Death and Churchill – POWs 6

In the Changi POW camps epidemic diseases took hold. In the space of eight days three men of 27 Line Section died, two of dysentery, one of Cerebral Malaria. They were three of Barry’s highly regarded Sergeants.

By summer all the senior officers had been sent away to Japan – supposedly to foil any attempts at an uprising – and the Kempi Tei (special police) cracked down on any whiff of escape plans. The little news the POWs received on secret radios was dire. As Barry remembers:

The general spirit of the POWs was in fact very sad and pessimistic with no serious thoughts of revolt or even of escaping. In a European War once out of the prison camp one may well pass for a native of the country, but in Asia any European is immediately recognisable.

[On the radio] We heard much of the false propaganda, which even then seemed untrue, but once quite unexpectedly, I heard the very recognisable voice of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. It made a lasting impression as he was quoting a poem by Arthur Hugh Clough. The war was going very badly for the Brits. We were out of Europe with not much prospect of getting back again. Rommel was winning all his battles in the desert against Wavell, the Russians were falling back on Moscow overpowered by the Nazi armour, our Fortress Singapore had fallen, our two biggest battleships had been sunk and the US Pacific Fleet almost destroyed at Pearl Harbor. Churchill quoted:

Say not the struggle naught availeth
The labour and the wounds are vain.
The enemy faints not nor faileth
And as the things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes fears may be liars
It may be, in yon smoke concealed
Your comrades chase e’en now the flyers
And but for you possess the Field.

For while the tired waves vainly breaking
Seem here no painful inch to gain
Far back through creek and inlet making
Comes silent, flooding in, the Main.

And not by Eastern windows only
When daylight comes, comes in the light
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward look! The land is bright.

This was obvious reference to the fact that the USA was now at war and on our side.

3 thoughts on “Death and Churchill – POWs 6

  1. Churchill’s words were so simple yet when put together, painted a powerful image or thought. As a side note, towards 1944 and later, many POWs crammed into a transport ship never made it to their destination once leaving port. The Allies ruled the skies and surface ships battered anything afloat… including those with Allied POWs.

  2. Several of the men in 27 Line Section lost their lives on a transport ship. They were on the Hokofu Maru (
    One of them who survived was later rescued in the American raid at Cabanatuan, Luzon in January 1945.
    Interned Italians, some with family members serving in the British armed forces, lost their lives when the (unmarked) Arandora Star was torpedoed off Ireland on its way to Canada.

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