dadthumb                       Charles William Nicholson From Percy Main to Sumatra via France
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 Singapore 1942
singaporemap 1942
As the Japanese army advanced down the Malayan peninsular , the British , Australian and Indian forces were slowly backed into the Singapore Island , a Causeway linking the Island to the Malayan peninsular was blown up and the final stages of the battle began.

Battle of Singapore

 As previously mentioned the  British administration had intended to send reinforcements to Malaya in the event of an invasion. On the 24th October 1941 the ship 'Warwick Castle' left Liverpool carrying the 9th Battalion The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers with Fusilier Charles William Nicholson ,  to join up with other ships to form a convoy of troopships ,The 18th Division , all headed for Halifax Nova scotia , they were met mid Atlantic by American Navel ships to act as escorts. The troops transferred to the 'USS Orizaba' and on the 10th November they sailed , the final destination was to be Basra in the Persian Gulf. The convoy sailed via Port of Spain, Trinidad across the South Atlantic and Docked at Cape Town South Africa on the 9th December . News of the attack on Pearl Harbour and Malay reached the Convoy. Their new destination would now be Singapore.

 The Convoy sailed to Bombay , India via Mombasa and the Northumberland Fusiliers were transferred to the ship 'Felix Roussel'. The convoy sailed from Bombay on the 21st January and Docked at Singapore on the 5th February 1942, a ship 'Empress of Asia' carrying Armored Vehicles was bombed and caught fire the Captain ran the ship aground to save it from sinking and crew and soldiers were evacuated but all the equipment and vehicles were lost , it was a major blow to hopes of repelling the expected Japanese invasion of the Island. On the 3rd of January, 51 Hurricane Mk 2 fighters arrived at Singapore but like their predecessor the Brewster Buffalo they proved no match to the Japanese fighters and losses mounted steadily .

 Reinforcements of a further 48 Hurricanes were based at Palembang , Sumatra , but as there was no early warning system like the one used during the Battle of Britain so many of the Aircraft were simply destroyed on the ground during air raids. Finally the last Air Base on Singapore Island at Kallang became unusable and on the 8th February the last eight Hurricanes were withdrawn to Palembang and no Allied Aircraft were seen again over Singapore , the Japanese now had complete Air Supremacy .

hurricane
Hurricane of 232 Squadron
shot down on 8th Febuary

On the 8th February the first wave of Japanese soldiers numbering 4000 assaulted Sarimburn Beach apposed by the Australian 22nd Brigade. Fierce fighting raged all day but eventually increasing Japanese numbers combined with their superiority in Artillery , Aircraft and Intelligence began to take there toll and the 22nd Brigade began to fall back. On the 9th February and assault by the Japanese Imperial Guard was repulsed by the Australian 27th Brigade but due to an command and control break down the Commander Brigadier Duncan Maxwell aware  that the  22nd Brigade was under increasing pressure and fearing his brigade would be surrounded the 27th Brigade to withdraw from Kranji thus opening up the way for the Imperial Guard Armoured units to cross the straight from Malaya , with footholds firmly established on the Island the Allied forces were steadly forced back to Singapore City.

On the evening of 10 February, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, cabled Wavell, saying:

I think you ought to realise the way we view the situation in Singapore. It was reported to Cabinet by the C.I.G.S. [Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Alan Brooke] that Percival has over 100,000 [sic] men, of whom 33,000 are British and 17,000 Australian. It is doubtful whether the Japanese have as many in the whole Malay Peninsula... In these circumstances the defenders must greatly outnumber Japanese forces who have crossed the straits, and in a well-contested battle they should destroy them. There must at this stage be no thought of saving the troops or sparing the population. The battle must be fought to the bitter end at all costs. The 18th Division has a chance to make its name in history. Commanders and senior officers should die with their troops. The honour of the British Empire and of the British Army is at stake. I rely on you to show no mercy to weakness in any form. With the Russians fighting as they are and the Americans so stubborn at Luzon, the whole reputation of our country and our race is involved. It is expected that every unit will be brought into close contact with the enemy and fight it out .

Wavell subsequently told Percival that the ground forces were to fight on to the end, and that there should not be a general surrender in Singapore.


On the 11th Feb with supplies running low the Japanese Commander Yamashita decided to bluff and called the Allied Commander Percival to "Give up this meaningless and desperate resistance"  . By this stage the fighting strength of the 22nd Brigade was down to few hundred men and the Japanese had captured the Bukit Timah area including most of the Allied ammunition and fuel and with it the control over the water supply.

 On the 13th of Feb with the Allies losing ground  , senior officers advised Percival to surrender in the interest of minimising civilian casualties , Percival refused but unsuccessfully sought authority from Wavell.

That same day, military police executed a convicted British traitor, Captain Patrick Heenan, who had been an Air Liaison Officer with the British Indian Army.

 

 Japanese military intelligence had recruited Heenan before the war, and he had used a radio to assist them in targeting Allied airfields in northern Malaya. He had been arrested on 10 December and court-martialled in January. Heenan was shot at Keppel Harbour, on the south side of Singapore, his body was thrown into the sea.

The following day, the remaining Allied units fought on; civilian casualties mounted as one million people crowded into the area still held by the Allies, bombing and artillery fire increased. Civilian authorities began to fear that the water supply would give out.

 

rnfExtract from my Uncle Charles William Nicholson Memoirs :-

After Christmas I was informed by letter that I had to report to Fenham Barricks, Fenham road Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  To have a Medical Examination.  On Monday the 15th of January at 9am.

           These Barracks were the home of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.  Then arrived the fateful day a miserable, damp, cold Winter day. The worst Winter we had had for years.  After kissing mother goodbye I caught the Electric Train from the Percy Main Railway Station to Newcastle, Fare 9 pence return.  [The same fare now costs 2 pounds return 1993 ] then the Tramcar to the Barracks.  That year 1940, was one of the worst Winters for many years.

