had prunes, bananas, coffee, sugar and peanuts. We had many sweet cups - butter, sugar and cocoa - sweet spud, banana, sugar and coffee - coffee, banana, butter and sugar - cocoa, banana and sugar - orange flavouring - orange and coffee - sweet spud, coconut, banana and coffee - paw paw, banana, sugar, coconut and chocolate.
NEILL SELLARS "C" GP.
STEW & RICE
PICKLED SHRIMP HASH
4 DOOVERS (PORK PIE, TOWGAY TURNOVER, FRESH FRUIT CUP, ETC.)
SAGO TWICE A DAY, BEAN MILK, MARMITE, YEAST & RICE POLISHINGS
Our platoon is well scattered now, although 8 Section has stuck together well. We have lost Horace Neill, Sam Watts, Jack Corley, Mick Murray, Lou Toussard, Charlie Emblin, Harold Russell, Jack Simpson, Jeff Paterson, Bill Death, Jack Dean, "Dan" Cann, Bill Smith, Tom Fitzgerald, Eric Gottaas, Bob Watson and Sid Pike from various diseases up north, besides Jimmy Ambrose, Ted Gill and George Phelps during action. At Kanburi we left Dave Swindail, Frank Dyson, Hilton Blanche, "Bunny" Billsborough and Ray Donald, sick or on a job. On "A" Force, also in Thailand, are Don Watts, Joe Noble (minus a leg), Vernon Hicks and Bill McNeill. Merv Dixon is, I think, on A Force. "H" Force in Syme Rd has Dick Andrews and Harry Holden, while the Blakang Mati party includes Dudley Bushby and "Sailor Weir. Ray Brown, Hilton Collins and Harry Wilson left on the "Japan Party". Fred Hodges is in "C" Group also Lt Don Garret (?). Stan Waterson cooks for Con Depot, Charlie Coggins and Bert Wills have transferred to 2/26 BN. At present, in A.G.H. are Vince Beggs, Jeff Gillespie and "Bluey" McDonald. "Bluey" Thompson went to Japan with "C" Force, Alf Austin was boarded and returned home with perforated eardrums, and Tige Sylvester also got away, in a bad state from "mixing it" with a hand grenade. So with the Battalion we have Lt Harry Head, Sgt Jack McLean, Tommy Yates, Jack Maclay (RAP), Jimmy Walker, Alan Gilbert, Ron Charlton, Darcy Pickard, Tom Evans, Sgt Russ Perkins, Len Clavin and myself. There will be some tall stories told when the mob re-unites again, although the best of us died up north. The Platoon lost 17 in Thailand, the Company 37, the Battalion, over 200, the A.I.F. about 1000 (out of 3000) and "F" force has lost over 3000 out of 6000, mostly English. Men are still dying from diseases contracted in Thailand, Bill McNamara from pneumonia and debility due to cholera, and Johnny Donovan from gangrene in the bowel, since our return to Changi. The food is not nutritious enough to build up our bodies again, and we long for another "Red Cross Ship", such as built us up before. The American issue contained only 1 lb of food, not enough to do much good.
tucsan - a lot squashi - a little ame - rain birp - beer yasume - rest kichil - little jadi la - ok tidapa - never mind birappa? - how much? Etc.
We have acquired many new words in our associations over here and they are used continually. From the Japanese we learned o-cha - tea, yoroshi - good, warui - bad, byoki - ill, ichi - 1, arigato - thank you, michi-michi - food, also many garbled English words such as "speedo", "presento", "no 1 or 10 genacre(?)" "no good-ka" etc.
From the Malayan language we have borrowed: makan - food, bunyah bagoose - very good, gula - sugar, su-su - milk, porgi-likas - go away, noko - cigarette, and sudah habis - finish. Also the English troops use a Malayan word - lagi, to describe a back-up.
I have decided to try and write an account of my travels since enlisting and have been putting down notes for some days. My memory is not too good as regards names, and I hope this mental exercise will improve it. Being in NO 2 (G&W) area we are not on the spot for many entertainments, - good lectures and concerts appearing over the road but not in our lines. To cross Changi Rd we have to wait for a guard with a flag to "ferry" us over, the distance is a deterrent and many like myself still have no boots. We were supposed to shift over on the 15/3/44 but did not for some reason, maybe the lice, probably the increase in malaria infections. Housing is becoming a serious problem, as many as 500 men living in tents which are rapidly deteriorating. On applying to the IJA for new tents they produced the handsome number of 1 ½ ! They have increased rations slightly however, allowing an extra issue of rice, dizu beans and palm oil, but salt has been cut down. The garden produced only 12 tons last month, probably accounting for lack of vegetables in issue, although much of our ration is bought in Singapore. We have been warned that fruit will be short soon - that will be a pity as bananas add both taste and vitamin value to our meals. The last time I bought 2 lb of bananas at the canteen I received 38 midgets. This time, with Sipper's assistance I received 7 large ones for the same price. A little influence and the window at the rear of the canteen works wonders. A curious thing about the fruit in Malaya is that much of it can be green, but ripe. This applies to bananas (very sweet), paw-paws, pomelos and pineapples.
The canteen is at present stocked with biscuits and sweets, but I refuse to buy at their ridiculous prices.Darcy bought 50 cts of biscuits and received only about ½ pt, and the sweets, about thumb-nail size, are 2 cts each. Yesterday I assisted the kitchen fatigue to pluck a couple of bags of "red spinach", a monotonous job and not very profitable as the small issue it boils down to is generally bitter, and spoils any soup or gravy to which it is added. I managed to receive a large piece of burnt rice while on this job and with the addition of palm oil and "doover" scraps, it formed a tasty snack. The kitchen is still struggling for wood, and occasionally a nocturnal party disposes of a rubber tree down in the gully. On 18/3/44 we had crushed corn gruel for breakfast, and the "hominy" was quite good, but would have been better with sweetening. The bean gruel, on the other hand, is better with just pepper, salt and soya sauce. The sweet banana gruel last night was extra good, and the corn meal biscuits also. If possible I swap my soup for a roll or biscuit each night, as the pickled whitebait it contains does not agree with me. Sipper and Carl Rope have each bet Tom Yates that he will have malaria before Tuesday, the bet being a meat "doover" each. Tom has had fever and headaches, but throws a negative slide each time. Reg Ducker (?) ("C" Coy), like Ted Rickards and myself, had his first dose for 6 mos yesterday. MTXXXX was the slide, and he was very sick. It seems to hit all men hard who have not had it for some time. Black Jack has it at present - the first attack since arrival in Malaya.
I was talking to George Reid last night and he told me that, being in indifferent health, his unit supplied him with 1½ pts of chicken broth and the breast of a fowl. Our galahs are too tight to even consider such an action. The 2/29 even have their own fowl run, and it houses 1500 birds. He tells me that Stew Baxter got 28 days for attempting to "do" Tubby McGlyn, but was discharged from detention owing to ill health. He will have to return to it again when he recovers, the same as Vince Bylos and Stan Granger after their malaria bouts.
PHILADELPHIA EVENING PUBLIC LEDGER
SAN FRANCISCO NEWS
NEW YORK TIMES
Included in the American Red Cross were repair tools and shoes. The tools have been sent to the workshops in Singapore and the shoes have been issued to officers, naturally. There were also pipes and tobacco - our area has been allotted 7 pipes and 51 ounces of tobacco. A further issue of cigarettes was stopped by the Japanese as the packet had on it "an offensive slogan". Our representative asked for loose cigarettes and was informed that they also had this slogan. A further suggestion that the tobacco be issued was not gratefully received, and the matter has been referred to Tokyo. A few days ago, the fit men had to parade in Selarang Square, to be inspected by General Saito, replacing General Arimura in charge of POWs in Malaya and Sumatra. He sais that he would not change the Changi policy unless necessary, and stressed the need for discipline. We hope that he is capable of improving our conditions - they say he is a hard man, but just.
400 additions are expected to our ranks some time this month from Kanburi, we shall be glad to welcome our cobbers again. By comparing a roll dated 31/1/44 with previous ones we find that Jack Reid has probably passed away. In the AA.G.H. we have at present "Ham" Buckingham with a very badly burnt hand. He put a ladle with a small amount of water in it into a "quarly"(?) of palm oil and it exploded. Bill Boyton is in the same ward with a crook foot. He fell out of the train on our journey down from Thailand and suffered no ill effects. Jeff Gillespie has recovered from his attack of dysentery, and Digger Preen's ulcer is now ok, but he has malaria. Vince Beggs and Bluey McDonald are now recuperating, Bluey in the hospital kitchen or "fattening paddock", also Ted Rickards in the Mental Ward. The interpretation that the boys put on the initials "R.A.M.C." (Royal Army Medical Corps) is now "Rob All My Comrades" after their disgusting show up north. Every Wednesday and Sunday we go over to the other side to see the Soccer teams playing their competition games. The Dutch are leading at present. Rugby is banned because of shortage of medical supplies and high incidence of injuries.
Picket Evans Holland Dingwill Bullen
Maj Johnstone - "We've been through the mill together"
JB - "Yes - but youse didn't get mangled up like us!"
2 minutes silence for each member deceased (Bill McNamara first)
After the Soccer match we visit the A.G.H. then proceed to the Con Depot to hear musical recordings, lectures or band recitals. I have a new job now - I picket the kitchen each night, 10:45 PM - 1:00 AM or 1:00 AM - 3:00 AM, with Tommy Evans and a couple of others. This suits me, as owing to the increasing humidity I had begun to suffer from insomnia. The tinea and itch that I brought back from Thailand have at last been cured by Major Gunther and his skin clinic. With his improvised ointments he has done good work, the main items being palm oil and sulphur. Now being issued are Changi-built mess dixies, cut from 1/16 plate and welded with barbed wire rods. There is a factory working on toothbrushes and brooms. The brooms are quite good, soft ones with coconut fibre and hard ones with cane strips. Toothbrushes are repaired with coconut fibres, a same day service for 20 cts. per brush. Nearly every man possesses a brush, either hair, clothes or boot variety. But few of these are used for their original purpose. The main job is scrubbing clothes on the concrete floor of the showers, also scrubbing oneself. Hard on the clothes, but effective.
At present we are grouped in the BN in 3 Companies. HQ forms NO 1, (B and C) form NO 2 and (A and D) - NO 3. Major Anderson is acting C.O. as Major Johnstone is still on rest cure after his strenuous Thailand experiences. Capt. Duffy is 2 I/C and quite thin - Burma did not agree with him. Capt. Thomson commands NO 1, Capt Maston NO 2 and Capt Morrison NO 3. Capt Kearney has gone to 3 GP where he is heartily disliked because he tries to drive the drome works. Our NO 2 Coy is split into "B" Coy personell - 1 PL and "C" Coy - 2 PL. Officers are Lts Head, Parry, Parsons and Clarke. C.S.M. is Sgt McMahon & C.Q.M. Sgt McDougall, both "C" Coy. Sgts are not a very industrious lot, out of 37 about a dozen are in jobs, and malaria strikes them quite often, which throws much work onto the corporals. Consequently Tommy Yates has at times been acting C.S.M. and when not holding that portfolio he is NO 1 PL's acting sergeant.
I'll wash your clothes
And mend your hose
"YOU'RE A FUNNY OLD CAT!"
"IF YOU'RE EVER - IN A JAM - CALL ON HAM!"
"Just keep on coping -
We have had a brown out since March 1st and aircraft are becoming more numerous and active. Precautions against fire are posted on all buildings (quite laughable instructions) and, as I said before, 40 P.A.D. trenches have been dug in our BN Area. The Malay Volunteers who have relations in town have got in touch with them and they say that conditions are bad, civilians paying as much as 50 cts per lb for bananas, $1.25 per kati for rice, (formerly 8 cts per kati) and rioting because we are employed and paid, and they are starving.
