Maj.-Gen. Sir C. Lanes Letter


16th September, 1945

My Dear 02

I returned last night from my visit to Singapore, having flown rather more than 5,000 miles, and having not only met the Supreme Commander to discuss points which had been raised with me by both the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief, but also to attend the ceremony at which Lord Louis, as Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command, accepted the overall surrender of all Japanese forces, Naval, Array and Air, in what the Japanese have termed the Southern Regions.

We left Delhi and were airborne at 5.30 a.m. on the 9th September. The intention was for us to fly (our Dakota aircraft was fitted with special long range tanks) from Delhi straight through to Rangoon. However, in view of us having to avoid a series of rather unpleasant storms in the vicinity of Calcutta, it was found necessary to land at Akyab so that we could refuel in order to make certain of having a reserve of petrol in case the weather between here and Rangoon was unfavourable. After refuelling at Akyab we flew down the coast almost as far as Bassein, then turned westward and arrived at Rangoon about 4.30 in the afternoon. There had been heavy storms all over the Arakan Yomas, and by keeping out to sea as long as possible we avoided these.

The Supreme Commander also arrived at Rangoon that evening which gave me an opportunity of having talks with him. We were staying with General Sir Montague Stopford, G.O.C. in Command. 12th Army, and were put up in his guest house.

Next morning we left Rangoon about 7 a.m. and flew Southwards over the Tenasserim coast the weather was bad and we had to fly out over the Gulf of Siam in order to avoid storms. Later we flew over Penang, and South from there we came down low over Port Swettenham and Port Dickson, in order to be able to see the ships and landing craft bringing in the 23rd and 25th Divisions which were scheduled to arrive in this area on the 9th September. We could see from the air the landing in progress, and as a result of subsequent discussion it was confirmed that this expedition, which had been, planned some time before the surrender was mooted, should have met with complete success.  The only untoward incident was that on one of the beaches North of Port Dickson, the surface was extremely poor and a certain number of military transport vehicles subsided into the mud.

We duly landed at Singapore on the evening of the 10th, and were met and driven to Government House, Singapore. The streets were decorated with flags, the majority of which were Chinese because, as I expect you know, there is a very large population of Singapore bred Chinese in the town, the majority of whom are, I understand, British Subjects. We fixed ourselves up in Government House, Singapore, which




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is one of the most attractive Government Houses that I have ever visited. An advance party, sent by the Supreme Commander, had got the cold water supply and electric light going, and the Japanese had already had orders to get the place thoroughly cleaned up, which they had done.

The party to meet the supreme Commander was completely inter-Service and inter -Allied and numbered, including Commanders and Staffs, about one hundred. Everybody, including officers of the rank of Lieutenant General and equivalent downwards were housed in dormitories, mostly on camp beds.

In my own case, we were six Major Generals and one Air Vice Marshal in the same room.

On the next day, the 11th, I went out to see conditions in the two main prison camps, in which the civil internees (men and women) and European, prisoners of war had been housed.

We went to the civil internees camp first, where, as a matter of fact, we had certain enquiries to make with regard to the whereabouts of individuals. Although at the time we were there, in view of the fact that these civil internees had known of the Japanese capitulation for about two to three weeks, the morale of these internees was pretty high, one could not help noticing that the strain under which they had lived for the last three years or more, had had a very serious effect on them. most of the inmates were the box-wallah European population of pre-war Singapore, accustomed to comfortable houses and reasonable comforts. Here, in the Japanese controlled internee camp they had been made to live on a bear minimum of rice and all horded together like coolies. Under the Jap control, wives and husbands had not been permitted to meet, but, of course, when the Jap cleared out husbands and wives had been able to get together. Most of the men were wearing just a pair of shorts, some without shoes even. I saw one lady who had a "blouse" made out of an old aertex vest, and this with a pair of khaki shorts and sandals was the whole of her wardrobe.   There were some children also, boys and girls of 8 to 10, who apparently could think of no other life than of being behind barbed wire. It was altogether rather depressing. One is glad to feel now that these internees are all being sent home, and those that were in hospital are being sent away in hospital ships for further treatment in India until they have quite recovered.

