Darren - firstname.lastname@example.org
Firstly, and very briefly, I would like to say how much I am enjoying this group. Thanks to everyone concerned. My eyes are being opened with every email I receive. Thanks.
I have a couple of queries that maybe someone could shed some light on for me.
My image of a British serviceman as a POW of the Japanese is a white man, but does anyone have any information of the treatment of coloured British servicemen?
And of the POWs' relatives? During research of my hometown during WII I have come across examples of local next-of-kin being notified that their husbands were POWs as long as 3 years after the fall of Singapore. Another example (not my hometown) is of a POW returning home to his fiance after the war, only to discover she had left for the States as a G.I. bride. Locally, relatives were being told ...
"... there has not up to the present day been a single authenticated case of atrocities against the Prisoners of War in any camp or civil internment camp in the Far East. Rumours must not be listened to. I think you will agree that the position could be worse and I hope your minds will be a little easier." That was in 1943.
Does anyone know of a source to gain more information about how relatives were being kept informed?
Rachel - >Darren, My husband and I joined the FEPOW community in the hope of sheding some light on what happened to his uncle. His Aunt always maintained she was informed of his death, and that he died in Changhi. Yet when we found him on the commonwealth war graves site he was buried in Yokohama, Japan and died in March of 1945, she also meet a doctor who had been in the camp and said he died in Changhi of Beri Beri, but someone from the Fepow did some checking at the IPM, and located a nominal roll for 9th coast regiment of the Royal Artillery, and he had travelled oversea in a prison ship, and had gone to Honsho in Japan, but at the moment we have no more information than that. We would like to find this doctor and try to find out why he told our aunt this.
Anne - >Darren, There is plenty of evidence that governments did not want information about POW conditions to reach the public, for fear of upsetting relatives but there was no concerted effort to prevent news coming out because it leaked anyway. The real problem was that there was so much chaos and misinformation. I don't know Singapore but in Hong Kong and Shanghai the Red Cross did its best under difficult circumstrances and did rather well, certainly with civilian internee information. The Japanese kept detailed records which include things like deaths and so on. I have seen the original despatches they sent routinely on deaths and so on.
What do you mean by "coloured" servicemen ? Non whites in the regular forces, Indian Regiments, or local Volunteers ? There was for example an African brigade in Burma. Also lots of non whites in the regular services. Attitudes towards them varied - the war and foreign office being surprisingly liberal, self appointed organisations holding rather extreme colonial values, while individuals like Wingate, Calvert and many of the SOE had radically enlightened ideas. I have done some work on POWs in the immediate postwar period and the different was the were treated then, too. The Navy was particularly good at looking after its own - in fact there was one officer who went to a lot of trouble to track down the families of dead or missing Chinese seamen, and try to give them help. In contrast, the treatment of the Volunteers was coloured by prewar and wartime ideas. While the Volunteers were still in HK they had many unofficial ways of getting information in and out of camp. Once those shipped to Japan left, they lost contact.
Tony - >Darren, The treatment of Indian POWs is reasonably well documented - but at the general level rather than specific. I have entirely failed (for example) to find any Indian-written biography or diary for the Hong Kong campaign, yet they supplied two of the six infantry battalions and the majority of the gunners.
They were not treated well, and many died in camp. They were all 'encouraged' by any means available to join the anti-British Indian National Army. This met with relatively little success in Hong Kong where - although many wished for India to be independent - the sentiment was generally anti-Japanese. Here we had the case of Captain Ansari GC (a very vocal supporter of independence) being tortured and shot as a POW for his anti-Japanese activities.
I believe a greater percentage of Indians captured in Singapore joined the INA.
However (and again this is the Hong Kong experience) the Indian POWs were at least spared the transportations to Japan.
Anne - Because of the attitudes of the time, the views of Indians weren't
respected ! so finding accounts written by them like the other accounts Tony uses in his book isn't easy. Indians in HK were treated with suspicion by the "official" escape organisation. One man who did escape was hauled in and branded a liar because his story was refuted by a someone who turned out to be a fake ...no surprise they didn't trust anyone to talk, when there were references to "Wogland" bandied about.
