Dick Ridgwell encounter with a Sikh, Singapore

‘Soon after the 2/4th were taken prisoner in Singapore the Japs didn’t know what to do with us so we were accommodated in private houses taken from their owners. Where a house would have accommodated a family of perhaps 4, there were about 50 of us in each of these houses. The houses were almost bare of furnishings and possessions, having been looted before we got there. The few items, such as fans etc., left we sold to locals to buy food. There were 4 houses, and about 100 yards from the houses was the jungle.
During the days we were split into working parties. My lot were forced to build a shrine for the Japs to their Emperor. At night we were pretty much left to our own devices.
One day 3 of us, I, Roy Nybo and Shorty Jefferies crept out and found a coconut plantation, which prior to the outbreak of war, was owned by a Chinese family. They were allowed to stay and work the plantation for the Japanese army. We planned to steal coconuts and take them back to our accommodation. Roy went up the coconut palm and threw down coconuts while Shorty and I collected them.
The Japs had assigned Sikh prisoners the responsibility of guarding various installations and armed them with a golf club each.
One of the Sikhs spotted us in the plantation and came over to stop us. We refused and an argument ensued. Eventually he attacked us with his golf stick. He struck Nybo over the head leaving the golf stick the shape of Nybo’s head and shoulders. The Sikh and I fought and during this he grabbed my dog tags and tore them off me. To try and get them back I made a grab for them but grabbed his comb and string he wore in his hair. Thinking I had been successful I headed for home. The other 2 had already headed off with the coconuts.
When I got back and realised what I had in my hand. I was worried sick the Sikh would turn my dog tags into the Japs. This could have resulted in a beating at the least or death at worst.
I went to Capt Smith-­Ryan and told him of the events. I asked him if he could vouch that I was in the camp at that time but he said “Serves you right. You have been looking for trouble” and refused to help. Lt Don Lee followed me out and said he would cover for me.
I hadn’t had a shave or haircut since being taken prisoner weeks ago so I was looking pretty scruffy. I went to Len Armstrong, our barber, and got him to give me a half shave and haircut to hopefully change my appearance.
Surprisingly there were no repercussions from our little venture that day.
Months later I got a message that the Chinaman from the coconut plantation wanted to see me. I crept out and made my way to his house undetected. As it turned out, the Sikh had turned my dog tags into him and he just wanted to return them to me. I still have them to this day.
A lucky escape indeed!’