Rumours have been rife during the past week, the main ones affecting the food ration. Gen Saito is supposed to have promised us about 20 oz of rice, 16 of vegs, 3 of meat or fish besides clothes (on loan) and curiously enough - loin cloths and pencils also, all pigs and fowls are supposed to be eaten by Easter time, we are supposed to sign "non-combatant" papers and receive 30 cts per day. Rice bags have been collected and mats substituted to enable us to collect this extra rice, and 120 Japanese guards are being installed in NO 1 Area, so there is some foundation for the furphies. Bluey McDonald has returned from the A.G.H., he is thin but well. Jack Green is improving but Vince Beggs is pretty sick, they tell me. We hope the 30 cts pay eventuates as prices have risen even more, the smokers suffering most. Cigars which were once 2½ , 3, 3 ½ , 4 and 5 cts are now 6, 6 ½, 7 and 8. Rumour says that bananas will not be sold anymore - that will be disastrous as we have so few things to spend the money on. Soya sauce is the best buy for me, my present bottle has fermented and is a real good brew. Coconuts are now 85 cts, garlic 4.20, pencils 42 - we worked out the cost to BN Amenities of the last Sunday chester cake. At peace time rates it contained £8-10-0 of peanuts, £5 of sugar, £10 of bananas - about £30 in all for about 300 cakes which cost 1d each at home. It gave me colic, so I will probably swap my future issues - swapping is very popular, soup for a biscuit, roll or fry according to the quality of the soup - 2 frys for a sweet cup - meat gravy for a sweet pastie being our system of barter. Mick Cowan sells his - he got 20 cts for a doover and a rice issue the other day, so as to play poker. To make money -
BURN WINDOW SHUTTERS, DOORSTEPS etc
Snails 1 ct Large Ones
- some men collect snails and sell them as duck food - a lot however go into cooking and high prices are paid when they are scarce. I visited the Phoenix Theatre and saw "Love on the Dole", quite a good show as regards acting, but a depressing subject. We have been issued with the same large mosquito nets that were used up North - they are a nuisance at all times, some were found to contain lice. The supply of quinine is not sufficient and doses have been curtailed to 2 per day for 7 days. According to ration figures we have 8562 men in Changi area, 800 on the drome where our BN supplies 19. The cemetery now has 122, I believe that only 3 died during our absence. Wally Mason and Jimmy Walsh are our latest BN casualities, Wally died of cardiac and Jimmy, who worked on the sterilizer, died of either cerebral malaria, jaundice, pneumonia, or dysentery - he had them all. Padre Walsh buried them - he looks fagged out by malaria. An officer on the drome told Vince Bylos how the Nip contrived to get our chaps working there. They should not, as it is military work, but the Nip asserted that it was only a "playground" and the party is termed "ground-levelling party" - no mention made of drome at all. It was announced on parade that many fowls were suffering from "fowl cholera" - dead fowls were to be burnt, sick ones could be eaten. Wood is scarce and not good stuff, I spent 1½ hours lighting some fires the other night when ½ hr should be sufficient. The 26th were caught chopping a tree the other night and got 14 days Jap pay. Our team - Tom Yates, Andy Anderson, Nicholls and Farley were caught by Pommy MPs a couple of nights later, but were not fined. They went back later and got another tree. We were inspected and some men ordered to have their hair cut, as General Saito "might order all hair off if he sees an unkempt specimen." The clippers drag like hell, too - Alan Gilbert does us all occasionally. The factory over the other side turns out razors now - not too good however. Shaving soap is made with common soap and palm oil - a satisfactory substitute for our occasional shaves.
VISITORS FROM "C" GP
Malaya Command, where the officers sit out on the lawn in a half circle of easy chairs, has been christened LIDCOMBE, quite aptly named. I filled the exercise book in which I am writing my diary on the 25th - have to wait till pay day (about 2/4/44) to get another. Was sent to Ordinance the other day for boots, but got knocked back. My size in those awful narrow Indian boots was 11.5. I have been about 10 mos without boots now, my feet have probably spread a bit.
Black-out exercises are being carried out at present - they are a nuisance as when the alarm sounds not only do lights go out but all traffic ceases over Changi Rd. We had to wait for the "all clear" yesterday when going over for our fish ration - 66 lb of pickled shrimps, the rotten things. We have had our last issue of tempi, I think, as beans are scarce. It was not a success and had to be minced and "doovered". The officers buy theirs from the Dutch, and it is beautiful stuff, about 1" thick and full of fungus. Owing to vegetable shortage we have to mince even the tapioca peelings for the soup now - beans and greens are the other ingredients. The best greens are Ceylon Spinach and Sweet potato cuttings, but we get most of a red-leaved plant which is called Amaranthus and is grown as a flower in Australia. We are informed that 23 pigs were slaughtered during February giving 3.86 oz per man. On 22/3/44 we had a (?) meat issue - 68 lb of beef and 68 lb of pork - the beef being used in a meat stew and the pork in a "grouse" meat pastie. The beef is from water buffaloes as we received a fore-quarter complete with hump. We have to clean and return all bones now, otherwise we get no further meat issues. Salt is scarce - we realize now why, in olden times a man with salt and oil was considered rich. Salt water is carried back from swim parades to cook our morning gruel, rubber stumps also. We missed our opportunity to get a good supply of salt out at the A.G.H., there were bags of it for the taking for quite some time. We got plenty of pepper, but in the form of peppercorns, and have to grind them ourselves.
BILL BAILEY LES GALLARD
As vegetables are practically non-existent the veg fatigue has had an easy time, but now they have a new job which is not as hard but takes time - gristing corn for gruel or flour. The other day we had a real "corny" day - for breakfast a pint of corn gruel - dinner was rice, corn stew and crushed corn and bean doover - tea - corn soup, 2 crushed corn doovers, fish and corn turnover, banana and corn turnover, crushed corn biscuits with pork fat and sweet corn gruel. We shall be crowing like roosters soon if this keeps up. The advantage lies in the fact that 3 gals when cooked makes 9 gals and it minces easily and takes flavours readily. An English private, who lived in Singapore for 6 months after the capitulation, gave us a lecture the other night. His motto, which carried him through, was "B---- Baffles Brains." He certainly put a lot of it over to last that long. Wally Mason's death brings out a point on which many speculate - should brothers enlist and be close together in action or should they stay well apart? In some cases it has been disastrous, in some it has been alright. The 3 Careys in "Don" Coy, the 3 Baileys in HQ, the 2 Mitchells (and 1 in 2/18 BN), the 2 Ferrys, the 2 Rickards, the 2 Georges, and many others, are all together still, but Sam Watts, both Fred and Arthur Collett and Jimmy Ambrose have been parted from their brother; in Jimmy's case his father. There are many men in the Company who never saw their children, Mossy Doolan, who died at 3 Camp, Sid Pike and Fred Campbell, who died at Kanburi and Athol Nagle, killed in action at Gemencheh. Also Ray Brown has received a letter which conveys sad news - his first son, born at the start of the Japanese war, has died of meningitis. Ray has had his share of trouble - 19 bayonet wounds (superficial only) about his head and shoulders at Gemencheh , a shrapnel wound in the leg at Katong A.G.H. and amoebic dysentery to boot. He went on the Japan party with Dick Noble, Hilton Collins, Ernie Bray, Harry Wilson, Legs Hall, Speed Hollingsworth, Bill Clancy, Ted Lutz and others.
W.O. GAME I.M.D.
We are now installed in new quarters, having moved over on 31/3/44. The house has a fine situation on top of the hill near NO 4 Gate, with shady trees, lawns, mess tables, and beds for the lucky ones. We have a fine view of the Straits, the drome and the A.I.F. Cemetery just over the Changi Rd. The quarters were filthy when we moved in (having been formerly occupied by English officers), but we soon cleaned them up. The house is well peppered with shrapnel and bullet holes; it must have presented a good target to the Nip Air Force during the blue. The front lawn is out of bounds to us privates as the officers' mess overlooks it and also it is a miniature golf course. On our verandah (covered in with palm fronds plaited together), we have Chum Douglas, Alan Gilbert, Ray and Arnie Ferry, Darcy, Tommy Coombes, Jimmy Walker, Earl Rope, Tom Yates, Jack McNamara and myself. Tommy Evans has gone to A.G.H. with the " bug" - his bronchitis is pretty bad, too. Harry Ritchie owes his life to his marvelous constitution as the M.T. bug that he harbours would have killed a less robust man. A patient "died" yesterday in the Malaria Centre and was prepared for burial. A few minutes later he was seen to be moving, and with the aid of adrenaline and artificial respiration he recovered, and is taking "Nutrine" and receiving a blood transfusion. I am having trouble with my kidneys and, having no medicine, the new M.O. Capt. Catchlove (2/20) told me to drink 8 quarts of liquid per day. Quite a contract when beer is unprocurable. Beri-beri is coming back to my ankles also, but again, no treatment is available bar the local "grass soup" - lalang grass chopped and boiled. I had a bad dose of colic on my first night over here and had to give my tea back-up away. Wouldn't it? The R.A.P. is using many substitutes, fresh rubber latex being used in lieu of sticking plaster - quite satisfactory, too. Band-Sergeant Ringwood has a quite good recipe for boot polish - soot, palm oil and banana skins - it polishes up well. Boots are inspected at least twice weekly on the evening check parade, as supplies are just about exhausted. Clothing also has to be handed in for repair immediately the slightest wear is apparent. The practice of scrubbing garments with a brush is now forbidden as it wears them out too rapidly. I heard a sergeant giving out his recipe for a smoking mixture yesterday. He mixed 1 oz Perak (now 70 cts), 1 oz chopped dried paw-paw leaves, 10 cts, Gula Malacca (or ½ spoonful of sugar) and 2 spoonsfull of water. Quite a POW blend. I.J.A. orders have been received that no lectures are to be held in the open in future, that officers' pay is not to be used for amenities, quarters must be clean and kits uniforms (?) and hospital patients are not to be paid. Also, among other orders was one relating to saluting. In future we must be given these orders in Japanese - KIREI - salute or attention, NA ORAI - down, YASUME - stand at ease or sit down, KUSHIRI MIGI - eyes right, KUSHIRA NAKA - eyes front, KUSHIRA HIDARI - eyes left. All English notice boards have been removed and all ranks must learn these words. It was funny to hear Maj. Johnstone last night as he lisped "2/30 BN! - Attention! - kirei! - na orai!! - yasume!
All maps in the unit have been burned, it is a serious offence to be caught with one from now on. We have been promised an increase in pay on a sliding scale - LD WO's 45 cts per day, N.C.O's 35, privates 25 - Full duty WO'S 60, N.COs 50, privates 45 - and extra for special tradesmen. This is supposed to apply from 1/4/44, we hope it eventuates. Rice is down 2 oz per day, despite promises of an increase, and rations are painfully scarce. For 319 men we drew 76 lb (including bone) green bananas 40 lb and tapioca - 3 roots. Vegs are short delivered 33,000 lbs for March and the gardens cannot produce any at present. Meat has increased however to 3 oz per day, and probably we will get an issue every day.
We have tried some new dishes on the menu, the most unique being "banana-skin stew". The green bananas are boiled, skinned - the fruit going to the midday stew, the skins fried then boiled into a soup, which is quite tasty. A pity to waste good bananas, however. I tasted some "home brew" the other day, made from corn and bananas. It had a fair kick - I bet it would give one a headache. I also had a small tomato, green but luscious. Tomatoes can be bought for planting, but uncertainty as to movements has stopped us from investing. Our mess tables are set under several "Malayan Cherry" trees, and we often sample the small berries. They are delicious when ripe but not quite as good as the "Malayan passionfruit", as we call it - a small fruit about as large as a marble and growing on low lying vines. I was lucky to scrounge some beef fat, it is simply delicious in the morning gruel, and essential to health also. Palm oil is just as good when it has been cooked in several times. We sample sweet coconut "doovers" last night - they reminded me of Arnotts "macaroons". "Bomb happy" Maston brought some "lemon grass" over to plant in our garden - when steeped in tea it imparts quite a pleasant lemony flavour to it. Our kitchen is a good one except for the oven which takes a limited number of trays and eats up wood. Consequently we have received a fair number of fried articles and they have been "grouse", especially the meat "boats". The "left-over" back-up races round now, as more doovers are available - the reason being that wood-cutters, kitchen fatigue etc. are banned from the actual kitchen. Herb Bullen, who has the last shift every night, does pretty well - he receives a "legi" for helping the cooks from 3 AM onwards.
We move again on the 9/4/44, I hope that our gang sticks together. I have a mess table for a bed and am afraid that the kitchen will claim it and put me on the concrete floor again. Two-up pennies are fetching $2 apiece now. I have a dozen but am keeping them for a better price. We can see the "Changi Tree" from our house, it presents a curious appearance with its top blown off. The Chinese legend regarding it seems to be true, also. Rumours have it that we move from our house (NO 151) to a similar one on Valley Rd near the Con. Depot. I hope we do as it will be more central and convenient to the A.G.H., sports and entertainment.
Our Company now numbers over 100 actually on parade, many are still in hospital. Captain Duffy is OC and Capts. Kearney and Maston, Padre Walsh, Lts. Head, Clarke, Parry and Parsons (?) are the officers.
"Stinker" Jones is in hospital again - he will probably join us when he is discharged. Sgt. Sid Knight is back in the R.A.P. again with Phil Bailey. Sipper and Darcy are now permanent fatigues in that they mess in the kitchen. They are in a good paddock, not quite as good as Carl, though.
Cpl Purvis F. Fell I. L/Cpl Streatfield R. Pte Wilson J. " Cantor B. "Bylos V Pte Douglas R.M. Pte Lister G " Larkin S. " Jarrett H " Gilbert A " Walker J Cpl Yates T Pte Coombes T " Ferry R Cpl Farry A Pte Holland B " Rope C " Charlton R Pte Pickard D " Tedmond W " Armstrong N " Alan Good L/Cpl Maclay J
Much has happened since the last entry in this book - we have been shifted to house 164 and I have been admitted to A.G.H. with diarrhea. A dysentery scare has been raging and the wards are full - maybe that is why I got such prompt attention, including 8 M & B's just after admission. Tucker is the "light" variety - I still have my appetite but had to subsist tonight on ½ pt of palm oil gruel for tea - we get 3 extra gruel meals per day, however, so never get really ravenous. When at the last house (151) we underwent many changes. IJA orders now forbid bugle calls - the "boob" has been abolished (an IJA one to replace it) - sports have been discontinued - the Changi Rd has been diverted and lined, on our side, with 7 ft posts, dannert (?) on the bottom, wire on the top and attap for only 3 ft down, and a new Burma Rd built inside. For Easter the IJA made us a "presento" of 70 cts each, and the unit bought 3½ oz of sugar with it. On 16/4/44 the Changi-"promoted" N.C.O's were reverted - Sgts Stoner, Johnson, McDougall to Corporals - Sgt Thorburn to the rank of Private and others from Corporals to Lance Jack, etc. Darcy lost his job in the kitchen - he was seen handing a parcel to me to take to Tom in the A.G.H. - and was summarily dismissed. Carl threw his job in - the work was too hard and Waite too pig-headed, and Sipper got in a blue over extra "doovers", was dismissed - reinstated - then sacked himself and went onto the drome. I lost my kitchen picquet on 9/4/44 - I had it from 18/3/44 so had a good bludge and good pickings while it lasted - beef fat, palm oil, grilled tapioca, gruel, salt and doovers at various times. Alan lost his barber's job, but gladly, for only one razor is available for about 300. Sipper was 25 on 10/4/44 and Tom Yates 30 on 5/4/44 - we are getting old! Jack Hodge (8 Div Provosts) has died at A.G.H. - he was our "gun" on contract work up north and wore himself out. Malaria has become more serious in the area - it is not so prevalent, but is more dangerous - also the necessary chemicals for blood films are running low. M & B's are being pumped into all bowel cases - they intend to stop dysentery before it gets a hold on the camp - our ward is in quarantine, too. Sulphanilamide ointment (crushed M & Bs + palm oil) is extra good on infected sores, too. Beri-beri is increasing as the vitamin and protein value of our issue has fallen below standard - the corn is no substitute for beans in these respects.
