Diary of John Edward Proudford – NX34594

The Diary of John Edward Proudford (NX34594)

Transcribed by Caroline Gaden ©

This is the story of JE Proudford (NX34594) who was a Private in Battalion Headquarters, 2/20th Bn, 22nd Infantry Brigade, 8th Division, AIF Malaya. These are the details he wrote in the front of the diary he kept in Changi POW camp. His Sydney address was No. 9 Hampstead Road, Dulwich Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

According to the Nominal Roll, John Edward Proudford was born 20 June 1900 and, according to Don Wall’s “Singapore and Beyond”, where he is incorrectly listed as ProudFOOT, (page 374),  he was a POW in Changi from 1942-1945 and survived the war.

He is correctly listed as ProudFORD in the DVA Nominal Roll to be found at  http://www.ww2roll.gov.au.

Service Record

Name PROUDFORD, JOHN EDWARD
Service Australian Army
Service Number NX34594
Date of Birth 20 Jun 1900
Place of Birth HOMEBUSH, NSW
Date of Enlistment 18 Jun 1940
Locality on Enlistment CROYDON, NSW
Place of Enlistment PADDINGTON, NSW
Next of Kin PROUDFORD, CLARA
Date of Discharge 2 Apr 1946
Rank Private
Posting at Discharge 2/20 Australian Infantry Battalion
WW2 Honours and Gallantry None for display
Prisoner of War Yes

And his record in the National Archives of Australia has him as ProudFORD

Series# B883; Control Symbol: NX34594; Item Title: PROUDFORD JOHN EDWARD : Service Number – NX34594: Date of birth – 20 Jun 1900: Place of birth – HOMEBUSH NSW Place of enlistment – PADDINGTON NSW : Next of Kin –  PROUDFORD CLARA  Access status: Not yet examined; Location: Canberra; Date range: 1939 – 1948; Item barcode: 4929481.

However when he enlisted, John had given an incorrect birth date. In his POW diary on Friday 18th June 1943 he wrote “In 3 days will be one year older” which suggests to me the day is the 21st not 20th. However he was definitely not born in 1900 but in 1897 [NSW Birth Registration 20561/1897]. His parents were Richard Thomas Proudford and Kate Byrne (her father was Lawrence Byrne) who had married in 1894 in Sydney [NSW Marriage 829/2894]. They had 4 children, Richard Lawrence in 1894 (Paddington), Vera N in 1896 (Sydney), John Edward in 1897 (Burwood) and Kate was born in 1899 (Balmain North). Sadly both baby Kate and her mother died soon afterwards, Kate junior’s death record [NSW Death 4628/1899] and her mother, Kate senior [NSW Death 4630/1899] indicate the closeness of the time of their deaths. What an incredibly sad time it must have been for the Proudford family, young John would be too young to remember his mother and it would be hard for his father to hold down work and also look after 3 young children.

Their father Richard remarried 8 years later, in 1907, to Ida L Turner in Ashfield, and their first child, William L, was born in 1909; in 1910 daughter Lillian Q arrived and another son Walter H in 1912. Richard Thomas Proudford died on 1 June 1940 at Bourke District Hospital. He was 67 and was listed as the loved father of Richard, John, William, Lillian and Walter. There was no mention of his wife Ida. [Funeral notice in Sydney Morning Herald 5 June 1940]

John Edward Proudford married in 1928 when he was about 30 years old, to Clara Emily Murray in Petersham, daughter of Hugh John and Eleanor/Helena  Murray . [NSW Marriage 6744/1928]. Ten years later in May 1938 Clare’s father was killed by a car as he crossed the Parramatta Road in heavy rain. [Tumut and Adelong Times 3 May 1938]

As the NSW BDM Registry does not allow access to births after 1913, I am unable to find any children for John and Clara, nor have I discovered any by searching the newspapers for Birth notices. However he definitely had a son Jack as on 9 June 1943 his POW diary entry is a letter to Jack which he ends by writing “Best of Good Luck for your Birthday, Love from Dad”. He must have also had a daughter as in a postcard home from POW camp he mentions Jack and Jill.

John Edward (Jack) Proudford was quite a poet and many pages of his diary show his work, (all the poems are written entirely in uppercase). He also wrote out many recipes probably to relieve the boredom but also to remind him of what food really tasted like! He collected labels from tins and packets, mostly tobacco and cigarette boxes, and photographs from magazines which he glued into the diary. The printed dates in the diary do not necessarily correspond with his dates of writing and he jumps from page to page. The Image Numbers shown in this article are the numbers from our camera files which follow the consecutive sequence of the pages in his diary as we photographed them. Images with just advertisements are not included nor are the recipes transcribed.

All these diary photographs are now located on the Second Twentieth web site at http://secondtwentieth.org.au/pages/  then follow links to “Check out our online gallery” and then link to “September 17, 2011” which will take you to  https://picasaweb.google.com/secondtwentieth/September17201103 . The Proudford diary photos are the first in this file.

 These notes are transcribed from photographs taken by Bob Gaden of the Prisoner of War diary of Private John Edward (Jack) Proudford of 2/20 Battalion AIF. Some were originally posted to the “Pounding Along to Singapore” Facebook page which gives regular snippets about the 2/20 Battalion and WWII and other related items. It is located at:-

I have used [ ] to enclose the Image number and also any additional notes I’ve made eg Service Number and extra information.

A WARNING: some of the attitudes shown in this diary are not  considered ‘politically correct’ today.

The diary of NX34594, John Edward (Jack) Proudford of 2/20 Bn AIF

Sydney Address: No. 9 Hampstead Road, Dulwich Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

NX34594, Pte Proudford JE, Bn HQ,  2/20th Bn, 22nd Inf Bde, 8th Division, AIF Malaya.

Port Dickson, Seremban. Port Dickson, Kluang, Mersing, Jemaluang, Johore Barhu, Singapore.

Left Sydney 3 February 1941, Arrived Singapore 18 February 1941

In Tanglin RAP Hospital 15th June 1942, Out Tanglin to ‘Great World’  21st August 1942.

Out of Great World to Changi combined AGH 22nd Aug 1942

Out of Changi to Con Depot (No. 2) 2nd December 1942

Out of No 2 Con Depot into Combined AGH 24th January 1943

Out of Combined AGH into AGH Con Depot 18 June 1943

Out of AGH 22/8/43, this date moved to Selerang Woodlands (Krangi) 28/5/44

[IMG3272]

This is the first of many poems he wrote:

BLOODY HIDINGS

PERHAPS WE MAY BE BIASED, MAYBE OUR THOUGHTS ARE ROT,

JUST FORGET US IF WE’RE BITTER, WE WERE ALL PUT ON THE SPOT.

WE CANNOT HELP BELIEVING THAT THE JOKING HIGH COMMAND

WAS DISGUSTED WITH ITS RECORD, IT WAS NOTHING REALLY GRAND.

WHEN THEY LOOKED BACK AT THE STORY OF WHAT THE EMPIRE HAD DONE,

AND CONSIDERED ITS FIASCOS, LOOKED THEM OVER ONE BY ONE.

THERE WAS ALWAYS SOMETHING MISSING, NOT ONE WAS REALLY GREAT,

EACH WAS GLAMOURISED BY HISTORY, SO THEY WIPED THEM OFF THE SLATE.

THEY LOOKED AT BALACLAVA, THE SET UP WAS COMPLETE

BUT SOME THERE LIVED TO TELL THE TALE SO IT WAS WIPED – TOUT SUITE.

THEY TRIED AGAIN AT ANZAC AND THEY THOUGHT THEY’D TAKE THE PRIZE

WITH A PERFECT BLOODY HIDING OF JUST THE PROPER SIZE.

BUT THE DIGGER SPIRIT BEAT THEM AND SPOILED THEIR LITTLE GAME,

THE SHEMOZZLE WAS NOT PERFECT FOR IT WON AUSTRALIA FAME.

WHEN THIS WAR BECAME A FACT AT LAST THEY HAD A SHOW

TO CONFOUND THE WORLD ONE AND ALL, JUST HOW THEY DID NOT KNOW.

THEY DID THEIR BEST AT DUNKIRK AND NEARLY LOST THE LOT

THE HUN HAD PLANES, TANKS AND GUNS, AND MADE IT PRETTY HOT.

THE SCHEME LOOKED GOOD TO HIGH COMMAND, THE PERFECT ROUT WAS STAGED.

OUR MEN WERE DOOMED – NOT ONE COULD LIVE NO MATTER HOW THEY RAGED.

BUT DOGGED PERSEVERANCE MADE A MESS OF THIS FINE SCHEME,

THE NAVY HELPED – AND FISHING BOATS IN NEVER ENDING STREAM.

SAVED THOUSANDS OF DEFEATED LIVES AND TOOK THEM SAFELY THROUGH

DUNKIRK BECAME A NATION’S BOAST AND NOT A BUNGLED BLUE.

THEY TRIED AGAIN AT NARVIK THIS TIME THEY MUST SUCCEED

SO FAR FROM HOME, NO CHANCE THIS TIME TO HELP THEM IN THEIR NEED.

BUT ONE AGAIN THE FLEET WAS THERE, ANOTHER SCHEME FELL FLAT,

THE LOT CAME HOME AS HEROES SO THAT, THEY SAID, WAS THAT.

WE MUST, THEY SAID, GO FAR AFIELD TO HAVE A CHANCE AT ALL

WE’LL MEET THE HUN ON FOREIGN SOIL, LETS FIRST TRY SOMETHING SMALL

AND IF IT WORKS WE’LL TRY AGAIN ON A MORE IMPRESSIVE SCALE

WHERE THERE’S NO CHANCE OF RESCUE AND THEN WE CANNOT FAIL.

SO THEY SENT MEN OUT TO EGYPT TO BAIT ADOLPH AND MUSS,

THEY WERE BEATEN FROM THE OUTSET, THEY SIMPLY MISSED THE BUS.

IT LOOKED THE PERFECT HIDING, BUT ONCE AGAIN THEY FLOPPED,

THE DIGGERS LIKED THE LOOK OF TOBRUK AND THERE THEY SIMPLY STOPPED.

INSTEAD OF A BLOODY HIDING IT BECAME A FAMOUS STAND

THE AUSSIE SPIRIT TRIUMPHED AND ANNOYED THE HIGH COMMAND.

SO THEY LOOKED AROUND FOR OTHER SPOTS TO STAGE ITS BIGGEST BLUE

THEY THOUGHT OF GREECE, CONSIDERED IT, DECIDED IT WOULD DO.

THIS TIME WE WILL LOSE THE LOT THEY SAID, THIS TIME WE WILL DO THE TRICK,

BUT FISHING BOATS TURNED TRUMPS AGAIN AND TOOK THEM OFF DAMNED QUICK.

THE HIGH COMMAND WAS THUNDERSTRUCK AS THE PLAN WENT AWRY

THEY CURSED FATE AND ROTTEN LUCK BUT VENTURED ONE MORE TRY.