The main military prison camp was in the old pre-war Singapore jail, about 9 miles outside the town. In this camp were up to 11,000 Prisoners of War, British, Australians and Dutch, and of all ranks from Lieutenant Colonel downwards. The Lieutenant Colonels' quarters, which I personally saw on more than one occasion, were in the pre-war native warders' quarters. There was just room for four beds, and behind the room was a cubby hole for their cook, a sink and latrine.

These Prisoners of War had been encouraged to grow vegetables, and they all had a varied selection of spinnages and other vegetables growing which had been of the greatest value in supplementing the very meagre rice ration which was all they got from the Japanese. On the day that we were visiting this camp, many officers with whom we talked said that they had put on from 10 to 14 lbs in weight since the Jap



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capitulation had been on the tapis, firstly because the Japs themselves had increased the rice ration when they knew that it was likely that they would have to surrender, and had also released hundreds of Red cross parcels which they had up to that time withheld secondly, from the moment our first troops had arrived in Singapore (5th September) all Prisoners of War were issued with full scale British rations.

Other officer ranks were housed in hutments, Captains and Subalterns 24 to 30 in each hut, and other ranks were actually in the prison cells under extremely cramped conditions.

In spite of the details that I have given you above, morale of all these European Prisoners of War, of whatever rank, was quite wonderful, and discipline throughout the camp of a very high standard.  I was quite overwhelmed with salutes, and it really does give the highest credit to the Prisoner of Wars own Organising Committee that they were able to keep up these high standards right through. One of the biggest reasons which enabled this to be possible was the fact that the Officers' Camp had organised a "workshop" where every sort of work was carried out with the utmost ingenuity.   They had also constructed two home made wireless sets, one concealed in the leg of a bed and one concealed in a broom handle, neither of which were discovered by the Japs, and by a carefully arranged system of listening in, using the earphones of a stethoscope for the purpose, they were able to follow the course of the war and pass news round by mouth to all ranks in the Camp. One of the officers responsible for the set fitted in the leg of the bed, an R.A.F. officer, told me that they knew of the Japanese capitulation as soon as we did.

You will have read in the press of the horror stories and general maltreatment by the Japs of our Prisoners of War. This treatment has been amply substantiated by the release of our Prisoners of War and active steps are being taken to find and arrest the Japanese officials responsible. They behaved like inhuman barbarians without any idea of decency or mercy, and I feel sure that they will now be suitably dealt with. I could give you many other details of what one either saw or was told during the two visits that I made to these main camps, but I think two will suffice. One, a rather elderly Lieutenant Colonel who has now become haggered and gaunt told me that he was realising more from day to day that the mode of life which he had had to live for the last three years was now about to change, but that he confessed he was practically a kleptomaniac because he had learned to pick up anything from a nail to a piece of wire, upwards and downwards, as they always felt that these small items would “come in useful" in their present existence. The other is that of a much younger officer, a Captain, who was also one of those officers who had been included in the Officers Working party on the Burma-Siam railway, when our Prisoners of war were treated in a most diabolical manner by the Japs, and lost over 40 per cent. He returned safely to the prison, and he told me that what he felt he required more than anything was to get away for a couple of months by himself before he even went to rejoin his family, because for such a long time he had been living as one of a herd.