Officers have new powers - platoon commanders can levy punishment on the spot, up to 7 days Jap pay and 7 days C.B. - Company commanders to 15 - Battalion Commanders to 30 and Group commanders to 60. They have been ordered to put their pips up again - the Jap is going to abide by the Geneva Convention, he says, the 1907 one, not the 1929. Ken Gay received this new punishment when caught with a stray fowl that he could not account for, also Sipper and Pick for plucking fruit (30 days). Tidiness is insisted on in quarters for the I.J.A. threaten to deprive us of any house found dirty - accordingly, on C.O's inspection a fine of one day's pay is levied on any man who offends. W.O. Purdon has been employed in building an attap hut just over the road - we will probably move again before he finishes. His work in the limb factory was a good show - he invented and manufactured artificial legs for 43 men, legs that bent at the knee and ankle automatically. He will be going back when the "down-country" men are ready to be fitted. Our house (64) was originally occupied by 18 officers - now houses about 200 men - our officers are to be segregated from us - they are at present swapping their clothes for new articles from the store - we will get the worn ones. I still have no boots - the largest size available is 8, only. The drome works 3 shifts now - 8 to 1, 1 to 8 and an all day shift, 9 - 5. The position has been improved as 700 fit men have arrived from Sime Rd., an exchange for 700 sick men from our area. Ron Foster has come back, as big as a house, and into Sime Rd went Tom Evans, Ray Streatfield, Alan Good, George Hill, Clarrie Graham, Eck Lane Red (?)! "Happy" Kinchler, "Bunny" May, Frank Dowley, Sgt Surtees and others. They left on 22/4/44 - an ominous date - the anniversary of our move to Thailand. Conditions are good in there - full pay (45 cts) - plenty of tucker and little work. The combined death rate for "F" and "H" forces to Nov. '43 is officially listed at 4590. A new Japanese word has been introduced - "KIOTSU-KE!" or Attention! Capt. Duffy gave us a lecture, with illustrations, of the correct behaviour and paying of compliments to I.J.A. personnel - they are insisting on it. Tom Coombes has a good job in the I.J.A. garden - he works in the cookhouse and gets plenty of buckshees.Jack Maclay has been on a constant job at the General's house, and in a good paddock too - he arrives home often with bags full of tapioca, Malayan pears and apples, cigarettes, etc. The Malayan apples are not very nice, but the pears (reminding one of a small potato) are delicious when rotten ripe. Darcy had his watch fixed at ordinance - they put in a glass, winder, hands and regulated it to keep proper time. He had ambitions of a private garden and planted onions and tomatoes - but when in A.G.H. someone "done them over". Our tucker in lines has improved - but was woeful for long enough when we had no vegetables and subsisted on stews containing, at times, fried banana skins, green paw-paws, peanut plants, egg fruit, coconut, green jack fruit, cachou nuts and innumerable greens. Raw Chinese cabbage is delicious cooked in a turnover, or chopped with salt, pepper and sauce - mint leaves are obtainable in the garden also. In vitamin value "chickamanus" comes first, then amaranthus - with Ceylon spinach (the most tasty) a poor last. For days we have had abundant tapioca - 400 lbs per day for 360 men - and have had to dice it into stews - the oven being incomplete. Deficiency diseases are appearing again none the less. A picket has to be maintained on the garden to prevent theft of greens, coconuts, paw-paws, bananas etc. - before coming over the road the 2/26 stripped their area of 3 to 4000 coconuts - our officers stopped us. We eat under the verandah at "Bomb-happy House" where the rest of the Company is billeted - having mess tables and forms. Breakfast is now about 1? pts of corn gruel - dinner , about 1 pt of sloppy bean, tapioca, jack-fruit gruel + 1 ½-size doover, and tea, about 1 pt of good meat or veg stew, ¼ pint of "Nazi Goering" hash (rice, fried tapioca, beans, greens, etc.), two fried doovers + meat or sweet turnover and 1 biscuit. Pickled whitebait or shrimp are extra good on the fried hashes. Canteen prices have changed again - Sandshoes are $12, tooth-brushes 2.85, pencils 47, peanuts 3.60, towgay 2.60, soya sauce 80 per pt, Perak 95, Java 1.55, cigars 13 cts, gula cakes 60, 65 & 70 for the old 10 ct size - the promised raise (19,22 &30) cannot come too soon.
On check parade 25/4/44 we were officially told of our next move to Changi Gaol - all P.O.Ws on the island to be concentrated there. We shall have to leave all our gardens - have just planted 70,000 tapioca shoots (5 cts each) but maybe the hospital (which does not apparently move) will get the benefit. Wouldn't it! The oven has just been finished after strenuous efforts on the part of Sgt Pluis and is a good job - we cannot take it with us, worse luck. The inside is lined with iron gratings to hold the heat, and it has double walls, each about 6" thick and packed with sand between - as well as a hot water pipe running through the fire hose and supplying steaming hot water at any time.
I finished the third volume of my diary on 30/4/44 - am waiting for some pay to resume, as the hospital days pass quickly when engaged in writing. I am learning chess, it will take some concentration. I got 12 M & B's altogether, and they made me very sick for two days - am still not well. "Scotty" Ureau lectured us on his guerilla experience last night - this is the third time I have heard the same subject, but it is most interesting - he has a great opinion of China and the Chinese. Bugs are bad as usual in the iron bedsteads, they are being banged on the concrete floors all day to try and dislodge them. I was on light diet for two days, and was it light! Breakfast was ½ pt palm oil gruel (sweetened), morning tea the same (unsweetened) dinner white gruel with grated cheese, afternoon tea, palm oil gruel, tea, white gruel with shredded pineapple and supper meat soup. The first night I got a pork and barley soup - but never enough of it. On heavy ration I now get for Breakfast ¾ pt corn gruel, morning tea ½ pt corn gruel, dinner ? pt "modern (?) hash and 1 fried doover (excellent), afternoon tea ½ pt corn gruel, tea ½ pt meat soup or stew, or ½ pt hash and 1 fried doover, 1 baked pastie and 2 coconut rock cakes - a cup of tea 3 times a day and no supper. Back-ups are rare - there being a gruel back-up, hash back-up, doover back-up, ward back-up etc. - the orderlies and heavy duty men (Bluey Neill is one) eat better - they eat outside. My cravings have returned for European tucker - mainly for savoury dishes such as eggs, sardines, baked rabbit, saveloys, frankfurts, salmon - and always for tomato sauce. The American newspapers contain whole pages of delicious-sounding recipes and build vivid pictures in our minds of feeds we will enjoy when free once again - the thought of waste is horrifying now - I would gladly swap my rations for those that "Pincher" receives - he wouldn't eat rice, though the dogs here do. Small men are lucky - they need less food and are more satisfied.
On 28 and 29/4/44 the Kanburi contingent arrived - I saw, from my second storey vantage point, quite a few familiar faces - Major Hunt, Capt Elliman (2/29) Lt Eaton, Vince Wallace (2/4 MG), but have seen only Terry Trevor from "B" Coy. He is as fat as a fool, as are all the mob that returned, Dave Swindail, Ray Donald, Frank Dyson, Hilton Blanche, Don Garner, Harry Collins (A Coy) etc. Les Marshall was unfortunate - he died on reaching the A.G.H. Many have been admitted to the wards but there is nothing seriously wrong with any of them - they lowered our rations for 3 days, as they were on our strength and not drawn for. Norm Waugh died up there, he was alive, but a sick man when I left in December 1943.
Today is the day that we shifted to Mt Pleasant, two years ago - but what a difference. The old mob has been smashed up irrevocably, I fear. I.J.A. orders command us not to look "disagreeable or downcast" when in sight of Changi Rd - quite a contract. It has been settled now that the 22 Bde personnel occupy the actual gaol buildings and we (27 Bde) the huts outside. Trailers are being drawn over every day loaded with essential gear - kitchen, hygiene, & hospital equipment. There are 25,000 letters being censored now for the A.I.F. - I should get at least one. We will be in companies of 100 and groups of 1000 when we shift - one officer to a company. Accommodation is a great problem and churches have been converted into sleeping quarters for Kanburi personnel - there will be no church services and no amusements when the move comes off. Porky Moore was caught "ratting" in the Ordinance area and received 20 cuts with a cane - corporal punishment will not deter many - they prefer it to 30 days pay + 30 days C.B. The Corporal in this ward (188B - 2nd storey No 7 Bldg) was once a porter at Lakemba Railway Station - Darky Hamilton. Major Stevens is my M.O. once again - he gave Jeff Gillespie a good spin when he was in this ward with dysentery. I received the new pay yesterday - 11 days @ 19 cts = $2.09 from the unit and 4 days @ 5 cts = 20 cts from the A.G.H. - $2.29 is the largest pay I ever drew - no amenities deducted as 4 days is the limit. I have received $49.74 in 2 years - 5/5/42 - 5/5/44 - about £7 Australian. At the old rates (3/6 per day + 2/- deferred) I should have £285-15-0 to my credit in Australia - something to build on.
I glanced through a cookery book (Mrs Beeton's) the other day and was surprised to see "Typical Australian Dishes" - including "Bandicoot Stewed in Milk", "Blackfish in Batter", and "Apricots and Rice". Someone must have a good imagination.
We have received no meat for a week - dried fish is tasty as a substitute but meat stew would be appreciated. The A.G.H. cooks indifferent pastry but their fried doovers are the best in Changi. I saw some of the "special diets" the other day - they made me homesick with their familiar odours - thick meat stews, boiled cabbage for one diet and salmon and rice, bananas and milk for another - cheese, asparagus, eggs, preserved meat, marmite, milk, butter, cocoa are all still available for the really sick men. We often surmise how we will be fed on release - some reckon we will have to undergo a rigorous "milk diet" to tone up our gastric juices again - mine are still O.K. - they bite me just the same. We all have special recipes written down for future use - each has his own especial favourite and enlarges on it when the topic of conversation is food - as it always is now - "All roads lead to Rome" they say, well, "All roads lead to makan" for us.
