‘Or Even If They Get Here On Saturday!’ (August 1945)

'Get here Saturday'There were a few radio’s hidden in camp, so Prisoners of War would have known that the end of the war was near. Perhaps Des has depicted and gentleman getting ‘all dressed up and no where to go’ much too early, and being advised by an officer, that he should be better of waiting. And, as if they would have any clothes left after 3.5 years in captivity in the humidity and conditions they were forced to live in.

Note the work is dated August 1945, the month Japan surrendered.

I am sure the POW’s were unsure what the Japanese and Korean guards could do if they were defeated, living in the world of the unknown. It is little wonder that many Ex POW’s become anxious in civilian life at change and dis empowerment (such as in Nursing Homes where you are told when you will eat, when you will bath, when you will be toileted, often resulting in behaviours of concern that could have well been avoided if these people were given the dignity of being able to choose).

‘As the end of the Pacific War approached, rations to the POW’s were reduced and the work requirement increased. POW’s were made to dig tunnels and fox holes in the hills around Singapore so that the Japanese would have places to hide and fight when the Allies finally reached Singapore. Pay for this work was increased to 30 cents a day – but one coconut cost $30. Many POW’s believed that the Japanese would kill them as the Allies got near to Singapore. This never happened. When Emperor Hirohito told the people of Japan that the war ‘has gone not necessarily to our advantage’, the Japanese soldiers at Changi simply handed over the prison to those who had been the prisoners. To these soldiers, they were simply obeying an Imperial order and were not disgracing their families or country.

When Lord Mountbatten arrived in Singapore, he was joined by RAPWI – ‘Rehabilitation of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees’. The Americans were the first to leave Changi. Those remaining christened RAPWI ‘Retain all Prisoners of War Indefinitely’. When men were repatriated they went to either Sri Lanka or Australia to convalesce.’

Source: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/changi_pow_camp.htm

“On August 15th 1945 Paddy Matthews stole a radio and heard that the war was over. The Emperor of Japan, overwhelmed by the power of atomic bombs and faced with the prospect of an invasion of Nippon, had unconditionally surrendered.
Three days later even the Japanese themselves admitted that we need no longer work. But the war had not been won; nor lost. It had simply, for the moment, stopped. They ceased to bellow ‘Currah’ and instead bowed politely when we passed. The food which they had recently declared to be non- existent, they now produced in vast quantities so that we might eat our fill. Likewise drugs appeared from everywhere and in profusion.
Then we all assembled, thousands upon thousands of men, until there were 17,000 there in Changi Gaol. British paratroopers arrived and were greeted politely by the Japanese.”
The Naked Island by Russell Braddon; 1955 edition Pan Books Ltd, Pg 282

‘After days of men watching vacant skies for Allied planes bringing relief, and subsequently feeling deflated, radios broadcast on the evening of 29 August that a food drop would occur over the Changi aerodrome the following day. Around midday the next day a lone four-engine B-24 Liberator from Ceylon flew over the camp and dropped six British soldiers by parachute. They comprised two officers, two medical officers and two medical orderlies. Later that day three more B-24s flew over the camp and began dropping tons of supplies by parachute.

Source: Lachlan Grant, ‘Thoughts of Home: Liberation & Repatriation’, The AIF Forestry Company’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg., 340

‘In order to cope, I believe, most men surrounded themselves in their own personal and protective armour. Mine, as I have already written, was work, an almost obsessive sense of duty; for others it was humour or religious faith; and for nearly all of us, it was the setting of a deadline: ‘home by Christmas’ or ‘home for my wife’s birthday, or some other date of personal significance. In establishing a mental goal to work towards we were focussing on a future life which we could anticipate living and, in the process, attempt to reject the reality of what we were experiencing, deferring our disappointment. Keeping an ‘end point’ in mind, even though deep down we know it was artificial, gave us hope – one of the most powerful weapons in the limited armoury of defence we could own. If we were to not only survive but also remain sane, it was all we could do.

Source: A Doctors War, by Dr Rowley Richards, pg 157, Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.