Incidentally one of the men beheaded with Ansari was a relative of mine and several others also in that group were family friends.
Tony, do you know what Ansari really said about his situation ? A witness reports his last words were patriotic and pro Empire but how did the witness know this ? He gave no source.
Tony - >Anne, According to Wright-Nooth, Anderson 'was told' that Ansari's last words were to the effect:
"Everybody has to die some time. Many die daily from disease, some suffer painful, lingering deaths. We will die strong and healthy for an ideal; not as traitors, but nobly in our country's cause. We cannot now escape the enemy's sword, but no one should give into tears or regrets, but instead face the enemy with a smile and die bravely"
W-N gives the reference as 'Anderson, page 29', PRO Kew WO 325/42. I've not read the original myself, so can't say who related this story to him.
Anne - >Tony, Yes, it was Anderson's report I was basing this.on. What bothers me is how Anderson managed to recount this in such detail - he wasn't within earshot. If even the primary sources have to be read critically as they can get distorted, working with secondary sources is dubious. That's why your book will be important - what you have done is first line stuff, as direct as possible.
What have you got on Ansari's politics ?
Darren - Many thanks for your replies.
I should have been more specific in my request, my apologies. I meant coloured servicemen in British Regiments, where they were the minority. Where they would have stood out from the white faces and I was wondering if they met with any different treatment from the rest of the POWs in that camp. I have no evidence either way of their treatment, which I guess is why I asked.
Having said that, I am still enthralled by the references to the Indian troops. Keep them coming please.
My appreciation, Darren Norton.
Anne - Maybe Tony will know of there were any nonm white British in Hong Kong apart from "local enlisted" of which there were many.
But there was one intriguing case where a black American civilian was picked up and assumed to be Indian, and locked up in Ma Tau Chung the camp for Indians, against his protests. The Indians vouched he wasn't one of them, either, but there he stayed, learning Urdu and eating curry. Why he was there and not in
Stanley with other civilians, I don't know, but one might hazard a guess. (I suspect therein lies the answer - the Japanese were not stupid and it may not have een their decision ). Anyway he was recognised as a US citizen and repatriated in 1943. I have his account somewhere about "life as a POW".
Anne - Completely off on a tangent, Darren , but are you interested in the way Blacks were treated in the USAF ? When my father was in his last ilness the man in the next bed was a tall and very correct Black officer, one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. This was a crack unit where black men were trained as pilopts, some achieving great success flying over Europe. One was the son of the then only black graduate of West Point and he himself ended up some kind of general. Anyway all this was achieved through struggle - some of their officers hated the fact that Washington wanted them treated as equals to whites. At one stage they organised a protest against segregation, and some 60 or more
were arrested for "mutiny". They were a remarkable unit. I've been studying them as a sideline and have been helped enormously by them - generous, upright folks. The wife of the man in hospital with my Dad was an angel - spent all day there, helping everyone, always gracious and smiling.
Tony - >Anne,
1. The aviation enthusiasts' magazine 'Flypast' has had some very good articles about the Tuskagee airmen in the last few months.
2. The most recent account of Colditz (apologies to all, but I've forgotten its name and author as I left my copy on the BA Geneva-London flight sometime last year) contains a fascinating description of the experiences of the only Indian officer there - and how he was perceived by the British officers.
3. Roger Freeman tells a wonderful story of the Stars and Stripes interviewing the oldest inhabitant of a pub in the broads about his experience of the Americans. The first Americans in Norfolk were of course the (generally African American, and courteous) men who built the airfields. The old man puffed his pipe and no doubt took a sip of his pint and said something like: "Oi reckon them Americans be orl roight. But Oi don' think too much on them white boys they've brought with them!"