NZ WHITEBAIT "ST GEORGE" 12 oz tin 2/9
I have lists of many new dishes to try, and old ones to cultivate also - picked them up in my travels in the Army and wrote them down to comfort me when I was on my back for 2 months in Thailand. George Reid (2/2/9) told me most - he was a pastry-cook and ran a hamburger shop in Parramatta before the war - he described most lovingly the various Chinese dishes at the Nanking Café, poultry, pork and omelettes, the quick service at "Bert's Better 'Ole", toasted sandwiches, toast in batter, omelettes, devilled tomatoes, pig's trotters, black or white sausages, "Paloma's", Jewish cucumbers, Yorkshire pudding, cream-layer lamingtons, chocolate éclairs, wine trifles and sundaes - I have yet to try any of them, but am determined to do so. L/Cpl Wally Bell (A Coy) was my bed-mate for about 6 weeks - being a country boy he enthused over gramma pies, pumpkin scones, fried sweetbreads, pork chops, pickled pork, fried sheep's tail, baked stuffed heart, baked stuffed pumpkin, roast sucking pig, devilled paw-paw (wine, jelly or ice cream), banana fritters with cream, curried lobster - also Fernando's fish meals and "Dad's" Bisconuts - all strangers to me. Len Mason (North Coast) recommended oyster patties, oyster sauce, oyster soup, beer with salt, "prairie oysters", corned beef and cream, jam or pineapple, tomato cream and sugar, and cold meat salad, cream and olive oil - he could afford the cream, coming from Taree. "Robbie" (Dr Roberts 2/2 M.A.C.) while on cholera convalescence, would declaim on Melbourne's "American Cream Pie", also French coffee, American "Grape-nuts" and Edgell's "Petit Pois". Frank Morgan (8 DIV SIGS, also a VX), talked about pork pies, asparagus (fresh cooked), silver beet, gorgonzola cheese, egg flips and "double Malted milk specials - Owen Matthews (also Sigs) liked potato cakes, pork saveloys, fried hamburgers and cake and milk - and A Shadbolt (2/29) recommended 'flake' (flat fish such as gummy shark), raisins in gin, mutton-birds, barracouta and N.Z. Blue Cod and Whitebait - also Melbourne beers. Plugger Briggs, 2/2/9 cook, was a connoisseur of wines and made my mouth water often - I resolved to try all kinds of Australian wines on return. Queenslanders had their say, too - Bert Mills from Cardwell describing appetising kidneys and tomatoes, fish & egg omelettes, braised giblets, smoked salmon, mackerel, barramundi - he loved condiments - Leggo's sweet pickles, "Palms" mango chutney, his own brand (? of jam, sauces), sweet curries and IXL 's jams - especially Jones' "Pride" and "Favourite" plum jams. Horrie Neill spoke often of Brisbane's crabs, grilled flounder, fried egg fruit, and Cairns beer. - Frank Dyson (from Aramac) of scrambled emu's eggs, rosella jams and pies, fried scones (puftaloons) with syrup, fried fruit cake and sugar - and bully beef "cutlets" (cooked in batter) - also bread, bully beef and raspberry jam. Bundaberg "Red Heart" rum was declared the best - Advocat recommended too. Western Australia produced a 2/4 M.G., Jim ? who told us we had missed much in Perth, including crayfish rolls, bacon-stuffed steak, barbecues and V.M. Wallace (also 2/4) advised trial of a "sweet portergaffe" - Paddy mentioned tinned "ready-peeled" prawns also. Vern Hicks reckoned that "yellow-box" was the best honey, Donkey Bray was sold on his "Drummer-Boy" Pickles, and Harry Ritchie produced the most novel counter-lunch - two slices of fruit-cake with a slab of cheese between. Ted Rickards produced baked porcupine and other doubtful delicacies - Jeff Gillespie - rabbit baked with bacon - also spuds boiled in milk and curry - Gordon Sawyer (8 DIV Provosts) - oysters stewed in milk, or boiled in vinegar, and apple whipped with egg white. Padre Polam drew a "grouse" picture of pork and green peas, Maclay of Scotch haggis, Wiener schnitzel - Mick McHugh of Adams' porterhouse steak and silver grill. Tom Yates had leanings to baked oysters and fried garfish, Paget to spaghetti and melted cheese, Ray Brown to Welsh Rarebit, "Wacko" Walker to mushroom omelette, Collins to caviar, pate and champagne, and Darcy to fried mullet, fish roes and ox-tail. Sipper's specials were fried brains, brain sandwiches, Cornish pasties, "Rocky Road" chocolates, Murray cod, and lamb's fry and bacon. Jimmy Walker's were mince stew on toast with a fried egg and tomato sauce, roll stuffed with bananas, "monstereo delicioso", and camp pie, tongue and mustard pickles - Tommy Evans were lobsters, pikelets, and fried chicken and Jack Dingwall's - "Cherry Ripe" chocolate and milk. Harry Jones (2/20) spoke of "Old English" style bread, with double yeast, and Brian Gehardy (2/29) of "chilli con carne" - Arthur McEvoy reckoned "condensed custard" was good and Bill Duncan (8 DIV Sigs) drank lots of "Black Velvet" - stout and port wine.
The Pommies had strange tastes - apple pie and cheese, cheese scones, fried scallop sandwich, and "apple pie without cheese" they reckoned "was like a kiss without a squeeze". U.S.A. newspapers paged cinnamon honey butter, stuffed frankfurts, skinless frankfurts and egg fried in pineapple ring.
Quite an ambitious list to eat my way through - but as I am now I could do the lot. I have tasted many new dishes and grown to like them in the Army - jam and cheese, condensed milk, coffee and milk, Jack Maclay's tomato juice, Russ's blackcurrant jam, pickle roll, Jeff Jackson's frankfurts, Jimmy's baked spuds and Tom's Napoleon cake - also the old MacConochie's stew, tinned bacon, Ideal Milk, and the "Johan's" fried haddock - not to mention the Dutchmen's Orange Bols. P.O.W. life has enamoured me to fried whitebait, shot towgay, Gula Malacca, soya -
KOW-TOW BLUES !
-sauce chilli sauce, salt fish, bully beef and beetroot, "nasi goreng" and "tempi" from the Javanese, garlic, Libbi's Fruit Cocktail, banana and sugar, fried greens, sweet stew a la Nippon and peanut toffees (since I ceased to smoke). In Thailand the delicacies were ma-mee, braised steak, liver, bullock's blood, pig-oil, Birma sandwiches, raw eggs, egg stew, preserved bananas, sago and baked eggs. Red Cross highlights were cheese and chocolate, Mokela porridge, and pineapple and tomato jams. We often had a "sweets session" and described favourite confectioneries - "Nestle's Honey and Almond" being my pick - Jimmy Walker and Ted Lutz both work at Nestle's - Jimmy draws wonderful pictures of the sweet things there. Bill ? , an R.E. sergeant in Kanburi hospital, was an expert in curries, and woke in me a desire to sample all types - Malayan, Chinese and Indian. Most of the chaps who gave me suggestions have passed on - Robbie, Plugger, Horrie Neill, Paddy (WX), Harry Jones, Bill Dineen at No 3 Camp, Russ at Wupang, Wally and Jeff at Kanburi - also Gordon Sawyer - but I remember them by their special likings. (also Mick McHugh at Kanburi Hospital)
I saw the A.I.F. concert "I'll Take You" last night - a good show. Sime Rd personnel have arrived at the A.G.H. - among them Dick Andrews and Red Hanlon - Red was working on the wood-heap on light duties! - and beri-beri got him down. Conditions dropped when 700 sick men arrived there and the 700 fit men left for here - naturally enough. We had a recital of new American gramophone records - 400 have been received as well as machines. I saw "Scarlet Neill" (2/10 R.A.A.) - he is just down from Kanburi and as big as a house. Young Donohue is down too - he brought me over a letter last night - from Myrtle Hodges - I would like one from home, now.
Kanburi personnel got their American Red Cross packages today and had to split them straight away - it was terrible when the pleasant odour of pork loaf salmon, bully-beef, cheese, etc. began to waft past our noses - but we enjoyed ours better than they will, - they have to eat practically all at once. Dave Swindail has just brought over another letter, from home this time - it is dated 29/9/43 and is only 24 words in length, but tells me a lot. I am glad to know all are well, including Cliff and Frank - that there has been an addition to the family - young Bruce - and that one, at least, of the four missives I sent has arrived safely. The family is still at the same address - this and other items are good to know. Tige is mentioned in just about every other letter received from our parents etc. - he must have circulated a fair bit.
I will probably be an inmate of this ward for a long time - subsequent to a sigmoid examination Capt. Cahill informed me that I had chronic bacillary dysentery, that he had nothing to treat it with and that I would have to be patient. So I will not join the boys at the gaol - will probably accompany the A.G.H. to its rumoured destination (Kranji and J.B. are hot favourites). On 9/5/44 the first 1000 (22nd Bde) moved into the gaol (a favourite saying is "See you in gaol"), and soon our boys will follow on this, the "2nd last move", as some affirm. The unit has been moved around a bit, some have been sleeping in the open owing to congestion - the concert is finished and the hall available for sleeping quarters - also the Con Depot is soon to be disbanded. Don Wilks was here yesterday - Bert Park is in with malaria and tells me that "Abbo" is dead and Bill Bishop has lost a leg. Arthur Piper is still convalescing, Don Sutherland is in this ward but doing ok. Dave Swindail is as big as a house - he was O.C. mess orderlies in Ward 2 at Kanburi. Mick McHugh is dead - he will not have that day out with me as he promised at 3 Camp. Jack Hodge (19 stone on enlistment) was 7 stone only when he died, and Harry Collins is as big as Lou Brown. Rumour has it that 20 more bags of mail have arrived. I hope I get another. It took about 14 mos for my first postcard to get home (and about the same for me to get my first letter), only 8 mos to get the second, so here's hoping a third is close behind.
Exercise books are unprocurable, I don't know what I'll do when this one runs out - in this ward many men spend days sketching plans of their future homes - they are mostly too ambitious - also business schemes are hatched - how they will go in a post-war world is unpredictable. Jap issue of corn ceased on 8/5/44 and we got the rebound today - no more gruel. Meat has been consistent (beef and pork today) and the meals as follows: Breakfast ¾ pt corn gruel morning tea ½ pt corn gruel (lime flavour) Dinner meat, green and bean stew (very tasty) + 1 fried "modern girl" doover Afternoon Tea ½ pt corn gruel (lime flavour) Tea "Modern Girl" hash or fried lime hash (½ pt) 1 fried "Modern Girl" doover, 1 meat pastie (minced meat, towgay and rice filling) 1 meat roll (ditto), 1 sweet cup (banana, paw-paw filling) and 1 coconut and lime rock cake, or 1 biscuit and sugar or 1 slice of lime fruit cake. Limes are in everything nowadays, the cake is tasty and even looks good. "Mixt. Diarrhea" provides the "liqueur" after each meal but has little effect on my complaint. Soya sauce (now 60 per pt) is good in most everything, being very salty. Special diets (about 40) have been living on braised steak, baked potatoes, fried greens, pearl sago and sugar and milk - they need it, poor devils. Aub Heath (2/20), who occupied the next bed, reckoned that his best meal was as follows: grilled flounder, porterhouse steak and a bottle of Bass Ale. Marmite issue is now about 1 fluid tablespoon a day - patients receiving it do benefit, for one could read the gaol clock time the other day, the first time for 5 mos. Aub said that when in Singapore before the blue, he was told by everyone that Edgell's tinned vegetables (especially green peas) were the best in the world - they were in great demand and hard to get.
Canteen prices are now Sugar $3.30, Onions 4.10, Garlic 4.50, Prawn Dust 1.40, Razor Blades .50, cigars 14 cts, shaving sticks 3.25, Vinegar 90, Paw-paws 40 per lb, Sago Flour 2.20, and gula Malacca 1.60 only. Not much else in stock - if we had money (which we haven't) we could not buy a decent feed - ducks are 5 or 6 dollars each but are only a meal for 1 man.
Now I.J.A. orders are that the following procedure be complied with when an inspecting officer approaches a party - the P.O.W. officer shouts "SAGYO YAME ! " (stop work !), then reports "SHOKO IKA (say SAN-JU) - MEI ! (Including officers, 30 men !). On acknowledgement, he then shouts "SAGYO HAJIME ! " (start work !), salutes again and carries on. Our "shokos" and "gunsas" have to keep their wits about them now - it is the direct order of the General that these Japanese orders be learnt, used and understood.
Jack ford has been over to see me - he heard that I had died up north - I am glad to be able to correct him. He was at Shimo Lymonta (below Nioke) and Takanoon with Div Sigs and 2/29 BN. Bill Bailey has passed away (12/5/44) - cerebral malaria and dysentery being responsible.
There are Italian P.O.W.'s in the camp - when pulling trailers the Ities are indistinguishable from our men - they were submarine officers till the Nip commandeered their craft.
Rumour says that 2 godowns full of Red Cross tucker are to be made available to us - wishful thinking enlarges the number every hour. We had pork yesterday in a bonser stew and and a pastie - it is about the last issue I am afraid, they are getting rid of all the pigs. A tasty dish that some chaps enjoyed the other night was a stew made from ducks' heads and legs, onions, coconut juice, and curry. Bert and I bought ½ lb of gula and ate it immediately - it was poor quality stuff, but beautiful to our starved palates.Bert says his first meal in Australia will be one that haunted his dreams when in Thailand - 4 sausages, 4 fried eggs, mashed spud, green peas and tomato sauce. My craving was for cold mince slice with tomato sauce - it nearly drove me mad at times, when confronted only with sour rice and tasteless beans. I wish I could get beside a Jew when the pork is on, but most would let their religious views slide, I am afraid. Paget, our prize vegetarian from Quambone, was in a quandary at Caldecott Hill when confronted with pork sausages, but soon overcame the difficulty by asserting "They're full of bread !" - he ate them anyway. He is at Blakang Mati with Cpl Sullivan, L/Cpl Johnson, Sailor Weir, Dud Bushley, Dick Simmonds, Dick Henderson, Don West etc. - they are expected back any day. Our party (2/26 and 2/30) move into the gaol on the 25th, they say - the Kanburi personnel have joined the companies they originally came from. Bunny Hillsborough looks well - he lost his father at Kanburi Hospital, however. The 2/26 is suffering from another epidemic of the "runs" - they have been streaming in steadily since last night.
On 15/5/44 all Changi personnel, hospital patients included, were paid to 6/5/44 at 20 cts per day, less amenities 20%. I received $1 but cannot spend it as the canteen is hare (?). On 31/5/44 we will be paid to 20/5/44 - then no more till 23/6/44 - once a month is the new system. I am definitely on the "Kranji list" and have been shifted to 173C (Top Floor No 3 Bldg), under Major Stevens. 1200 patients and 300 staff are on the list, the date of our departure is now 10/6/44 - it may be altered again. I have been on several jobs - grass-cutting, sweeping etc. - yesterday I was spud-bashing and enjoyed an extra doover, half a dozen bananas, half a pineapple, besides about 1 lb of onions for future use. The onions are only thumb-nail size but go well in a fried doover or turnover. There are pickled shellfish in now, they are small and leathery but have a good flavour. When in 188B I looked after a 2/18 chap named Cliff Olsen and he used to give me the doovers he couldn't eat - sometimes 3 or 4 a night - I ate well for a week, but am back on the old ration again now that Cliff has been discharged. I have had an extremely sore ulcer on my palate and it is responding to the treatment quite well - arsenic paint 3 times a day. A news summary was read out in the ward, 4 big pages under the headings of sport, racing, crops and weather, prices, wages, movements of well-known people - anything of general interest to be gleaned from the thousands of letters received. Sipper borrowed a set of my pennies to begin a two-up game - it is the rage now - Jimmy Walker won $20 on 3 cts., the lucky cow. I was talking to Alan Hudson and "Pig's-ear" Geike last night about the old 20th I.T.B. days - Alan had news of Bruce Stanton (33rd BN) - he returned from Syria, went to New Guinea, and then returned once again to Aussie.
