A couple of years ago, Hamish Dow, passed on a chapter of his own father’s tale about how he was liberated from a Japanese WW2 Camp. Malcolm Dow, a Blantyre man had been captured by the Japanese during the war and this excerpt is just part of his overall, incredible story of capture and later freedom. It’s a timely reminder that many brave people suffered and endured their own hardships, even those who survived inhuman treatment. Passed to Blantyre Project via Alex Rochead, kind thanks are offered to Hamish for allowing a snippet of his father’s story to be told here at this time of remembrance.
This part of the story takes place a just after the dropping of the second nuclear bomb as the Japanese surrendered in 1945. Unedited, as it appeared:
“About a week before the bomb was dropped the KEMPEI arrived in force from Outram Road and ordered all POWs out of gaol and officers huts searching for radios. The one in the gaol was dismantled after use so nothing was found. But one was found within the bamboo supports of an officers Hut. The pieces found were obviously from a radio so the four were taken away for trial in Singapore. All radios were out of action so we didn’t know about The Big Bang but the Jap staff officers from Singapore got us all into the barracks square with the four convicted (as we thought) officers. The Jap Colonel explained that the four had been convicted but he then broadcast a recording of the Japanese Emperor’s surrender following the second Atom bomb.
It took a few moments for our interpreter to tell us to remain in camp with Jap guards still in control until our forces under Mountbatten arrived to take over. A month passed with General Fukuye decision to fight on until the beginning of September. Mitch, Richie myself and several others were ordered to go down to the airfield to await our rescuers.
After a few hours several heavy aircraft arrived, and half a dozen soldiers parachuted down followed by four small buggy like cars and loads of supplies. The small buggies were known as jeeps and Mitch and I joined a Sergeant and Corporal of RAREPOW Regiment in one of the jeeps. Colonel Nevey and a Black Watch Lieutenant were in the next Jeep. We drove like mad up to Changi gaol. The Black Watch Lieutenant jumped out pulled a revolver and ordered the Japs to drop their rifles and had them marched away. He stated he was now camp commandant and we were his prisoners until Mountbatten and company arrived.
It then dawned on us that the war was definitely over and we had won, but now we were in strict control by this mad Scotsman who handed over the goods dropped from the plane but distribution was in the power of his forces and he had to be cruel to be kind. Our police force still continued to operate with the RAREPOW regiment as our bosses. RAREPOW meant returned Far East POW regiment.
However during the night the Russians store we’re broken open by the Brighton gang who found hundreds of Red Cross parcels which the Japs had not distributed (even though their diet was not much better than ours) when we got off duty about 3:00 in the morning we got back to our cell we found that Santa Claus from Brighton had left us a belated Xmas present of a gross carton of Libby’s ideal milk. I think most of the cells in the Gaol that night had a Xmas party. Obviously, the dour Scots Lieutenant had turned his “Nelson Eye” to the break-in. But by next morning he told us that was the last of it as we were now on a strict European hospital diet and we would not be sent home till the medical authorities were satisfied we were in a fit state of health. Naturally, Mitch and I scuffed the 144 tins of ideal milk in four days and although we suffered for a week thereafter, we somehow now realised that we were about to re-join a world fit for heroes. A world bereft of all future wars with Rabbie’s dream of “man for man the world o’er shall brothers be for aw that (we are still hoping).
The RAREPOW Sgt told me he recognised me, But the last time he saw me was in 1944 and I had a beard then. It turned out he’d been in an advance force behind lines and was taking photos of the bridge from a tall tree to aid the planes for India which eventually bombed the bridge.
After a week or so Mountbatten arrived at the gates of Changi and walked into the parade ground where the remnants of the” forgotten army” were lined up resplendent in our made-up new uniforms. I had an Australian Bush hat. Open-neck shirt and all other clothes to make me a credit to the British army. As soon as Mountbatten appeared on the stand in the middle of the square he said stand at ease and sit down on the tarmac. You’ve had more than enough of regimentation for 31/2 years.
Now it is your time to relax and make yourselves fit to help your country back to prosperity. Then he said “you think you’ve had a hard time of it? Not near as bad as me. I’ve been stuck with this following me around giving me orders” pointing to Countess Mountbatten beautifully dressed as a commandant of the Red Cross. “Now you will be in the hands of her battalion of South African nurses and I feel very sorry for you.” With that in marched a company of Red Cross nurses, the first white we’d seen for three years and you could have heard the cheers 26 miles away in Singapore. I had heard a lot and admired Mountbatten from afar, but I met him on lots of occasions after the war and my admiration never dimmed.
Many years later Mina, Neil, Hamish and I were on holiday with our caravan. I was listening to the racing on the radio when it was announced that Mountbatten had been blown up by IRA terrorists in Ireland. I was heartbroken. It was a death in the family. It spoiled our holiday. He was a great man and one who will never be forgotten by those of his forces who loved and adored him.
Back to Changi medical exams, diets, invites galore to various places escorted by beautiful nurses whom we thought where the world’s greatest until we realised they were nearly as beautiful as our own back home who were getting nearer by the minute. Then one night the old Chinaman who had collaborated with us for so long invited us down to his Kampung for dinner and a party. A truck was commandeered, and we all set off. RSM Cutts, Sergeant Mitchell, myself, George Richards and several of the Brighton Diehards. Most of our collaborators were there including the old garage owner who bought the four truck wheels we pinched while the Japs were enjoying the spoils of war in Bencoolen Street in the red-light district. The old village headmen had set up a lavish meal of well-cooked Chinese fare. Well laced with Chinese homemade “blow your head off” grog. The party lasted all through the night and the next thing I remembered was waking up on my cosy mattress in my own cell and the dour Scots Lieutenant wagging an admonishment finger at me before leaving the cell. It must have been my one and only drunken spree and no photos were taken nor word of our carousals.