Arthur - >Tony and Anne, I can not speak for what happened in Hong Kong, but I can state for certain that when my battalion arrived in Singapore 1937. All ranks attended a talk given by our commanding officers, in which he stressed that we were British soldiers and we must never at any time bow to what he called these easterners. in example he stated that should any soldier be walkng along the sidewalk and a foreigner approache, we should not give way, instead he or she should be pushed into the monsoon drain (The depth of monsoon drains in Singapore in those days was anything from 3 to 6 feet.) for example we never needed to dig slit trenches.
Previous to Singapore we had been on active service in Palestine, where the common phrase was "they are only wogs", "they breed like rabbits so it doesn t matter how many you kill"
Once we became prisoners of war things changed rapidly, because large numbers of Javanese soldiers and Eurasions from the east Indes joined us, Many European service men made friends with them if only to extract whatever jungle knowledge they could from the young natives.
I did some time with one of the Chinese Anti Japanese units previous to the Jap invasion which proved a boon in captivity.
I met and became very friendly with Georgie "P" a young man, black as the ace of spades, his father was a retired British army sergeant major, who after serving in the army for 21 years became the manager of the Union Jack Club in Singapore. His mother was Singalese. After the war George remained in Singapore where he became a boxing champion and a top policeman and detective. He had been working as a news reporter in Singapore previous to the Jap invasion. When it was obvious that we could not hold Singapore, George was enlisted in a Bitish Artillery unit. He often speaks of the manner in which he was accepted being called names, pushed around and generally humiliated. Similar to myself George survived the war, I visit him occasionally, but even today he talks about his miserable life in the British army.
Janet - I am not suprised at the attitude that has been shown to be prevallent at this time towards coloured people.
My Dad always told me he was horrified at the apartheid he saw when the called into Cape Town and that black S/Africans were being pushed into the road not only by white S/Africans but by our troops ! ( he was always certain it would lead to bloodshed but always thought it would not be in his lifetime ) however he sat and watched live TV as Nelson Mandela walk to freedom and he was emmotional .
He was also very put out at the treatment in Singapore of coloured people and also the Chinese.
He told a story of one squaddie who had been into town and got a rickshaw ride back to barracks (?) does the racecourse and polo ground sound right ?
Once he got back, I think maybe a little worse for wear after a few beers or whatever ( Dad didn't say he was intoxicated but what other excuse for his behaviour could there be ? ), he refused to pay the driver, and started to fight ending up with him tipping the rickshaw over.
Dad went to see what was happening and the bloke scarpered leaving him to help the Chinese man up to his feet, righting the rickshaw with him and then feeling SO appauled at the fact an English soldier had done that he paid the bloke whatever ( very minimal amount I think )
He was also very sad because the few coloured sailours on the Mount Vernon were ( what he considered it to be " cold shouldered " by the white American crew.
He worked in the galley for a while with two of these boys who he said were so nice, one was especially friendly and Dad always meant to keep in touch, however didn't.
However he never said anyhting about the Indians or eurasians being treated differently once prisoners, he mentions the nice Eurasian lad he had been working with in Tavoy in early 45 in a letter dated 30 Aug 45, he was also very impressed with the Indians he worked with as prisoners because they said their prayers every night without fail, and he was taken with the fact they kept to their faith however bad things were and however Godless the situation seemed, but I must stress he didn't respect anyone else any less if they didn't appear to pray, it was just a personla little thing of his .
Denis - I,m sorry Janet lost her Father recently, and I hope she feels better now. But it serves no purpose to infer a whole situation from a few memories of her Father. Thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of whites grew up with Asians and Indians and had great respect for them. In WWII many fought alongside Asians, Indians, Black people from Africa and America, even Japanese Americans for whom they had great respect and even affection. This has held true in every war since. Prejudice is always around, but let us not get carried away by the "political correctness" so prevalent today.
Janet - >Denis, I am glad that most coloured people were generally respected, as I said this is only what my Dad had told me and of course as you so rightly say is not a general thing probably but just what one squaddie saw, but of course that is all I know and so all I can comment on.
Ron - >Janet, For some of us, memories of our fathers are all we have left, thanks for sharing them.
