August 1945 – Changi Camp, Singapore – Last weeks prior to Surrender.
The following extract 4 August 1945 to 6 September 1945 is from the Diary of WX3452 Capt. Tom Bunning of 2/4th MGB. It provides an insight into the last days of war in this POW Camp.
Tom Bunning remained Singapore throughout the war.
At this time, every able-bodied POW had been sent out of Changi on work parties (known as X Parties) around Singapore and Jahore Bahru, the number of men remaining at Changi was the smallest ever – initially it was not known, but the POWs worked excavating and constructing air raid shelters, tunnels, trenches and weapon pits.
4 August 1945: Changi was treated to quite an airshow with several hours of Lightning P38 aircraft appearing from the north, swooping low over Singapore City, spiralling up and over Changi then turning to fly low over the city again. They then flew low along the coastline dive-bombing and strafing all shipping in sight. Bunning wrote “one Jap fighter got in the road and lasted only a few seconds before being blasted out of the sky”.
8 August 1945: Two Japanese found dead – one near the wire with his head bashed in and another bayoneted near the main gate. This created a furore.
15 August: News was received in the Camp the Japanese had surrendered. Colonel Dillon approached the Japanese Commander Lt. Mura but as no official word had been received in Singapore, he said everything would go on as usual until official news was received from Southern HQ at Kuala Lumper.
Thursday 16 August: News broadcasts tell POWs Australia has celebrated VJ Day – the men were now waiting to be officially informed.
Friday 17 August: Colonel Dillon addresses senior officers informing them the IJA are stalling and adopting a very arrogant and high-handed attitude! All work parties are to carry on as per usual and all camp duties the same.
Saturday 18 August: Lt. Mura informs Colonel Dillon that all work parties would cease tomorrow and that all prisoners on Singapore Island and Jahore Bahru would return to Changi within the next few days except from Kranji and Blakang Mati. All arrangements had been organised to receive additional numbers. Mura also advised as of tomorrow Red Cross supplies would be sent to the camp and that rice rations would be increased to 325 grams per prisoner, regardless of medical classification (normally the sick received less).
19 August: Outside work parties begin to return to Changi. The men are in wonderful spirits. IJA HQ trucks with work parties left to load Red Cross Supplies. The Japanese Emissary left Singapore for Manila for a conference with Allies.
The Camp was given notice that Outram Road prisoners will return tomorrow.
Lt. Mura advised Colonel Dillon that officially the war was nearly over, however the POWs would remain in his care until advised otherwise – he continued to be I.J.A. Commander.
American cigarettes issued – one packet per man.
20 August: Returning work parties report they have been working on tunnels, defensive positions, etc. all over the island and Jahore Bahru. Things could have been pretty sticky if the war had continued with Allies forced to put an invasion force into Malaya and Singapore. A number of POWs have been killed and injured during accidents in the building of these projects.
A decision was made to issue one red cross parcel between 20 men during the next four days. Although the quantities will be minute ‘the taste of civilised food will help flavour the rice and stew.’
All work parties on the instruction of I.J.A. will cease as of today but will continue for the upkeep of essential services, particularly the wood parties for the clearance of sewage and additional guards and piquets (pickets) will have to be arranged to keep out the natives.
Some American airmen brought in from Outram Road report that the week before, 11 of their number had been taken out by the Japs and beheaded. They were all B29 men shot down over Singapore and Jahore Bahru.
News bulletins are issued twice daily to all huts and read out.
Local Japanese Army Commander broadcasts to the local population in a defiant speech about the dignity of the Japanese Army being supreme and he will crush foe who attempt to land on Singapore Island.
Two British sailors off the ‘Prince of Wales’ and ‘Repulse’ were brought into Changi by the Japs. They had been working in a garage in Singapore ever since capitulation (15 Feb 1942) passing themselves off as Eurasions. They heard the war was over and decided to give themselves up.
All POW work parties travelling through Singapore on their return to Changi have been wildly cheered by the native population.
There have been reports of unrest in Singapore with fighting breaking out amongst rival Indian factions and Malays. Apparently the pro-staunch British Indians and Gurkhas have started on the Japanese sponsored Indian Army collaborators and local Malays who have been working in with the Nips.
Thursday 23 August: Marshall Terauchi ***** has been ordered to send envoys to report to Mountbatten in Rangoon. Surrender arrangements are dragging out much longer than POWs ever envisaged.
Sunday 26 August: Japanese envoys leave for Rangoon.
4 Australian and 4 Rising Sun badges have been issued to each man to wear on their clothing for identification from now until new Army clothing is available.
Some Japanese civilian clothing issued today: bright coloured shirts, green, red, blue, orange and purple.
Work parties called out by the I.J.A. to erect large yellow signs bearing the words PW. Planes are expected to commence dropping in supplies within the next few days. Target areas allocated and work parties organised to pick up the drops.
Wednesday 29 August: S.E.A.C. (South East Asia Command – Mountbatten) advise by radio that personnel would be dropped in tomorrow, 30 August.
Official Red Cross Swiss Representative arrives in Camp. First visit permitted for one year.
Thursday 30 August: Liberators came low over Singapore and Changi area and crews could be plainly seen waving from the rear doors which were open and they were shovelling out pamphlets and leaflets. A really beautiful sight. The pamphlets were in Japanese containing instructions to all Japanese troops in regard to the treatment of POWs.
At about 1600 hours more Liberators came over again dropping leaflets over Changi itself informing the men that the war was over and supplies would be dropped and that POWs should not eat too much too quickly, but build up slowly. Planes also dropped other leaflets all around Singapore advising the local population the war was over and Japan had surrendered. The British would commence to return within the week and that ample supplies of food and medicines would be available.
