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15 October 2014
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Christmas Day in Changi, Singapore 1941

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Ronald Stow, Bertie Stow, Joyce Stow, Brenda Stow, Herbert Stow, Dorothy Stow.
Location of story: 
Changi, Singapore
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Laurie Piper from Sidley UK Online Centre and has been added to the website on behalf of Barbara Elliot with her permission.

Our House was in Changi, Singapore, my father was an army officer and on Christmas day 1941 Hong Kong fell.

My Bother Ron was captured by the Japanese and shipped over to Japan. He spent the war years in Ozaka. He was badly treated but survived to return home.

I was 12 years old and remember my mother wondering what had happened to my brother. Soon after that the Japanese started bombing Singapore. I remember at the army school we used to have to practice jumping into trenches, we were’n t really frightened, we thought it was a bit of a lark. Our house had a room with sandbags outside and at night we would stay in there while they bombed Singapore. We could hear the bombs exploding.

Early in January 1942 my mother, brother and sisters and I arrived at the harbour to be evacuated. I saw this small boat and I can remember that it was from the Blue Funnel Line, my father was on the quay, and waved us goodbye. The boat was full of women and children and everyone was seasick. I had my thirteenth birthday onboard. And I can remember the only present that I had was a bottle of Ovaltiny sweets. I had to help look after some of the children and babies on board. My Mother was the only person who wasn’t seasick. We had one or two frights on the boat as it zig-zaged to avoid torpedoes.

The voyage to Freemantle, Australia lasted about two weeks and throughout the journey my younger sister and I had to share a bunk and my mother slept underneath it. What I rember most about the journey is children crying, people being sick and very few men around. My younger sister who was about 9 or 10, and I made a plan that if the boat were sunk we would try and hold my mother up as she couldn’t swim. My father’s uncle met us off the boat, none of us had ever met him before and he took us back to his house until we could find a place to live. We stayed in Australia until the end of the war in 1945.

My Father was captured at fall of Singapore and spent the rest of the war in Changi Jail, he survived the war and thinking that we were in Australia he wanted to meet us and was taken to Sidney, but by this time we were on another boat back to England. Eventually we were all reunited back in England after many long months.

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