CRETE LOOKED SIMPLY PERFECT AND GAVE THEM FURTHER HOPE,

BUT SOME GOT OUT FROM EVEN THERE, BUT STILL THEY DIDN’T MOPE.

WE’LL TRY AGAIN, WE MUST SUCCEED OR ENGLAND’S NAME IS DONE

UNLESS WE STAGE A PERFECT ROUT BEFORE THE WAR IS WON.

THE FRENCHMEN WITH THEIR FAMOUS LINE DESIGNED BY MAGINOT

HAVE THE PERFECT ROUT TO THEIR CREDIT. ‘TWAS LOST WITHOUT A SHOT.

STILL FURTHER EAST WE WILL HAVE TO GO TO GIVE OUR PLANS A TRY,

AND IF WE MISS THIS TIME MY BOYS WE MUST KNOW THE REASON WHY.

WE WILL TELL THE WORLD OF SOME DEFENDED SPOT,

FORGET TO FORTIFY THE PLACE, SEND MEN AND LOSE THE LOT.

THEN ENGLAND’S NAME WILL SURELY RISE THE BEST FIASCO YET.

AS THEY PLANNED SO DID IT HAPPEN, AT LEAST THE STAGE WAS SET.

OUR MEN WERE SOON DEFEATED, THERE WERE NEITHER BOMBS NOR PLANES,

THEY HOWLED FOR REINFORCEMENTS, GOT NOTHING FOR THEIR PAINS.

YES – THE HIGH COMMAND SUCCEEDED, THEY COULD WANT FOR NOTHING MORE

THAN THE FIASCO OF FIASCOS THAT WAS STAGED AT SINGAPORE.

[IMG3282 AND 3283]

Ways of making money as a POW.

Cutting up money belts, making tan or black bootlaces at 10 cents a pair. Canteen price 50 cents.

Motor tyres and tubes and fire hose for shoes, stuck together with latex, 50 cents to $1.50 per pair.

Cutting pieces of barbed wire by Australians and selling to “Yanks” for flints.

Not to mention Black Market.

Fishing outside wire for catfish which were sold for 50 cents each.

Taking threads out of canvas fire hose, khaki materials for white or khaki sewing thread.

Fibre out of coconuts for renewing bristles in toothbrushes.

Sharpening Safety Razor Blades, 1 cent each

Making cut throat razor out of stainless steel issue knives, pieces of car springs etc.

Advertisement for Capstan tobacco. Sang Lee tobacco, Compass cigarettes, Classic Navy Cut Pipe tobacco

[IMG 3285]

 

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 1ST, 1942

Second last unit to go over. Crossed the causeway and from the preparations being made to blow it up I had convinced myself that after they had finished the job the causeway would be not only impassable but would have to rebuilt at some future occasion (little did I think at the time they would only blow up about 80 feet of it which included the whole of the lifting portion near Johore Baru they might just as well have left it alone) We were informed that when we crossed over the causeway we were  to swing around to the left for about a mile and a half there pick up transport which would eventually take us to our position but with the usual infallible method we had been given the wrong instructions and after marching about 3 miles we were informed we should have turned right. Of course we had only been dodging about for 4 or 5 days once leaving Mersing, with scratch and catch meals, sleeping when, where if possible and sometimes raining, naturally everyone of us was tensed up, nervy and these wrong instructions, forced marches etc did not at all improve matters. It was as hot as hell, so on we march to the point of embarkation on transport, no organisation, just a rabble but eventually we got to the position picked out for Battalion HQ which was situated in amongst some stunted and not very thickly growing rubber. We remained in this position the balance of that day until about 9 o’clock the following morning, we had scratch meals of a kind and on the scanty side as they always preferred to abandon or throw away rations rather than give extra to the troops. During this period of inactivity our favourite pastime consisting of hide and seek from dive bombing Jap planes, the last time we saw our planes was whilst crossing the causeway when we saw 5 or 6 Hurricanes, from then on  they were conspicuous by their entire absence.

[IMG 3294]

Well to continue: Bill Read… (I think he is referring to NX19936, Pte Albert William Reed of 2/20 and eventually “A” force POW, I can find no other Read/Reed/Reid with the initial ‘W’ in Don Wall’s lists.)

Well to continue: Bill Read informs us that they have given us a section about a 1½ or 2 miles down the road from Battalion, right on the Straits of Johore all to ourselves, to me this sounded good as we were joined on our right by our “Don” Company and on our left by our “A” Company. On arriving we found that there was an evacuated ‘Boong’ hut in which we could possibly sleep, but minus fireplace, a well for washing and good cover from the air in the form of coconut palms, several sheds which had been used for housing fowl and a good size bed of yams of decent dimension, some 6 inches long. After having a look around we had a feed and as it was coming on dark had a better look around the position which started from the end of the road and thence along the Straits of Johore for about 4 to 500 yards. They were just putting up single dannert wire when we got there, the wiring crew consisting of a couple of ‘Ponses’ from the regular army and the balance volunteers who, as one informed me, up to 3 weeks before was a rubber planter, one had only returned from Australia on the previous Saturday and wished he had stayed there, the other had sent his wife and 3 children to Australia and wished he was with them. They conveniently left a break on the beach right in the centre of the road and often wondered if it were intentional or accidental, anyhow it was convenient as it is one of the main roads to Singapore.

[IMG 3295]

We had placed our gear in the hut so went on the scrounge for bedding and ended up with sheets of attap, smelling very fishy as they had previously been used for drying  very small fish on. We bedded down but could not get comfortable owing to the very bad smell that hung about. On investigation it proved to be 6 large earthenware jars that had been used as lavatories and were definitely on the nose (they keep these things and are used for manure on the gardens, they were promptly put well outside but as the smell was so heavy I decided to sleep under the shadow of a palm. The night was fine so there was no risk of getting damp. Sentries were stationed 2 hours each for night, 2 on at a time, one kept sentry whilst we took turns at digging trenches for when needed.  The Jap planes came over every morning and treated us as a joke as they had every right to do. We were not allowed to fire on them, would not have been much use as they were armour plated underneath and only laughed at a .303. The reason we were not allowed to fire being that we would give our positions away… they knew more about our positions than we did.. they flew low knowing that the Ack-Ack could not hit them when flying low.

After all the weeks of no air support it was most gratifying and heartening to see them fly over drop a cargo of bombs on an objective of say the Docks or an oil tank, score a hit and a few minutes see clouds of black  smoke belch up into the sky and not the slightest opposition…why the Ack Ack which was manned by Indian Jemmas [?] I’ll swear were not trying honestly to bring them down as they only went close, for the fortnight on the Island I only saw 2 planes brought down.

[IMG 3297]

Singapore- one of the gun crew we asked “How are things going today?” and he replied “Good, brought down 3 friendly, one enemy plane.” It’s a fact that they brought down 3 of our own Hurricanes.

We were informed on taking the position we would have plenty of support, mortars, grenades, etc which never came to light. On one end, to the right, we had 2 x 75mm and on the left another 75 mm of the 2/5th Anti Tank Battery.

The Position was previously a listening post of the RAF but 2 days after removed the equipment to a safer one.

The heads decided that our position would be an ideal one for a 2.600,000 candle power search light which was duly installed complete with 6 wheeled truck and generator with 300 yards of cable so as it would be a good distance from the light– It was a sure advertisement of position and the heads considered it would not unduly bring the cracks (?)  another thing they overlooked. The light was to be exposed for 2 minutes in each 15 minutes and threw a beam for about 6 miles down and over the Straits. There was a crew of 6 Poms.

I had during this period built myself a one man hut of attap and a frame bed which was hidden from the air and very cool.

Rations were brought down after sundown and before daylight– not much just better than none at all!

[IMG 3298]

SUNDAY 8TH FEBRUARY 1942: Started off a good day until about 11.20am. I was attired in a pair of pyjama trousers only and was and had been occupied for the past couple of hours and had written letters to you My Dear, Jack and Jill. I had things out of the pack, wallet, photos, letters, etc and had been thoroughly enjoying myself when over they came, they started by dropping 4 HE (High Explosives) followed by 4 mortars along the road. I did not take much notice as they were a good 100 yards away but the next 4 & 4  were very close so just grabbed 2 packets of cigarettes and hit it for the slit trench. They then started in earnest, dropping 4&4 and then 4 further away, ironmongery daisy cutters were bursting all round and never let up. We had no lunch and it got so hot decided to hit it for the beach and into a bomb proof shelter, by this time it was raining and had been for about 1½ hours they lifted the barrage and shifted same down to the beach  on they scored several direct hits around our shelter but the coconut palm trunks and earth piled on top was able to withstand the strain although we were showered with earth and rainwater. Seeing that they had followed us I yelled out to the others that I intended making a break for back to the hut and see if I could put on a tin of water and make some tea as we had not had any all day.

Still raining so put a square of attap over the fireplace and started it going, smoke or no smoke the dive bombers came over when the water was about boiled and “Wham” I just managed to get out of the way otherwise I would have gone the same way as the fire and water. My bungalow was a mess and never had the chance to get pay-book, letters or wallet for which I have been sorry ever since, but on reflection, although I have been a constant source of worry and trouble to those immediately connected with me, for my own part thought it better to be alive without a pay book etc then dead with one.

Bill Read was disappointed that the tea had gone west but pleased I had not. He was a thorough  gentleman and soon after this we took up our positions on the shore as we knew that they would be over as soon as night fell. Young Tom had got lost and was roaming around calling out (half crying poor kid) “Where are you Jack?” I called out not too loud “get down and crawl along here” but the Japs had the whole beach under observation with night glasses, our position was made more dangerous by them putting near our slit trench, a 2600,000 candle power searchlight, they did several brainy things such as the above and nothing to compensate same.

Bill Read asked me to go back and give a message to Sgt Ben Raven to take some of his men to see what could be done as the Japs had sent a heavy barrage over and centred it around the “75” of the 2/4th Anti tank. Just to our left they made it that hot that the gun crew left the gun pit for the slit trench when the barrage was lifted and went back to their position they found that the Japs had taken their gun. I don’t mind admitting that I was just about all in what with the shelling all day GO TO FEBY 28th REAR PAGE  [IMG3299] and no regular meals or meal hours for the past month, snatching sleep whenever you could and how I was requested to go to Battalion HQ to see what had happened to the support in the form of reinforcements we had been assured were only waiting to hop in and give us the assistance when required, but seeing that we had sent a runner asking for Artillery support and reinforcements and neither had come to light, we found out after that neither were at hand, just another of the far too numerous pieces of BULL–

[IMG3314]

THEY SHALL GROW NOT OLD, AS WE THAT ARE LEFT GROW OLD,

AGE SHALL NOT WEARY THEM, NOR THE YEARS CONDEMN,

AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

 

MY PRAYER

A silver haired old lady

Kneels in silent prayer,

Prays for her soldier son

To be kept in God’s good care.

Where can my soldier son be?

Did he fall ‘neath a foeman’s blade?

Oh! Tell me does he live Dear God

Or rest is some shallow grave?

Each day she sees the postman

Go whistling past the gate

She’s hoping for a letter

Before it is too late.