At 1700 hours 2 Liberators flew over and dropped personnel and supplies on Changi aerodrome. Two Combatant Officers, two Medical officers and two orderlies all from a parachute Unit. The senior Combatant officer, Lieut. Wishart came into Malaya Command and immediately requested that work commence in the preparation of nominal rolls in the manner that the R.A.P.W.I. (Recovery of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees) Unit wanted it done. Following this, three Liberators dropped supplies by parachute. A wonderful Sight.
Singapore. C. 1945-08. An RAF B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft in front of the control tower at Kallang airport in Singapore shortly after the arrival of Allied Forces following the Japanese surrender on 1945-08-15.
Singapore. C. 1945-08. Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment and RAF Servicing Commandos took over Singapore’s Kallang airport soon after their arrival in the harbour following the Japanese surrender on 1945-08-15. Here is an RAF B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft on the apron in front of the control tower.
31 August: Planes now coming over regularly and a few landing on Changi aerodrome. First in was a team to take over the aerodrome control station.
News issued that the first elements of the British Fleet would arrive on Sunday 2 September.
At 1200 hours a very fast twin engine plane flew low over the Camp and landed. The two crewmen were New Zealanders with instructions from Mountbatten to POW Command. This plane was the fastest anybody had ever seen and the Air Fore chaps amongst the prisoners were astounded.
At 1400 hours more Liberators over with further supplies keeping the work parties busy.
At 1600 hours more planes landed at the Changi aerodrome filled with communication equipment and transmitters. They were set up within one hour establishing communications with Rangoon S.E.A.C. H.Q. and the British Fleet.
Saturday 1 September: Mosquito planes roaring low over the Camp with crews waving. More supplies dropped from five Liberators.
Loud speakers erected around the Camp on instructions from newly arrived communications experts. We will be able to hear S.E.A.C. direct on short wave.
Sunday 2 September: At 06.30 a party of army troops armed to the teeth dressed in a very striking uniform with pockets all over arrived in our Camp. They were a parachute Battalion Commanded by Canadian Lieut. Colonel. They were called Commandos and the 2/19th Battalion chaps received a hell of a kick to meet these Commandos. Capt. John Leake who had left as Corporal in July 1941 to go to Burma and China with Fenton Braund.
We all grabbed him, catching up on a lot of news. He was most interesting as we had not seen him since we had gone into ‘the Bag’.
We heard the Surrender Ceremony over the loud speakers and Mosquitos flew over the Camp. On top of this another five Liberators came over and dropped more supplies.
The ration scale was now almost unbelievable.
Monday 3 September: More planes over and at 1200 hours three flags were unfurled over the jail tower, The Union Jack, The Stars and Stripes and the Dutch Tri-Colour. Loud cheering immediately broke out throughout the camp.
At 1700 hours a Lieut. Colonel and four O/Rs from the Parachute Battalion (British) were dropped by parachute on Changi drone and when the Colonel reported in he stated the British Fleet would arrive on 5 September and that he was part of the ? Intel Division which would also arrive and land on Wednesday on 5th September . He had come ahead on a recce for the Division to liaise camping and all controls and to talk to all Japanese, concentrating them behind barbed wire. He also said that an Australian Parachute Battalion should arrive within two days.
Reports from Singapore showed continued fighting with many shots fired between Chinese, Sikhs, Tamils, Malays and Japanese. A number had been killed and quite a few wounded.
Tuesday 4 September: Men allocated with three packets of ‘Craven A’ cigarettes which were dropped yesterday by the Liberators. It appears that the signals with the drop stated the cigarettes were the gift from the R.A.F. Squadrons operating from the Cocos Islands.
Wednesday 5 September: The five Indians Divisions commence landing in Singapore and from reports, they a very much a no nonsense crowd. (probably Ghurkas, Kumaoni known for their loyalty, dedication and vast experience in Burma)
Signals received for all USA personnel, services and civilians to be at Kallang (RAF) aerodrome tomorrow at 0900 to be picked up by USA Army planes for despatch back to their homeland.
Thursday 6 September: Two women war correspondents arrived in camp from the USA. The first white women we had seen in over three years.
The huge Douglas Skymaster (carried about 60 passengers) which had come in to take off the Americans was by far the biggest thing we had ever seen in the air, and the B29’s which we had seen so much of.
Count Hisaichi Terauchi was a Gensui in the Imperial Japanese Army, Commander of the Southern Expeditionary Army Group during World War II.
Terauchi was a Former Minister of War of the Japanese Empire.
On 6 November 1942 Terauchi was transferred to Command the Southern Expeditionary Force and soon after began devising war plans for the Pacific with Admiral Yamamoto. Following Allied capitulation he made his HQ in Singapore. On 6 June 1943 Terauchi was promoted to Field Marshall. He moved to the Philippines in May 1944 however when the Philippines came under threat he retreated to Saigon, French Indo China.
When Terauchi heard of Japan’s defeat in Burma on 10 May 1945, he suffered a stroke.
680,000 Japanese soldiers were surrendered on his behalf in Singapore on 19 August 1945 by General Itagaki Seishiro. (Hanged Tokyo 23 December 1948 aged 63 years).
Hisaichi Terauchi advised Mountbatten his illness prevented him flying to Rangoon so Mountbatten travelled to Terauchi. who personally surrendered to British Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten in Saigon on 30 November 1945, giving his family heirloom wakizashi (short sword) dated from 1413 (which hangs in Windsor Castle). He died not long after in a POW Camp in Malaysia. He was buried in Singapore.
AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENT TO BRITISH MILITARY MISSION 204
The Bush Warfare School, Maymyo, Burma