           Reporting in to the Guard-house I was informed to join the queue.                When 38 had reported in we were given a number.  Mine was 4275705 then marched to be examined by the Doctors.  I was one of the first in line to see the Doctors.  They  were amazed to see 6 men in a row who had been Vaccinated including myself.  As I was A1 it was then, line up and march to the stores for Uniforms.  By this time it was lunch, so we were marched off to the Messhall for lunch.

           After lunch we were then marched back across the road and into a large wooden hut, we were then allocated a bed.  A single with sheets and a blanket and one cupboard.  Then we were off again back across the road to the Barracks.

           We then went to the Armory store and were issued with a Gasmask.  A 1916, 303 Lee Enfield Rifle  number 9705 and one Bayonet, and Scabbard but no ammunition.  I arrived home again at 6pm all dressed up as a soldier, anyhow I was dressed.  Back to Barracks by 11-30pm, into an Army bed.  Not so comfortable as my own bed or was it just strange.

           6am, what is that noise.  Who could be so stupid as to make music in the middle of the night.  The room door flew open and a loud voice shouted out of bed any sick.  If some were still asleep there bed was tipped over.  I think we were all sick.

          Fancy having to get out of bed in the pitch black.  What a scramble, washed, shaved and dressed, just made it, fall in and answer your names.  All correct Sergeant say’s a voice, who’s he? we wouldn’t have long to wait to find out.  Line up in three’s.  We then marched across the road into the Barracks Mess Hall.

           After brealfast a big voice right “A” Company fall in outside.  Is that us ? yes, well wait for me. Marched back to our hut across the road.  Please Sergeant I have left my knife fork and spoon behind.  Well you had better go back for them quick smart.  Arriving back out of breath.  Did you get them? i said! no, but I found somebody else’s.  He said! it doesn’t take long for some people to learn.

           Then he dropped a bombshell, anything you lose, you will have to pay for them out of your own money what money.  We were paid 2 shillings a day or 14 shillings a week and out of that my mother’s allowance of 7 shillings.  Out of my 7 shillings I had to buy Cigarettes, Blanco powder, Boot Polish, and Toothpaste, shaving soap and razor blades.  I was left with nothing.

           I couldn`t go home and that was only 7 miles away.  When I did have 9 pence for the bus fare I went home and I decided to use my bicycle.  Arriving back at the Barracks at 10 pm on my bicycle no one objected.  So I could go home every time I was free.  Down the Coast road following behind a double decker buss.  We went on Route Marches, three or 4 times a week, with full packs.

           We were always singing, Roll Out the Barrol.  These Marches started off at 6 miles and got longer each time we went out.  The Snow was very thick, and we went to the rifle  range at least once a week and lay in wet Snow.  Not to fire our rifles but just practice using them.  Then of course square bashing every day, in collumns of three quick march, about turn, halt, and so on.  

           After 3 weeks we were standing in line in our hut.  I passed out, when I awoke I was in Hospital.  I had Bronchitus.  After a week in Hospital  I was sent back to Fenham Barracks.  Then came the big day.  We went to the Rifle range for target practice.  We had to lie in the prone position on the ground in thick snow.

           At 300 yards we had 5 rounds of live ammunition.  I scored 5 Bulls, but some one split on me as I had used a sandbag to rest my Rifle on.  We had leave most week-ends, and we had to be back by 10-30pm..                        But if you where wise you would arrive back sooner, if you came in after 10-30pm and no lights on a lot of strange things could happen and did,  For instance, you had to get undressed in the dark, then when you got into bed you could scrape your legs on a Rifle.

           Or when you went to your cupboard, Helmits or other things would fall on your head.  There was always someone playing pranks.  Two favorites were,to put the table top in place of the Matress.

           The other one was a french sheet, the sheet was placed on the bed halfed, so when you got into bed yours knees were up to your chin.  One of them did, so he just pushed his feet through the sheet.  Next morning when he got up it looked like a large nappie.  After 3 months of training, we were ordered to pack, as we were moving across the road to the Barracks.

           When the Sergeant shouted every one ready.  There were cries of not yet.  The pranksters were at work again, some had lost there Kit bags they were found hanging out the windows.  We had slap up feeds better than some we got at home.  My favorite was Egg and Chips.  My mate Jarrett who came from down South.

           He later came to a sad end more later.  He was promoted to U/L/C this was unpaid, some said it was unwanted or useless.  After he sewed his stripe on his sleeve, I said where are we going tonight, he said I cannot come out with you as, L/C`s can`t go out with Fusiliers.  2-weeks after I was Promoted to U/L/C.  He then wanted to go out with me, but I told him, I would rather go out with the Fusiliers.

           In the Barracks we had a large room with 20 beds.  These were iron and they folded in half, by pushing the bottom half into the top half, they also could be taken apart.  One day we arrived back after a meal, to find all the beds except one piled in the middle of the floor.  The one that did it was too stupid to put his own there too.

           Twice a week his bed was pulled to pieces.  We did not have any more trouble after that.  One day I was orderd to report to the office and found I was made Orderly Corporal.  By the afternoon I was about worn out running here and there at the R.S.M`s call.  He said to me you look hot and bothered.  So I told him about having to run around as much, he then said have you not heard of deligation.  After that I used to grab the first one I saw then I could sit back and take it easy.  Later I was placed in charge of 20 imatures, they had been band boys or were born in the Army, and so were placed as young soldiers.  Sometimes they were terrors but not to me.  I was the only one they would take orders from.

           We had a room to ourselves.  One day I was called away for about 20 minutes, when I got back they had baled up this L/C, and had a Bayonet at his throat.  I stopped them and told the L/C not to come back anymore.  I had a kit inspection one day, and one of the boys had 2 rifles, and nearly 2 of everything else.  So I had to put him on a charge he lost 7 days pay and 7 days C.B. and all the extras he had taken from others.

