“Going To Work”: From Towner Road POW Camp (1942)

Soon after capture, the Japanese took working parties into Singapore to clear war debris, repair roads, bridges and infrastructure, quarry work and the salvaging of food and other usable war materials.

When one considers the grossly undernourished condition of the men, most of whom weighed less than two-thirds of their normal weight, and the fact that they were working for between ten and twelve hours a day in gruelling heat, it is truly remarkable what they achieved.

This painting depicts what Des could have dreamed of – the luxury of being chauffer driven by kind Japanese soldiers and all looking well fed and happy, while wearing decent boots  – dream on…

In actual fact, when being driven to work parties by truck, the Japanese guards would pull over on the road. All prisoners were then forced to stand in front of several stakes on which impaled severed heads of local citizens were on display, while the guards stood behind them with fixed bayonets.

Yet another innocent enough painting by Des that holds a horrible truth behind it!!

‘On some street corners the medical staff and patients were shocked to see human heads stcuk on ponted posts. They had been put there as a warning to the rest of the local populations not to disobey the Japanese rules of discipline. It was another indication of Japanese brutality.’

Source: Changi Teenage Soldiers by Gerard Sampson, pg234 (an unpublished manuscript / book)

‘In March 1942 the IJA started to take parties of prisoners to Singapore for work on various jobs … on the wharves, building shrines, memorials, and temples … until by September the same year more than 7,000 AIF and many more British were out on those jobs.’

Source: Unknown Author, ‘2nd Echelon’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg., 315