But unable to break the silence

After dodging death’s hungry maw

In Changi Camp exists her son

On rice, a Prisoner of War.

He fought with thousands of others

From Mersing to Singapore

He heard the “Arty’s” whistle

And Jap “Dive Bombers” roar.

The odds they were terrific

So we had to lay down our arms.

We were sold a ‘woolly pup’

Or the heads had well greased palms.

But whatever was the reason

We earn no genuine disgrace.

We won’t slink round the corner

But look them right in the face.

So Mother of mine take comfort,

And may God hear your prayer.

But most of all may He hear mine

And keep you safe over there.

[IMG 3300]

 

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 15TH 1942

The Balloon went down, cease fire at 8.30pm although it was supposed to be 4.30, that did not stop them from throwing their ironmongery about from about 3.15  to 6 o’clock. It started as two of us were going down to pick up the meal for the 4 of us, We got about 200 yards on the way when over they came, the direction was perfect and no doubt had we occupied our positions on the side of the hill that afternoon as we intended to do, I would not be here to write this. Anyhow we did not take long to go to ground, we were experts in telling where the next one would land as they used the same technique. We occupied a nice spot used for apparently a pigs bedroom although that was nothing, when things quietened down we grabbed the remains of our tea and made a bee line for the shelter of our ditch and hedge. Splinters of mortar bombs, HE (high explosive) Shells were scattered about like a junk yard and rubber trees were cut off about 6 feet from the ground as if they had been cut off with a blunt saw. Had our tea, moved after dark to our position on the Hill everything was quiet and thought all sorts of things as we were told they were going to attack in force. We were informed that is was all over and that we were to hand in our arms and ammunition etc. by 11.30. We had 2 armoured cars lads from different units who had attached themselves to us, they just took the armoured cars off the streets of Singapore as the Pommies were too busy trying to get aboard the first likely boat, they had pinched all the ammo and arms in the world, they had  2 Aerial Lewis, 2 Hotchkiss, 2 ordinary Lewis and 4 Brens, plenty of ammo. One of them, the driver (he really belongs to the Provost Corps) had 6 Automatics on him and were they sore because they never fired a shot.

We went back to our hide out and yarned it over, discussing what we would be doing as prisoners of war, whether burying the dead, filling in shell craters, mending roads or tapping rubber trees. Nobody actually realised it was over. The reason as stated was that they had severely shelled Singapore that day and civilian casualties were that great that they could not get the Hospital accommodation for them.

The Japanese co-operation between Army and Air force was very good indeed – although only what it should have been- whereas we had not seen a plane of ours from the 1st February the day we crossed the Causeway (we were the 2nd last to get across). [IMG3301]

MONDAY FEBRUARY 16TH 1942

Did not as yet realise we are done – let down and properly goosed – marched about aimlessly in the approved Army style and finished up in Holland Road after the Q store opened their generous hearts and gave us a felt hat, we, after a lot of fooling about, were assigned to a house to sleep. Met Keith Ainsworth, [NX30278 Sgt JK Ainsworth… he was destined to died in Naoetsu on 4 December 1943] he looked very much older although fit, mucked about, did a bit of scrounging, there was plenty to get if it could have been carried, sugar, tea in chests, milk, biscuits and Bully, marvellous where it came from as it was not possible a week before to get a decent feed as rations were so short and hard to get.

Cannot help notice difference in treatment meated out to Pommies by the Japanese, they pulled them out of the trucks if they were a bit slow in getting out when handing them over whereas they would ask our chaps ‘Australia?’ and when told ‘yes’ were quite friendly and produce the cigarettes. We were a bit backward in accepting but soon got out of that bad habit, only because we had about 2000 cigarettes.

TUESDAY FEBRUARY 17TH 1942

Same old thing only informed that were going to own prison camp at Changi. Started…..

[IMG3302]

A MOTHER

There are a lot at home who will never forget

The boys who have left our shores.

There’s a lot of Mothers that still fret

For those who come back no more.

There’s one Mother that is weeping yet

And her life will never yield

That’s something she will never forget

The boy that died on the battlefield.

How she gave her son, her only son

What more could she bring into this world

Her only son to fight for his country and King.

[IMG3303]

 

A LETTER

She will read it very often

When the lights are soft and low,

Sitting in the same old corner

Where she held you long ago.

Regardless of its dictation

It’s spelling and its style

Although its composition

Would provoke a critic to smile.

In her old and trembling fingers

It becomes a work of art

Stained with tears of gladness

As she hugs you in her heart.

Yes! It’s the letters of letters

No matter where you roam

It’s a letter to your Mother

From her boy away from home.

[IMG3303]

 

THE BATTLE OF JOHORE

There’s a strip of rubber country

North- West of Singapore.

To the Diggers it’s a Death Trap

On the map it’s called Johore.

There, against tremendous odds,

The Boys put up a show

That was equal to the ANZACS

At Gallipoli long ago.

But those on the ground can never fight

The horror of the sky.

Without air support you just lie still

And await on Death or die.

Face to face odds mattered not,

For the Digger loves a scrap.

But the sky is full of planes,

And every one a Jap.

It makes you wonder “was it a dream”

For in the papers you read

Air support will soon arrive.

In thousands they will fly overhead.

There’s a strip of rubber country

That sometime we will retake,

For that’s all he’ll ask of us,

The chap who was our Mate.

Then we’ll hand Malay over

And with it goes Johore

And we will pray to God we are never

Asked to defend it any more.

[IMG 3304]

 

LEAVING AUSSIE

As I watched the harbour vanish

Till the ‘Heads’ were just a speck

With a bumper brightly glowing

I walked the “Queen Mary’s” deck.

All the times I had frollicked

In old Sydney, Oh! so gay

I could vision very clearly

As we glided on our way.

The girls with whom I had mingled

And the friends I had made

Were among the thoughts so varied

As we glided on our way.

All the beaches and theatres

And old Luna Park as well

Got their share of meditation

As my spirits gradually fell

Ones thoughts seem to linger

On the day I said goodbye

To the old folks at home

The scene would make one cry

I think of all the people

Of good old Mum and Dad

Brought a lump I couldn’t swallow

A lump I never knew I had.

The old life, home and its comforts

So common it looked before

Were appreciated  fully

Since I have left that sunny shore.

I have noticed by the faces

Of the old lads all around

That a lot were very lonely

And pined for home once more.

No matter how you have hardened

Or calloused, understand

The hardest heart soon softens

When you are leaving Aussie Land.

[IMG 3304-5]

 

AN AUSSIE ISSUE

An Aussie Digger rolled a smoke

And giving his trousers a hitch

Said “I’ve gone and copped my issue

But it’s only Dhoby’s Itch.

I can’t say where I’ve got it

For it would not be quite nice

But this I will say about it,

It stops a lot of vice.

Every night I think of Aussie

And the girls I used to meet

But right here in Malaya

We got itch from head to feet.

But seeing as we understand

A Digger at least can scratch it

But Lord just grant me one request

Don’t let my Sheila catch it!

[IMG3305]

 

A TALE

Joseph William Patrick Hyde

Full of beer as well as pride

Joined the Army and in time

Set out for a distant clime.

Beneath Malays tropic sun

He first set foot in ’41.

Nothing came to queer his pitch

Save guards, rifle drill and dhobies itch.

But at last arrived the war

The foe did come to Singapore

Withdrawing around the island twice

Thence to Changi and the rice.

At last there came a day when he

To his relief was once made free

As the boat left Malaya’s shore

‘A B…… lousy place’ he swore.

Now Joseph had a brother Jim

And Joe thought the world of him.

They were so fond of each other

That Jim was at the wharf to meet his brother.

Although Jim loved him good and true

His first greeting words did start a ‘blue’

As to the wharf the boat drew in, a pity though

His greeting words were ‘ULLO JOE’.

(this was the greeting of the local people to the Australian troops and a sad reminder of pre POW days)

 

RICE

Surely this is heaven, the thought flashed through his head

As down upon the wharf he jumped, whilst to his wife he said

At last we are together and never shall you need

But hurry up my loved one I’m dying for a feed.

Off they went together, a loving man and wife

Wedded to each other to lead a blissful life.

When in the shelter of their home he waited for the meal

Dreamed of luscious juicy food such as steak and lamb and veal.

He mused “It’s awful waiting” but his pet sure could cook

At last she flitted into the room and cooed “I’ve something nice.

You’ll never guess ‘My Hero’. It’s a plate of steaming rice.”

They took away her body and placed him in a cell

Tried and convicted him of murder, condemned his soul to Hell.

So heed you thoughtless women or pay the awful price

For serving to a Changi man a plate of steaming rice.

 

SINGAPORE

A mighty island fortress,

The guardian of the east.

As impregnable as Gibralter,

A thousand planes at least.

Simply can’t be taken,

Stand a siege for years.

We’ll hold the place forever,

‘Twill bring our foes to tears.

Our men are there in thousands,

Defences are unique.

But the Japs did not believe it,

They took it in a week.

[IMG3306]

 

INCIDENT IN HEAVEN

St Peter paused in musing, ears cocked, eyes aglow,

As a strange new song came drifting into Heaven’s sweet repose.

It was a lusty chorus of a Digger’s marching song

About a merry rascal sitting by a Billabong.

The song drew slowly nearer, Peter peered with age-old eyes,

As a band of men came marching from Earth through the skies.

T’was a band of weary soldiers with voices raised in song

About a merry rascal sitting by a Billabong.

Then Peter’s hand made motion and Gabriel came forth

He listened to the singing and was asked to judge its worth.

‘It isn’t very musical’ was Gabriel’s comment.

‘But it bears something strange and heroic in its innermost content.’

The marching men drew nearer and halted in their stride.

We’ve come all the way from Mersing said the first man, full of pride,

St Peter looked at Gabriel and this was his remark

‘These men have come through Hades Lane and made it in the dark.’

The portals swung wide open, the weary men marched through

The angels gathered around them with pots of boiling stew.

From the lips of the soldiers came a story for the Gods

Of the battle for Malaya against enormous odds.

They don’t sing Alleluias where the haloed harpists play,

Since the Diggers made their entry on that immortal day.

They sing the rousing chorus on that wild Australian song

About a merry rascal sitting by a Billabong.

[IMG 3311]

 

THE MONUMENT TO THE BOYS IN GREECE

Oh mighty, mighty Olympus, ten thousand feet you stand

Where snows have lain ten million years and will for millions more.

We climbed your rugged bulwarks and stormed your ramparts old,

We paid the price of glory in blood, not paltry gold.

Your sides are stained crimson, nude crossed drape your sides

Yet stained are not of those, of those who fought and died.

A million blood red poppies, each flaunting its proud head,

Will bloom with crimson glory above our gallant dead.

So guard them Mount Olympus, till we repay our debt

To the graves that you are guarding of mates we can’t forget.

[IMG 3311]

 

CROSSES

Each life has its crosses and a soldier gets his share

From a trip across the ocean to that envied “Croix de Guerre”.

There’s crosses by the censors, far too many it seems,

There’s crosses in the letters from the girl of our dreams.