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Wednesday 12th September was the day of the Surrender Ceremony. The surrender took place in the very fine Municipal Buildings which Singapore possesses. The Guards of Honour were drawn up in front of the building and were representative of the services that had taken part in the campaign, British, Australian, Indian, R.N., Marines, Chinese, Dutch and French. The setting was very picturesque as the Municipal Buildings look out on to the Harbour where, of course, were our warships. There must have been nearly 100,000 of the local population on the ground and at the windows of the houses all round. The Supremo was magnificent and played his part with the utmost dignity. After inspecting the Guards of Honour, we moved inside the building and those of us who were classified as “distinguished spectators” took our seats inside the hall where tables had been prepared for the actual signing of the instrument of surrender. When we had all taken our seats the Japanese delegation of seven were marched in. They wore no head-dress or arms and, in fact, had been searched before they were allowed into the room. The seven were made up of two Vice Admirals, two Air Corps Generals and three Army Generals, including Itagaki who was representing Field Marshal count Terauchi, the Japanese Commander-in-Chief Southern Regions, who was ill and unable to be present. When they were seated I looked very carefully at all these Japanese senior officers' faces and tried to see in any one of them anything which I could classify as clever or nice featured in any way. They really had "beastly" faces without any trace of kindliness in them, in fact, quite barbarian.

A few moments later the Supreme Commander came in and, of course, everybody stood up; later we sat down and Itagaki presented his credentials. Lord Louis then read out the instrument of surrender and requested Itagaki to sign. This he did, affixing his own and Field Marshal Terauchi's seals.

When the signing was completed by our various representatives, Lord Louis directed the Japanese to withdraw. Some bowed as they went out, others did not. All this time the cinema wheels were whizzing round and except for these and the clicks of cameras, there was no sound in the room.

Lord Louis then went down with his Commanders-in-Chiefs in front of the Guards of Honour and read out to the troops on parade and to the vast cheering crowds his order of the day, explaining what had just taken place. You will probably have read this in the press. After this the Union Jack which, in fact, was the original one which had been carried with a white flag, by order of the Japs when the British surrendered in 1942, through the streets of Singapore and had since been hidden, was hoisted on the flagstaff in the centre of the parade ground in front of the Municipal Buildings. This ceremony was accompanied by the playing of our National Anthem, followed by those of America, China, Holland and France, and lastly by three tremendous cheers for His Majesty.

It was a most moving ceremony and where I was on the balcony were quite a few representatives, both British and Allied, of those who had been in prison camps in Singapore. There was a great deal of emotion, and tears were rolling dorm all sorts of peoples cheeks, both male and female.    It took some time to get away from the Municipal Hall as the pressure of the crowds was terrific and there was a great deal of cheering and clapping as we motored back to Governnent House.



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There was also a fly past during the parade and the Sunderland flying boats and Dakota aircraft received tremendous acclamation, these latter aircraft in particular having been the main form of air transport which has produced air supply in South East Asia Command, and made our victories possible.

There is not much else to tell you about the visit to Singapore. There were, of course, official meetings and a certain amount of work to get done, also a large party for all the war correspondents who had collected down there, of which there was a very large gathering. I left Singapore on the morning of Friday 14th September, as I have said before, and arrived back here in Delhi yesterday evening, having spent the night of the 14th with Monty Stopford at Rangoon.

I feel it is a great privilege having been able to visit Singapore and attend this great ceremony which, after all, was the culmination of all Lord Louis had set out to do when he was appointed Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command in 1943. Those of us who joined him here in Delhi in October/November 1945 and have been with him all through, could not help feeling a tremendous thrill that all our labours up to this point have been successfully accomplished.

There are, however, now tremendous tasks which lie ahead. Repatriation of Prisoners of War and Internees, sending back home all of the British ranks for release, the reoccupation of liberated territories, the disarming and eventual removal to Japan of all the Japanese, and finally the setting up of an ultimate command in this Far Eastern Theatre.

As I knew this would be a very long letter I felt sure it would be best to write it to you through the typewriter. Thank you both so much for your letters dated 7th and 9th September, which where here to greet me when I got back yesterday. I am so glad my letters have been reaching you regularly and that you were up to date with my doings over here. I am glad also that my photograph had duly arrived and it met with approval. Thank you for sending one copy to Joan, and she has written to thank me for it.

You were both as busy as ever when you wrote and the added complication of Margaret having to be away with Herbert will have given you a lot of extra things to do. I do hope that the news of Herbert is now better, and wonder when he will get out of hospital.

I will try to write to you again in a few days, but, at the moment, have a great deal to catch up on here and so think I will get this letter off.






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