Chapter 9

Chapter 9


Singapore again

Soon after arrival, and having collected Budge and Sue, and settled into our Bukit Tinggal house, I took what papers and equipment I had managed to save to Gammons, and enquired as to what they had for me to do. To begin with, there was not much, except to bring the accounts of the Port Dickson job up to date, so that we could be paid. Even at this late date the Government was assuring all that Singapore would be held, and that there was no thought of surrender, or even evacuation of women and children, and rumours were flying around that massive reinforcements were on the way, both of aircraft and troops, and that the Japs would be driven back and then annihilated. However, it was not long before the Japs were in Johore and air raids became more or less continuous. Jap bombing was not all that accurate and one could always tell when the bombs were released, as the leading plane in an arrow head formation of 6 or 8 planes would fire a burst of from a machine gun, and all planes would then drop their bombs. The formations flew as low as they liked, as there was only anti- aircraft fire to worry them; the very few Hurricane fighters that had arrived earlier,and had been hailed as our saviours, having either been shot down or evacuated. During one of the daylight air raids,Budge was in the lavatory, and the nose cone of an anti aircraft shell smashed through the roof and landed at her feet. She kept it as a souvenir for some time, but must have left it behind in the evacuation.



Towards the middle of January, in great secrecy, all expatriate women were told to register their names and addresses and telephone numbers, and to hold themselves ready for evacuation. We, of course, did this and awaited events. Then one night when we were in bed and asleep, the telephone rang and Budge was told to report by midnight to a nearby house. This I think was one of the worst moments of my life. We both knew what it meant, and had no certainty or prospect of ever seeing one another again, but on the other hand there was a sense of relief that Budge and Sue would be safe. So we got out the car and drove to the meeting place in pitch darkness and there found a lot of other wives and children, and that is where we said good bye. Later we were told that all had been safely embarked, and had sailed, we knew not where. I was not to hear of them for several weeks, nor see them again for two and a half years.



By this time I, along with other Gammon engineers was busy supervising the digging of trenches and other defensive positions, on the north coast just west of the causeway, using any labour and machines that were available. These positions were to be manned by an Australian Regt. and by Chinese so called communist volunteers whom the Govt. had hurriedly called up, given rifles to, but no uniforms, and sent to the coast. On one of my trips to the site in my car a Mig fighter machined gunned the line of traffic that I was in but nothing hit me, and on the same day I witnessed a Jap bomber brought down by anti aircraft fire, crashing within a short distance of where I was. Of course we all rushed over,and some Singapore Volunteers drew their pistols in case there were survivors, but there were not, all the crew being quite dead. We all felt much better for this act of retribution.


When the families had all gone, I stayed on in the Bukit Tunggal house and was joined by Gordon Ransome and a man called Henry Stokes who was the Times correspondent in Singapore, and Ah King and family continued to look after us. Stokes as a guest, had the dubious advantage for us of knowing exactly what was going on, and none of it was in the least hopeful. Gordon and I were determined not to be taken prisoner, and so began making preparations to escape when the time came. Gordon kept a small pram dinghy at the Singapore Yacht Club and so we stocked this up with a few tins of food and some water, hoping to be able to sail to Sumatra, and not really giving any thought as to what we should do when we got there. By this time the Japs were in massive strength in Johore, and shelling and bombing Singapore day and night. Finally they landed just where my trenches were, and got a foothold. Later that morning, while Gordon and I were having breakfast, a mortar bomb landed in the garden, and Ah King came in to us, and said that he could not stay any longer, and was taking Amah and the children in to town. He had been marvellous and I gave him all the money I had, and said a sorrowful good-bye. Stokes had left for Australia a day or two earlier, and that morning Gordon got a summons from the Government to report for departure along with other Hospital staff, so I was on my own and wondering what to do, when a call came from our Company Secretary for me to go immediately to a certain dock, taking only what I could carry. I hurriedly packed a few shirts and pants, got in the car and drove to the docks while an air raid was in progress. At the docks I met Fancott, the secretary, and he told me that we were being evacuated by the Navy, in return for some of our staff having demolished the oil refinery equipment and set fire to the oil tanks, and I got the impression that Fancott had driven a hard bargain! I parked the car and handed the keys to a nearby Chinese docker and said that he could have it and we embarked on a small fleet auxiliary, H.M.S. Francol. When on board and cast off, we learnt that it was carrying petrol and explosives which was not very encouraging, but we were so glad to get away on anything that it made no impression on us.


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