‘The Search’ Changi Gaol (August 1945)

The search

‘The Search’

‘Another yarn arose from the inspection by the I.J.A. for a number of tins of stolen tobacco. The Nippon soldiers must have been very simple souls because in their very thorough search they came upon a promising looking box which contained a concealed radio set. (The words ‘radio set’ were left blank in the typed text and had been added in pencil, in Eric’s writing later.) An annoyed grunt from the investigator was the only remark on seeing this forbidden article. One can only presume that he was so intent on his lost smokes that his mind was unable to register this bigger find.’ Des confirms this by showing the obvious machine gun hidden behind the back while the Japanese guard search belongings.

Source: Down To Bedrock (the diary & secret notes of a Far East prisoner of war Chaplain) by Eric Cordingly, Pg 98, permission by Louis Reynolds, daughter.

‘On October 10th 1943, known in Singapore as the ‘Double Tenth’ – a large force of Kempetei and Japanese troops without warning raided the camp. Every inch of the camp was searched and inevitably the Japanese discovered several indiscreet diaries of war news and camp activities.’

Source: Sinister Twilight: The Fall of Singapore by Noel Barker, pg 270.

‘We always operated the same system for the Japanese searches, that is, I would stand behind Sam, he would be searched, and then we would exchange haversacks. The sergeant seemed to know the rare occasions when the Kempei Tai was about, and would indicate to me, ‘don’t steal anything today, there will be a Kempei Tai search on and if you are caught with anything I’ll probably be shot and you’ll wish you were shot.’ He was always correct and I always had an empty haversack, or at least a haversack with no Japanese property in it, when these searches did take place.’

Source: You’ll Never Get Off The Island by Keith Wilson; 1989, Pg 114

‘We often agreed amongst ourselves that being an ex – Japanese prisoner of war was like being a member of the most exclusive club. Amongst us there has always been a mutual dependence which is understood but never stated. The fact that we knew what each other had lived through was enough. Socially, we recalled humorous incidents, mostly stories that were at the expense of the Japanese; how so and so had outwitted a certain guard or got away with sneaking out of camp to trade at night. Just as it had in captivity, the ritual of humour offered escape. If unpleasant elements of the past were raised they would be discussed in a dispassionate manner, getting whatever it was off our chests and moving on quickly. There was never the need to talk of specific suffering, nor a call to enter into personal exchanges centring on pity or sentiment. That wasn’t our way; we remained crack – hardy men.’

Source: A Doctors War, by Dr Rowley Richards, pg 290, Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.

The man on the left is Lt. Dann, who appears in a number of Des’s works with his characteristic red moustache and unique hat. It appears from our research that he was the camp policeman.

 Lt Dann was born in South London on 10th June 1913, and served with the 118th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.He died in 1993 just before his 80th birthday.

Source: The Bettany Family wish to thank Sabrina Smith (nee Dann),  Lt Dann’s grand daughter for supplying the above information.

The following could be in reference to Lt Dann:
‘We had our fair share of criminals in the camp, petty & otherwise. “Desperate Dan” was a camp identity. He was virtually the CIB squad & had the appearance of a melodrama villain. He was a hard man but did a good job in cleaning up a lot of the crime around the place.”
Source: The Will To Survive pd 163 by Douglas McLaggan.