‘Christmas Greeting Card And Menu’ at Serangoon Road, P.O.W Camp, Singapore (Dec 1942)

Xmas Menu
Xmas Menu

Theatre programs from concerts held in Prisoner of War camps and menus are of great interest and highlight the courageous efforts which people make to maintain their self esteem, integrity and dignity.’

Source: http://www.awm.gov.au/research/infosheets/pow/japanese/thailand.asp

(Christmas 1942) ‘Our meals throughout the day were most attractive. For the first time we were able to drink coffee with tinned milk, a luxury, and breakfast was made more exciting by some fish fried with chipped potatoes,  followed by a Carol Service completed with services for the day. In the evening we ate a most superior dinner. Ten scraggy cockerels carefully nursed for months provided the ‘plat du jour’, preceded by soup and followed by a fair imitation of plum pudding. It was the right colour and had dates in it. We drank home brewed pineapple cyder, though the word ‘cyder’ makes it sound more potent than it really was, but in the hackneyed words of those local newspaper reports – ‘a good time was had by all’.

Source: Down To Bedrock (the diary & secret notes of a Far East prisoner of war Chaplain) by Eric Cordingly, Pg 93; permission by Louis Reynolds, daughter.

‘In the kitchen the cooks are making heroic efforts to provide Christmas dinner. The meal is amazing but the food is the same. Rice always tastes much like rice, leaves much like leaves, sun – dried fish like sun – dried fish. The titles on the menu – Changi plum pudding with sweet sauce, mixed grill of vegetables with gravy, fish rissoles, tea with sugar – these do not deceive the diners. Yet they are happy and eat with gusto. The meal, the day, the camp; all has been blessed with the indefinable thing – the spirit of Christmas, a product of the human consciousness more potent, more real when divorced from its commercialisation and trappings.

The institution of Christmas cards was one of the most delightful aspects of a change Christmas. They ranged from simple greetings scrawled on an odd piece of paper to elaborate works of art, superior in inspiration and exertion to the majority of Christmas cards on sale in peacetime. The motifs of palms, prisons, Santa Claus and reindeer were the most usual. One showed a naked prisoner nailing his only article of clothing, a worn stocking, to the wall of his cell in Changi Gaol. The caption, ‘Just in case. You never know,’ expressed in a line the undying optimism that characterises the British race when faced with outrageous adversities.’

Source: Unknown Author, ‘Christmas in Prison’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg. 181

‘Some idea of the inadequacy of the cooking utensils supplied by the Japanese can be gained from the fact that the gaol cookhouse, designed to cater for 200, had frequently to feed 6,000 men. This scale can be regarded as the normal one: it meant that hundreds of trays, pails and containers had to be made, all out of the inevitable steel cupboards; that ovens had to be constructed; and that cooking had to be done in never ending shifts. And yet, in spite of all this, the cookhouse managed on Christmas (by dint of months of saving and scraping and magnificent organisation) to produce for the day’s meals 52,000 doovers, 500 gallons of stew, 700 gallons of pap, 2,000 gallons of rice and 3,000 gallons of tea.

Source:  Unknown Author, ‘Food’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg., 265