Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Changi/Sime Road camps, Singapore
Composed by Dr Bernice Archer
Freddy Bloom, young woman recently married to military doctor in Singapore before Allies surrendered. Freddy interned in Changi/ Sime Road while husband Philip was interned in Changi POW camp.
(source: Freddy Bloom: Dear Philip – A Diary of Captivity Changi 1942-45, Epilogue to a diary). (The Bodley Head Ltd.) Used with kind permission of Ginny Kanka.
There never was an official notice that our war was over. Peace trickled in gradually. Some of our ‘hosts’ faded away. Those who stayed rarely appeared and one or two actually tried to ingratiate themselves with us. Red Cross stores were released. Letters that were held up were distributed. Then one beautiful day a small squad of super-men in red berets came to the camp. They were some of Mountbatten’s commandos. Each seemed ten feet tall, tanned, bursting with strength and unlike anything we had seen in years…….
We were told to stay where we were but this did not suit me. So one day in the last week of August Katherine (her friend) and I put on our best dresses that we had saved for just such an occasion. We crawled under the wire and out of the camp.
With studied ‘sang froid’ as if it was the most natural thing in the world we hailed a taxi and told him to drive us to Changi POW camp.
At Changi gates the man on duty, whose mouth had opened in disbelief when we appeared, controlled himself long enough to tell us the hospital was at the end of the avenue.
The long walk became memorable. Men in shorts were working or lounging everywhere. As we made our way, first one and then another would come up to us, look hard and then shake our hands saying ‘First white women in three and a half years’.
The first time it was touching. The second and third time just a little less so. After we had shaken hands for the umpteenth time it was hard to control our mirth. Each said exactly the same words in exactly the same way. We knew we must not let them down. Since we ‘were’ the first white women in three and a half years we had to behave appropriately but it was difficult to assess just what appropriate was. Not giggles for sure.
Now there I was standing at the end of Philip’s camp bed…. then he came in and put his arms round me. I buried my head in his chest and sobbed all over him……….