- Contributed by
- CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire
- People in story:
- Ruth Nina Irving -Bell
- Location of story:
- Malaya - SIngapore - Australia
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 19 August 2005
On Kru Estate, in spite of warlike rumours, life went on placidly with our household of Timothy the Indian cook, old Chinese amah devoted to the Malacca volunteer force and ordered to go to Singapore on a “training exercise.” This was about December 5th or 6th , and the wives who lived round about, miles from each other, gathered on Tampin Station to see the boys off and I had a rugger ball thrust into my hands to present to them, I suppose, to make things look just a game. Having seen the train start off, I dashed into the car and drove at speed to get a last look at the train, and hopefully Roy, at the level crossing at the end of the estate road, but by that time, it was going at speed and Roy did not see me. So I went sadly back to a somewhat empty bungalow.
A day or two passed with news getting worse, and then my radio battery went flat. So I phoned my nearest neighbour, who told me she had already packed all her valuables, silver etc, and was sending them down to Singapore to be exported to Australia, and she advised me to do likewise, all most depressing, and I really couldn’t believe her. However, in the next day or so, Japanese bombs landed on Singapore, one of htem right through the Company Office in Raffles Square, but it was at night and no one was killed, though the old Sikh ‘jaga’ on his charpoy outside, got a shock.
Meanwhile, the elderly manager of the estate came over to urge me to go down to Singapore, as he felt somewhat responsible for us. But I still had confidence in the force to protect us! A friend phoned to ask if I would like to share a house on the coast road very close to Malacca, as she too was left with her two small children on a very isolated Dunlop estate and was allowed to move into the Dunlop town house, which had been shared by two young fellows who were with the volunteers. So we took a few necessities and moved in with the children and ‘amahs’. The house had a Chinese cookie and Doroty and I used to go back to the estates every so often to get eggs and chicken etc. Things began to deteriorate on the war front as the Japs had landed up on the North Coast, and each news bulletin spoke of “ our forces retreating to prepared positions.” Dorothy was very nervous and scared that Japs would land on the beach on the other side of the road, but I persuaded her that, unless Penang fell, we would be safe, but of course very soon the Japs took Penang, and then could land by boat at Malacca.
Christmas came and we had drinks with a boozy old man next door, and a few days later the rail junction at Tampin was bombed. Dorothy had been back to her estate and returned terrified, saying I must go down to Singapore with her, so I dashed back to ht estate and quickly threw some things into a truck — as many warm clothes as I could find, as it seemed to me, at last, that we might have to leave Malaya even if only temporarily. It was awful to leave the Indian servants and house and garden. Amah was in Malacca with me, but I knew she wouldn’t want o go to Singapore, so I found a syce, in case anything went wrong with the car, an open M>G so there I had to be someone to hold on to Jonathan!
Dorothy’s amah went with her and we had loaded as muck food etc, as possible. I didn’t have muck, but she had quite a few bottles of Whisky. Very early next morning we saw Red Cross lorries going past. The Aussies had had a Red Cross camp about seven miles out of Malacca, so we knew it was time to set off down the central road to Singapore (about 150 miles). We stopped a few times, hiding the cars and ourselves under rubber trees when planes came over. The whole thng seemed unreal. Mine was the faster car, so I arrived first at the Causeway and waited for Dorothy and together we went into the City to a friend of Dorothy’s who had a large house and had already sent his wife home.
Many more women and children arrived — some from up North with only what they were wearing, and we and the children slept on sofas and the floor. Dorothy’s friend advised all of us to leave Singapore as soon as possible.
It was, by this time, early in the New Year and Dorothy and the two little girls got on a ship to Australia about January 8th. I didn’t want to leave, as I still had a feeling that, with all the troops in Singapore, surely the city would not fall. So I found a room in a guest house, and a temporary Chinese amah so that I could take some cakes etc to Roy at his machine gun post for afternoon tea. His post was just behind a seaside bungalow and he and his friends had dug a trench against air attack and planted canna lilies round it.
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