Makan No. 248
Official Journal 2/30 Bn. A.I.F. Association
Subscription Rate for Makan for both Life and Annual Members per year: $1.50
Registered for Posting as Periodical: Category A
Obituary - Johnny Parsons
So now we've lost Johnny Parsons. Tragically, with his passing, yet another link has been broken in that long chain of memories stretching back to the brave days.
When comrades die, it's customary to say laudatory and kind things about them. We stress their good points, whilst ignoring or glossing over their shortcomings. Perhaps we do this in the hope that, when our turn comes, those surviving us will be kind.
But it will not be like that with Johnny, for he was one of those rare people, who genuinely deserved top marks.
How do I remember him?
The characteristics, which come through so strongly tone are his enthusiasm, his steadiness, his energy and his determination always to do his best. He was the perpetual tryer, but probably his most endearing trait was his refusal to utter anything derogatory about anyone. True, his private opinions may have been, that some person didn't measure up to his own high standards, but, that's how he kept it - Private. Slander mongering was alien to his nature, because he was that sort of man.
Johnny was one of a small bunch, whom I came to knew, quite well, when we first went to Tamworth. I think that we all were a little lost and apprehensive as to how we'd make out in a new Unit in a strange town. But our luck was in, when we were invited to a private home in Napier Street, overlooking most of Tamworth and the plain. This was Marj. Yuille's place and it became a haven for us. Thence, we could escape in those desperate days as "Black Jack" strove mightily to forge us, into what the 2/30 Bn ultimately became.
It was a bad period for the subalterns, but at Marjory's we could forget the heat, the flies, the grinding training, our personal fears of failure.
It was there Johnny met Joy. From the beginning, that they were meant for each other, seemed so obvious, as they lived in a magic time, which is granted to some people. In their case the enchantment was destined to last.
I still have snapshots of the two of them sitting on the front steps of Marj's house. Even then it was evident, that they had an understanding in its most significant sense.
There could be but one solution, and they married, when the Unit had transferred to Bathurst. As I recall it, they honeymooned at the Lapstone Hotel.
I remember Johnny in training. I think 'dedicated' would be the way to describe how he approached his job. For a period I shared a cubicle with him in Bathurst and I know how hard he strove to equip himself for what lay ahead. With him, there was no lip-service. He really meant it.
I lost track of Johnny after the capitulation and the disruption, when the Japanese scattered us on working parties and the different Forces, which subsequently left Singapore, so that our paths diverged. Because of this, I can't say how he spent his captivity, but I'm certain that he'd have been trying just as hard as he had in the past.
Over the years, I'd see him from time to time. At Reunions; on Anzac Days, and latterly on the Anniversaries of Gemas at the Drill Hall at Pymble.
Of all of us, I'd say Johnny had changed the least outwardly. He'd still have been readily recognisable from 1940/41 photographs. Nor was there any flagging of his enthusiasm, his quiet zest or his optimism, as the decades drifted by. He was still the same Johnny Parsons - polite, interested, concerned for other peoples well being.
It's hard to credit that I won't see him again. That's something, that I'm going to regret deeply, but I know, that I won't be alone in that.
We've lost someone, who really tried to put his and our ideals into practice.
In our present world,
that makes the loss even more so grievous.
Sick Parade up to 7/8/1979
Kevin Ward reports that
those, who have been discharged from Hospital since last report, are:
2/30 Battalion A.I.F. Association Group Tour of Malaysia - Led by Ron Maston, 2i/c “Doc” Wilson
11th - 26th January, 1979
Ron Maston’s Dream
The idea of a group tour by 2/30 Battalion Association had its Genesis, when Ron and Gretta Maston toured Malaysia in 1976.
Ron, nothing if not a thorough and intrepid researcher, sought out the scenes of our former action on his own initiative. He was aided by Lionel Wigmore's "The Japanese Thrust", Kenneth Harrison's "The Brave Japanese", "Galleghan's Greyhounds” and numerous maps, charts and diaries.
