Lean-to, Changi Prison (1945)

Lean-toJapanese                   English

Sho-ko                         Officer

Kashi-Kan-Nei        Ordinary Ranks

Go-kei                       Total

‘Instead of slapping us around for having the wrong number in a hut, the guards decided to make us accountable for keeping close watch on our numbers. At one end of each hut, in the doorway, is hung a small noticeboard showing the total number of men in the hut, and on each doorpost is a section of hollow bamboo, one of which has a number of tally sticks. The system is simple. Every man going out takes a tally from one bamboo and puts it into the other, replacing it when he comes back.. Foolproof. The Nip counts the actual bodies, adds the number of ‘out’ tallies and there’s his total.
Well it may be foolproof but it does not cope with some of our thick-headed soldiers. The latrines are near the far end of the hut, and if you’re in a hurry there isn’t time to walk down the hut and back again to put your tally in, and a jolting run to save time can be disastrous for straining bowels. And, of course, some idiots will take a tally out of the wrong holder, or someone will shift a tally while the Nip is actually counting. Nothing is so simple that it cannot be complicated hopelessly.’
Source: One Fourteenth of an Elephant, by Ian Denys Peek, 2005, Pg 436

Extracts from One Fourteenth of an Elephant by Ian Denys Peek reprinted by permission of Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd. Copyright © Ian Denys Peek 2003