What the??? Freedom at last??? (1945)


‘On 28th August 1945 Liberator bombers flew low over Changi and let fly a stream of small sheets of paper. The war was defiantly over and a surrender had been signed’.

Prisoners of War, at Changi look up in wonder as a symbol of impending Allied victory  flies over the camp in the form of a stylised Boeing B17 bomber. Interestingly, Des has remembered the rare early model with narrow fin and rudder, some of which were used by the RAF in the early years of the war.

‘By 1944 there were already visible signs that the Japanese sun was on the wane, for 30,000 feet overhead would drone the reconnaissance Super-Fortresses of the United States Air Force. Occasionally these great aircraft would come over low, to the intense annoyance of the Japanese and the delight of the prisoners.’

‘The news was seen to be true when planes flew over the camp and there was no response by the anti – aircraft guns. Men raced out from the wards and looked up at a plane which was low, just over the trees, and we could see the Air Force men taking films of the camp with one side of the plane open wide enough for them to do this. Cheers went up from the excited prisoners. There was much shrieking for joy.’

Source: Love is the Spur by Geoffrey Bingham, pg 84, Eyrie Books, 2004.

Boeing B17

‘More commonly known as the ‘Flying Fortress’, this was probably the most famous American bomber of the war. The RAF in 1941 had a few B17s, which in British service were named ‘Fortress’. These were used in bombing raids and surviving aircraft later transferred to Coastal Command. One RAF Fortress Sqdn served in the Far East, and it would seem to be one of these in the painting.’

Source: Lancashire Gunners at War, (pg 128), by Stephen Bull; httpwww.fortsiloso.com thanks to Peter Stubbs and Graham Bettany; http://ukmamsoba.org/changi.htm

“Regular reconnaissance by Allied planes – Superforts which, 30,000 feet up and serenely deliberate in that brilliant sunlit sky, gleamed silver and almost translucent, like fairies. They were very pretty, those reconnaissance planes. The Japanese hated the sight of them. At first when they arrived, their beautifully even purr making itself heard long before they could be see, everyone would down tools – changkols, picks, baskets, sledge hammers and lengths of line – and shout excitedly, ‘here she comes,’ and gaze upwards. But soon the guards came to dislike our cheers and shouts – and if they heard anyone commenting, or saw anyone look up, then they beat him severely.”
Source: The Naked Island by Russell Braddon; 1955 edition Pan Books Ltd, Pg 263

‘We were ordered not to look at Allied aircraft which approached the island. This order was, of course, totally ignored. It was the first sign we had seen of Allied activity for more than two years and we were both enthusiastic and excited and, in any case, no Japanese appeared to want to enforce the order. They preferred generally to remain under the protection of banana bushes and other ‘bomb proof’ shelters.’
‘Aircraft flying overhead dropped six paratroopers. We were told later that these consisted of two colonels who were doctors, two paratroopers, lieutenants, and two paratroopers, privates. They were all British, and had been dropped on the aerodrome at Changi which we had built. General Saito in a staff car flying the yellow pennant which Japanese generals flew on their cars, drove up to the first paratrooper who was getting out of his parachute harness. When the paratrooper walked over to the car, the General saw that he was only a private and indicated to his driver to drive on. The paratrooper opened the car door, told the driver to get out, then the general, he then seized the car and drove around to pick up his five companions.’
Source: You’ll Never Get Off The Island by Keith Wilson; 1989, Pg85, 121

‘The bombers turn away and start to gain altitude rapidly as they recede to the south – west. Suddenly we see another aircraft, circling in the distance, high up, and our bombers home in and make formation on it. It is a huge machine, far bigger than any we have seen, looking like a mother hen with a brood of chicks as they fade out of our sight. Can this be one of those fabled Fortresses, the B29’s which we have had described to us by men of the 18th Division? We remember seeing B17’s on newsreels nearly three years ago, and this new plane, as far as we can tell at long range, appears to be similar.’
Source: One Fourteenth of an Elephant, by Ian Denys Peek, 2005, Pg 425 – 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

‘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