There’s a cross that’s worn by heroes who have faced a storm of lead,

There’s a cross when he is wounded and a cross when he is dead.

Then there’s that little cross of mercy, that very few  may own,

To a soldier this is second to that of God alone.

It’s a cross worn by a woman, and when we see it we believe

We recognise an angel by the Red Cross on her sleeve.

[IMG3311]

 

THE EXILE

Backward, roll back time in your flight

Take me back to Aussie tonight

Back to the land where the wattle trees grow

Back to the land where the ‘Southern Cross’ glows.

Give me its sunshine and western plain,

The rivers and mountains I see them again.

In all the wide world there is none to compare

With the home of my childhood ‘Australia Fair’.

I crave not the glamour nor glow of the street,

Brothels and banquets, fair ladies or feasts.

Palm girded islands and tropical moon,

Dusky skinned maidens, sampans or lagoons.

I want neither romance nor fair sex appeal

From their ruby red lips and kisses I steal.

No gilded cafes, no night clubs and gin

Land of stagnation, sorrow and sin.

Under its surface of glitter and gold

Shed of its glamour so naked and cold

Blooming in perfidy, putrid and vile,

Dens on iniquity, malice and guile.

Onward, roll onward Oh! Time on your flight

My heart is back in old Aussie tonight

Back to the sunshine and blue skies above

Back to Australia the land that I love.

 

THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND

I am sitting here just thinking of the girl I left behind

And then I start a thinking just what is in her mind.

Is she thinking of the times when we were young and gay?

And the things that we will do when I return some day?

I’ll bet she’s acting cheerful, though her heart is full of pain

Or trying to cheer mother up, for my good again.

I am sorry now I left her to see this foreign shore

I’ll make it all up to her someday, and leave home no more.

There will be no going down the street, or pictures on my own,

For me the simple home life, and no more will I roam.

To every man who finds it hard, says the treatments rough,

Remember there’s one at home who is also feeling it tough.

[IMG3312]

 

THE SANDS

An Aussie lay dying on the battlefield in Crete

In a khaki Army jacket in the burning glaring heat.

Though he knew he was going to a place he’d heard about

He just lay there a thinking while the sands were running out.

Of what he was thinking there’s no one here can tell

We he thinking of a country that he loved so well

Of a glorious fighting Army blazing a way through hell

And of its brave and daring soldiers who had played the game so well.

Or was he quietly thinking of the folks he’d left behind

Who had nursed and loved him, he who had been so kind

And the day when still a civvy he had heard the bugle call

Was that what he was thinking while the sands were running out.

Was he thinking of his ‘cobbers’ he had known at work,

Would they enlist for fighting or stay at home and shirk.

Would they wear an Army jacket and a pair of Army boots,

Would they get themselves a kit bag to hold their Army suits.

Will young Australian manhood learn to play the game,

Will they help their fighting comrades walk arm in arm to fame

Would they wear that khaki jacket and help their ‘cobbers’ again

I think that’s what he was thinking while the sands were running out.

But he had lost in the battle of death, to be buried in a nameless grave

That dying Aussie drew his last breath for what he had tried to save,

He lay on his side and smiled again for he knew what it was all about

He felt no more than a burning pain for the sands had at last run out.

[IMG3312]

 

A SOLDIER’S LONELY THOUGHTS

I have just come in off duty and feeling kind of blue

So the best thing I can think of is to drop a line to you.

Writing seems to cheer me, makes me think of home.

Oh! Makes me often wonder why I commenced to roam.

And if by chance they should get me and put me out of gear

I’ll go out like a ‘Dinkum Aussie’ as you would wish it dear.

But in the meantime while I live and while guns and cannon roar

I pray with all my heart that we will enjoy life some more.

Now all is quiet, it’s gone ‘Lights Out’, the bugle has blown

So I am off to bed my darling and dream of all at home.

I am sitting down and thinking, watching the setting sun,

Wondering when this war will finish and when we will beat the Hun,

Hitler and all his Army know we came not in vain

But I’ll be mighty pleased when we get home again.

We love a scrap and we are not hard to please.

But we are all homesick and friends far overseas.

We don’t mean to grumble, my feelings you can understand

But we do get disgruntled, with nothing but flies and heat and sand.

When we joined the Army we swore to make the grade,

Guess it gets monotonous always on parade.

We can do all the glamour stuff and in the best style

You folks at home keep cheery, and wear the Victory smile.

Take this simple message from a soldier such as I,

We will come back to Aussie when the clouds of war roll by.

We will cuddle up to sweethearts and roll the barrel too

When we come back to Aussie and all the friends we knew.

I think of you beloved, dream that I see your dear face

Fancy I feel you kiss me as I rest in your embrace

But with the rosy glow of morning you fade like a summer mist

And I wake and long for the dream that has gone, and the face I thought I had kissed.

[IMG3313]

Advert for Lion Cigarette Paper, manufactured by Lee Poh Huat & Co, Singapore.

 

DON’T CALL ME DOC

I treat all ills from swollen gills

To Tinea of the cock.

Though short of dope, I deal out hope,

But please ‘don’t call me Doc’.

I use my wits on piles or shits,

Malaria or shock.

Of rank bereft,  just one pip left,

So please ‘don’t call me Doc’.

For little cash I’ll cure a rash,

Or rump or flank or hock.

A tooth I’ll pull or cut a bull

But please ‘don’t call me Doc’.

Much work I do to pull them through

When patients take the knock.

From R.A.P. to R.I.P.

But  please ‘don’t call me Doc’.

My name attached  with pills or Quack

I’ll stand up to the shock.

But this decree goes out from me

You must not call me Doc.

28/11/42

[IMG3314]

 

Entries for 1943

Sgt Don Abbott – Tall, thin, Fair curly hair and a most infectious laugh

[NX45369, Leslie Donald Ray Abbott, ‘D’ Force, ‘U’ Bn POW, Sgt Ewing’s party to MOJI – OMINE]

Cpl Garth Lean – Tall, quite well built, fair, subject to pimples, good scrounger and good company.  [NX45949, Garth Aubrey Lean, ‘D’ Force, ‘U’ Bn POW]

Sgt Chas Wilkinson – Medium, dark with skin you love to touch, supposed to be well bred but an excellent Pig (?)  [2191642(NX54635) ‘D’ Force, ‘U’ Bn POW then OMUTA]

Sgt Eddie Derkenne – Tooth brush mow, thinks he is quite a hit, bit of a perv. [NX45942, Edward Gerrard Derkenne, Attached from ‘D’ Force (S&B, p 371)]

Cpl Cec Brodie – Slow, drawly, comes from Hornsby way, no go, tells a yarn and laughs all the way through it. [NX54967 ‘D’ Force, ‘U’ Bn POW]

WO Ted McGlynn – Part chemist, attached to RAP.  [WO2 Edward George McGlynn, NX53990, 2/10 Field Ambulance]

“Shorty’ Fox – Of the RAP, a decent fellow    [24528(NX43430), Alfred Lester Fox, 5RFTS 2/20Bn, (RFTS = Reinforcements according to AWM )]

[IMG3315]

Incomplete diary entry written 15 February 1943, (this appears to be part of a letter, not written in the diary itself.)

he said he was more concerned about was that I did not get any worse  – he said not to worry as I would be able to get plenty of medical treatment in the next few weeks. My hands, head, feet, arms, legs are all as dry as a bone as itchy as hell and taking things all round, no blasted good.

News – or what we get of it is good and has fixed the date of something good as at the 22/3/1943, a significant thing is the fact that news at Selarang is very conspicuous by its absence, they have called for more volunteers for the PROVOST to take duty on 1/3/43 in Singapore.

The Japs towed a floating dock around past the naval base yesterday (14/2/43) and one of 40th Bn (who is in Southern area) said they towed it around a headland which placed it out of their sight – cannot see what they propose doing. 11 boats, oil tankers and transports came in but we think they are only here to take more stuff away- away ready for a getaway. We could not hold this island and I am dammed sure they can’t. Turn to [diary page of] Wednesday 4th March 42 (which is IMG 3317)   [IMG3318]

 THURSDAY FEBRUARY 1943 (18 February 1943 was a Thursday)

Just 12 months ago today since we became Prisoners of War, what a year it has been too. Prisoners of War in so far as the Japs are concerned and worse than that as far as our Army Heads and Officers are concerned. The Japs have belted the life nearly out of some of the troops-nearly every time it has been warranted whereas our officers have financially belted the pay-books off them, or should I say the amounts they have in credit – mostly trifling things which have cost them up to £5 and 28 days detention. (Just fancy a detention camp in a P.O.W. Camp). They have handed our fellows over to the Japs for some very small trifling misdemeanour, they have their batmen eat the best of everything, still treat the men worse than dirt, have their Officers Messes, why one of the Field Regiments (Artillery) have got so snobbish and ‘Pommieised’ they have a cocktail and savoury biscuit at 6 pm and dine at 8 pm. Why “Black Jack” A.O.C.  A.I.F. Malaya has boasted that all the time he has been a POW he has not eaten rice. The canteens never publish a balance sheet and is run mainly for the benefit of the Officers, they can get advances and tick up – the Men CASH OP. I will be pleased to get out of this “Democratic Army.”   [IMG3317]

FRIDAY 19TH FEB 1943

News… 4400 Aussie troops have been tested for dysentery, usually the fore runner of going away. 2 kiddies died in the Changi Gaol from malnutrition, more against the Yellow score board.

2 Poms who went to Bangkok escaped 5 months ago, caught by being bailed up by a Thailander, complete with shot gun and handed over to the Japs… sent to Singapore undergoing  2 years 9 months now in Hospital here suffering from Beri-Beri tell us that Burma has been ours since late December and portion of Thailand – the Japs were disappointed and surprised that they could not hold it – what a pity.

The Face and head is very sore where it has broken out and has effected my eyesight. Hands have started to break out. Feet have broken out again although have managed to hold them in control using plain Calomine and taking Palm Oil 3 times each day to see if the skin will oil up a bit as it is very dry and is flaking off stern and between legs is drying up a bit if I can only keep it like this for a few more days.   [IMG3317].

MONDAY 22ND FEB 1943

The Nips have again most graciously allowed us the right to write home. DID THE ONE WRITTEN AND SENT IN JUNE GET HOME?

I have looked upon this one in the same light that it is a 100 to 1 chance of getting to its destination. I put in
HEALTH GOOD, TOBACCO NOT PLENTIFUL, JACK MURRAY WELL, HOPE YOURSELF, JILL, JACK, IN GOOD HEALTH, DON’T WORRY, CHINS UP, AUSTRALIA FOREVER, SOON, LOVE JACK

(I think Jack Murray was his brother-in-law)

Health good, like hell as I am rotten with dermatitis, hands broken out and skin peeling off, sores over legs and arms, face all broken out, feet all scaly and broken out, stern and crutch slightly better, a patch on back about 12 inches square all raw, otherwise health is good.

The food is getting worse, the patients are the goats as the Sgt in charge of cooking for the Sgts mess robs off the staff so as the staff  can be well fed they rob us, the patients are only sick so if a few die off they will have more to eat.