One day I had to learn a chap to march properly.  He used to swing his left arm with his left leg, and his right arm with his right leg.  After three or four hours he managed to get it right.

          Articles were never lost they were only passed around. They were a lot of live wires, ages ranging from 15 to 18yrs.  There was never anything stolen just borrowed.  After Dunkirk, 90 of us were sent to Launceston in Cornwall.  To make up the number of dead or missing, from the 9th Battalion, which had escaped from Dunkirk.

           A Territorial Unit  nick named the fireside Army.  There barracks had been Alnwick Castle.  The Home Of Lord Percy.  Packing our kit I found someone had pinched my Bayonet, so I went to the nearest room and helped myself to one.  We got on the train from Newcastle to London.  In those days it was a whole day traveling.

           I had been with school trips as far as Edinburgh, and Scarborough. London sounded like the other side of the world.  When we got to Kings Cross it was pandimonium.  Most of us had never seen Esculators and they were going up and down and annoying the civillians, so the M,P.  said we had to stop to going up and down.

           Can you imagine 90 soldiers in full kit and kit bags, and Rifles, trying to get on the Underground train?.  The civilians were glad to see the last of us.  We arrived at  Waterloo for the train to Launceston in Cornwall.  When we got to the campsite it was a sight.  Half naked men hanging on trees.  As we had been trained like Guardsmen, it was a shock to hear them calling each other by there first names even the Officers.

           The R.S.M. was John Ahearn.  He was born in Percy Main the same village as myself.  After a short time we moved to Norfolk, our Platoon was stationed at Wells.  We then moved  to Stifkey next stop to Blakeney here I was asked to dinner by an elderly couple while I was in church.  He said I have a boat down on the river and you can use it any time you like.  So my mate and I used to go rowing down the river.

           He had a large shed in the back garden with rows of shelves.  All  filled with Sweet William pears and we could help ourselves to as many as we liked.  Then off to Cromer then to Winterton-on -Sea, these places were all on the coast, as we were Machine Gunner`s we had Gun Emplacements on the Beach.

           The dugouts were equipped with a Telephone and were connected to the other 3 dugouts our Headquarters and the Suffolk Regiment.  Which had the next stretch of beach south of us.  At this time they were expecting an Invasion by the Germans.  We had a pathway to walk through the Minefields, which surrounded the dugouts.  As all the coast was mined.

           As I was in charge I used to take first watch until 11-30pm, then I handed the Pocket Watch to the next two who came on gaurd.  I then gave them instructions, to wake the next two and hand over the Watch.  then I went to bed and slept all night to be awakened if any thing happened.        

           Anything could happen especially, if daft Willy Elliot was on gaurd, One night I was awakend by Willy and he said look at all the Aeroplanes, they were only clouds passing very quickly with the Moon shining.  Another time early one morning I came out of  the dugout and Willy was throwing something away from the dugout.  I asked him what he was doing, he said I am trying to hit that mine over there.

           I had no option but to put him on a charge.  I went on a truck with him to Yarmouth, where our Headquaters were.  He was marched in to Captain John Thornhill and was charged 7 days Royal Warrant and confined to Barracks for 7days.  he came out the room and the Sergent Major said to Willy let me see your rifle, he was then marched back in again and received the same punishment for having a dirty rifle.

           But Willy daft or not always had the girls flocking around him.  We all wished we had been daft too.  We used to try to get spare ammunition, for use when we left the Dugout.  As the coast was mined we had to travel the long way around by truck.  On the way back in the morning I used to stop the truck.  I would shout everybody off the truck.  Line up, Load aim Fire, we sometimes saw feathers flying, but never went to see what they were.

           One day after this happened, we got around the corner and striding along was Donald Duck, he was a 2nd Lieutenant and we thought he was stupid, his name was Donald Carstairs.  We stopped and he said, good morning Nicholson.  Then I said where are you off to.  He said, I am going into that field to see if I can get a Rabbit.  He climbed the fence and walked up the hill, we watched him and he fired and went tumbling down the hill.  Later I asked him what had happened he said silly me, I fired both barrels at once. This was the sort of Officers we where saddled with.

           One morning I was awakened by the last guard and he said its time to go, but the replacement had not arrived, so we got on the truck and set off.  Then I realized that it was darker than usual so I turned the truck and went back and I asked who had put the watch forward.  They had all been putting on 10 minutes or so.  One day we exchanged dugouts and I was south of the village next to the Suffolks.

            One night I was standing with the gaurds waiting for the time for me to go to bed, when I saw Donald creeping around the small hill we were on.  I took the rifle off a guard and shouted who goes there, and he was shouting its me, its me, I said advance and be recognized it was dark.  I had the rifle at his throat then I said oh its you,  I’m sure his knees were knocking.

            Next day I was talking to a Sergeant from the Suffolks, and he said he nearly had to hold poor Donalds hand, to show him where our dugout was.  Some nights, we would all be on the Telephone talking to each other and a Suffolk Signaler as well,even Donald joined in when he found out what was going on.

            One day I said to Straughan, I’ll drive the truck to the office, well we took off in first gear and zoomed through the gate, missing the posts, around the corner and sqealed to a stop at the office.  I did not tell him I had never driven a truck before, but I never had the chance again.  We had a terrible Cook,name of Wishart and he always put out tinned sardines on the table every day, but no one would eat them.  So one day i got the men out into the backyard, and armed one with the brush, I then gashed each tin then threw it at the brush and it was hit over the high wall.  I was on the last tin when Donald walked in and asked, what were we doing.  I said; we are getting rid of this rubbish, and I showed him the tin he never said a word.

