Captain R.M. Horner

Captn R.M. Horner

Ronald Moore (‘Jack’) Horner was a central figure in the camp theatrical productions.

Captain RM Horner (known as Ron, Jack and John Horner), was yet another accomplished actor who took part in quite a number of Theatre Programs.

Some of these included shows such as: ‘Music Through The Years’; ‘All This And Heaven Too’; ‘Tonight At 8.30′;  ‘Twinkletoes’.

To view the 100 programs painted and bought back by Des Bettany, go to ‘Changi Theatre Programs’ on this website. This is where this information has been researched from.

There were a number of P.O.W’s who could look ‘the part’ and bring welcome relief to their fellow POW’s, as well as keeping their own minds occupied, some of whom were professional actors and musicians.

This caricature depicts Captain R.M. (Ronald) Horner, of 292 Supply Company, 18th Division, Royal Army Service Corps. Known colloquially as ‘Jack Horner’ he took part in many of the theatre and musical programs staged by the POWs, and is here depicted in one of his many acting roles. He was well known for his ever-present pipe, and by all accounts loved to sing, as depicted in another caricature where he is shown singing in the bath, with fractured musical notes desperately trying to escape. A third cartoon depicts him in the company of a shaggy dog, a take on his predilection to tell ‘shaggy dog’ stories. Throughout captivity he kept a secret diary which after his death in 2001 was edited by his daughter Sally McQuaid and published by Spellmount Limited as ‘Singapore Diary: the hidden journal of Capt. R.M. Horner’. We highly recommend this book, in which some of Des’s works appear.

Singapore Diary: The Hidden Journal of Captain R.M. Horner

‘Called up in 1940, young Ronnie Horner disembarked in Singapore in January 1942 with the rank of captain. After three weeks of desperate fighting the colony fell and he found himself labouring on the infamous Burmese railway, subsequently returning to Singapore’s Sime Road and Changi gaol. A talented and resourceful young man, Ronnie kept a diary which he concealed in a secret compartment of his valise and this fascinating document has now been transcribed for publication. Like the inmates of so many camps, the POWs kept their spirits up with performances of amateur dramatics, several of them directed by Ronnie. His first production was I Killed the Count, taking his mind off the executions of men who tried to escape. Scenery was provided by the Royal Engineers under the direction of “a sapper called Searle”. The cartoonist Ronald Searle designed many of the stage productions illustrated here and also drew cartoons of POW life, producing birthday and Christmas cards for his fellow internees. With hindsight, one might almost say Two Ronnies were the inspiration behind smash-hit shows such as Cinderella and the Magic Soya Bean. Diphtheria, malaria, cholera and dysentery take their toll and Ronnie H. is worried about his decreasing weight. A pet chameleon called Oscar provides a distraction, food parcels and letters from home are eagerly awaited and the fragrance of Camel cigarettes is enjoyed like a perfume. 222pp, softback, numerous colour illustrations.’