McGregor WX12835 and Dean WX6067 were sentenced to 2 years to be served at Outram Gaol.
Their Crime – attempting to escape Singapore.
Throughout 1942 and 1943, prisoners at Outram prisoners in solitary confinement, were absolutely forbidden to speak to anybody (John McGregor learnt morse code from his neighbour Chris Neilson – who was remarkably resilient and ‘tough’ Aussie POW who managed to regularly lifted the spirits of prisoners. He also managed to antagonise his gaolers who retaliated by giving Neilson a bashing. Neilson claimed his actions broke the utter boredom of Outram Road solitary confinement.
Their cells were never cleaned, the buckets emptied infrequently and of course their food was minimal. The inmates suffered inhumane conditions and starvation.
In 1944 this changed a little, and as shown above, the prisoners were permitted to bath for scabies. There were men so tormented by scabies they tore at their flesh, resulting in a painful death.
Bill Young’s self-portrait Outram
Penrod Dean and John ‘Jack’ or ‘Mac’ McGregor were very fortunate to survive Outram – there must have been numerous days when they thought they would never live to walk through the gates.
McGregor lost his eyesight, and for some months returned to Changi Hospital for treatment for this and other illnesses – he was returned to Gaol to complete his 2 year sentence. He was recovered from Outram at the end of the war.
Dean completed his two year sentence and returned to Changi where he was recovered at the end of the war.
McGregor wrote about his experience ‘Blood on the Rising Sun‘ which was published by Bencoolen, printed in Hong Kong by Gareth Powell Limited 1980. McGregor died soon after.
Dean in his 80’s wrote his book ‘Singapore Samurai‘ published in 2002 about his life as POW.
For further reading we recommend Tim Bowden’s ‘Stubborn Buggers’ The survivors of the infamous POW Gaol that made Changi look like heaven by Unwin and Unwin and first published 2014. ISBN 978 1 74331 442 5
Tim Bowden having researched other prisoners from Outram Road Gaol raises questions about the various differences written by Dean.
You can also read the interview with Tim Bowden. ‘ Bravery Beyond Limits’ – this book was released in April 2014 – for Anzac Day. Bowden’s book took 30 years from start to completion.