            I said; to him the farmer went out this morning with the swill and he was smiling, do you know why he was smiling I asked Donald.  He said; no.  I then told him that the Farmer went off with our meals and left the swill behind.  I met a Mr and Mrs Smith, they lived in 7,Backlane, I was invited to dinner and this became a regular thing. I was always lucky enough to find a table somewhere.

            After a while at Winterton we then moved to Sheringham.  Then down the coast to Cromer there we were billeted in a Hotel on the Sea front.  One morning a German Bomber came over and he dropped a Bomb on the Cafe about a 100 yards down the street.  Some of the lads were firing a Bren Gun from the windowsill in the next room.  I was fast asleep, and did not hear anything. 

            Twice I was sent to Coltishall for different courses.  We were off again this time to Bacton-on sea.  Then off to Holt, were I was due for a weeks leave.  The Captains Driver and a Clerk were to go on leave the same time as me.  The time to leave was 4pm, at 2pm they were both off for the train, so I immediatly went to the Office and asked for my Pass.  He refused at first, but when I told him about the other two going off sooner than allowed, he gave me my Pass.  We caught the same train,which was a slow one all the way around the coast to Peterborough.

            We changed trains there for Newcastle. We had to report back to Selkirk in Scotland. On the way up to Newcastle I told them that the Battalion was not due for two days until after we reported back.  I said that I would have two extra days.  They also decided to do the same. After my leave was finished I left Newcastle by train for Carlisle.  Then had to change for Selkirk.

            When I climbed into the carriage there was one Soldier and he said where are you going to.  Selkirk said I.  Then I said you are a Signaler in the Suffolks.  He said how would you know that, I told him I recognized his voice he said you are right it was me.  He was one of the many we used to speak to at the Dugouts.  When we arrived at Selkirk we traveled by lorry to the Duke of Bacclues Mansion at Bow Hill.  After we arrived we were immediately placed under arrest in the Guard room.

            My information was not reliable, I then told the Sergeant that, if I was not released in ten minutes he would be in trouble.  I was a Lance Corporal and had to be under close arrest and to have an escort of the same rank.  He was back quick smart and I was released into the charge of Corporal Thompson.  As he had to go where ever I went I made his life a misery, as I kept going in and out and he didn’t have a minute’s peace.  He said that if ever he was arrested he would ask for me as his escort.

            On the Monday morning I was marched before the C/C Captain Thornhill on a charge of being absent without leave, I said my Mother was a Widow and was very sick and I had to arrange things so she could be looked after.  I got off with a reprimand, but the other two got 7 days but they always blamed me.  It was not my fault as they made their own decisions I did not force them to follow me.

            We were 6 to a room and our room was the Servants quarters, with the Bells above the door for service to the different rooms, and our beds were 3 boards and a staw filled pallias.  We were awakened every morning at 6am and we had to be dressed in shorts vests and sandshoes ready for P.T. we ran along the road to the bottom of a very large mountain or so it seemed.

            We then had to run up to the top then run down again lucky for us there were tree’s to help stop us from going to fast.  I found another house to get my feet under the table and so had some where to go when I wanted a good meal.  We were on the move again this time by road in our 15 cwt trucks.  As I was L/C number one Machine Gunner I always traveled in the front seat which was more comfortable than being in the back with the rest of the kit.

            We left Selkirk via Carlisle, then Warrington, Liverpool through the tunnel to Birkenhead.  Then across the Wirrel to Parkgate which is on the River Dee.  I was in Z company and we were stationed in a small Mansion with large grounds.  P.T.  every day was running along the Promenade.  We went as far as Ness then Little Ness and back to our Mansion.  One day I was leading and I was jumping between signs of Parking and no Parking painted on the road.  I jumped too far and fell and I had a very bruised ankle.  I was sent to a Hospital in Birkenhead for a week.

            After two days I was allowed out with a walking stick, the civilian’s would let me be first in the queue a poor wounded soldier.  In May 1941 Liverpool was bombed for 8 days without stop.  If I was out I had to be back by 8 o’clock, then if I got to sleep before 9pm then no amount of Bombing could wake me.

           On the Wednesday of that week.  I was in charge of the night patrol and as usual Gerry arrived at 9pm over Liverpool on their raid.  About six of us including 2nd Lieutenant Addey were standing outside watching, and one plane came along the Dee it was on fire.

           So I said to Second Lieutenant Addy we should send out Patrols, as the Crew would have jumped he did not think much of my suggestion. So I asked my mate Corporal Tommy Thompson to take his Squad out on Patrol.  He arrived back 10 minutes after with the German Pilot,who had landed on the river Dee.  He had come through the mud to the Esplanade.

           He gave himself up to an Air-raid Warden who was standing on the corner.  He handed him over to Tommy Thompson this was the first German we saw and the last.  We took him into the office and there were 3 men with fixed Bayonets standing pointing at him.  I told him to empty his pockets he only had a handkerchief and a small tin, which when I opened it had some coins and a sheet of paper.

           This was a typewritten form with the headings in German and the answers in English.  Lt Addy then started to ask him questions.  Where had he come from.  The German stood up clicked his heels and said I am a German Officer and I cannot tell you.  Addy then went into to the office across the hall.  I followed him and I said what are you looking for and he said the King’s Rules and Regulations.  So I can find out what I can ask him. This was my first and last German that I ever saw during the War. The C/O.arrived and telephoned for the Police.  They came,and took him off to Jail.

           As usual I had my feet under two other tables.  One at Mr and Mrs.Murray of 8,Mostyn gardens, Parkgate and the other was Mr and Mrs Hargraves. Of Ness.

           I met these two elderly people at the church in Ness. All the people, who invited me to meals were very kind.  I think this was part of there service to helping in the War effort.  One day we had the Battalion Sports Day at the billets.  The field we used for the Sports was like a rough paddock.  I entered for the 400 yards and the Mile.  The starting pistol was a 303 Lee-Enfield Rifle firing blanks.