I hobbled down to the staff mess hut as the staff were holding a fancy dress ball. My word some of them made good girls, entrance fee 5 cents and the place was packed must have been about 4 to 500 there dancing and looking on. Jack Greenwood and his NIT WITS supplied the music – it was great to hear a bit of lively music (I felt a lot brighter after it) it is marvellous where they have scrounged the instruments from, sax, cornet, trombone, piano accordion, mandoline, steel guitar and the base fiddle was made here and quite a good effort too. The building was all sprayed with bomb fragments so all the windows are minus so the lads climbed up the walls and used the window openings for seats from which to view the proceedings. Prizes for the best dressed (2 orders on the canteen for each 50 cents) saw one of the lads and his girl friend partner going for a walk so advised him to watch out.

Hospital Ship (Red Cross) due in 3 days time ——– PERHAPS                      [IMG3319]

TUESDAY 23RD FEBRUARY 1943

Drinking and using Palm oil owning to skin being too dry and peeling.

Things are just the same – drinking palm oil 3 times per day to try and oil up the skin as it is coming off in flakes across the body, rubbing it on feet, face and legs to try and ease up the scaling only do this once every second day. News is good – progress by Yanks Aussies and Poms are going good it is just a pity the hopeless mess the Japs will be when  they are finished with them. Heard in yesterday’s news that a Reccon. plane(Japanese) was sighted over Sydney -if they did not bring it down they should have done so.

Still having my usual periodic dreams, some are good, but mostly bad – often feel as the writers say the ‘urge to write’, would often do so if I thought it would carry any weight but I know that it would only meet the usual fate, so why waste time.

The Poms started a snack supper bar, consisting of coconut turnover and a slightly sweet sauce, changed to chipped sweet potatoes and gravy and so on all for 5 cents, not much when one considers that it is in actual value about ¼d but quite a lot when you do not have the 5 cents. I prefer to pay 6 cents for a coconut, grate up and it does me for 4 mornings over the breakfast rice.

Very few Jap planes flying about here now.

WEDNESDAY 3RD MARCH 1943

Well I have certainly had a week of events – last Wednesday evening I had some Golden Eye Ointment rubbed on the lids of my eyes because they had become slightly infected with the dermititis [sic]. On the Thursday morning when I woke up they were slightly swollen and by 10.30 am I could not see out of my eyes, at 12 noon they gave me 7 minims [1/60 fluid ounce] of adrenaline injected into the right arm, there was no improvement so they gave me another shot in the left buttock about 7 pm. The doctor (Major Clarke) came and saw me about 8.15 pm and wanted to know how I felt etc. I told him that I put it down to the mercurial oxide in the ointment not being suited to my skin in its present condition – he passed no comment – All Thursday night I had a hot water bag laid over my eyes and in the morning could just see out of them, but only for a while as the strain of pushing against the swollen face was too much, the eyebrows, cheeks, chin etc was all swollen up by bathing with boracic [boric acid] solution and hot water it gradually subsided until by Saturday the swelling had gone down considerably and the fact that I put it down the the eye ointment was borne out by the fact that where the ointment was rubbed on and where it had run down each side of my nose was all burned , blistered and as sore as hell. This skin has since come off, but the eyes are as weak, blurry vision and a continuous haze before the eyes still getting them bathed and have zinc sulphate eye drops 3 times per day – getting extra diet of gruel and sago.

Outward staffing I believe in fair numbers today and lot of southern area troops have being examined for dysentery today. [IMG3320]

THURSDAY 4TH MARCH 1943

Yesterday the Jap copped 2 tons of hoarded or perhaps part of a secret dump of bully beef, also have carted away some of our rice from Selarang.

Food is just about enough to keep a sparrow alive. Hope a boat containing some meat and vegetables will arrive soon.

I am gradually getting worse, now all around the neck, under the arms, back of legs, arm, hands and feet are getting pretty bad hope they start on the turn for the better soon.

 2500 going away

MONDAY 8TH MARCH 1943

Swelling of eyes has now gone down – sight of left eye getting worse- have seen Major BL Clarke and have made arrangements to see the eye specialist (Major Claffey) for 2.20 – 3.0pm this afternoon. [Major Francis Patrick Christopher Claffy,  NX70579, was with the 2/20 General Hospital. He survived the war] Arms, legs and back are about the same far as the dermetitus [sic] are concerned, they itch like hell of a night but it has just got to be suffered.

Sunday (yesterday) and Jack Murray came over. Some of the ASC lads had told him about my eyes and he, I think, expected to see my eyes bunged up still but of course quite a lot can happen in 10 days. Jack brought over a packet of smokes, a cigar and gave me 40 cents, 40 cents is only slightly over 6d but it is a ton of money when you are dead broke and without tobacco – can nearly buy 2 ounces of tobacco with it.

Bags of mail are over at Changi Gaol some of them from the Hospital have gone over to sort out the Hospital letters. I may be fortunate enough to get one – I would very much indeed like to get a photograph of those at home – probably they will not think to send one thinking that I still have my photos. They are trying to get the balance of mail sorted before the time comes for the 2500 men from Selarang who are going to Thailand go away on Tuesday or Wednesday – only those free from Malaria and dysentery are going – they are sure to come back physical wrecks.

News about the 2 convoys is good 14722 (12>22?) in 2 goes pretty good.  [IMG3321]

TUESDAY 9TH MARCH 1943

Well bad luck is still coming my way. I woke this morning with the arm aching like one thing – got some hot water and gave it a bathe put 2 x 5 gram soda bicarbonate tablets into the water – it certainly felt a lot better but during the day it started to swell up and by 6 pm was a fair size. Alex Deans (Cpl) got word down to Major Clarke who advised Alex to give me a shot of adrenaline if it got worse.

WEDNESDAY 10TH MARCH 1943

It is quite a bother to try and write this as the arm is swollen p to twice its normal size from the shoulder to where the fingers are at the back of palm. It is just swollen – no pain – the swelling eased about 6 pm as it started to suppurate and this eased it. Mail has started to come over from Changi Gaol – I am looking forward to getting some about Friday (with luck)

I am forcing myself to eat as I do not want to get down and out.   [IMG3322]

FRIDAY 12TH MARCH 1943

No doubt today is a ‘good’ and Lucky Day as it was today that I received the first letter I have received from home for about 17 months –  quite a time between letters, it was hard to realise the feeling it brought about to have one of the lads who came over from the unit to the hospital with it. I did not expect to receive such a long letter – were to tell the truth I did not know what to expect at all.

There is I believe some more mail to come over but we may not get it until about Friday 19th. The right arm started to swell up on Tuesday morning.

(This entry is on wrong page, see next one) [IMG3321]

Considerably cheered as you will see by previous page where I have wrongly entered in about this news.

MONDAY 15TH MARCH 1943

Being the first day of having the new Marmite, yeast, rice polishings, Marmite, homemade brew.

 TUESDAY 16TH MARCH 1943

Saw Doctor Clarke this morning although the right arm is nearly back to normal it looks as if it has been boiled, the armpits and backs of legs at knee  are still playing up, in fact the whole of the body is one continuous itch. witch. Last night was the best nights rest I have had for over a week, do not sleep of a day so as I will have all the sleep that is offering at night. Heard that the pay for Privates 8/6 per day – not so bad- if it is true.

The 20th go away on Thursday – up north [This was ‘D’ Force]

I WOULD GIVE A FEW QUID OF MY ACCUMULATED PAY FOR A PHOTO AND A LETTER FROM JACK AND JILL

Did not like that passage in the letter which said Jill is growing into a nice girl (or everyone tells me). Apparently cannot or do not appreciate the fact or else something distastefully —- never mind.

Jack is easy to handle – could not during the past 2 years succeed in getting him to feed out of ones hand

They are the only things which are keeping me from going crazy at this and past periods – one could appreciate my position better if they have gone through a similar experience as I have during the past NINE MONTHS.   [IMG3322]

THURSDAY 18TH MARCH 1943

Things are much the same – no more letters to hand but expect some during the next few days.

Health a very slight improvement but of course one is better the day following things are not so good. One has to take every precaution but owing to the food being too low unvaried one has not much hope. Not sleeping at all well.

A lot of shipping coming in and out, saw a white painted Japanese Hospital Ship go out this afternoon.

Had to do some more high finance, had only 25 cents – no Java weed in the canteen. Only  ‘Horse’ which is 35 cents so sold a razor blade  for 9 cents (all the money Bob had). It is not nice going without a smoke.

 FRIDAY 19TH MARCH 1943

Somehow or other I have an idea that we may be fortunate today and get some more mail – perhaps it is only wishful thinking but who knows. The last of 2500 from the 22nd Bde go away to Burma-Thailand building a railway line to go somewhere near the Burma Road.. They are to get 40 cents per day, 20 of which are to go into messing fund they are to work 6 weeks and have 2 weeks off. The place is infected with malaria and dysentery, that is why they would not send anyone who has had either of the above during the past 3-4 months.

News from Burma is against the Japs, they can’t take it so they have slapped quite a few of the lads at Selarang Hospital Area 18th Div across the face, including one Pom Officer. The next building to us was emptied this morning all Poms and going away.

Skin condition just about the same – no treatment today as he is afraid that with too much treatment will get a proper Chemical Dermititus Skin.

Hear from extracts of letters received about the prices of Tea 6/11, Butter 4/6, Wheat 5/6 Tobacco 4/6, SG9?) Wages £6-10-0, Conductresses  £6-4-6 and so on. Some of the extracts are most amusing such as Have adopted a 2 month old baby Oh Yeh!! One received a letter from his late girl friend to say she had married a “Choco” as she preferred a man who stayed home to defend his country to one that went away.  Another wrote to say she had married his father.

A Pom Sheila wrote to say that she had married a Yank and was perfectly happy. The letter contained  a postscript “My Deepest Sympathy from the Japanese Censor”! (Just broke one beeping pen nib). As I have just got married and we are not quite settled down would you let the allotment go on for a while longer?

[IMG3324]

TUESDAY 30th MARCH 1943.

Received another letter (2nd) dated 1/7/42 on Friday last 26th-3-1943, very pleased to get it but it was practically a repetition of the previous one, waiting anxiously for others.

500 went away on Sunday, included in which were some of the eye patients, supposed to be going to Borneo – took 2 days rations with them they were told they would be going to a place where the climate was similar to here but not much meat but plenty of fish and eggs. Not many of the 20th left here now, supposed to be another 5000 going away very soon.

The food problem has them wer— don’t know what they will be like in a few weeks time.

Have not seen Jack for some weeks.

The Complaint is not getting any better – one treatment only does good for 2 or 3 days and then has to be changed – keeps breaking out at odd spots – feet now breaking out.

TEA? and what a tea/ Rice, 3 pieces of baked Sweet Potato (Yams) and a small salt herring, they were very strong both in taste and odour, they are nevertheless very tasty. I ate my own and 2 others. Tales were flying about their condition prior to being cooked but it did not worry me.