Although the depth of debate on a topic is enjoyed, I always look forward to your dad's stories. Some are so close to my dads that it is uncanny.
My father also, did not like the way the natives were treated by the whites, in Singapore and India alike. After visiting 'Raffles', just to say he'd been there, he walked back through the squalor, his comment was "The whites and natives lived worlds apart".
It is also peculiar who he respected, the Ghurkha was top of his list, Ghandi and Martin Luther King being close behind, my dad was white by the way.
After Japan surrendered he was in French Indo China, and although it made him very angry, he also understood why the natives (Vietnamese) were killing the French, they didn't want them back, they wanted to rule themselves.
The British did not help their statue when the Island of Penang, off the Malayan west coast, was evacuated before the Japanese got there. The order being British born civilians only to be evacuated. You can understand why the Far East countries fought for independence after the war, we had lost our standing and credibility.
Anne - What Janet wrote was moving and I for one respect her for it. Why is it so important to Mr Hudson to deny what was a very widespread attitude ?
Arthur - >Janet, What the world has yet to realize. British soldiers, American soldiers or in fact any soldiers, once having the knowedge that they have life or death at the end of their rifle. or indeed knowing they have the support of probably eight or nine hundred comrades behind them, they like to flout that power. anyone who has not been in service would know very little about this. You will see it today with these so called young gangsters. they have a gun, they feel that they are God, especially when in a gang.
Take them out individually and they are nothing but scum.
Safety in numbers and safety behind the weapon.
In my day it was a case of "my country right or wrong" since those days a great proportion of those who believed it , have grown up, unfortunately too late for some.
I could write a book on it
>Ron, There was no such thing as whites only in Penang. The reason for the evacuation was in order to save mass killings. we did not have enough to defend the island, the reason for whites only was because at this time it was thought that the Japanese would sympathise with the natives, and for them to be known or seen to be supporting the whites as they call it.
It was thought better to get the British and other Europeans away from the island
I will support that there was a great deal of snobbery, but in this instance it was dooe for good reason. It was unfortunate that the Japs did not libe up to this reasoning
Anne - The evacuations were explicitly only for whites. White looking Eurasians who sneaked aboard the evacuation ships were pulled off or dropped off ship en route. One lady told me how she and baby daughter were put in a boarding house in Manila which turned out to be a brothel. Fortunately she had enough money to find her way out of there and back to Hong Kong. Not all were so lucky. After Nanking, the locals knew only too well what lay in store. In Malaya,
the Chinese were massacred by the thousands. Obviously evacuation wasn't going to be any kind of solution and it did save lives, but the way it was done tells us about the mentality of the time.
In early 42, a famous hero wanted to get a doctor to escape from Hong Kong. The doctor demurred because he saw it as his duty to humanity to remain in a starving city where public health systems were threatened. The hero said, "Duty to Empire comes before duty to the lost Hong Kong people, who are of no importance, when the rest of the Empire fights for its existence..…it is justified to save the body even if it means the loss of the Hong Kong people" ( Importantly,
this was not the Britsh government attitude, but purely his own ) The irony is that the football field where the bodies of disease victims etc are alleged to have been piled up, is now named, not after the doctor, but after the hero.
Obviously there were many good men and true, but much of the tragedy is that the Japanese, in this respect at least, had a point. That the locals still remained askance speaks volumes for their integrity and realism. When I was a child I asked my uncle, who was in the resistance in China, why he supported the British. After he nearly killed me he explained that it wasn't "for" them he was fighting .
Others understood, the colonials didn't.
Ron - >Arthur, The orders I believe on Penang were, 'European civilian's only to be evacuated' no mention of colour, but as we had already given the promise of no discrimination in evacuations between Asians and Europeans, it was seen as going back on our word.
Leaving the radio transmitter intact did not help our cause as this allowed the Japanese to it to promote their Anti- European propaganda.
The Japanese did exploit our leaving to their advantage, informing the islanders and mainland that we had left them without armed defence and at the mercy of the invader.