The Pommy Advance Party to Kranji took their fowls and tomato plants with them - they looked quite funny perched on a heap of gear and surrounded by greens and chickens.
The casualty list for 2/30 is now officially 229 dead on "A", "F" and "H" forces - a large percentage of this Kranji force is 2/30 also - we will be under British administration when we move - 28/5/44 is the latest rumour.
Rumours are many and fantastic - a Red Cross ship waiting at Lisbon - also at Lorenco Marques or Vladivostok, or actually in Singapore harbour (take your pick !) - also, we are supposed to be all in Japan by August - to be fed by the Red Cross at Kranji - and to be joined by "A" and "D" Forces in the near future. Black Jack is at a conference in Singapore today - maybe something will come of it yet.
We had a bonser pineapple jam doover tonight - the jam was as good as home-made (or tasted as good to our sensitive palates) but it never satisfied us.
Black Jack farewelled us today but gave no startling information - rumour says that the 160 men at present working at Kranji each receive 16 oz of rice plus abundant fish and vegetables - it will drop when the sick men arrive there. This ward (173C) is filthy dirty - we squee-jee'd it ourselves this morning - luckily our old mess orderlies from 188B have re-joined us (including Cec Blacker) - they will keep the place in better order. Sipper and Darcy came over last night with a dixie of rice and Nip stew + a doover - Darcy wrangled a job, in a Nip cookhouse, in the gardens, and cleaned up big. I hope he keeps it up.
Tucker today was excellent - a double meat issue helping greatly. Breakfast was the usual ¾ pt of rice gruel, Dinner about ? pt of rice, ?pt of tasty meat stew and 1 meat and towgay roll and Tea, the same issue of rice and stew, a spoonful of greens, ¼ pt of fruit salad (bananas, pineapple and limes) 1 fried "Modern Girl" doover, 1 meat and towgay pastie and 1 pineapple sweet-cup - also I got a back-up of fruit salad, so have a more complacent attitude towards life in general.
Many men are unraveling old sock-tops and scarves to knit themselves socks - I have one on each side of me - no use my emulating them, I still have no boots.
Sipper got another letter telling that Mum had been down to see his mother, also Myrtle Hodges - and that they are "all very happy" - so it looks as if news has got through of our continued good-health and survival. There are, in that case, several thousand homes whose joy will be dashed to the ground - many men whose post-cards are just reaching home have been dead for many months - this unnecessary mental cruelty is another score we have to settle.
Today, two years ago, Sipper and I had our "Singapore Day" - we swore we would get drunk on this anniversary but will have to defer it till next year - and get twice as drunk to make up. Sipper has been over the last few nights with a bonser "green stew" each time - he says he will bring one each night till the supply cuts out. Darcy is dreading re-classification, as it will involve abandonment of his new sinecure and cessation of "bunyah makan" for me. He brought over some "Malayan cheese" and I ate it in the dark so cannot describe its appearance - but it contained dates amongst other ingredients and had a pleasantly "sharp" flavour - we will try anything in the makan line now. Tucker has improved in quantity - although we have had two meatless days the dishes have been very tasty. Today was Breakfast - ¾ pt rice gruel, Dinner ½ pt rice and ? pt vegetable stew + 1 vegetable pastie and Tea ½ pt "nasi goreng" - (rice, towgay, tapioca, greens and pickled mussels), 1 vegetable roll, 1 fried "Modern Girl" doover, 1 banana and paw-paw sweet-cup, 1 pineapple and sugar sweet-cup and 2 baked "rock-cakes" - with a ward back-up of 1 pineapple & sugar sweet-cup.
There were two canvas screens on our verandah but now they have just "disintegrated" and disappeared - I got my share and have already utilised it in patching my pants and making dilly-bags, etc. The new rates of pay (monthly payment) are 45, 50 and 60 cts per diem - less 20% mess fund - that will be approx. $10.80 for a 30 day month - if we ever get it. The canteen has little to offer - Maize Flour 2.30 and Sago flour 2.20 being new items - no gula, sugar, sauce, coconuts, garlic - I gave Sipper $1.77 as I could not spend it and he could (on smokes) - he still pays his fine but should finish soon. When he comes over we go up on the roof, and when I have polished off the makan we sit in the twilight till visitors are turned out (9 PM).
Our daily routine is as follows. (Tokyo time, not Malay time) Reveille 0800, Breakfast 0830, Dinner 1230, Tea 1730, Lights Out 2200 hrs. Visitors are allowed only between 1630 - 1730 and 2000 - 2100 - they cannot actually enter the ward as it is full of amoebic dysentery cases - but we can go out to them.
Sipper went to the gaol today - last night we sat on the roof and talked for hours in the cool darkness before saying "au revoir" and parting once again. I was separated from the mob for 3 months on 25th May 1943 - here's hoping it will not be for that long this time - rumours say not, anyway. The furphies say that "A" and "D" Forces are in Singapore - that there is a pineapple plantation and tobacco farm adjacent to our new camp - that two truck-loads of bully beef were seen in the camp - that we will all have to be out of Selarang by 31/5/44 at the latest - and that the "mystery-man" at the gaol is a high-rank officer. The "Ities" have dropped in favour - they receive no invitations to formal dinners since it was discovered that they are still Mussolini's henchmen.
Private cooking is flourishing - the amount of "greens" that is consumed in this ward is astonishing - I wish I could get onto them. Our beds have been stacked downstairs to facilitate loading routine - we are on "biscuit mattresses" on the floor - last night I slept better than for a week previous - no bugs and a hard bed assisting. My dreams have been real nightmares lately - mainly about home and with hideous situations. I sewed a pillow case for myself today, so expect to sleep more soundly - also sharpened my knives and a needle on an improved (slate) emery stone. Pat Flanagan (2/10 R.A.A.) has an ordinary stainless steel table knife sharpened to razor-edge keen-ness - he shaved with it today. My mouth is nearly right now - I have a boric & phenol wash twice daily.
Pat's favourite meal is as follows - partly fry sausages then slice in rings, add tomato, onion and water to form thick gravy. The onions that I acquired ran out last night - 5 days supply - they were "grouse" while they lasted. I received a letter from Doris this afternoon, 28/4/43 only 13 mos old but full of news. That makes 5 altogether, (2 from Myrtle Hodges as well as 2 from Mum & Dad) - some chaps have received amazing numbers - one 2/29 rep receiving 74 to date - he got 13 in one batch and went crook when one he was expecting did not eventuate. Major Snyder (2/19 - died on "D" Force) received 37 in one batch when the first letters commenced to arrive in March - April '43. Young Jackson was over tonight - he told us that Harry Rhodes & Ken Gay dropped a coconut palm to obtain the cabbage only 70 yds from the Bn orderly room. Result - 30 days Jap pay, a fair whack now for it means the loss of $13.50. Cabbage palm is called the "rich man's salad" as the tree is destroyed to acquire it - the trees take 4 to 6 years to bear and produce 40 to 60 nuts a year for 60 years.
Rumours persist about a "Mersing Party" to build roads on an aerodrome, in the near future - that would be a death-trap as even in peace-time with all prevention measures the malaria was the worst in Malaya at Endau and Mersing. The 22nd Bde suffered up to 75% casualties - the 2/10 R.A.A. were up to their 9th reinforcements and under strength after only 4 mos in the area. Harry Head looked me up tonight to say "au 'voir" - he tells me that there are over 70 of 2/30 BN in the Kranji party, including Major Anderson and Capt Jones - they have several hundred dollars to help unit members who need special foods etc. I do not know their names, but know by sight most of the 2/30 men in this ward - they include Sgts Bladwell and Jack, Cpl McMochol (?), Ptes Eric Stanton, Fred ("Popeye") Chandler, Red Hanlon, George Gallard, Arthur Piper, Cec Blacker, Cec Howard, "Watty" Yates and Clarrie Woods. I saw a memorial plaque for Gordon Sawyer today, from his cousin A.B. Kennedy
We are now installed in our new Kranji quarters - I am in ward 47 with Red Hanlon and 39m other dysentery patients - the remaining Aussies are in WARD 43 and, also, a few are sharing WARD 39 with some pommies. Before leaving I saw Captain Taylor - he looks fit and assures us that we will be better off in these quarters. We were warned to move early on 28/5/44 - then postponed - then moved in a hell of a hurry, but with the minimum of "shemozzle". The General inspected us and our bedding before we were shifted - then, 30 to a 3 tonner we left Changi once again. Haversack rations were 3 small baked doovers and a piece of pineapple - the latter did not last long as it was already over ripe and would not travel well. The gaol looked formidable and unpleasantly secure as we whizzed past - huts and gardens were evident in the adjacent grounds. All along the Changi, then East Coast Rd were now cultivations, but in Singapore the shops were sparsely stocked with food-stuff - the whole island seemed deserted, the absence of children being most noticeable.
188B - E3 173C - F17 47 - A1 10 - 35 11 - 36 CON - 189
Bukit Timah shrine looks neglected - the grass encroaching on the gravel paths - 5 Camp is boarded in and renovated - and new buildings are evident everywhere. I saw our possie on the main road and the house where we scrounged 5 cases of pineapple - this camp is right on our old Bn position - it is an old I.G.H. and has recently been fenced in. The huts are old but well built, showers are outside at a central "tong" and water and electricity are laid to each hut. Mosquitoes are slightly troublesome but conditions will be good when we settle down. An I.J.A. check parade delayed tea till 9.30 last night, and then it was only ? pt rice and the same of very watery stew - the sudden shifting of 1200 patients in one day upset "Q" organisation and we left behind our mess containers and the evening's doovers - several thousand "lagi's" for those back at Selarang. Breakfast was about ½ pt rice and a spoonful of sugar, and Dinner ½ pt rice and ½ pt of stew composed of corn, soya beans, banana skins, paw-paw, etc., while Tea was a little more rice and a meat and corn stew. We hope they get organised soon - we miss our pastry. The electricity comes on at 8 PM and only works for 3 hrs but, unlike Changi, the water supply is constant. The late parade was our 5 missing men !
On 31/5/44 I was paid $5.05 - what a shock ! - but have nothing to spend it on as the canteen has only cigars, .14 cts, sugar 3.30 and tooth-powder, boot polish etc. Two-up, dice and poker are flourishing - the pommies are learning two-up the hard way. Private cooking has been dealt its death-knell - pommy R.P.'s have grabbed several of our chaps for cooking rice on the sterilizer (?) fire. Jack Basterville (Belmore Federals) is an orderly in this ward and told me news of the football in Sydney.
We have few drugs as we brought none, and yet were expected to have a week's supply - Outram Rd patients have been returned to Changi and two I.J.A. check parades are held daily. It makes me quite homesick to hear the train whistles and the traffic noises on the adjacent road and railway-line. Rumour says we move in 6 weeks time to Nee Soon Hospital - the guards on us here are from Kami Sankurai - I have whetted my snapped-off pocket knife till now I can shave with it. This is a "half ration camp", and we know it - but after a blue yesterday the rice issue has risen. Dysentry patients get no corn. That is bad as it is good bulk. I see an officer throwing rice to his fowls every day. He ought to be starved and the fowls should be eaten.
On 1/6/44 we had fresh fish, pineapple for dinner and a black bean (! ! ) pasty for tea. Yesterday was Breakfast ½ pt palm oil hash + 1 spoonful of sugar, Dinner ½ pt rice and ½ pt tapioca, beans and banana stew, while Tea was the best yet - (in Kranji) - ½ pt rice, ½ pt meat, banana and "dehydrated tapioca" stew + 1 vegetable hash doover and 1 meat pasty. I got a big bone and chewed it like any dog. I eat my breakfast with pepper and save the sugar - but ate the lot today.
Book Three - Australia, Singapore, Malaya, July to September 1941
We embarked on the Dutch passenger liner "Johan van Oldenbarneveldt" (about 20,000 tons) lying in Wooloomooloo, at about midday. A ferry boat had picked us up at Darling Harbour, and after passing under the Harbour Bridge we were landed on the wharf where the "Johan" lay, black and ugly under her wartime paint. As we struggled up the wharf under our cumbersome load, universal kit bag, sea kit bag, full equipment pack and rifle. Troops already on board lined the rails and watched us from many vantage points. In single file, each man bearing a chalked number on his steel helmet, we passed through a door on the ship's side and received a ticket with our berthing directions on it. Mine read Section M, Hammock, "E" Deck, and thither we were conducted. At first sight no accommodation was apparent as all our section was occupied by tables and benches, but a platform at one end, covered with rolled hammocks, and steel hooks in the ceiling supplied the answer. During the day we messed at the tables and at night slung our hammocks over them, gear being stowed under the platform mentioned, also in slatted platforms in the ceiling. I got a position at the fore end of the section between Ray Ferry and Sipper. We dumped our gear and had a belated breakfast, eggs and sausages, then went on deck. The harbour was bright and breezy in the winter sunshine and small craft darted everywhere around the ship. Filled with relatives and friends of men on the ship, they were kept at a distance by a police launch, to the accompaniment of much loud booing by the troops. I saw the Ambroses on one launch, and another displayed the legend "THOMAS MORTON YATES - DRUMMOYNE". Tom was unlucky, for despite his waving and shouting ably assisted by Tige, his people did not pick him out.
