Changi Gaol & Selerang Barracks Area: ‘Con’ Depot; The YMCA; Wood Trolley (1945)

Changi scenes 4

Changi Gaol & Selerang Barracks Area 1945

The ‘Con’ Depot refers to the Convalescent Depot within Selerang Barracks.

Changi Chariots
There was nothing more intimately associated with life in Changi than the trailer. Save for the bedridden there cannot have been one man, from colonel to private, who has not pulled one of these cumbersome vehicles.
They were constructed by stripping the bodies from abandoned motor cars and trucks and substituting a wooden platform in place of the body. A stout rope or wire hawser was tied to the front axle and wooden poles were attached at regular intervals, each pole giving pulling space for four men; the trailer teams varied between sixteen and forty men (the last drew the massive steel bones of a Marmon – Herrington lorry). ‘Up hill they were immovable and down hell they buffeted the hapless men in the shafts with the malignancy of a Japanese sentry.
The spectacle of heavy trailer fully loaded, preceded by a phalanx of brown and sweat – streaked backs, the rhythmic crunch of eighty feet, and the bored nonchalance of the helmeted guard riding like a potentate on top of the load, is perhaps the most striking memory of Changi. Wherever there was movement, there were trailers. Rations were collected on them as was water and the sick; the dead went to the cemetery on them.
‘Fall in trailer party’ was the call heard a hundred times a day. ‘More men in the traces.’ ‘Swing wide on the bend!’ ‘All together, stick your toes in!’ – exhortations that will never be forgotten.
Trailers took their toll of lives. Skids at high speeds doing downhill runs, capsizes and collisions killed men who had escaped the one hundred and one other menaces of death. Some trips were 6 miles each way, returning with 3 tons of wood. By the end of the day, legs ached, heads were dizzy with exhaustion and eyes were smarting with sweat. ‘All together, wop it into her!’ came the cry again and again.’
Source: Australian Prisoners of War (Pg 251) by Patsy Adam – Smith.