As the population of Penang had already suffered miserably in air raids and without air craft cover, the morale of the Asian population must have been at a very low ebb also showing we were no longer invisible and our word was not to be trusted.
Arthur - I am no psychologist, but feel that the reason why the government asked the returning POWs not to talk, was because of this type of heresay. I don't know, I was not there when all these thngs happened, maybe I was asleep somewhere. But I have always found that there are those who will build
mountains from mole hills.
We I hope were all humans, and mostly whatever we did we did to look after number one in the first place.
One of my machine gun posts on Thursday the 12th and Friday the 13th, Overlooked the docks. I saw many ships leaving and many weeping men waving
their wives a final good bye, but I never observed any of this bull about service men swimming out to the boats or trying to barge their way on board.
It may have happened, But I did not witness any of it.
Far too many arm chair writers authors, theorists and history distorters in my opinion. Far too many lying stories told for the sake of making money and self grandisement for me.
In the majority of instances it is what someone said or what someone told someone else.
If you were not there please do not try to judge those who were.They did a marvelous job with what they had to hand, and I would ask all those who are part of this group to try and get rid of this attitude created by lack of knowledge of the truth..
Ron - I found my old pages on Penang, they are at:
O.K time has gone by and more information is now available but they do help.
Click on Malaya and then Penang.
As I said these are a bit dated as written in the early 1990's but hope they are of some interest. When I get a chance I'll re-vamp them.
Arthur's book 'Where are all the Madmen' follows the Malayan campaign and it has opened my eyes.
Arthur has given me his draft of the book and allowed me to get it on the site. With help I am getting there. I promise it is a great read.
Ron - >Arthur, We are all searching for answers Arthur, unfortunately there are few left who can now help, books have to be used. The information in them should be viewed by the reader and the reader alone should determine which information is of use, as everybody's view of a situation varies, but I can honestly
understand your frustration.
I don't believe in everything written on the Far East but it gives me that persons viewpoint, which I can then weigh against an opposed view.
Two contrasting viewpoints must be the fighting man and the commanders, one seeing ones mates dying and the other gaining or losing a strategic advantage.
The fighting man had little to do with evacuation or retreating orders and the men who fought for Malaya and Singapore have my utmost appreciation and respect, (my father being a private at 18th Div. H.Q., bren gunner), but, the fighting man did not give major orders like the evacuation of Penang or make the needed planes and equipment available to fight a war.
The complacency by our leaders certainly helped our demise in eyes of the Asians in the Far East and did little to put us back in power after the war.
There are parts of the Fepow Community like the Percivals dispatches that took me months to type out and get on the site, they are there for others to read and come to their own conclusion. These dispatches are not rated higher then for instance then, Jack Symon's 'Hell in Five' or other stories sent in for me to put on the site, but they all help with another piece of the jigsaw, so I and others can understand why it happened.
I too, could be classed as an armchair writer but please look at the research pages:
where three quarters of these have been written or put on by myself, in a search for answers.
There are over ten years of web pages, some with contrasting information, they go back to my fathers story which I typed up in the 1960's from his fading war dairy in the hope I could understand his nightmares more.
Lately your information has also been of great help in this search.
I will never feel the Fepows pain, torment or despair, but hopefully the sites do contribute towards our understanding of those years and their remembrance.
Arthur - >Ron, When I refer to armchair historians and authors I am referring to those who make a fat cat living out of experiences they could never have withstood and those others who write other peoples experiences as if they were their own.
Ron > Arthur, I feel very grateful they weren't my own.
Jen - The FEPOW community site is very lucky in having somebody as knowledgable as Arthur participating in the forum. The debates have been both intense and informative for many of us FEPOW babes. I do feel the water is getting a little hot again and am almost suprised that I did not hear the theme tune from 'Apocalypse Now' or see an advert for the book 'Animal Farm' after your last comments Arthur's. Dear o dear no wonder you have got two snakes entwined across you back!! I hope that you will take my comment as from a friend and that we can laugh about it together.