20 more beds coming in tomorrow as they have 12 or 14 cases of suspected scabies (type of crap) caused by some say lack of vitamins so Whack Ho, we will all be rolling fat soon.

THURSDAY 1ST APRIL 1943

April Fools Day – so it turned out to be as I  had been kidding myself that I would get another letter? but as the lads put over a few catches for some of the others they helped to take away some of the disappointment.

They sent one of the lads around the ward taking orders for ½ lb white sugar @ 20 cents (sugar is impossible to buy at any price) he got about 20 names went to the canteen and was told that it was 1st April. Another one was the wardmaster S/Sgt Bill Wishart yelled out “All those who received bad eggs come up and get another one” He nearly got killed in the rush.

TOC H Southern area and 18th Div gave a very nice and varied concert last evening in the ward last evening [sic] – put over some good jokes – one about the couple going away to the same hotel for a golden honeymoon, occupied the same room – she remarked “remember dear you never gave me time to get my stockings off!” he replied “now you have enough time to knit yourself a pair” Another turn was very good – he called for a volunteer to sit on a form with knees apart while he ducked his head up and down, the idea was he was to try and catch his head as it came up or down between his knees, next he had 2 of them on a form and he sat between them, they each had a stick- he pretended to be mending a boot – he now and then hit them on the leg – they had to stop him by trying to hit his hand as he tried with their sticks

[IMG3325]

Now using plain Lanoline

SATURDAY APRIL  3rd 1943

Still[?] no more mail – only 2 letters – have not given up hope as day by day I kid myself that we may still get another letter that possibly been wrongly delivered.

Believe the Japs have agreed to all Geneva Convention with reference to Red Cross – 1 food/ship, 1 parcel, 1 letter each month and 1 letter out each month – don’t they move fast – but are hoping that they will be only able to carry it out for 3 months more. I asked the Doc if he thought I should get balance of my gear over from Con Depot and he said “Yes” as he did not consider I would be leaving here for some time to come.

Armpits and down the arms to nearly the elbows, back of legs, small of back and fat are continually breaking out – have been using plain Lanoline for the past 2 days and is giving a certain amount of relief.

Have a  young chap here sent in from Singapore Gaol – 1 of 8 who attempted to escape but caught by Jap – he is doing 8 years solitary confinement – they belted him up and then broke nearly all his fingers, allowed 1 hours sunshine each day – not allowed to talk – if he wanted anything to be done by signs – he was having his hours sunshine when he went out to it and got secondary burns on his scabies – he was admitted first to get his appendix out.

MONDAY APRIL 12th 1943

Things are moving fast and furious as far as moves are concerned. 3500 going from Selarang, others from Southern Area – 11th Div and 18th Div making about 10,000 all told – to an area (Thailand). They are taking everything, cooking gear, beds etc without limit, believe they have to build their own camp taking their own medical men and 120 Hospital orderlies There will be left here only Hospital patients, orderlies and sick, haet [?] lame and blind contained in the Con Depots.

Jack Murray came over on the 5th brought some sweets, a cigar and gave me 20 cents, very acceptable, gave him the 2 letters received to read, he had forgotten to bring his letter from Polly.

Still zig-zagging around with the treatment off lanoline and on to Zinc Crème then onto Fungacide [sic] off that and on to No. 3, it is getting slightly better but as fast as one place gets OK it breaks out somewhere else.

Meals are still “on the nose” for example tonight 1 ladle of rice, 1 salt herring, head tail bones etc all mixed up as if a dog had had a go at it and did not like it, I would like some of these fastidious people to have such a meal placed before them and see if they could eat it.

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FIRST OF 3500 went today

SUNDAY APRIL 18th 1943

First lot of 3500 went out at 4 am this morning. Reveille at 1.30 am Fell in at 2 am and marched across to Selarang where they joined the rest. They certainly had a rotten send off as one of the heaviest thunderstorms that we have had for several days started about 3.30 and continued for some hours. Heard from some of the lads this afternoon that the parade was not without its amusing incidents apart from the fact of raining like hell – The Japs at any time cannot count for nuts – they count them as a whole and then count them again when in the trucks – after several goes they finally get the correct number when down would come a good shower and the lads would get out and get under shelter and then after got back into the waiting trucks – be counted again and found  to be too many or too few in a truck and then the fun would start all over again- after some time it straightened itself out.

Batches will be going each morning until next Friday. Supposed to be going to Thailand near Indo-China Border – A Hot Spot.

Eyes getting worse, hard to read now

SATURDAY APRIL 24th 1943

Well as far as movement is concerned the forces which have been made up and sent away are now up to “G” (as GROUSE) comprising 200 AIF, 700 POM and about 600 Dutch, they are going to take 2 days cooked rations as they say it takes about 76 hours steam. The next lot to be got ready   id “H” (prior to this being made up there are 1700 exclusives of Hospital Staff and patients) so when this lot “H” go away there will only be the sick, half lame and blind here and the hospital staff. Bill Wearne is going away with “G” force, he thinks they are going to Borneo.

Although some thousands have gone away there is no appreciable improvement in the food. Yesterday (Good Friday) we had 2 herrings and the same thing for tea tonight. They have made up or I should day that personnel of AASC have been included in 3 parties. I believe Jack Murray volunteered but was turned down and he is still here. Most of the skin complaints have cleared up for the time being I am just taking it easy

Turn over to March 24 -1942

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Letter to Jack written by John Ryan on 24 April 1943

Dear Jack

As asked by you in your letter to Fred Drewe, I’m returning the typewriter, per favour of one of my friends Bill Waterford.

I sincerely trust that you not been inconvenienced by the delay in my doing as asked; but as you will realise, I was reluctant to take any risks with the machine & therefore being unable to manage the walk myself, had to wait until someone whom I could trust was going over to the AGH.

As you will realise I have taken every care with it & as you can see it is in the same condition as when you loaned it to me except of course for the ribbon which is rather done.

Now Jack, mere written words are inadequate to express my thanks for your generosity in loaning me the machine. Literally speaking it has proved a real God-send to me in many ways & I can assure you that I shall miss it greatly. It has enabled me to do so much work; keep myself occupied & thus take my mind off home & other things which might have adversely affected my spirits and outlook & as an aftermath my health. Today my general health has greatly improved & I know that your machine has been largely responsible for that.

Therefore Jack I want you to realise that I feel very deeply indebted to you & in justice, give you my word of honour that I certainly shall repay you tangibly for your loan. Of course under the present circumstances this is impossible, to my mind the matter goes much further than a few ounces of lava weed or Japanese dollars.

Therefore I intend to repay you, immediately circumstances allow, what is my appreciation of the worth of your loan; that is the sum of (£10) TEN POUNDS. That is of course if you are agreeable….

In other words Jack I would like you to regard this letter as an IOU for that amount. Here’s hoping it won’t be very long before my cheque cancels it.

I sincerely trust that you too are much better these days.

What with moves & rumours of moves one cannot plan to meet at any future time here in Changi & indeed perhaps in a matter of weeks hundreds of miles may separate us, therefore in preparation for such a contingency I would like to tell you to send back your home address with Boll Waterford.

I shall enclose mine & as you also are from “OUR ‘ARBOUR CITY” we can quickly get in touch & settle this loan at once.

Lastly Jack, for quite sentimental reasons, in relation to this period of my life here I’m really quite anxious to buy this machine of yours, as a “souvenir” of Changi days…

You told me of your wish to take it home to your daughter: but should anything crop up & you are prepared to let it go; please give me first opportunity to purchase, at any time in the future; more particularly after we get home.

In conclusion Jack, here’s wishing that on next Easter Sunday you may be enjoying your dinner (without rice) at home,

Yours sincerely

John Ryan

 Changi, Singapore

24/4/43

 

City Address

S.P.A.D.S. Ltd, Room 104, 3rd Floor, Wembley House, Central Square, SYDNEY

 There was an advertisement for SKETOLENE glued onto the diary page, it was a anti-mosquito/insect bite treatment made by Grafton Laboratories Ltd, Singapore..

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$1 Dollar Pay – in the money

THURSDAY MAY 6th 1943

Jack Murray came over to see me and let me know that he had been picked to go away with “H” Force consisting of 1200 Dutch, 1200 Poms and 600 Australians – they seem to think that they will be going somewhere round about Penang not taking any cooking gear.- so they must be going to a prepared camp – I gave Jack ½ the remaining Aspros that I had left, there was nothing else I could give him as he had a good supply of clothes, after this there will be only the left over, at Selarang will be the Battle Casualties, the eye patients have been all sent over here and are they getting weeded out – I’ll say they are. The ward now has its own Con Depot for doing odd jobs in the cook house., cleaning out Lavatories, we each do our share of sweeping the floor of the ward.

Happened to be yarning to Capt K Parsons (who by the way is known by Jack Stewart[?]) when along came the CO Lt Col Hedley Simmons, Major Clarke and Capt Conlon – they inspected the body had a look at the skin condition which is anything like good and advised me to take it easy.

I had asked Capt Conlan yesterday about wearing a pair of shorts to see how the skin reacted, he remarked ‘I know what will happen’ and refused to allow me to wear shirt, shorts or boots and can only go for a walk first thing of a morning or early evening. Getting “J” Force ready comprising 500 officers and 100 ORs as Batmen presumably for Formosa.

SATURDAY MAY 8th 1943

“J” Force is being picked out, 100 Australians. Things are moving so fast insofar as moving the troops away – latest thing is that they are calling for volunteers from the Officers -they want 100 to go away with a force of 1400. I do not think that they will get the Officers as it will mean ta-ta to their Bludging Days! Officers are pulling tracks/trailers [?] around these days.

FRIDAY MAY 14th 1943

The skin complaint has cleared up very much over the past week – only a small few patches on the arms at the elbows, back of legs at knees, armpits and a few patches on the feet. Lt Col Cotter Harvey and Major Clarke both had advised me to take things easy – I keep reasonably well provided the weather is not too hot and humid which is of course nearly impossible to get conditions such as these in a place like this.

We went out for a walk today and got some nice red heart shaped beans off a tree which is very much like a wattle, they are bright red and are extremely hard, I believe they make a very nice necklace.

The Jap Navy are supposed to be taking over control of the Island in a few days time, they have been bringing in some of their landing barges from other places, they look to be about 60 to 70 feet long with about 12′ Beam and about 7 feet freeboard.

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Eyes are not good – cannot read book, bad enough trying to write this.

SATURDAY MAY 15 – 1943

“J” Force left hospital area at 11 AM so will be going away soon. “J K &L” were ready but were postponed indefinitely, at first we thought they may be prevented from sending them away owing to conditions not being favourable but we found out that they were behind with sending away groups of Indians (troops) so possibly they will send them away at intervals now. There will not be many troops left here after they send “L” Force away, they are sending limbless away so I believe it is not a working party. Still prominent is the rumour is Java and Sumatra – who knows.

Have started a deck Quoit Championship game – my partner Hartley Robinson of FMSVF and myself are well in the running.

MONDAY 24th MAY 1943

Lt Col Cotter Harvey together with Major Clarke came around today with a list of 7 from this ward asked Occupation, Age and length of time in Hospital, may be something doing later.