Troops were all over the ship, literally, in every possible position, and they carried many different colour patches. I saw the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th DIVVY reinforcements, also representatives from all the other technical units, sigs, artillery, engineers, etc. Little did they know that they were destined to all become members of the 8th Divvy, the "Tourists of Malaya". These troops occupied the cabins on higher decks than us and had a much better passage as regards comfort. Javanese stewards and deckhands were a colourful sight with their many-hued sarongs, the officers were all Dutch and very obliging in answering questions about the ship. A 6" gun was mounted on a platform in the rear of the ship and depth charges were ready on the deck underneath. Many men wore their life-preservers, which we had to carry with us continually from now on, night and day. In charge of some 6th DIV reinforcements from Tamworth was Capt. Coles, he being a transport officer. Also Lt. Baker who had been the orderly room sergeant for "D" Coy 20 I.T.B. at Walgrove. Shaven heads were shining everywhere already, although we were forbidden to have ours removed. The majority of the showers were salt water ones, both hot and cold, and the hot salt water was to cure my spore eyes, inflamed and watering due to a cold in the head. I had been scared to report to the M.O. for fear it would prejudice my embarkation. Jimmy Walker had mumps and came on board with his balaclava on to conceal the swelling.
We were shown our boat stations and told the alarm signal, also how to jump overboard correctly, with the life preserver on. Black Jack inspected us here with the ship's captain and doctor in attendance. He was C.O. Ship and very high handed about it. The officers were in wonderful quarters, had an excellent cuisine and occupied a big lounge near our boat stations where tiny Javanese stewards served them drinks and envious Privates stared in at the door. We stored our rifles down forward in the armory after carefully and liberally oiling them. Our canteen was on "C" deck and served the major portion of the ship's complement, 2,500 approximately. (A more crowded and uncomfortable existence could hardly be experienced than to battle for a position in the wet canteen.) Beer was all bottled - Waverley Bitter at 10d a bottle. In the dry canteen we could also buy cheaply - 2 oz Log Cabin 1/2d, "British Consuls" (a Canadian brand) @ 10d for 20 being a fair example.
At 4 p.m. in the afternoon we pulled away from the wharf, the ship stirring up the oily black mud from the harbour bottom. Slowly we were tugged out into the stream, the small craft still accompanying us, then we moved down the harbour towards the Heads. Whistles and hooters were sounding everywhere, the crowd in the launches waving and shouting hysterically, as were our boys on the ship. Finally, as we reached the Heads the police launch choked off the last escort and we were slowly piloted out of Sydney Harbour. The crowds on South Head slowly sank behind us as we followed the mine sweepers out to sea, and a Lockheed "Hudson" roared overhead on continuous patrol. With Don McIvor I leaned on the rail and watched the sun setting over Sydney. When we came back on deck after tea there was still a glow in the west and silent groups lined the rails and watched it.
We were still heading east, and were 20 miles out before turning south. Later in the night the glare of the Port Kembla blast furnaces passed to starboard. In the canteen there was hardly room to move. The queue to the beer counter, where perspiring Dutchmen uncapped a continuous stream of bottled beer, reached the door. Some nights as many as 2500 bottles were served out to the thirsty crowd. Two up, crown and anchor, and dice were in full swing while "cockatoos" kept an alert eye out for authority. Blackout curtains covered all doors and walking on deck was a risky business. Down below was a supper issue of cheese, biscuits and cocoa, but few went down for it. Our quarters were stuffy and hot as all portholes were closed and black out shields secured. I was lucky to be sleeping near the suction fan; I got a breath of fresh air occasionally. We had received a comfort issue from the Lord Mayor's Fund - a dilly bag containing soap, toothpaste, handkerchiefs, 4 oz tobacco and a pack of "Dad's" Cookies. The cookies did not last long I am afraid.
Next morning I awoke, sleepy and tired, as the lights were left on all night. After a wash I went on deck till breakfast was ready. We were out of sight of land but up ahead our escort led us - H.M.A.S. "Sydney". It was a bonser morning to be at sea, the sun shining, a stiffish breeze blowing and countless seagulls following our wake. Down to breakfast, and our experience of Dutch cooking began. Most of our meals were eatable, but some dishes stumped even me, and I am easily pleased. The oil that they cooked in (and they liked to use a lot) tasted like sump oil. Meat and vegetables acquired the flavour and the canteen became extremely popular. When meals were crook it was the signal for producing tins of tongue, salmon, fruit and cream, etc. Once I remember sampling a greasy piece of fish that had been loaded in Canada two years before. The best tucker they put on was the supper - cheese and biscuits and cocoa. Sipper was a mess orderly for another table. The mess orderlies were very careless when throwing scraps overboard - I saw many dixies and mess containers sink out of sight. Rubbish was supposed to be dumped all at once, in the morning, but this was rarely complied with. An enemy ship could have followed us all the way, by a trail of beer bottles and floating debris. I secured a job on the hygiene staff, 30 minutes each morning, with E. Renike as a partner. The trouble was to find a hideout after finishing; all boltholes were full of malingerers dodging boat stations parade.
We were soon used to sleeping in hammocks though some of the boys took spills when climbing in. Lofty Ferry was crook one night and I gave him a mouthful of rum that I had carried since Bathurst. When he recovered his breath, Lofty refused a second issue - it was pretty good rum. Old Tom had broken his 15 year period of abstinence and was a regular customer at the wet canteen. We were issued with sandshoes, but still wore boots when on duty. There was a lot of money on the ship - for myself I had about 15 quid and it petered out at our destination. Some of the boys talked themselves into seasickness, but I never suffered at all. With us we carried our reinforcements, they formed an additional Company ("E") and were soon absorbed into the battalion.
On the morning of 1/8/41 we were off Port Phillip Heads. When we went on deck we found several additions to our convoy hove to on the starboard side. The nearest was a big black transport - sister ship to ours - and bearing the euphonious name of "Marnix van Sint Aldegonde". She carried the 2/26 and 2/28TH BNS with reinforcements and RAAF personnel, and, having no way, was pitching and tossing in the choppy sea. Troops lined her rails and "cooees" and whistles sounded continuously. Beyond her was a smaller vessel, the SS "Katoomba" bearing corps troops and technical personnel. She was a slow old tub and was to slow down the convoy's speed across the Bight. Approaching us from out of the Bay was a larger cruiser than the "Sydney". She turned out to be H.M.A.S. "Canberra", and was to escort us the rest of the way. The "Sydney" turned in a wide arc and slipped away towards Melbourne, her signaling lamps flickering continuously. The "Canberra" went to the head of the convoy and we gathered way once more, in single line in the following order: "Johan", "Marnix" & "Katoomba".
Our journey across the Bight was calm and uneventful. It was pretty cold at times, but we had almost continual sunshine, and the sheltered possies on deck were very comfortable to doze in. One morning a float was dropped overboard and the R.A.N.R. personnel broke out the 6" gun and engaged it at 8,000 yards. I was stretched out on the deck below the gun, sound asleep with my life preserver as a pillow when suddenly they opened fire. The noise was bad enough, but the shock brought me to my feet instantly. I never slept there again, anyway. We had our paravanes out continuously, blackout was rigidly enforced and A.A. practice carried out with Vickers M.G.'s from gun positions on the sports deck.
On 7/8/41 we sighted land again. Rottnest Island appeared on our starboard side and aircraft roared overhead as we slowly approached Fremantle. It was a rather warm, hazy morning and I was glad to peel off somewhat. The "Johan" nosed her way along the narrow channel, past the breakwall, and finally came to rest alongside the wharf. The "Katoomba" slid into a berth opposite us but the "Marnix" stayed out in the stream. We crowded the rails to inspect Fremantle, which was a pleasant sight in the bright sunshine. We were informed that leave would be general that afternoon, and preparations were made in anticipation. A town picket was detailed and the unfortunate members could be heard offering to sell their jobs for as much as one pound and 30/-. They were lucky, however, because besides seeing the town on the 7th, they were granted leave on the 8th also.
After inspection on "C" Deck, we marched onto the wharf then in threes we passed out of the gates, were dismissed, and proceeded towards Perth. A produce lorry appeared and on offering a lift was soon filled to capacity. I was with Russ Perkins, Fred Hodges and Alan Gilbert, and we stood on the table and enjoyed the scenery immensely. Perth is a very pretty place, the Swan River presenting many beautiful views, and parks are numerous and attractive. On descending from our conveyance our first thoughts turned towards liquid refreshments, and we were soon breasting a bar and sampling the W.A. brand of beer. I found it rather light, both "Swan" and "Emu" draught being only lagers, really. We could not obtain a pint measure, as previous experience had taught the hotel-keepers that the 20 oz pot was too often souvenired and they were stored away when a troopship arrived. They told us that the 6th DIV had nearly wrecked Perth.
On leaving the pub we searched for and found a shop that sold souvenirs of Perth. I sent about half a dozen, they all arrived safely. I also bought a camera and 4 films, and took about one spool of snaps in the street. Unfortunately (this was later, after a visit to the "Australia" hotel) I forgot to wind out the barrel of the camera and the spool was spoilt. Russ however secured several snaps of me, they are quite entertaining. A long session in the "Australia" with the "cow cockies" and some members of the R.A.N. and R.A.A.F. was followed by a grilled steak in a neighbouring restaurant, then back to the "Australia" and more grog. Eventually, when we were turned out, night had fallen and we were hungry again. Fred and I toured the city in search of a hamburger shop, but in vain. We even caught a tram and ended up in the back-blocks. On returning to the city we were directed to the Anzac Club and spent some hours there before returning to the ship. I do not remember Perth Railway Station. All the rolling stock is quite antiquated and slow on the Perth - Fremantle railway, but it brought us back safely and we slept well for the rest of the night. Men were coming in at all hours till well into the next morning. Some did not come back till the day after and some did not come back at all. (These men were picked up and shanghaied onto later ships.)
Next morning the "Marnix" berthed behind us, to the accompaniment of "cooees" and whistles from the troops in both ships. The Queenslanders and Victorians were soon on their way into Perth, watched by envious eyes on the "Johan". In the evening our boys started to "go through". The gangways being picketed, they climbed out of the lowest portholes onto the staging beneath the wharf, walked along it for some distance then climbed up and walked through the gates. As our picket of the day before was also in town on leave, they got away with it for the most part. Later in the night we were smoking on the deck when a commotion on the wharf drew our attention. It appears someone dropped an empty bottle behind Black Jack as he stood on the wharf. He immediately came on board and closed the canteen, but later gave permission for it to re-open.
The following morning we prepared to sail. First the "Marnix" was towed out beyond the breakwater, and then the tugs came back for us. They had some difficulty and took some time to do this but at last we moved slowly away from the wharf. A launch raced up alongside us, and several men clambered on board. They had returned in the nick of time, but had caught the wrong vessel, unfortunately.
The "Katoomba" had left us and we had acquired another Dutch vessel - the "Sebajik", a much smaller vessel than ours. They carried the "Katoomba's" troops as well as some additions including 27 Bde who had reached Perth via the Transcontinental Railway, and had an enjoyable time waiting for us to arrive.
We now began to notice the increase in heat. It became almost impossible to sleep below decks, so we made up beds on "C" Deck. The only drawback was that we had to rise early to allow the Javanese to wash down the deck. I had weighed myself in Perth - 14 st. 2 lb. - and was in excellent condition, but soon began to sweat my weight away. Coming as we did from the wintry Bathurst plains we suffered from the heat quite a lot. A day out from Perth we were issued with tropical kit and our F.S. was withdrawn. We knew where we were going now as a booklet on Malaya had been issued.
A Javanese member of the crew was unfortunate enough to sustain fatal injuries owing to a fall down the hold. We stood fast while his body was committed to the deep accompanied by a supply of food to sustain him in his journey - flour, eggs, sugar, etc. It was easy to get rid of surplus clothes, these same Javanese would take almost anything but one of them ? at accepting a pair of mittens that I offered him. He took a balaclava however - what he would do with it no one knows! The tropical kit that we received consisted of three extra shirts, making five in all - one pair of shorts and two pairs of "goon pants", making five also - one uniform (jacket and trousers) two pairs of sock tops, one pair of puttees, extra singlets and underpants, 2 extra towels and two extra socks. I now had 23 pairs of socks, and I needed them! We had trouble at first in adjusting our short puttees, the battalion fashion being wrongly interpreted. I made my allotment at about this time, and from here on received 2/- per day plus 6d exchange allowance, not enough as I found out later.
