‘Don’t stand still.’ Changi to Bukit Timah – POWs 8

In September 1942 Barry’s Line Section was sent by their captors, as a working party, from Changi to Bukit Timah near Singapore town. They were to build a memorial for soldiers of both sides killed during the invasion of Malaya. They marched the 16 miles to the new camp, carrying everything they owned. Barry remembers:

 As our party, No. 27 and the rest of No. 1 Company, arrived at the site one of the POWs already working there whispered to our Commanding Officer, “Just keep the tools moving. Make a noise. Don’t stand still.” We noted guards standing around the site all with fixed bayonets and each of them carrying a stout bamboo rod to encourage the laggards. We had not met this situation before as none of us had yet experienced the sensation of working directly under the eyes of a Jap guard.

Some of my Glasgow men had inevitably been in prison at some time in their careers and we had good advice from them. “Keep your head down, do not be noticed. Do what you are told to do and never give the slightest hint of reluctance. If you are hurt or very tired carry on with every appearance of bravery and co-operation and perhaps a guard will take pity and give you a rest.”

Some men seemed quite unable to grasp the fact that their very survival depended on their maintaining a very humble appearance, obeying orders, combined with eagerness to please our masters. A sour look, a shrug, a turned away shoulder or any such gesture earned an immediate swipe, accompanied by loud shouts.

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