- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Anne Wilson
- Location of story:
- Far East
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 November 2003
EVACUATION FROM SINGAPORE 1942
A simple telegram postmarked Malaya dated 8 January 1942 signed by my mother Lena Clarke contained the words
ALL WELL and SAFE
PLEASE DON’T WORRY.
This simple message to my Grandmother in the UK did not indicate the events that were to follow after the Invasion of Malaya and the subsequent surrender of Singapore to the Japanese.
I was born in March 1939 in Seletar Hospital Singapore, the only daughter of W O 1 Clarke L A ( known as TOGO ) R E M E and his wife Lena but spent my early childhood on Penang, a small island off the west coast of the mainland of Malaya.
On 15 December 1941 just eight days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour my family was evacuated by ferry boat to the mainland and there travelled by train via Kuala Lumpur arriving two days later in Singapore where we were housed in army quarters in Changi.On 15 January 1942 we were evacuated on the 9429 ton ship SS Narkunda which had brought troops from the UK. Mr R Lear of Ipswich a young seaman told me that most of the crew were Indians with only a few British men serving on board. The master was M G Draper and the medical officer B Wallace.
We were bound for Fremantle with other civilians some of whom are included on the incoming passenger list gleaned from the Australian archives by Ann Catchpole.
Hilda Clark together with her six children, Eileen Cantrell and her daughter were some of the 407 passengers taken from Singapore to Australia for safety.After disembarking at Fremantle and handing my family into the care of the Evacuation committee, Perth , the ship set sail for Portuguese East Africa to pick up other personnel and with Union Jacks on both sides and on her deck, all lights blazing she was allowed free passage by the Germans to the UK.After she carried more troops to North Africa the SS Narkunda was bombed and sunk.
Meanwhile in Fremantle the evacuees were sent to various transit centres and my family was cared for by the nuns in a local convent before being settled in Rockingham about 20 miles south. My brother attended school where all age groups were taught in one class by an Irish master.
We then travelled by train for four days via Adelaide to Melbourne where my mother set up home with her friends Mollie Williams and Pat Alderdice and their children in 2 Gordon Crescent, Blackrock Victoria.
Bill Williams and Jack Alderdice had been my father’s friends being regular servicemen before the war so it was obvious that the three ladies and the six children John and Anne Clarke, Michael and Rodney Williams and Jackie and Tricia Alderdice would eventually set up home together. Bill and Jack did survive their captivity but sadly my father died 7 June 1943 from cholera, during his imprisonment and his ashes are buried in a mass grave at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
In Rockingham we had lived in a wooden bungalow with an outside toilet but in Blackrock the accommodation was a conventional two storey house which is still standing to this day.
On 25 February 1945 we left Sydney on the SS Dominion Monarch sailing east calling in at Wellington New Zealand before crossing the Pacific Ocean, up the west coast of South America to the Panama Canal. After passing through the canal the ship sailed north to New York where we stayed for four days before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Liverpool.
After a journey of several months we finally arrived back in the UK and lived with my maternal Grandmother until the cessation of the hostilities in the Far East before being housed in married quarters at North Camp Farnborough Hants.
I can still recall the evening that my mother received the telegram informing her that my father had died whilst working for his captors on the Railway of Death and to date I have very little information about him. If you read this website and know anyone who might have known my father I will be so pleased to hear from you via COFEPOW
His details are
7585750 WO 1 CLARKE L A R E M E
The public’s perception of an evacuee is a small child wearing a simple brown label and carrying a gas mark being sent to places of safety during the bombing by the Germans but little is documented about the truamas experienced by the children like me who were evacuated and then left fatherless after the war in the Far East.
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