Tag Archives: Sime Road

Liberation of Sime Road Camp Singapore – Freddy’s Story

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……….

Liberation of Sime Road Camp Singapore – Mary’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Changi/Sime Road camps, Singapore

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Mary Thomas a young woman in Changi/Sime Road Camps Singapore

Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer and excerpt from her book (In the Shadow of the Rising Sun. Maruzen Asia 1983). Used with kind permission of Mary’s niece Margaret Thomas.

On the evening of 15th August 1945 an extraordinary rumour began to circulate in the camp. It concerned the collapse of Japan and some unheard-of catastrophe. We dared not trust the rumours, we had heard too many. However, the food fatigue brought our breakfast, not rice gruel this time but fried cakes of rice with a V for Victory stamped on each one… At the meeting in the afternoon we heard that Japan had actually surrendered and that there was a new weapon, the atom bomb, by which the surrender had been won. But inexpressibly relieved and delighted as we were to hear of victory at last, we could not help having a sense of awe and horror at the means of winning.

As the days went by our position remained ambiguous. The Japanese were obviously in an uncertain frame of mind but still in control of the camp.

We learned later that though Japan had capitulated General Itagaki, commanding in Malaya, had not decided whether to join in the surrender or to continue fighting on his own.

This continued for a fortnight. We only knew what his decision was when four British paratroops, Red Devils in berets and battledress suddenly appeared in camp.

The last ten days in the camp were so crowded with events and new sensations that they were almost exhausting. Visitors flocked into the camp. First there were POWs from Changi and other military camps. We had plenty of food chocolate distributed by the Red Cross and British sailors and bread baked by the cooks of H.M.S.Sussex and sent to the camp every day.

We had proper soap again, flannels, toothbrushes and combs. It was like recovering from an illness and having a perpetual Christmas party.

On the afternoon of 11 September we went to the Thanksgiving service at St Andrews Cathedral. That evening two friends and I had our first civilised meal for more than three and a half years, in the officers’ Mess of the Punjabi Regiment…. It was a wonderful evening partly from the sheer pleasure and excitement of actually dining out like civilised people again.

The evening after the surrender ceremony Lord Louis Mountbatten visited the camp to explain the difficulties which had delayed repatriation.

On Tuesday 18th September I left the camp with twenty – two other women and three children to go on board the Nieuw Holland. The journey home, our first real encounter with the outside word, was something which could never be forgotten.

We landed at Liverpool on 16th October in a fog

It took a long time after repatriation for a sort of amazement at people’s gentle manners and kindly ways to pass off. We marvelled at the way Britons had been hideously bombed and rationed and had borne for 6 exhausting years the burden of a tremendous war. We felt we had come back to a very wonderful nation.

Liberation of Sime Road Camp Singapore – Daphne and Jennifer’s Stories

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Changi/Sime Road camps, Singapore

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Daphne Davidson a young mother in Changi and Sime Road internment camps

(Collected by the British Red Cross Museum)

It was not until 18th  August 1945 that the peace rumours could not be ignored.

On 28th liberator planes flew over the camp and dropped leaflets and on 30th the British parachutists arrived. Strangely enough my memories of the last days are clouded in a haze of happiness. I knew my husband was alive – so many wives were mourning for those who would never come back. The Burma Death railway took a hateful toll of our fighting men.

My husband and baby and I left Singapore for England, freedom and feeding. What the future held we did not know – it was enough to be together again.

Jennifer’s story

(Jennifer Martin, nee Davidson, Daphne’s daughter a young baby in Changi and Sime Road)

I remember playing in the garden of the Raffles Hotel where we were lodged while families were reunited and messages sent to relatives in the U.K. We were very fortunate my father had spent many months suffering the deprivation and disease while working on the Burmese Death railway but he was alive and came back to us. So many husbands and fathers did not return.

Soon we were on the ‘Monowai’ the first ship to leave for home. I remember staring in wonder at the cabin we were given and the sheets, smooth, clean and white on the bunks. At Port Said we docked and were taken to a large hanger with long tables covered in clothes and all the things we would need provided by the Red Cross. Everything from underwear to winter coats for men, women and children of all sizes. We were all kitted out for the winter weather ahead.

Liverpool on October 11th 1945, then the train to Edinburgh to meet my grandmother and aunt Rena, the delights of Scottish food, a house and garden, shops, Christmas, snow and snowballs.

Changi digitisation project: Cambridge

Originally posted by the Southeast Asia Library Group: Changi digitisation project at Cambridge University Library

 Cambridge University Library has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Award to conserve, digitise and make freely available online the archives of two WWII civilian internment camps on Singapore – Changi and Sime Road. These form part of the Royal Commonwealth Society’s British Association of Malaysia and Singapore archives. The two-year grant commences in September 2015 and it is planned to launch the records in Cambridge Digital Library in August 2017.

The archives will be of immense interest to the families of internees, academic researchers, students and the general public, since few survivors ever spoke of their traumatic ordeal. The first stage of the project involves the meticulous conservation of the archives.

The archives contain invaluable primary sources for the reconstruction of the lives of Singapore’s civilian internees. They include official records compiled by the camps’ internal administration, which document personal data like an internee’s name, date entered camp, marital status, occupation, age, nationality, and camp address. Other sources shed light upon accommodation, camp discipline, relations with the Japanese authorities, work parties, diet, health and hygiene, recreation and leisure, the delivery of mail, and the repatriation of internees at the end of the war. Newspapers circulated within the male camp, such as the ‘Changi Guardian’, reported upon events, disseminated news of sporting, musical and theatrical societies, and published fiction, poetry and humour. These official records are complemented by the correspondence, diaries and memoirs of individual internees.

More information on the historical background and provenance of the archives can be found on the Cambridge University Library Special Collections webpage.

An article by Peng Han Lim on “Identifying and collecting primary sources of information to reconstruct the daily lives of the civilian internees at Changi Prison and Sime Road Camp 1942-45” is included in the SEALG Newsletter 2013.