 TUESDAY MAY 25th 1943

News seems to be good what we hear of it Yanks have taken ATUR in the ALEUTIANS and they are into them in Burma.

THURSDAY MAY 27th 1943

Things are moving along very quiet – food is very much on the nose – a stray feed not and again. How I could manage to keep going without the tit bits given me by Capt Ken Parsons – in the nature of bread, bananas, Paw-Paw. Supper at night consisting of coffee and sandwiches of dripping, ceylon spinach pepper & salt, when he has a tea of curried chicken I usually get a small amount. Heard today that Tojo had been assassinated. I am afraid it is too good to be true. Usually go up to “no hopes” Hill to have a look around, a good view.

1st June 1943

Things have not been going too well as far as food is concerned so when the opportunity occurred to sell the typewriter to a Capt G Wallis of the Ante-Malarial Control for $25 – I did do, not at all pleased with things as it was worth $100 but I can buy food with the money which is a great consideration now.

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Austin Edward called over.

SATURDAY JUNE 5th 1943

Things are going much the same as far as conditions- food etc are concerned- have been able to augment food supplies by getting 2lbs of Goola, Malacca (Juice of Nepal Palm) 2 lbs of Banana and as the price of tobacco etc is going up from 25 cents have bought 8 ozs so I will be OK for a few weeks. Have been occupying my time making some rubber soled sandals. Robbie and I go out first thing of a morning and tap the rubber trees, manage to get about ½ the amount required to fill a ¼ lb Marmite jar, we then work that lot off and then wait for the next day. Ken Parsons bought in portion of a Jap bomb, shot down at Changi- will be able to make some souvenirs out of it, believe we are or soon will be fed by the Red Cross so may get some better tucker soon.

WEDNESDAY 9th JUNE 1943

Jack’s Birthday.

Started the day by being awakened around 6 AM with a gentle to and fro motion of the bed- I thought I was dreaming things – several noticed and reported the same – must have been a minor earthquake. Seeing it is a day of importance selebrated [sic] same by sharing a tin of curried chicken (1.25) 1 lb of cucumbers (4 to the lb @ 14 cents) and 21 bananas, seeing I could not give Jack a present I thought he would not mind if I had a birthday party in his absence. Have been occupying my leisure hours making a few pairs of slippers[?] of old motor tube pieces – of fire hose. GO out first thing in the morning after doing my section of sweeping the ward. News is good – have often wondered how our civilised Gaolers will re-act to a proper hiding will probably do over a few of us.

Never mind Jack-Best of Good Luck for your Birthday

Love from Dad

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Real 75 cents pay about 1/- for 15 days.

FRIDAY 18th JUNE 1943

Well time still rolls on, in 3 days will be 1 year older – some days lately I feel 10 years older. yesterday I moved down one floor from P2 to P1 as they now consider that I am quite able unrestricted to move about more freely, have been occupying myself time making a few pairs of sandals out of Latex – something to do. News is very good  -stated that the Japs have lost nearly 1400 planes in the Pacific so far – WON’T BE LONG NOW

SATURDAY 9th October 43

From June to October is quite a fair space of time, in some respects it seems years but as the eyes have been too bad I have not been able to do anything in the writing line, as a matter of fact I am only slightly sure of what I am at present writing.

 
Monday 24th October 1943 (24th October 1943 was a Sunday)
Things or what one can make of things seem to be progressing well in our favour – about time too. Had the eyes tested again on Saturday, are now L6/18 R 6/18, not so bad but far from OK yet the grass extract and Oxo are all doing their bit towards getting them better.
A Staff Sgt from Ordnance came around today and took down a list of personal belongings which one wished to declare, naturally I declared table flowers, hairbrushes, Linen and Cutex sets etc. Some of the lads have been getting into hot water for selling personal property without first getting permission – enough said, but some time ago the hospital had a certain number of sheets now 800 less – shorts, aprons and sales account for quite a few. Bought a pound of sugar for 85 cents (about 2/1 per pound)
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TUESDAY 26th October 1943
Red Cross Ship due about 1-4 Nov. This makes the Second Ship (provided it arrives of course) to really arrive here although the Hammer and Jacks have given it out to the world at large that far more have arrived – Food is getting very poor and of no variation, the same day after day – would not suit some people I know – there is one bright spot in all this business and that is teaching a lot of unstable people self control – which sadly they need.
No doubt about giving some people unlimited amount of authority and they will abuse it – why Black Jack is the finest example of it in more ways than one – 28 days detention for getting coconuts, looking after the interests of IJA, prevented from selling your own property especially to the Poms canteen, fined for damaging IJA property. The Biggest racket of all the Officers Club and numerous others – who said it was a Democratic Army or that we were P’s OW.
(Turn to next one over)
The story went around that a Jap truck driven by a ‘boong’ ran over a land mine – several stories circulated with reference to same – several Japs blown up including some Dutch who happened to be riding on the truck – the maost amusing thing was the part about the noise of the explostion drove out about 50 Aussies who were hiding sleeping or playing cards in the scrub. There is a definite change of face by the Japs, not so stern as a taskmaster and more inclined to be lenient. Have sacks $2.50, packs 1.15 Sox 1.00 Boots 6.50 to 8.50.

Playground topics
Cinematograph film taken of the happy and contented POW
Rush up to the camera and yell out “Can you hear me Mother?” or pretend to brush their hair (which had been previously all shaved off – small 2 wheeled carts drawn per medium of man-power with crossed cocoa-nut palm leaves forming a “V” – sawing palm trunks with the saw in upside down – Cutting palm trunks.
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Friday 29th Oct 1943
Believe they have been notified to dig slit trenches today. Bombs are not nice things at any time, but most of us would prefer them to this inactivity. It has been my contention that things are closer than we realise.
860 planes in 16 days not bad going – they cannot keep that up.
Black-out precautions have been in force for over a week – plenty of worthwhile shipping coming and going – 3 Airplane Tenders about 25000 tons each, plenty of War vessels – subs and merchant shipping of all sizes.
One of the lads remarked that he thought he saw a Dago Sailor walking through the camp – possibly one off the 5 war vessels and subs that they copped in Singapore when they came here for a refit and refuel, quite a decent swag. Tipped all their rations overboard which were quickly grabbed by boongs in boats as they floated away.
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FRIDAY 5th Nov 1943
Happenings today – a crowd returned from Blakan Mati and 50 Aussies and 100 Poms went to same.
Heard that it was admitted on 31-10-43 that they had bombed British HQ at a point about 15-17 miles from Akijab[?] – so it must be on. Good from SWP getting it in the neck. The moon is getting almost perfect for night owls.
The usual rumours about Red Cross tucker etc.
Owing to the fact that we have been naughty boys and having the impudence to make complaints about the food, we have to go to the kitchen and mince rice, behead and take the backbone out of “Modern Girls” (after the flies have done a good job) & pat sweet potato top etc[?]. Our great Democratic Army.
Still have some quite pleasant dreams, would not be surprised if ¾ of them were true – only they would be looked at from a different point of view to that taken about 7 years ago, wish I had had the sense to do it then.

SATURDAY 6th Nov 1943
Had a hot bath and they put (as it turned out too much phenol) plenty of dog wash into it. I noticed at the time it burned a fair amount. Noticed it after lunch when I was sitting outside the ward on the verandah scraping the outside of a coco-nut shell with glass, that my stern was feeling a bit on the ‘burny side.’ Making doubly sure I went and had a coco bath otherwise things may have been worse.

FRIDAY 12-11-43
Things unfortunately turned out against me – the Phenol sure was strong, so much so that the whole of my seat coming in contact with the bottom of the bath was burned like, as Major Clarke remarked, like a piece of pork but it never felt like it, I have had a few uncomfartable days, the whole of the skin will come off and the glands in the groin of both legs are swollen like a bunch of grapes.
In consequence of the above the eyes are a lot worse since last week.
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Nov 13th 43
Started going to Mjr Claffey on 27.8.1943. Eyes were in a pretty sad state then
The eyes have improved a fair amount, they get to a certain thing and there they remain – getting grass extract and Oxo – useless putting down 160 grains of Marmite as the S/Sgt only gives what he considers the amount – no attempt at measurement, all get the same.
The stern is still very sore, all the skin is coming off and consequently very sore, especially in the crease and where your tail should be.
Things are going on very well but, owing to the fact that they are playing ducks and drakes with the “Douver” … she is Onkus Wallace, very inconsistent and childish.
Dark Felt won the Melbourne Cup of 1943.
Monday 15th November 1943
Four of the boys returned to the gaol this morning – young Blue Rolleston was the most fortunate he had been out for 8 months, 2 of the others were only out for 6 weeks, I am sure they would still be here only for the fact that 2 Poms (one a IJA prisoner from the gaol and one who was due for a court marshall [sic]) went through, naturally it had to be reported to the Japs and they decided that 4 Aussies & 5 Poms would return today.
I am sorry as young Blue is a ginger-headed, multi-freckled lively young chap of 22 – I hope I see him again soon.
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Meals and what constitutes same
Breakfast :- ground rice and rolled soya beans, as palatable as dried grass
Lunch: small ladle of rice, very indifferently cooked, Towgay (bean sprouts) in gravy and sometimes a fried or baked rissole, consisting of rice and ground up fish (heads, tails and guts)
Evening meal: (we save a portion of rice from lunch) Towgay and gravy, rissole, 2 small sweep (a size we would not catch and much less think of cooking – about 1½ to 2″ [inches] long), sweet potato turnover and 2 or 3 very small rice coconut or ginger drops – either eat this or go without.
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TUESDAY 16th Nov 1943
Heard last evening that the IJA have asked for another broadcast of the AIF Concert party – apparently the last one went over well – wonder what the people at home thought of it? they must think this must be some new kind of POW Camp – so it is – only for what is wrong with it. There is no doubt that the concert parties are doing a good job, they are making things very pleasant for us and it is my candid opinion that the AIF are doing more than the rest. We have three shows – Malayan Command who specialise in the higher class, the BGH (formerly the “PALLADIUM”) which has PORTERS orchestra – but they go in for Jazz. My opinion is that they chew up the pieces and thereby loose [sic] the true originality whereas the AIF go in for light comedy – reviews – musical shows etc which is more in keeping with the surroundings – helps to cheer them up – they have put over some very cleaver [sic] shows – of course they would not be able to put them over a mixed audience – Slim de Gray has composed some delightful bright numbers. They have done a good job.
“H” FORCE EXPECTED BACK TONIGHT
TUESDAY NOV 17th 1943 (It was a Wednesday)
Things are progressing favourably – my opinion is that we are much closer to being better off than we are aware.
Jack Correy, Fred Donaldson (Kenmore, Goulburn) were having a good yarn last night and were pulling things to pieces somewhat from Capitulation to POW and went as far as being presumed dead, Insurgence, Superannuation, pensions etc and finished up where we always finish a lousy trio of PsOW fed up with everything and everyone. No Mail – no Photos & nothing from Jack & Jill which to my way of thinking is very hard especially as most people have written their Mothers, Fathers, sisters, brothers etc, they are wise enough not to take notice of the so-called restrictions – who may or may not write – it would be impossible to check up on next of Kin for every PRISONER of WAR Apparently some people have thought that out.
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SATURDAY 20TH NOVEMBER 1943
FROG RACING
Thursday, Friday and this evening being the 3 nights following pay day, “C” GROUP decided to revive the new but absolutely Australian pastime of FROG RACING. It works this way- a ring is formed about 9 feet and the centre is formed by a stake driven flush with the ground, the frogs (usually 9 each race) are placed in an inverted bucket, usually a one gallon which has no bottom, each frog wears its colours (tied around its middle) such as white, yellow, green, brown, red, blue, black, pink, the names of the frogs are placed on a board opposite to their colours. Just before the start of each race they read out the number, colour, name, pedigree & who entered or trained by. They are then placed in the bucket (from the hole in the bottom which is in the centre of the circle). The starter holds his foot on the bucket and as soon as the officials have called out ‘all set’ and given a piece of truck-mud-guard a ‘whang’ with a piece of iron, then the starter grabs the bucket leaving the frogs blinking at the strong electric light above them. Sometimes they take a few seconds before they start to hop-hop along, the idea is the first one to the outside the circle being declared the winner.
There are all kinds of frogs, large, small, some with sharp noses and some blunt noses, green frogs, brown frogs & speckled frogs, some who jump frequently & others who don’t, some make straight away from the light, others jump around the circle instead of through and out of it.
They operate a Tote which pays 1st and 2nd, also a doubles tote on the say 3rd & 4th race and 5th & 6th. Tickets 5 cents each. A percentage of the takings are kept towards “C” GROUP Christmas Amenities, they should do well.
Of course illegal practices are plentiful such as pieces of wire & Straws are placed so as when they go to sit down they soon take another jump to relieve the pressure of the wire. Salysilic [sic] acid, the end of a cigarette, are some of the inducements offered the frogs to jump. The means to induce them to jump are often so drastic that now and again after a race the starter will yell out “Who owns this sprinter” holding the aforesaid stone dead entry by its legs.
Hurdle races are similar only they have to jump over 2 smaller circles placed inside the larger outside circle, they are formed by strips of bent iron about 2″ high, fun is caused by the entrants jumping it then sitting on the top edge of the hurdle or jumping around the smaller circles until they finally jump out one or the other to the outside circle then home. [IMG3353]
Colour NAME
Red Boiled Shirt out of Laundry by Soap Issue
Yellow £5 out of Pay Book by Black Jack
Blue Starvation by Rice out of Cookhouse
Green No Hoper out of Malaya by 1950
Brown
White
Black
Pink