             I won the 400 yards in 58 seconds.  As I lay on the grass trying to regain my breath they announced that the mile would be starting in 3 minutes.  I went to the starting line and off we went I was lying 4th.  Off I went on the last lap and won the mile from Willy Walker who was the champion.  Lieutenant John Webb was the starter and he placed a blank carteridge in the rifle, pointed it at a empty carton and it blew it to pieces.

           One of the lads got hold of a blank, puts it in his rifle and fired at his mates behind which was peppered with pellets.  After the Races we went on Manoeuvers, into North Wales at Bangor also to Troius-Fyniod, I had to teach 2nd Lieutenant Webb how to use a Director to line up the 4 Machine Guns. So I gave him instructions what to do and let him get on with it.

           He said to me right I am finished, I said yes well look at the Guns, they were all pointing to our own lines, he had forgot to zero the director and was 180 degrees out.  One night we were allowed out and we went on the Lorry to Fynoid.  4 men had there elbows on the side of the lorry and going around a corner, the driver got to near to the kirb and the 4 chaps had there elbows cracked on a Telegraph Pole.

            We also,went on Traffic Duty to Shrewsbery, which was an all night drive.  Not long after we started my driver Doug Greg said I am tired so he was having forty winks while I drove with my right hand.

 Rumours were flying around that we would soon be leaving for overseas, we were fitted out with Tropical kit and they said it was Beruit or Basra.  0n October the 27th, we left Parkgate by Lorry, through the Mersey Tunnel to the Docks at Liverpool..  We Embarked on the P&O.Liner Warwick Castle which was a large liner and used to run to South Africa.  The swimming pool was on the bottom deck but we could not go swimming as the pool was empty.

             Then we left the Mersey River,and joined another half a dozen ships and sailed up to the coast of Scotland, off the Clyde where we joined the other half of the Convoy.  We had 4 Destroyers as an escourt.There may have been other escourt ships but I never saw them.  Quite a lot were seasick, I with some others were okay so we had plenty to eat as the others did not want to eat.

             We sailed to within the sight of Greenland, half way to Canada, we were met by the Americans.  They took over from the Royal Navy, and they had 1 Aircraft Carrier with planes flying overhead,  1 Crusier and 6 Destroyers.  At this time they were not in the War.  So we were escourted the rest of the way.{read James Branchleys book  Towards the Setting Sun,} he was in the same Convoy, and he said! that we also had the Royal Navy Calypso, but I never saw it.  We went through a Channel with mountains on either side, covered with Fir trees, into Halifax Nova Scotia.

              After collecting our gear we disembarked, and walked along the dockside and we were told to go onto the American ship U.S.S.Orizarba.  But there was a stoppage, the first lot on didn’t like it so they where trying to get off again.  A Yanky Officer who was standing at the bottom of the gang plank, was threatining them with a Revolver.

           Also in this Convoy were the U.S.S. Mt Vernon, Wakefield, Westpoint, Leonard Wood, Joseph Dickman, and the Orizarba

There were also 2 Aircraft Carrierers, 2 heavy Crusiers and 9 Destroyers, but I never saw any of them except an Oil Tanker.  Eventualy we all got aboard and were taking down to the hold and there were tiers of bunks three high.  This ship had been sunk and was Salvaged and refurbished, it was an all welded ship.  Half the Sailors had never been to sea,and a lot of the sailors were seasick, it was only its second trip.

           No shortness of food, best meals some of us had in all our life.  We used to line up for our meals, sliding our tray, which had different size compartments, along a rail in front of the cooks,  If it was chicken each one received one half of the chicken and big scoops of vegies, and sweets were usualy icecream.  The milk loaves of bread were baked on board, and as many slices that you wanted.

            Until our Colonel put a stop to it, one slice per man, and that was all we would get in the future.  So we used to stand on a ladder near the bakery and when they went past with the loaves on a bread tray, we helped ourselves.  My mate Ted Chestney he was from South Shields, and I volunteered for a painters job, this was great going around painting grey all over the ship.

               Until the yankie sailors found out we were not getting the same pay.  They demanded that we were payed the same or we had to stop painting.  Of course there wasn’t any chance of us being payed more so we lost our job.  One of the sailor’s that we worked with told us this story. After the ship was in use again, the first voyage was to Iceland,with a company of Marines.

               They had a four inch gun on the after deck above the Hospital, on there way to Iceland, they fired the gun and it blew all the doors off there hinges.  There was many an argument between the Yanks and the Limeys as we were called, some ended in Boxing Matches on deck.  On pay days we received $4 for one pound, and Cigarettes were 6 cents a carton.  The ship could only travel 7 days,then they had to refuel.

             There was an Oil Tanker with the convoy and it was quite a feat to refuel us, as the tanker had to come along side, then they threw a heaving line over.  They then dragged the oil pipe over, at the same time they rigged a boson’s chair for one of the officers to cross.  The convoy also included the Queen Mary. On we went down the coast to Trinidad,

Where we had to call in for to refuel along side the wharf, about 3 miles acros this natural harbour.  But no shore leave.  After leaving there,we went further south down the South American coast until we turned due east for Cape Town. Three days from Cape Town, the 7th of december 1941 the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour then the Americans were in the War.  Some of the sailors were nearly crying, and most of them had been seasick for days, as they had never been to sea.  We arrived at Cape Town Harbour on a Wednesday.  Next morning we docked and that morning we were giving shore leave.

            There were many cars there, picking up soldiers, to take them to the city and to their houses, also taking them to visit various places.  Ted and I were late getting away, and there were no cars left, so we walked up to the City, and in Long street, a car pulled up and asked us to jump in, which we did and they took us to their home.  Funny thing is I can not remember their name, but he was the Manager in the Cape Taxi Company.

