With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, The Philippines, and Malaya on 7/8 December, the long-expected War in the Pacific had begun.
The 88th and 137th Field Regiments, Royal Artillery of the 11th Indian Division had arrived in Singapore only nine days before the Japanese attack.
A few days after the start of hostilities, Major Leofric Thorpe submitted his Official Report to the Singapore Services Entertainment Committee. In his conclusion, Thorpe argued why another concert party would be urgently needed in the near future—one which (given the not-so-subtle subtext of the report) he should be put in charge of.
With the war now being fought, there will be an even greater need now. When the situation stabilizes, and the number of troops perhaps increase, no better way of maintaining the morale of the men could be tried. . .. Another show should start as soon as circumstances permit.[i]
As Thorpe would quickly discover, circumstances for another Concert Party did not soon present themselves, and when they did, they would not be in the circumstances he had imagined.
On 29 January 1942, nearly a month and a half after the start of the War in the Pacific, the convoy carrying the 18th Division arrived in Singapore. While trying to unload its cargo of men and equipment, it came under heavy attack by Japanese aircraft. By this point in the war Malaya had already been lost and all Commonwealth forces had been pulled back to defend Singapore Island. Once on land, the 18th Divisions’ troops were immediately thrown into the final battle for the island. For Fergus Anckorn, their preparedness for such a situation was absurd: “Three and a half months without setting foot on land. Talk about being ready for action. Our knees were jelly. And, you know, we had to go off that ship under fire, under bombing.”[ii]
Seventeen days later all the surviving Commonwealth forces were prisoners of war.
To learn about the reorganization of Concert Parties in Changi POW Camp, Singapore, read “In The Bag” (Chapter 1) in my book, Captive Audiences / Captive Performers.
RICE AND SHINE WILL CONTINUE, 6TH OCTOBER 2021, 10AM
[i] Thorpe, Report, 21.
[ii] Anckorn, Interview, 20.
Note that all the documents in this series of blogs reside in Sears A. Eldredge Archive in the De Witt Wallace Library at Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55105
Full Source List for ‘Rice and Shine’: British Pre-War Concert Parties posts, here.
Sear’s book, Captive Audiences/Captive Performers: Music and Theatre as Strategies for Survival on the Thailand-Burma Railway 1942-1945, was published by Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2014, as an open-access e-book and is available here: http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/thdabooks/22