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On Route to Singapore

by BBC Scotland

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
BBC Scotland
People in story: 
A.A.
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A9019785
Contributed on: 
31 January 2006

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Vijiha Bashir, at BBC Scotland on behalf of A.A. from Elderslie, Johnstone and has been added to the site with the permission of Johnstone History Society. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

From August 1939 — May 1946 I served in the Army during the War. When the War in Europe finished in 1945 I found myself transferred from the 1st Airborne Division to the 6th Airborne Division and very shortly thereafter I arrived in Bombay. The idea was that after a few weeks of acclimatisation there we would be sent to attack Singapore. When we were on route to Singapore the Japanese capitulated because of the Atom Bombs and we were diverted to ‘up country in Malaya’.

We were sent on to an operation which involved us being transported to our destination in different sized boats.

The first one being a rather large vessel which was quite comfortable, and then, just like the thing, when we were quite settled the order came that we were to transfer to another boat. We went over the side and climbed down the scrambling nets from the big ship into the smaller vessels about the size of Clyde Steamers and then when they got further in, on to smaller things still and then eventually just into the water. We then jumped into the sea and made our way on to dry land. The idea was that we were to take over a Prisoner of War Camp, 7 miles up from where we landed.

After marching the 7 miles there was no sign of the Prisoner of War Camp, so we stopped for a minute or two and then did another 7 miles. Again there was no sign of the Prisoner of War Camp so we did the third 7 mile and, again, no Prisoner of War Camp. About this time it was getting about + hour before darkness would descend in the Tropical Countries so we stopped for the night and got out the Mosquito nets and got down to try to sleep.

At this point on came the tropical rain, so within a very short time everything was completely soaked — if I dried my blanket once through the night, I must have dried it 10 times. By dry I mean I squeezed out the water, it certainly was never dry.

When the daylight came and we got up ready to continue with whatever we were to do, a big car arrived with the ‘Head Man’ (I can’t remember after all these years whether it was the Brigadiers or somebody even higher up than him) but they had managed to get his car onto dry land. He was to address the Troops and when he arrived he said “GOOD MORNING CHAPS, I AM SORRY TO TELL YOU THIS IS WHAT IS KNOWN AS A MONUMENTAL MILITARY F — UP. THERE IS NO PRISONER OF WAR CAMP UP HERE. YOU WILL JUST HAVE TO MARCH BACK AGAIN AND GO BACK ON TO THE BIG SHIP AND YOU WILL THEN PROCEED TO SINGAPORE — CHEERIO!” And thereafter we set out and marched the 21 miles back again.

For the first 20 minutes or so, you could not see anyone in front of you. All that was visible was a column of steam as the hot sun dried out all our clothes.

Having been in the forces all that time I don’t know much about what happened in Civvie Street. I do know that people such as my mother spent many hours working in the canteens on a voluntary basis, such as at Paisley Y.M.C.A, Salvation Army Canteens etc. I also know from what my father told me, he worked in Weirs at Cathcart and they did 12 hour shifts and every so often they were invited to do a 14 hour shift. When that happened they automatically knew that some Royal Navy Vessel had been badly damaged and would be ploughing across the seas for repairs. Weirs was a place which made and attended to pumps for the Navy Vessels.

That is really all I know about Civvie Street during the War except that it was nice to come home on leave, of course, and see what was going on round about.

THE POEM

STAY WITH ME, GOD, THE NIGHT IS DARK.
THE NIGHT IS COLD: MY LITTLE SPARK
OF COURAGE DIMS. THE NIGHT IS LONG
BE WITH ME, GOD, AND MAKE ME STRONG.

I LOVE A GAME, I LOVE TO FIGHT,
I HATE THE DARK; I LOVE THE LIGHT.
I LOVE MY CHILD; I LOVE MY WIFE
I AM NO COWARD. I LOVE LIFE.
LIFE, WITH IT’S CHANGE OF MOOD AND SHADE,
I WANT TO LIVE. I’M NOT AFRAID.
BUT ME AND MINE ARE HARD TO PART.
OH! UNKNOWN GOD, LIFT UP MY HEART!

YOU STILLED THE WATERS AT DUNKIRK
AND SAVED YOUR SERVANTS. ALL YOUR WORK
IS WONDERFUL. DEAR LORD, YOU STRODE
BEFORE US DOWN THAT DREADFUL ROAD.

WE WERE ALONE, AND HOPE HAD FLED.
WE LOVED OUR COUNRTY AND OUR DEAD
AND COULD NOT AHME THEM: SO WE STAYED
THE COURSE, AND WERE NOT MUCH AFRAID.

DEAR GOD, THAT NIGHTMARE ROAD! AND THEN
THAT SEA! WE GOT THERE — WE WERE MEN.
MY EYES WHERE BLIND, MY FEET WERE TORN —
MY SOUL SANG LIKE A BIRD AT DAWN!

I KNEW THAT DEATH IS BUT A DOOR,
I KNEW THAT WE WERE FIGHTING FOR —
PEACE FOR THE KIDS, OUR BROTHERS FREED,
A KINDER WORLD, A CLEANER BREED.

I’M BUT THE SON MY MOTHER BORE,
A SIMPLE MAN, AND NOTHING MORE.
BUT — GOD OF STRENGHTH AND GENTLENESS —
BE PLEASED TO MAKE ME NOTHING LESS!

HELP ME AGAIN WHEN DEATH IS NEAR,
TO MOCK THE HAGGARD FACE OF FEAR,
THAT WHEN I FALL, IF FALL I MUST.
MY SOUL MAY TRIUMPH IN THE DUST.

COURTESY — MR CREE

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