            His son was Head Lad for Armstrong at the Cape Racecourse, the Daughter had a little Daughter and she was Divorced from an Africana.             They arranged to Pick us up the next day and took us touring around Cape Town.  We went to the Suburb of Musingburgh.  The South Africans called it Jewsinburgh.  And we visited a Dutch Cottage.  Also saw Spotty the Dog,a large shop the door between his front legs.

            We were invited to the Races on Saturday, but to our dismay, the ship pulled out to the Harbour on Friday night, so we couldn’t even say thanks or goodbye.  Ted and i did have our photos taken with a race horse.and also one with the family.  Off we sailed on the Saturday morning up the coast past Mozambqe then to Kenya to the port of Mombassa.

           We were escorted into the Harbour by H.M.S Emerald.  On Wednesday which was the 24th of December,we were allowed shore leave so we decide to go to Town, walking along the wharf we had to pass the Emerald, a Sailor on the top deck shouted hi Nick, how are you, I looked to see who was shouting, I said,who are you, he shouted back i’m Dockra, he lived at East Howdon and we were in the same class at school.

           As I had not seen him for 6 years, I did not recognise him.  Four of us took a Taxi for 3 pence each.  And what a hair razing ride that was.           With his finger on the horn and his foot flat to the floor, off we went, there were wrecks all along the road, no wonder.  Ted and I had 2 shillings each, we got a Ham Sandwich, which was a small loave cut in half and a very thick slice of ham, cost 1 shilling  Then we went to the Fruit Market bought a large straw hat, and had it filled with a variety of fruit.

            We now had sixpence left between us.  So we hailed an old man pulling a Rickshaw, it was more like a cart on two 4 foot wooden wheels.  We asked him how much to the docks, he said 6 pence each, so we haggled told him it was down hill and offered him 6 pence and two cigarettes.  He accepted this offer, so we climbed aboard and off we went. As he was so old I don’t know how he kept his feet on the ground, as we were flying down the hill to the Docks.

           The next day was Xmas day and for our Dinner we had Turkey and Plum Pudding with Ice cream, and it was stinking hot, even though we had our Tropical kit on.  We were there 5 days as we had to have repairs.  The next ship tied up beside us was a Hospital Ship, and one of our lads,called Johny Hogg from Cullercoats, found his brother on the ship going back to England.

            On the 27th we were off again this time bound for India, it was very nice crossing the Indian Ocean, and so we arrived at Bombay.  After disembarking, we were told to climb onto the lorries, which took us through Bombay.  We went to the Railway Station, this station was built when the English had India, and is still the same now, where we boarded a passenger train, it had wooden slatted seats, along the sides of the carraige and the Toilet was a slab of concrete with 2 footprints and a hole.

           When we set off there were literally 100’s of children, shouting Bakshees, as they ran along the side of the train.  We started to climb towards the distant hills, and we eventualy arrived at Dulali.  After leaving the train, we had to march to the Camp,about 3 miles away.  The Camp was rows of wooden huts with verandahs.  After we sorted our selves out and found a bed, it was very quiet and peaceful, that you could hardly realize that there was a war on, and that people were being killed every minute.

            Next morning we were awakened by a loud voice, shouting Char Walla, so we had tea in bed.  The next one was the Barber, and we all got shaved as we lay in bed, the cost was about 2 pence for each one. We went across the square for our breakfast, and as we walked back with it, there were dozens of Kites flying around, and we soon learned that if you did not cover your plate then you lost the lot.

             The Kites were small but very swift.  We tried to deceive them, by throwing small stones in the air, the young ones would catch them then drop them very quickly, but the older Birds took no notice of them.  At the end of each row there was a bucket which was used at night as a toilet, and was emptied every morning by Indian labourers.

           At night we would go to the Naffie and there were Indian waiters, who took your order and brought it back to the table.  The Camp was run by regulars, and I suppose they had their war there,  I could have stayed there with them until the end of the war if the Army had let me.  After settling in we were off on Route Marches, around 12 to 15 miles every day.

           The first day when we stopped for a break, Captain McCreath came along the line, he stopped and said to me are you sick, ( I thought yes of the Army ) I said, no sir, he then said!, why are you not sweating, like everybody else.  Everyone was soaked but I was bone dry, and yet I was not sick.

          When we arrived back at the camp our boots were very dusty, so we took them off on the veranda and threw them at the boot boy, who would polish them up and then return them, notice we called them boys but some were nearer 60.  This was all done for one Rupee, about 1/6 per week to each one.

          We would go for a shower, the water was from high up in the moutains, and it was freezing, in fact it was that cold that you had to splash yourself, instead of standing under it.  One night we went into Dulalee to the Bazzar.  All the shops were open without doors or windows, and most of them had benches, that you could sit on and haggle the prices.

           I was at the Silver-Smith’s and asked him to make me two rings, out of a 2 shilling piece, he would not make them with English money as it was too hard, however he made me two with a South African 2 bob.  I bought some silk shawles and one or two odds and ends.  When we arrived back at the camp I made up a parcel and posted it to my Mother in England.

           The parcel traveled on the Felix Rouselle with us but my mother never received the parcel.  After two weeks of enjoyment, except for the route marches, we were told that we would be leaving, at 7am next morning.  So we had to start packing, after breakfast off we went again for the train.  Back to Bombay. Off the train and onto lorries for the trip to the docks. When we arrived we were told to board the ship,which was a Free French Ship, named the Felix Rouselle.

           Arriving on board we found our berth which was a hammock each.  After leaving Bombay, and going south in the Indian Ocean. It was very hot, so a few of us slept on the deck, in front of the first funnel.  The 53rd Brigade had left before us,and was immedatley sent into action on arriving in Singapore.  The toilets were on the Forecastle, and they were the usual footprints on the floor.