We saw many flying fish about this time, they certainly travelled when they rose from the waves. I think we lost every medicine ball on the ship, they went overboard by dozens. A boxing tournament was organised and conducted on the top deck; Ken Stone and Hilton Collins contesting at various times. A ship's newspaper was printed and distributed, containing topical items and news of ship doings. We were asked not to souvenir the clothes hangers supplied by the ship, but many "went off" all the same. We passed through Sunda Straits, with Krakatoa to port, then turned up the coast of Sumatra. Islands increased in number and the sea became greener as we approached our destination - Singapore.
The first sight on opening the portholes was Blakang Mati Island to port. The island bears an evil name amongst Malays who will not venture near it - the translation of "Blakang Mati" is "evil eye". Many barracks for R.A. personnel are on it, housing the crews of the 15" guns that guard Keppel Harbour. After breakfast we were issued with a light ration of buns containing cold meat or brawn, then assembled on the boat deck with full gear - much more than we came on board with. We wore shorts, shirts, sock tops and short puttees, and felt hats with our embarkation numbers stuck in the band. We carried our webbing equipment, bayonet, water bottle, haversack, pack, rifle (slung upside-down to facilitate movement on the ship), universal kit bag, sea kit bag and other personal gear. We stood in threes as the ship slowly swung to the right and was guided into her berth opposite No. 10 Godown. The city was a jumbled mass of buildings with several hills in rear, lush green vegetation relieving the white of palatial houses on these heights. Fort Canning stood out with its masts and signalling gear and over all was the haze of a tropical morning.
No sooner had we berthed than we were welcomed by a typical tropical rainstorm. It simply pelted down, lasted quite a while and hung about all day. We were sweating already, and soon were to sweat under our loads, even though it was the coldest day that Singapore had experienced for 16 years.
When we had slid into our berth, we soon began to appreciate another side of the city. Strange smells were apparent; they took some time to become used to. The "boongs" (Tamil and Chinese) lining the godown walls were engaged in chewing betel nut and scratching themselves. We never adopted the first habit, but the second one grew on us, what with the dobies itch, tinea, etc. While waiting to disembark the boys amused themselves by heating up coins and tossing them on the wharf. The boongs' actions on picking up the red hot pennies were appreciated. Several Aussies from 22 Bde that were down on leave appeared on the wharf and inquired about mates on the ship. They tossed up several Malay coins and we saw the square copper cents for the first time. Many "red caps" (English Military Police) were on duty - the boys roared when one of them slipped on the greasy concrete and lost his hat in the harbour. Finally, about midday, we filed down the gangway and stepped out onto foreign soil. We were moved into the godown out of the fine drizzle, then detailed into small parties for transportation. Previously we thought that we would go north straight away, but now plans had been changed and we were to stay on the island for our "acclimatisation" period - about three weeks.
Our transports arrived, small red buses with the door at the rear and holding five or six men with their gear. We climbed in, an English lance-jack swung up with the native driver and we moved off to the wharf gates. As the bus passed the gates - right opposite the massive Singapore railway station - we saw our first ricksha's and promised ourselves a ride in the near future. There were many fine buildings in the city proper, but when we moved out towards the aerodrome the squalor and filth became more apparent. The canals full of oily black water smelt the worst, closely followed by the dried fish in the Chinese shops. All the working class Chinese wore black cotton clothes, the Tamils wore shorts or loin clothes (sic) and the Malay wore coloured sarongs. A noise peculiar to the city was the "click-clack" of the wooden sandals, sounding hollowly on the concrete footpaths. The clatter of many tongues was confusing as we passed the markets where Asiatics haggled over many commodities. The Chinese craftsmen and shopkeepers were a clannish lot, when you saw one blacksmith's shop, for instance, you saw three or four side by side. All one family, maybe.
Soon we were moving along the East Coast Rd., noting the extensive barbed wire entanglements and pillboxes fronting the sea. Coconuts, paw paws and bananas grew amongst the native huts and soon we saw our first rubber trees. Many fine homes fronted the road, owned for the most part by rich Chinese. About 12 miles out we saw the Changi Civil Gaol on our right, surrounded by high walls with patrolling Sikhs on duty. Soon we were at our destination - Birdwood Camp. We turned into the Transport Park and disembarked. After a short delay, "B" Coy was assembled and marched out onto the road then in by the guard hut. We dumped our gear outside a row of huts standing amongst stunted rubber trees, then moved in and secured a "possie" each. The huts contained a "charpoy" (wooden framework bed with fibre lacing) and a green painted box for each man. There were four wires running the length of the hut to secure nets to, the roof was of attap, and we had electric light. Nos. 7 and 8 sections occupied no. 17 hut and no 16 housed 9 section, Company HQ, and the Q store. We were immediately issued with a mosquito net, two sheets and a pillow and slip. Most of us had consumed our bun and brawn by now, and it disagreed violently with quite a few including Joe? and Tommy Evans. I gave Tom the balance of my rum and it settled his stomach somewhat. The N.A.A.F.I. Canteen was open, and our boys were already tied in knots over exchange rates by the Chinese staff. We were swindled quite a lot at first but finally received $6.72 for one pound (notes) and $6.00 only for silver or copper to the value of one pound. While partaking of cakes and soft drink we chatted with several 2/19 men who had been assisting us in our struggles. They told us some tall yarns about the "ulu" or jungle and we did not know what to think of it. One of their sergeants had been in a blue in the neighbouring Gordons barracks, and sustained fatal injuries. Some of our men were detailed later to accompany the funeral party to Bidadari Cemetery. They told us that it had been broadcast that we were part of the largest convoy to ever leave Australia - propaganda enlarged our three ships into thirty three to try and bluff the Japs, apparently.
We were told on Battalion parade that war was imminent, and that we might have to fight within three weeks. On this same parade we astonished the Gordon Highlanders, for Blackjack ordered us to sit down - on Battalion parade! He also told us what was known of the country and warned us about the local brand of beer. He said that the effects of one bottle of "Tiger" would be negligible, that two would inspire us to "do" Major Ramsay, and three to "do" himself. We sampled this beer the next night. I did not like it at first, but soon acquired a taste. It was the best drink as it was brewed in and for the climate. Our beers were too heavily doped, we became quite sick after drinking Green Label "Cascade" though the beer was certainly too warm. "Tiger" cost 38 cents, Cascade and Melbourne Bitter 48 cents per bottle. The English beers were 48 cents also, but just as heavily doped. I did not like the draught, McEwans, but Alsopps was quite a good drink. Many men drank spirits because it was actually cheaper than beer.
Our camp was situated on the East side of Changi Rd. A large "padang" (lit. "playground") bounded the Singapore side, a railway line to a 15" gun battery ran at the back, and the R.A. barracks the remaining side. We had six sleeping huts, one mess hut and one kitchen to each company and many others such as canteens, stores, recreation huts, officers quarters, R.A.P. and P.A.C. dotted the area. The showers were a line of cubicles with merely a water pipe in them - when turned on full the jet of water made us smart. Unfortunately, the previous occupants (Indians, we were told) had left us a legacy in the form of countless bugs. We waged a constant battle with them, both in this camp and during our entire sojourn in Malaya, kerosene, patent mixtures, and scorching in the flames only just held them in check. To squash a bug on one's face or in one's ear in the dark is a most unpleasant experience. I was one of a party detailed to erect tents in a gully near the showers. These were to house our "dhobies" or clothes washers, who would clean 30 articles per week for each man. For ten cents we could have a shirt and pair of slacks privately washed, ironed and starched slightly. The dhobies, who were all Tamils, had a curious method of washing. They would dip the article in water then bash it on a concrete slab, at the same time uttering a weird cry. We were forbidden to wash even a handkerchief in front of any natives, in peacetime anyway. The concrete washing place was built by an old Chinaman and his two wives. The women did all the work and carried the tools home each night while the old man walked serenely behind. Black Jack employed no native houseboys, contrary to custom, and the sergeants, who had engaged some to clean their rooms, were obliged to dismiss them.
Tinea became prevalent; platoon commanders held inspections and ordered any suspects on to sick parade. I was treated thus, and then my weekend leave was stopped because I went on sick parade! That is the Army all over.
We were told, and found it true, that we needed extra salt in the Tropics, even to put it in our water bottles. We also had to have a siesta during the heat of the day, generally from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. I bought a special antiseptic soap and also talcum powder to combat an attack of prickly heat. Captain Duffy had a dose of dengue, and Captain Howells carried on. We were still suffering casualties from the mumps, Tige and Collins going to the B.G.H. at Katong, so a state of quarantine existed, and we were forbidden to mix with the Gordons or civilians. We received many warning lectures re health, mainly about malaria and VD, and were forbidden to eat uncooked vegetables, soft fruits and native foods. Malaria precautions were stringent, long trousers, sleeves rolled down and malaria cream being enforced as early as 6 p.m. (We handed in our tropical jacket and received an extra shirt and pair of slacks.) Water discipline was also enforced, an inspection being held (before training) of our bottles and drinking forbidden before midday. We tested our respirators in tear gas filled buildings up near Artillery Square. In Australia we had noticed that our sweat stung us in the gas chambers. Here it made us writhe. We had regular swimming parades to Changi Baths, having to put drops in our ears each time to prevent an infection called "Singapore ear".
Eck Holden had been admitted to hospital with pneumonia. He had a bad turn - at one time his sight was endangered and he was on the D.I. list. Dave Swindail spent an enjoyable fortnight at Bidadari, officially at a P.T. school but more often on leave in Singapore. Copper coins were very short in Malaya. The papers carried appeals to the population to keep the coins circulating. Jimmy and Keith Burling visited us here, looking extremely fit. They were on special guard in Singapore, their unit being at Port Dixon (2/20). They showed Fred and Alan around Singapore the following Sunday - I could not get leave as I had attended sick parade and was marked M.L.D. Bruce Stokes (2/20) and Billy Woods (R.A.A.F., now R.A.F.) also paid a call. Bruce was as mad as ever, and told some wild tales about the boys going "tropical". Some had committed suicide, it was true, mainly because they were "toddy" drinkers. "Toddy" is obtained from coconut palms, the tree being ruined to provide the fermented juice. "Saki", made from rice, was also a danger.
The first leave we got was to Changi village. Russ Perkins, Fred, Alan and myself rode down in a "piggy bus" and found the place very entertaining, but dirty and smelly, as usual. I tried to buy some films but the shopkeeper wanted to sell the camera as well as the film. In fact I had to write home for films, never got them, of course. I was lucky; I still had some from Perth. We sampled some "Framroz" (Fraser & Neaves) soft drinks, bought some pineapples and explored some Chinese shops till the smell of dried fish drove us away. Troops thronged the shops, buying kimonos, pillowcases, silk goods, postcards, etc., being exploited right and left. We saw small Chinese children about 10/11 years old carrying two kerosene tins of water each. Tough little beggars.
The 26th was camped between the village and our camp, but they had tents. The 29th were lucky; they occupied a large building in Katong, quite close to Singapore. The reinforcements were assembled in Johore Bahru and formed G.B.D.
The following week we got leave in Singapore from 2.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. on Sunday. With Jack McLean, Alan Gilbert and Harley Wilson I set out to explore the city. We were conveyed in the Unit's 30 cwts. to the Anzac Club, after inspection on the Bn. parade ground. The Club was a great place where we could obtain meals and drinks at reasonable prices, and also have the use of reading rooms and billiards tables. The first sight we struck on leaving it was a snake-charming outfit on the padang opposite. They were not very good - would not produce their cobras until a good collection was taken up - and we soon moved on to the Union Jack Club. Here, members of all services mingled and consumed beer in a large, airy room, while adjacent were the dining and billiard rooms. The three floors above contained reading and writing rooms, bedrooms, etc., sufficient to house a large number of men on leave. After some refreshments, we moved on to Change Alley, where all manner of "hot" goods could be bought. After haggling for some time we purchased a few souvenirs that were still about ten times too dear. We soon learnt the Malay word "pergi", meaning "go away", as natives would pester one incessantly with all manner of useless goods. Ricksha drivers, especially, would demand exorbitant prices for short carries, so we would sling them 10 cents and shout "pergi lekas" till they cleared off.
We had tea at the "Capitol" Restaurant over the "Capitol" Theatre. In a beautiful air-conditioned room we sat down to a mixed grill, followed in my case by "Fresh Bandaong Strawberries" and cream. The strawberries were flown over by air mail from Java. The menu also bore the legend "Fresh Sydney Rock Oysters $1.75 per doz. (roughly about 5/-) reminding us forcibly of home.
Darkness had fallen when we left the restaurant and the city was beginning to wake up. In fact, the best time to see Singapore is after midnight, but our leave expired at 9.30. Rickshas conveyed us to the "New World", a vast entertainment park thronged with pleasure seekers and bright with flickering lights. Here we had all the sideshows of a carnival, circuses, beer gardens, a large cabaret complete with exotic dancing partners (at 25c a time), picture shows, stage shows and shops of all descriptions.
We were puzzled by the Chinese plays they consisted mainly of gorgeously-coloured costumes and violent, clanging music.
Mac had his fortune told - apparently he would be in Malaya 14 months, and would not see action.
There were also "Great" and "Happy" Worlds in Singapore, attended mainly by Chinese and Eurasians.
At 9.30 we were back at the rendezvous and soon reached camp once again. Some of the boys came out by taxi and bilked the driver for his fare. The Gordons had all night leave and were permitted to wear civilian clothes.
