For three and a half years the island of Singapore had been a prison and labour camp. One can only imagine the feelings of the POWs at their liberation. Des has painted the whole island as one giant prison, with a white surrender flag and in red writing: ‘Under Entirely New Management’ written on the tower.
On viewing this cartoon, a 94 year old former Changi POW stated that this is recognizably Changi Goal. He could clearly see ‘A’ Block to the left of the clock tower and ‘B’ Block to the right of the clock tower. He was on the third floor of ‘A’ Block.
‘One of the Concert Party comedians, Harry Smith, had a catch phrase, “You’ll never get off the Island”, which became almost the watchword of the prisoners throughout the captivity.’
When the British built the Changi Jail, they modeled it on the infamous ‘Alcatraz Jail’ (The Rock), of San Francisco, some likenesses can be seen in this image between Changi Jail and ‘The Rock’
‘One of the Concert Party comedians, Harry Smith, had a catch phrase, ‘You’ll never get off the Island’, which became almost the watchword of the prisoners throughout the captivity.‘
‘For over sixty years the name Changi has remained synonymous with hardship and cruelty, borne during this horrific chapter in British military history, a name that will not easily be forgotten. It will remain a lasting bitter memory to all those who were unfortunate enough to have been interned in the miserable foulness within its formidable stone walls or in the surrounding camps within its shadows.’
‘Changi was modeled on Alcatraz and was an example of a British goal at its most grim.’
‘As the end of the Pacific War approached, rations to the POW’s were reduced and the work requirement increased. POW’s were made to dig tunnels and fox holes in the hills around Singapore so that the Japanese would have places to hide and fight when the Allies finally reached Singapore. Pay for this work was increased to 30 cents a day – but one coconut cost $30. Many POW’s believed that the Japanese would kill them as the Allies got near to Singapore. This never happened. When Emperor Hirohito told the people of Japan that the war ‘has gone not necessarily to our advantage’, the Japanese soldiers at Changi simply handed over the prison to those who had been the prisoners. To these soldiers, they were simply obeying an Imperial order and were not disgracing their families or country.
When Lord Mountbatten arrived in Singapore, he was joined by RAPWI – ‘Rehabilitation of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees’. The Americans were the first to leave Changi. Those remaining christened RAPWI ‘Retain all Prisoners of War Indefinitely’. When men were repatriated they went to either Sri Lanka or Australia to convalesce.’
“On August 15th 1945 Paddy Matthews stole a radio and heard that the war was over. The Emperor of Japan, overwhelmed by the power of atomic bombs and faced with the prospect of an invasion of Nippon, had unconditionally surrendered.
Three days later even the Japanese themselves admitted that we need no longer work. But the war had not been won; nor lost. It had simply, for the moment, stopped. They ceased to bellow ‘Currah’ and instead bowed politely when we passed. The food which they had recently declared to be non- existent, they now produced in vast quantities so that we might eat our fill. Likewise drugs appeared from everywhere and in profusion.
Then we all assembled, thousands upon thousands of men, until there were 17,000 there in Changi Gaol. British paratroopers arrived and were greeted politely by the Japanese.”
Source: The Naked Island by Russell Braddon; 1955 edition Pan Books Ltd, Pg 282
‘As they boarded ships, the former prisoners took with them diaries, papers, drawings, artworks, photographic negatives, items and mementos – all records of their time in Changi. However small, these were cherished reminders of their survival, of their war.’
Source: Lachlan Grant, ‘Thoughts of Hoe: Liberation & Repatriation’, The AIF Forestry Company’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg. 341