           We had P.T. then drill and some times housie ( Bingo,) after that we were free, mostly to sleep.  One day four of us said! what if we became prisoners and were not allowed to speak, so one of them said! we will learn morse code by winking our eye and for hours we would stand there winking at each other. 

 

 We went through the Sunda straits, which seperates Sumatra fron Java.  As we went through the Banka Straits we were bombed by 27 high bombers no one hit or hurt, all near misses.

          As we neared Singapore they came at us again.  The Empress of Asia was badly hit and burning, this Ship had all our transport on board.  The rumour was that the Liverpool Irish Stokers went on strike and some soldiers had to stoke the fires in there place.

           { This is what we were told }.  As we neared Singapore we had all the Vicker’s Machine Guns, and Bren Guns strapped to the rails.  I was on the Monkey Bridge, this was the highest Deck on the ship, and all it had was a wooden cabin,  about 4 feet square without windows or door, there was a thin tarpaurlon on the rails, and we crouched down behind this, when they dive bombed, you could have poked your finger through it.

            I was directing others who had Bren Guns on to various targets.  A Bomb hit us right between the two funnels, and lucky enough only two were killed.  I had my webbing lying on a water barrel, a peice of shrapnel cut it into pieces then it dropped into the barrel, this battle was just before we reached Singapore.  We arrived into Keppel Harbour, no Pilot or Tugs and we only felt the slightest of bumps against the quay side and this was all in the darkness.

            Another fellow and I were told to pick up all the empty cartridges which we placed in a large tin bath.  We carried it ashore.  At the bottom of the gangway, an Aussie voice said, heres a bottle of beer for you, and he threw it on top of the bath.  We found out that we only had 4 planes left.  I had only my belt and Revolver and 5 rounds of amunnition, I think I must have looked like a Cowboy, not a Soldier.

            I told Captain McCreath about my webbing, and he said you were very lucky that you were not inside it.  The Army had to commandeer all civillian lorries, as we had no Transport of our own.  We set off on this Lorrie heading towards the golf course.  Where we were stopped by an M.P, and turned back.  We were heading for the Jap lines.  We were on the wrong road to the Gum Plantation.

            We stayed  one day.  We had been payed ten Malayan dollars, and we were all buying tins of Pineapple peices.  We then set off for the Navel Base, shots were fired at us, from a clump of trees, and in one second everybody was off the lorrie and flat on the ground, or in a ditch.  We eventualy arrived at the Navel Base, and were shown to our dugout, and we set up our Vickers Machine Gun.  We were told not to move around, as the Japs had never spotted the dugout.

           That night we heard an exsplosion, the last of the retreating troops had passed and the Engineers blew a hole in the Causeway. and then finished it off with barbed wire.  But they didn’t do a very good job.  Next morning we were looking across the Sraits of Jahore,and watching the Japs walking around, and Lorries going to and fro, but we were not allowed to fire on them.  We sat all day watching them,

           The next night we could hear the Japs hammering timber into the hole on the causeway.  Lt,General Percival said that the attack by the Japs would be in the North East.  So he posted the 18th Division on the North East.  The Japs then landed on the North West part of the Island.  Which was defended by the Australins 8th Division.,  Commanded by Lt,General Gordon Bennett and he disagreed with Percival, and he was right, as he { Percival } had said the attack would be in the North East.

           He also stated that we were very thin on the ground.  Next morning we were told to pack up and retire from the Navel base.  We then had to march from the Navel Base, down the Bukit Timah Road, which was the main road from the city to the causeway.  We hadn’t any trucks, and had to march.  As the number one Machine Gunner I had to carry the Tripod which weighed 50 Lbs the number 2 had to carry the gun which weighed about the same, as it was also filled with water.

           We eventualy arrived somewhere on the Bukit Tima road, by this time we were tired.  We were lying in line across the grass in the middle of the road.  I was on the outside above an open drain, I fell asleep when the fellow next to me pushed me to awaken me.  But he pushed to hard and I ended in the drain in about a foot and a half of water, this woke me up quick smart.

           Trucks arrived and we were taken to Thompsons Village.  The Japs had a small Plane which was used for spotting and he flew over the Village and was dropping Hand Grenades down on us.  So we left there and were taken to a Chinese Cemetary.  Ted and I were on Guard it was pitch black and plenty of Fireflies which looked like Torches in the dark.  We were both sitting on this Grave, they were of cement about 2foot high, when a hand was put on both our sholders, we nearly died with fright.  it was a Gurkha, out on the prowl.

           They used to go out at night cutting the throats of the Japs with there Kriss.  We talked for a while then suddenly realised that he was not there.  We were relieved and went to our separate holes in the ground.  Next morning they shelled us with Mortar Bombs and we got our first casualities.  A bomb hit the edge of a trench and the nearest one, a chap called Les Alexander was killed. 

           The next one was my mate Ted he had a peice of shrapnel in the left side of his temple and the third one Charlie Carr, was pitted in the face with dirt, as he was running past my trench.  I shouted Charlie, jump in here.  He was screaming the Bastards have got me and he kept on running until some one grabbed him and hauled him into a trench.  After a few more bombs they ceased firing, so we were able to get the injured off to Hospital.

           When Ted arrived back from the Hospital, he told me the story, of how he didn’t feel anything.  They had found a bottle of Whiskey and they got sozzled so they didn’t feel anything at the time.  During the ten days  that we fought, I can not remember if we had any meals.  I know we did not get much sleep.  We then marched from the Chinese cemetery to Bukit TImah road, to  the  Ford Factory where the Cease Fire was signed, and a Bottle Makers Factory.