On his return to Australia, Ron began months of negotiations to obtain permission from the Malaysian Government to erect a Bronze Plaque on the concrete approach to the Sungei Gemencheh Bridge in Negri Sembilan. The Plaque was to have the following wording:
SUNGEI GEMENCHEH BRIDGE
the site of the First Major
Permission to erect the Plaque was refused as the POLICY of the Malaysian Government is not to allow foreign countries to erect memorials in Malaysia. Already they had declined applications by other countries and, whilst they were sympathetic, to our request, felt that, if they gave us permission, a precedent would be created.
Early in 1978 a Sub-Committee was formed, D. R. (Doc) Wilson, E.B. (Bruce) Upcroft and Ron Maston were entrusted with the task of organising the Tour, whether permission to erect the Plaque was given or not. Publicity was given by Alex Dandie through the pages of MAKAN and a great deal of personal publicity went on amongst keen members of the Association.
Tan Sri Dato Mubin Sheppard in Kuala Lumpur took a great interest in organisation of the Malaysian end of the tour, and through his efforts the Ex-Service Association of Malaysia became very interested and acted as our hosts. In Singapore contact was made with the Ex-Service Association of Singapore, whose members also helped in arrangements of our wreath laying ceremony at Kranji Cemetery.
Ron Maston was overseas for ten weeks and in that time "Doc" Wilson did a great job in following up to get people organised, whilst Noel Johnston kept an overall eye on preparations.
George Aspinall prepared photographs to be presented to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce at Batu Pahat and the Department of Defence at Selarang.
Small presents of an Australian nature were purchased by the group for presentation to people, whom we would meet during the tour.
Composition Of The Party
Final acceptances for the tour amounted to forty four members: Ron and Gretta Maston, Amanda Vickery, "Doc" and Clover Wilson, Athol and Thelma Charlesworth, Merv and Georgina Geoghegan, Ray and Mavis Godbolt, "Dutchy" Holland, Jack Maclay, Andy Hyslop, Nola Ashcroft, Fred and Jean Johnston, Thelma Jones, George and Elsa Kinsela, Reg and Madge Napper, Sidney and Joan Stephens, Kevin and Dorothy Ward, Lady Persia Galleghan, Edwin ("Sandy") Christensen, Doreen Ford, Ron and Meg Johnston, Norman and Alma King, George Aspinall, Richard and Florence Henderson, John and Vera Fell, Erwin and Rose Heckendorf, John and Jeffrey Black.
Day 1 - Thursday, 11 January, 1979
Forty four happy people gathered at Sydney Airport on the morning of the 11th January at the beginning of their tour to Malaysia and Singapore. The first few minutes were taken up in renewing old friendships and meeting wives, whom we had not met previously. After being allotted our seats and checking, our baggage, we moved up into one of the airport lounges - the "Narrabeen" room, where the ABC were to do a news item on our trip. It was great to see Alex and June Dandie, Noel and "Babe" Johnston and Stuart Peach amongst those prevent. Then, following the usual formalities with customs and immigration, we boarded our M.A.S. plane for Kuala Lumpur.
When our friends, relatives and well wishers gathered at Mascot Air Terminal to bid “Bon Voyage" to the 2 30 Battalion Association's GROUP TOUR to Malaysia, little did they dream of the experiences about to befall the dedicated travellers. No hint was abroad of the unrivalled warmth of hospitality, the solicitous welcome, that awaited the party in Malaysia.
First occasions can be noteworthy, and this, our first return, organised to war time theatres of action, was to prove unique and to constitute a milestone in the saga of ex-servicemen's relations.
Officialdom waived formalities; red tape was cursorily cut asunder and, shining brightly at every stage of the pilgrimage, there became apparent a sincere and heart-warming welcome from young and old, from distinguished and humble folk alike, that became truly memorable.
"Why?" we often wondered.
It seemed to us, on the evidence of what we saw and heard over there, that the memory of Australian soldiers in the Malayan campaign was surprisingly significant to our hosts; the Gemas ambush, the fierce fighting in the Bakri-Parit Sulong area, together with the heavy action on the Mersing-Jemaluang front. Additionally, it is not often that foreign soldiers come in to one's country to defend it but this was our role in '41-'42.
The free and easy, democratic stance of the Australians, at that time, was long remembered.
Although the place had changed tremendously, although the gusty "Hello Joe!" cry was absent, the atmosphere engendered by the very first greeting, that we received on Malaysian soil, on the night of arrival at Kuala Lumpur Airport, the watchful meaningful presence of the waiting ex-servicemen was a portent of things to come.
