‘My personal worst moments came when I had to appear before the Japanese Commandant and an assortment of interpreters, to try and explain away, to humourless Japanese officers a book of political cartoons I had drawn. I had lent the book to a careless person who allowed it to fall into the hands of Japanese guards. This was at a time when the war was going badly for Germany and Japan and this was reflected in the cartoons. I was extremely lucky to get away with a whole skin. The Japanese did not approve. I never saw the book again. I am now retired from a life of tertiary art education, and enjoy the benefits of family and eight grandchildren.’
Source: Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Battle for Singapore, Des Bettany, 1991.
Des told those close to him how he lent a sketch book to an interested POW in Changi. Unbeknown to Des, the POW left the area leaving the sketch book on a table. A Japanese guard discovered this and Des was hauled before General Saito (‘the big boss of the prisoners’ as a 94 year old ex POW put it), to explain what these sketches said. These were all political drawings and sketches of the Japanese. Des quickly made some stories up and said he escaped by the skin of his teeth. General Saito stated that if he ever did any more drawings or painting like these, he would give severely punished, as dad put it ‘given short haircut with his samurai sword‘, meaning, he would be beheaded. Des family wonder if this book of sketches survived in Japanese hands or were simply destroyed. This points to just how a prolific artist Des was. These 300 odd images have survived Changi and the war. We know that many were confiscated and also that Des gave away many of his works to fellow prisoners upon being liberated.