           After that we marched to a street named Mount Pleasant a small hill just outside the city.  Rumours going around, that some Australian Soldiers were .A W.O.L. in Singapore, and acording to Lt..Gen.G.Bennett this was right .

 

            Adirect quote from by Maj JWC Wyatt AIF Regarding Australian Soldiers going AWOL

"There were a few Australians and a good many British wandering about Singapore at one stage. It was not the fault of any of them as they had been cut off in the fighting and simply could not find their units; so they made their way back to Singapore where they should have been returned to their units.

There is an army system of collecting posts for this very purpose and if such arrangements had been made, as they should have been, the problem would not have arisen.  Whoever was responsible at Malayan Command had simply not done his job. Colonel “Billy’ Kent-Hughes soon got them going for the AIF.

My opposite number at Malayan Command was Major David Duke of the Royal Scots Regiment. “Chang” as we called him, was an old friend from the Command and Staff College at Quetta and he rang me one day to say that there were a large number of Australian Troops loose in Singapore, and would I do something about it.

 

I knew that this was not true and I also knew that British troops had broken into our ordnance stores and fitted themselves out in new clothing, particularly our Digger hats. So I said “Chang what’s the colour of their boots?” He had to inquire and rang me back a little later to apologise, because their boots were black and he knew as well as I did that our were brown.

 

A more important illustration, since it concerns the matter of bravery, can be found in the fact that two Australian Battalions held up a whole Division of Japanese Guards at Parit Sulong for over a week after a complete Indian Brigade had collapsed. Malayan Command were to send units to support the AIF troops, but nothing eventuated and no reinforcements arrived. The Australian units were decimated and one battalion was practically wiped out; but they saved the whole of Westforce from being cut off and completely foiled the Japanese plan to do so.

 

The award of a Victoria Gross in the field to Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson leading the fight is tribute enough to the gallantry displayed by these men of the AIF. This is but one example among many. If there were any cowards, they were not to be found in the AIF. No wonder that all over Australian people are fuming at this stupid insult to our gallant dead and those few of us who are still here.”

End of quote[1]

Eye-witness account taken from article by JWC Wyett AM psc Major, General Staff (ret) HQ AIF Malaya         

 .  This was Saturday the 14th of Febuary.  We went into the back garden which was on a slope.  We dug our trench for the Machine Gun.  The Japs were on the oppisite slope.  Again we could see them but still no firing.

           There was a Soldier lying in the hedge in front of our dugout, so I crawled over to him but he was dead, bloated like a balloon.  He must have been there for a few days.  On the front road of Mount Pleasant, there was a four pounder Anti Tank Gun and a chap lying dead near it, one leg missing.  Some Japs got into a house two doors away from us. 2nd Lt Addey went to the Anti Tank crew and told them about the Japs in this house, so they turned there gun and fired a few rounds into the house and  blew it to smithereens, goodbye Japs.

Still no action so we took turns in sleeping.  Sunday 15th Febuary dawn, heavy guns started up from both sides, and it was like being in a tunnel, with a continious swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, going overhead both ways.  This went on all day with other louder explosions.  In the afternoon I was looking at a road when a large black car went past.  It had four Officers sitting in it.

           J.Brady was holding a large white flag, and  Doc R.Hardie said! in his book Burma Siam Railway.  That Brady was holding a Union Jack.  With Pennents flying on the front, and LT.General Percival in the back seat, and shortly after we got the News, that at 4pm, we had to put something white on our gun position, and to cease fire.

By the morning of 15 February, the Japanese had broken through the last line of defence; the Allies were running out of food and ammunition. The anti-aircraft guns had also run out of ammunition and were unable to repel any further Japanese air attacks which threatened to cause heavy casualties in the city centre. Looting and desertion by Allied troops further added to the chaos in this area.[31]

At 09:30, Percival held a conference at Fort Canning with his senior commanders. He proposed two options: either launch an immediate counter-attack to regain the reservoirs and the military food depots in the Bukit Timah region and drive the enemy's artillery off its commanding heights outside the town; or capitulate. All present agreed that no counterattack was possible. Percival opted for surrender.

A deputation was selected to go to the Japanese headquarters. It consisted of a senior staff officer, the colonial secretary and an interpreter. They set off in a motor car bearing a Union Jack and a white flag of truce toward the enemy lines to discuss a cessation of hostilities.[2] They returned with orders that Percival himself proceed with staff officers to the Ford Motor Factory, where Yamashita would lay down the terms of surrender. A further requirement was that the Japanese Rising Sun Flag be hoisted over the tallest building in Singapore, as soon as possible to maximise the psychological impact of the official surrender. Percival formally surrendered shortly after 17:15.

surrender

Lt General Yamashita seated center thumps the table to emhasise his terms of unconditional surrender , Lt General Percival sits between his officers , his hands clenched to his mouth.

 

The terms of the surrender included:

  • The unconditional surrender of all military forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) in Singapore.
  • Hostilities to cease at 20:30 that evening.
  • All troops to remain in position until further orders.
  • All weapons, military equipment, ships, planes and secret documents to be handed over intact.
  • To prevent looting, etc., during the temporary withdrawal of all armed forces in Singapore, a force of 1,000 British armed men to take over until relieved by the Japanese.

Earlier that day Percival had issued orders to destroy before 16:00, all secret and technical equipment, ciphers, codes, secret documents and heavy guns. Yamashita accepted his assurance that no ships or planes remained in Singapore. According to Tokyo's Domei News Agency Yamashita also accepted full responsibility for the lives of British and Australian troops, as well as British civilians remaining in Singapore.

Bennett, Australian Army Commander caused controversy when he handed command of the 8th Division to a brigadier and—along with some of his staff officers—commandeered a small boat.They eventually made their way back to Australia. He was saved court marshal purely on the bases it would have caused even more embarrassment to the Army.

 

 

 

 

 

 





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