You can work out the double by the number of tickets – less a small percentage for the fund.

Down at the “PLAYGROUND” they erected some large tents (New) for shelter – they are lined inside with Blue canvas, it was not long before only the guy ropes were left as the boys found out they could make strong but presentable shorts out of this material – 2 tone shorts are frequently seen about, blue with white waist band and hip pockets – the heads naturally were wild – but who takes notice of things such as this in the Army one usually does those things one are supposed not to do.

SATURDAY Nov 20th 1943
AIF Concert “SEE FOR YOURSELF”
The present concert is about the best they have put over so far, the first part is a skit off “OUTWARD BOUND” which was put over at the “Palladium” by the Poms, our lads made it a burlesque of that part where the examiner comes in instead of an ex-clergy man, they have a hard doc/doe[?] of a girl who says to Mrs Spindleshanks when giving judgment what you should have been giving the General in private, you have been giving the public in general, the old dame turns out to be a forlorn young chaps sweetie, in fact a glorious comedy. Several of the doctors objected on the grounds of “Outward Bound” being of a semi-religious nature. Some people are very thin skinned, they overlook the fact that the bird who wrote the play did it to line his pocket – anyhow what bigger business organisation can one find than the RC religion. One should remember the Royal Coat of Arms – evil be to he who evil thinks.
They had a skit on “Black Jack” where they were chased by wolves – finally they threw him to the wolves. Anyway the wolves asked for it — some time ago they had the old song “The Old Mill Stream” with actions – not original but very good.
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FRIDAY 3 DEC 1943
Left ankle broke out again
BROADCAST HOME
Some things are very good – some the reverse, but I am past the worrying stage now I simply take what comes knowing that it could always be worse as it undoubtedly is for those of our fellows who went to Formosa. Yesterday the powers that be decided to get fastened into their job & hasten things up a trifle – not before time- nearly two years and just starting to get into their stride. I still contend that we will be out of here before next February 1944 – most of them laugh at me – marvellous the number of no hopers. “H” Force sick are supposed to be in Singapore, the balance about 13000 are supposed to be on their way to Formosa.
They are broadcasting the 3 programmes this morning at 11 am and this afternoon at 2 pm, we sat out the rehearsals but will miss out today – I had visions of trying to sneak through a message but the leg has cooked that.

FRIDAY 3RD DEC 1943
FOOD
Many and varied are the ways food can be dished up some appetising but it is the same thing day after day that gets your goat.
Soya beans are the favourite now, we have them flaked, ground, part boiled (grounds & mixed with ground rice and chopped up coco-nut we had them this way for breakfast this morning so I suppose we will get them every day for weeks now?
Soya beans are good – there is no doubt about that – they contain Vitamin B but most of them are given whole and the average here do not go to the trouble to chew them up consequently they go through as eaten whole thereby losing the value of them – last night they had an no-rehearsed concert all night – one continuous noise up and down the rooms all night.
Towgay is good if allowed to shoot and washed to get the ground up pieces of granite and marble monuments out of it. Fish if they were allowed to grow up a bit. Rice the much cursed dish but without it we would all be done.
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LETTER CARD HOME
THURSDAY 9th DEC 1943
Dear Clare
Letters June, July, August received, would like Photo. Health fair. Hope Jill still school. 1943 Greeting XMAS Love yourself Jack & Jill, Jack

The above cards were all to be ready by 16-12-1943 but on the morning of the 10th they came rushing around the ward with the information that the Japs had called for them to be ready immediately – all kind of thoughts rushed through our minds – such as sending them by some faster method than per “tortoise or snail”.

Yankee Parcels
The Yanks have been receiving parcels and mail individually addressed by the Number, Name, Unit & CHANGI, Singapore – these Yanks originally came from Java so they must have known by some means that they are here.

WE HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY PARCELS YET.

FRIDAY 17th DECEMBER 1943
Yesterday was a day of days – the first batch of about 500 of the lads came back from their Road – Rail – Bridge Building Job in Burma Thailand. What a time they have had. I don’t think
Have made enquiries re Jack Murray [his brother-in-law] – no luck.
They had 5 days in open steel trucks – no covering, intense heat, monsoonal downpours of rain – very poor water – very short of it in fact.
The glowing baits laid out of good permanent camps, plenty of good food and high pay went like the morning mists either blown away with bombs or wiped out with disease. Some marched as far as 196 miles through jungles, streams that contained very nice water but unfortunately loaded with cholera. Some of the forces were treated very well, others not so hot, although corresponding with the revelation with reference to the treatment by the Nips of PsOW it had the effect of slightly better treatment. The one in charge Toyama said he did not care if the sick died as the others would be worked until they dropped as the railway had to be finished. X—— of the Div Sigs was christened X—-yama as the boys considered he, by his actions, were as good as a Nip. Many and varied are the accounts of hardships, poor food, starvation, brutal treatment, ulcers that burrowed into limbs that fast that amputation was the only remedy to save life.
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Saturday 18th December 1943
Radiogram
Last evening we had a lottery drawing for a chance of winning a radiogram of 100 words – personal message and 14 or 15 others to be included – as per usual I drew a blank piece of paper was fortunate enough to be included in 21 so hope they heard at home.

December 27-12-1943
Young Inkpen is in this ward had a yarn to him, he is only a kid and thin as a match – looks about 17 years old – I don’t think babies should be allowed away from home. [I think ‘young Inkpen’ was NX71579, Laurence Inkpen of the 8 Corps of Signals, his date of birth was 28 January 1921 so he was still just 22 years old, by now John Proudford was aged 46]

LAST DAY OF THIS YEAR
FRIDAY DECEMBER 31ST 1943
Last day of 1943 & what a year it has been – ups and downs – mostly downs & a lot of chaps who one would have taken a life policy on to live another 20 or 30 years are now no more, their bones are resting on Burmese of Thai soil & what did they died for? Just to build a railway that any silly fool cold have built provided they had the same utter disregard for the lives of PsOW as the builders and make an equally rotten switch back railway got of it.

Jack Murray [his brother-in-law] died on 31st October 1943 of dysentery after a long illness and a game fight. I intend seeing Driver Elvy [I think he means NX13058, Fenton George Elvy of 6 Div AASC Corps] of No 2 AASC who happened to be in hospital when Jack died. I have not been able to walk any further than the Lav[atory] otherwise I would have had this information before this.
Further to the above – Capt Dickson and Chris Lawson say that Jack had dysentery for 19 days after he arrived at Nikki Camp and on the 20th day he collapsed at work, taken to hospital and died after a game fight of 3 days – attended to by Dr Roy Mills of the 10th Field Ambulance – still looking for information – AT KANBURI
[IMG3357]
[Reading Roy Mill’s dairy he remarked of this time he remarked about the endless procession to the latrines at night… the patients were packed like sardines and there was a constant cry for the “bed-pan orderly” who were sick themselves and whose sole pervading thought was to collect the bed pan, empty and burn it out and get back to the tent with pan in either hand before the place was fouled with vomit or stool. Reference: Roy Mills, Doctor’s Dairy and Memoirs, , F Force, Thai-Burma Railway, 1994, self-published, page 124]

TO BE CONTINUED

*********************************

JE Proudford was on the list of Australians recovered in Singapore (The Argus 17 September 1945) and in the list of POWs on board Manoora bringing them from Morpeth for Australia on 7 October 1945 (SMH 12 October 1945)

His daughter Patricia Jill Proudford married Bruce John Wilson in Sydney in 1956, [NSW Marriage 8106/1956]  so hopefully Jack was able to give her away. She married for a second time, also in Sydney, in 1963 to Michael Baratossy. [NSW Marriage 1917/1963] but sadly that was after Jack’s death.

John Edward Proudford died in Windsor  in 1958 [NSW Death 4639/1958].

His wife Clare remarried, to David Oswald Henry in 1960 [NSW Marriage 22503/1960] and she died in 1983 [NSW Death 27749/1983].

So John Edward (Jack) Proudford, NX34594, of the 2/20 Bn AIF survived the horrors of the fighting in Malaya and Singapore and incarceration in Changi where the skin condition he suffered was a major problem for him. He returned to NSW to rejoin his family and left the wonderful legacy of this diary.

Thank you

LEST WE FORGET .

References:

DVA Nominal Rolls,

National Archives of Australia records

NSW Births Deaths and Marriages registry.

Singapore and Beyond by Don Wall

National Library Trove web site

Entries for 1943 will be added as they are transcribed. ©

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