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.