On two subsequent Sundays I went in again on leave, once with Harry Wilson and once with Alan Gilbert. With Alan, I walked to the top of the "Cathay" Theatre and had a great view of the city. One night we took unofficial leave and taxied into Katong. Lofty Ambrose, Jimmy Ambrose, Jack McLean, Harold Russell, Ted Gill, Darcy Pickard, Tige, Sipper and myself formed the party and we visited all the sights. Tige put his foot in a 2 ft deep gutter in Tembiling Road. while running through a sudden shower. What he said would not bear printing. Several times we visited the "Ubique" Theatre, R.A. Barracks, and saw the latest films for 25c (about 9d).
When in camp, we played 500 tournaments for the "Changi Championship", or drank Tiger or Cascade in the wet canteen.
Cigarettes were very cheap - Players, Craven A's, du Mauriers at 45c (1/4) per tin of 50 and Flags and Pirates (quite good English brands) at 25c (9d) for 50. I was smoking about 60 per day, but curiously they never affected my throat. After a night on the grog however, all hands would wake in a very cranky mood, which would not disappear till the morning cup of tea and cigarette was consumed. Old Tom, who rose early (he was Lt. Head's batman), used to bounce into the hut as we were crawling from our nets crowing "Good morning, Percy!" This got on our nerves so much that we planned to put him under the tap the next morning. But someone warned the old rascal, at any rate he never came at it again.
Mail was eagerly sought after and appreciated. I drew a blank on the first issue - it was a terrible feeling to watch others reading and smiling over a pile of letters while I had none. The surface mail brought many copies of "Pix" "Man" "Smith's Weekly" and Sunday papers, which were eagerly seized and devoured.
On an asphalt parade ground adjacent to the padang we would watch the R A Malay Volunteers at drill - they could lick the ears off us at marching, squad drill, and rifle exercises. Their sergeant would belt their rear with a stick if they made a mistake. Here I saw my first flying lizard. He spread his legs to stretch taut the leathery membrane connecting them to his body, then sailed down like a glider. Fireflies were also numerous - they gave many men a fright when on guard at night.
Our new Brigadier was the one-time C.O. of the 2/18th; a medical man named Maxwell. We paid a ceremonial visit to the Gordons one afternoon and witnessed the piping of "Retreat". Their barracks at Selarang were spacious and luxurious compared to ours - they were concrete structures 3 storeys high, surrounding a huge asphalt parade ground. The officers, WO's and married men occupied beautiful homes dotted here and there amongst the undulating palm-covered hills. There was a 2 storey N.A.A.F.I. canteen and many other subsidiary buildings. As there was only the 2nd Battalion Gordons in occupation, the floors had about 20 beds only. Each man had a steel cabinet, iron frame bedstead, mattress, sheets, pillow and mosquito net. Led by our band, we marched onto the square and formed up on one side. On breaking off, a Scotty was detailed as guide to each platoon and we ascended to the 2nd storey to witness the ceremony, and it was an eye-opener. The pipe band, about 30 strong, marched, played and performed various manouvres with military precision. The drummers, especially, were very good. One of them dropped a drumstick - the guide with our party said that he would probably be punished with detention. When the buglers fell out in front and played "Retreat", all the Australians stood to attention, not so the Scotties. Apparently, the stand-to is an Australian order only. We marched back to Birdwood and were told that the Scotties were very impressed by the bearing of our R.S.M. WO Walker - very ironic. A party was also organised to inspect the R.A. installations and Harold Russell was the lucky one from 12 Pl. On his return he described the huge 15" gun batteries (originally "Queen Elizabeth's"), the enormous range finder, the 6" gun positions lining the shore and the mines and boom on the straits. He was told that the foundations for the 15" guns cost 250,000 pounds, which was borne by the Sultan of Johore.
There was a battery immediately behind our camp, less than 100 yards from our hut. One day, as we dozed on our charpoys during siesta period, the nearest gun opened fire on a practice shoot. There was a tremendous shock and report or two and a cascade of mess gear etc. tumbled down from the walls. We leapt bewildered from our beds; some dived out the windows, even. Then we moved out into the open to watch the next shot. The huge barrel rose into the sky, steadied, then roared again. Smoke rings followed the 1 ton shell into the sky, and our heads seemed to collapse inwards. The shoot was very successful, hits being made on the target at 20 miles range. We were informed that only half a charge had been used, and determined not to be around when a full one was fired. Such a charge had blasted down a concrete structure near the gun on a previous occasion, so our fears were well founded.
During all this time we had been undergoing the ordeal of tough, continuous training in exceptional conditions. We rose at about 7 am in the dark, rolled our mosquito nets into a compact bundle and hung them on the rear wires, folded up blankets and sheets then had the usual tea and cigarette. Administration Parade followed, and I remember Vic Gordon, our C.S.M., remarking "They must think I'm a bloody monkey, to climb a tree and mark the roll!" as it was still dark. While one man swept the hut, a crook job as the charpoys hindered his work, the rest did an "emu parade" over the company area, then showered and shaved. Breakfast followed, then the routine rifle cleaning and boot polishing. Leaving our gear neat and tidy we fell out in shorts, shirts, felt hats, boots, sock tops and short puttees. Water bottles were inspected, also rifles, etc., then we moved off to our training area. This was changed quite often; sometimes we did only one mile's march, others 2 or 3, always ending in a lather of sweat. We had been told that a good sweat each day is essential to health in the tropics. At that rate we would have been the healthiest on the Island, for Captain Duffy raced us out at about 140 to the minute, down the Changi Rd., then out along the Tampines Rd and into the rubber. Later, when Jim Webster came over from 2/26 as company piper ("B" Company was the only one with bagpipes), he broke Duffy's pace down to about 110. It was a pleasure marching to the pipes, quite easy, too. After a "smoko" at our halting place we would get down into training, mainly on patrols and compass marches to train N.C.O's. One day, Captain Duffy lost his pencil. He formed the whole company into a single line and beat the rubber, with no success however.
We observed with interest the method of collecting latex from rubber trees, and often cut the trees to make it flow. When ripe, the rubber seed container (which is shaped like a rounded triangle) has a unique method of distributing its nuts. The container contracts and bursts, hurling the 3 nuts an amazing distance - the loud report and whizzing missiles alarmed us often at first. The Chinese latex gatherers lived on the job and lived well. Their pigs were a peculiar breed, something like a rhinoceros in shape. They had countless ducks on the green, slimy ponds near their houses, fowls, bananas, coconuts and all other cultivated foods.
We would often, when on section patrols, slaughter a coconut and drink the cool milk. About midday we would reform and march back at the same pace, marching to attention past the sentry post on the R.A. camp, then into our own to the music of the band. A shower, dinner, then siesta followed by the afternoon's work, which was mainly a recapitulation of Bren, Tommy-gun, compass and unarmed defence, carried out in the area opposite the transport park. The Bren that 12 Pl possessed was no. A112, later destined to be mine. We tested the Company's weapons on the Gordons' miniature rifle range, and had many stoppages due to inexperience. Unarmed defence brought about many spills, compass work was easy and we earnestly studied some books of photos showing Japanese soldiers, their equipment, and methods of warfare. Several hours of this was followed by the march back, tea, and relaxation, either on leave or at the canteen, then into our huts to snatch some sleep before the next gruelling day. On Sundays we had to wash out the huts, de-bug our beds, and attend Battalion church parade in the morning, then leave was available to a certain percentage in Singapore and to the remainder in Changi village. I was pooled into volunteering for T.C. work in the Bn, but on finding that it was really R.P. I was paraded to Black Jack, told him my objection, and was excused. He actually smiled when I told him my opinion of M.P's etc. An old Chinese woman used to roam our camp uttering a plaintive "sew-sew" at intervals. She would sew and mend any article, quite well, too, for a small sum. The Chinese who came to empty the swill tins in the kitchen used to wash them out with hot water - he wanted the food for his own consumption!
With due secrecy and importance, Captain Duffy told us our battle station and role in the defence of Johore. We were to be a counter-attack battalion, to re-take Jemaluang cross roads if the 2/19th were driven out. It all sounded exciting, and we felt that we were an important cog in the war machine. "Don" Coy was sent to Jemaluang at about this time, to cut a jungle track 14 miles long from the cross roads to Gibraltar Hill at Mersing. They had a great time, even if the work was hard and trying. The Scotties did a route march every Friday, about 10 miles at a leisurely pace, to the tunes of a pipe and a brass band. Within a week of arrival in the country we did a 21-mile march in 5 hrs marching time, confounding them all. "B" Coy did it in the shortest time - we had a hell of a time, though. We marched at about 5 mph along Changi Rd to Geylang, then turned right and had dinner in the rubber, enjoying the cool pineapple juice as much as anything. Then, after a short cross-country march, we struck the Tampines Rd at the biscuit factory and followed it back to camp. The road was flanked on either side by stinking black mud and mangroves; no shade was available and the glare from the asphalt raised a tremendous thirst. We were soaked with perspiration, footsore and weary when the band finally conducted us into camp - the winners!
News of this march spread all over the country. General opinion was that Black Jack would kill us all in a month. I think that he won a few bets on us here, as he did at Bathurst. That night we consumed much beer to try and replace the moisture lost during the day, and slept like logs after it. My boots had traces of salt on them, where the sweat had seeped through, for days after.
Our rations at Birdwood were not very good. Two items I enjoyed, however. One was the tea, which had a delicious, distinctive flavour. The other was the issue of small new potatoes. Smothered in butter, which was surprisingly plentiful, they were delicious.
Breakfast was generally porridge or bread and milk, fat bacon and new potatoes, bread, butter, jam and tea. On Sunday, we had a slice each of pineapple and paw paw and several small bananas - quite good but insufficient.
Dinner consisted of roast meat, "yak" the boys called it, potatoes and other vegetables, or mashed herrings, onions and potatoes with tinned fruit, (mainly apricots but once we had cherries) thin custard, bread, butter, jam and tea.
Tea was cold meat, tomatoes, onions, etc. (or, the inevitable herrings), bread, butter, jam and tea. Cheese was plentiful also. We had pineapple juice (well-watered) two or three times a week and an issue of apples or oranges occasionally. We consumed many cakes and bottles of soft drink in the dry canteen. Chocolate was fairly dear and local fruit disappointing. Here, we tasted our first rambutans, a fruit about the size of an apricot with countless fleshy prickles on it red and yellow skin. The fruit was white and cloudy and contained several black seeds. We saw and smelt the durian but were never game to taste it. The Malays were mad about its creamy, evil-smelling flesh.
Sipper was attached to a map reading class and enjoyed a good holiday. He would go through out of the window very smartly. While we were training in the rubber we saw some of the Scotty carriers in action - they were extra good.
We had to comply with medical orders and sit in the sun with our shirts off, for 5 minutes only, each day, to prevent skin diseases.
On 18/9/41 we moved north to our new camp at Batu Pahat. In the early hours of the morning we consumed a good stew supplied by mess orderlies from 2/26 Bn. We had collapsed our charpoys and stacked them with our green boxes on the Battalion parade ground, to be loaded into 3-ton trucks. About a dozen of us were detailed to each truck and we sat on the boxes for the journey, cramped but interested in the passing countryside.
We crossed the Causeway in the pearly haze of dawn, then turned left and followed the shore for a short while before turning north. We saw the new, giant hospital in J.B. and also the Sultan's palace. Many pineapple plantations and factories appeared. There was little jungle but mostly rubber in this, the most developed state of Malaya.
After about 60 miles we reached Ayer Hitam and turned left to Batu Pahat - 22 miles - reaching it at about 10 o'clock. The town presented its best aspect as we passed through the better class district containing the European settlement, golf course, etc. Natives gaped at us as our trucks crawled through the town, some giving the A.I.F. salutation of "Hullo Joe" with upraised thumb, but the majority undecided what to do as we were the first troops to camp in the district.
The advance party (Russ Perkins was one) told us that they were hastily avoided on first visiting the town, but soon this all vanished and we were greeted by smiles and "Hullo Joes" wherever we went.
The camp was about a mile out of town at the foot of a jungle-covered hill, near the big padang. It was brand new - was being completed as we drove in, by Chinese carpenters, for timber and shavings lay everywhere. In fact, the Coy occupied only 3 huts the first night, as the others were incomplete. The only drawback to a first class camp was the fact that we had no electric light, and two hurricane lamps to a hut were quite insufficient. The showers were called "Dutch showers". They consisted of a huge cement trough of water, partitioned into 8 by iron sheets. One poured the water over one's self with a small galvanised iron bucket, and it was most refreshing on the now cool mornings. Water fights, with buckets of water, were common at first but several accidents dampened enthusiasm. We had a huge canteen with provision made for showing moving pictures. The mess huts were also large and airy. We had to clean up a lot of rubbish around the huts and found some nice specimens of the centipede family. A Chinese cut their mandibles with a knife then allowed them to run all over himself, but we were not having any. At the rear of the camp was a small swimming baths where we often cooled off before adjourning to the canteen. We had a small hospital near B.H.Q. with several nurses in attendance, and it housed quite a few patients.
A new camp was being built behind ours. Rumour said that R.A.F. personnel would occupy it. We made small tables from the unused timber round the huts, to play the "500 Batu Pahat Championships" on. Also, each section dug a P.A.D. pit about 8 feet deep. Ours fell in and we dug another and lined it with this same timber. There was always water in these pits and the frogs used to drive us silly at night. We were "issued" with foot towels and clogs to prevent tinea - actually we were slugged 70c against our will, as no one wanted the darn things.
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