If anybody needs a break from the intensity and that goes for you too Arthur. I can suggest watching 'Toy Story' or 'Lord of the Rings pt 2 for tales about friendship. I can also recommend Ray Parkin's 'Into the Smother" as an informative and sensitive read abouts his time working on the railway. (I seem to have aquired an unintended change in print size and cannot get rid of it. damn!)
I have not read your book yet Arthur but hope to when it comes onto the site.
Just as a passing coincidence I came across one of the maps my father sent to me about a year ago when I realised I knew very little about his time as a FEPOW. The map is on the cover of the FEPOW FULCRUM magazine No.42 dated March 1993. The cover shows the POW Armistice Day Service November 8 1992 at Ambon with Father van de Made conducting the service. On the back three books are noted.
Survival was for me by Duncan Wilson
When you go home by Arthur Lane
Hell in Five by Jack Symons
With all my best to everybody in the forum.
Arthur - No offence taken,
A pschyiatrist once told me that the greatest release from what others today term PTSD, is to get bloody mad and put down on paper all your hate and dislikes then burn them.
It didn't work so I put them on paper and let others get bloody mad.
Keith - Penang, it was decided to fortify the Island in 1936, this is stated in the London Gazette on the Operations of Malaya Command on the FEPOW site. Although there was an A.A Regiment of the HKSRA were to be sent to the Island, when the attacks came, there were no A.A.guns on Penang, again in the Gazette. The original of this however, belonged to my late father, and beside the 1936 entry he had written "Fortified in 1939" He was posted there, to 11th Coast on 28/4/40.
Cynthia - I Found this on a Website and thought that some of you may like to have a look. It is an very good photograph of an Idian Soldier, may be someone knows him and could pass it on to his Family.
Rabaul, New Britain, 15 November 1945: An Indian soldier, who worked for the Japanese as a prisoner of war, identifying a Japanese soldier. This action took place during a special parade of Japanese soldiers to uncover suspected war criminals arranged by the War Crimes Commission, Headquarters, 11th Australian Division.
Negative Number: 098781 Caption: RABAUL, NEW BRITAIN. 1945-11-15. AN
IDENTIFICATION PARADE OF SUSPECTED JAPANESE WAR CRIMINALS WAS
ARRANGED BY THE WAR CRIMES COMMISSION AT HEADQUARTERS 11 DIVISION.
SHOWN, AN INDIAN SOLDIER IDENTIFYING ONE OF THE JAPANESE AT THE
PARADE. Photographer: Conflict: 1939-1945 Photo Colour: Black & white
Subject: Parades; War criminals; Indian Army; 11 Division; Negative
Number: 098774 Caption: RABAUL, NEW BRITAIN. 1945-11-15. SERGEANT R.
RICE, OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER, MILITARY HISTORY SECTION, HEADQUARTERS
11 DIVISION, TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS (FRONT AND PROFILE) OF SUSPECTED
JAPANESE WAR CRIMINALS AFTER THEY HAD BEEN IDENTIFIED BY FORMER
INDIAN PRISONERS OF WAR. THE IDENTIFICATION PARADE WAS ARRANGED BY
THE WAR CRIMES COMMISSION, AT HEADQUARTERS 11 DIVISION. Photographer:
Conflict: 1939-1945 Photo Colour: Black & white Subject: War criminals; Parades; Prisoners of war; Headquarters units; Indian Army; Military History Section; 11 Division; New Britain; Rabaul
Rabaul, New Britain, 15 November 1945: Sergeant R Rice, Official Photographer, Military History Section, Headquarters, 11th Australian Division, taking photographs of suspected Japanese war criminals. These photographs were taken after the Japanese had been identified by former Indian Army prisoner of war who had been forced to work for the Japanese in the a Headquarters units; New Britain; Rabaul
Shariff - >Ron
Have you read "Saya Pilih Mengungsi : Pengorbanan Rakyat Bandung untuk Kedaulatan" ? It was the time when the Japanesee came to Indonesia, while the Dutch went away to save their lives to Australia. You may read my review on "http://ww.ksatrian.or.id/resensi.htm".