Outside the airport was a party of Malaysian ex-servicemen, who had assembled to meet us and welcome us to Kuala Lumpur. This was a very nice gesture, but only the forerunner of what was to come. The welcome from this assembly of ex-servicemen contained an individual, intimate touch. Despite the language barrier and few of them seemed to speak English, greetings and handshaking were person-to-person moving along the whole line.
One got the feeling that their presence was significant, specific, and not at all formal or perfunctory.
We were somewhat fatigued. After the air conditioned airliner the night seemed oppressively hot and clammy. It rained a little.
Eager passengers of many nationalities thronged to the customs exits. But not for us. We were kept apart. A go slow strike by airport employees resulted in a delay getting our baggage, but when the baggage did arrive from the plane, we were passed discretely through the crowd with never a query, not so much as a raised valise lid or an opened bag. This was brought about through the help of Abdul Karim, Public Relations Officer for Malaysian Airline System, who had been contacted by the Australian Manager, Mr. Krishnan.
We were welcomed by Tan Sri Dato Mubin Sheppard, to whom we are most grateful for the help and organising given to make the tour a success, by Lt. Col. Stokes from the Australian High Commission; by En. Haron Kamarbin Endot, Chairman of Selangor Branch of Ex-Service Association of Malaysia, and En Talib bin Yahaya, the Secretary of the Selangor Branch. This latter gentleman was most helpful, getting George Aspinall’s photographic equipment through Customs. George was the official photographer of the trip and his equipment was well over the limit. But for help from the E.S.A.M., a deposit of over $1,000 would have had to be paid. Despite the fact that George had obtained all the necessary papers for his equipment before leaving Sydney, he was held up for a considerable time after the rest of us had boarded the coach to travel to the hotel.
We were driven to the Holiday Inn, our first overnight quarters. On arrival we were allotted our rooms, where we discovered that our baggage had been deposited for us.
It had been a long day. The diverting of our plane from Sydney to Melbourne, a kind of "Sydney-by-way-of-Bourke" hop, had lengthened the journey. The extra leg had taken us over Lake Eyre, Alice Springs, etc., in daylight, a new territory for most of us. However, enough was enough, the Holiday Inn, now we had arrived, seemed comfortable, commodious, and a good place for a night's rest.
Day 2 - Friday, 12 January, 1979
This morning most of our party took advantage of the service provided by the ground floor dining room, adjacent to the spacious swimming pool, for breakfasting. The fare was excellent and varied, the service superb.
After breakfast we made a brief inspection of the arcaded shops flanking the reception lobby, then our bus drew up and we commenced our first tour of inspection of the city and environs. We met the young Chinese coach captain guide, Clem, who guided our trippings for the week we spent on the mainland. He proved to be efficient, cheerful and entertaining.
The roads are fairly narrow and are clogged with bikes, motor bikes, cars and pedestrians. Our coach driver displayed rare skill in avoiding the suicidal drivers that abound in this city.
We viewed business areas, residential suburbs, an extra large building, ("Where", Clem said, "the government gives free board and lodging to V.I.P.'s; very important prisoners". It was a jail.) and to rubber plantations. We stopped for half an hour to inspect a small rubber factory.
We passed on to Anggrik Villa batik factory, situated at four and three quarter miles out on Jalan Genting. This proved to be a very interesting place indeed. Exclusive hand drawn batik cloths were made, as we watched, and we marvelled at the speed and dexterity of the young operatives. Block printed batik was also produced. The adjoining souvenir house proved to be a treasure trove of high class batik garments, paintings and many varieties of Malay crafts. They proved too much for the ladies in the party, who let their heads go on buying material, dresses, skirts and the like. The men, not to be outdone, were soon outfitted in batik shirts, ties and hats, so that tour members left the premises laden with goodies. Lady Galleghan's chic hat was much admired, especially after the addition of the personal touch of a floral trimming.
The next stop was made in Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, the exhibition centre for Selangor pewter ware. A magnificent collection of items was on display, together with illustrious, descriptions and demonstrations of processes and engraving. Again many purchases were made.
With regard to the prices of these particular goods, strict price control was the rule and concession sales were not available.
The next run took us, round about mid-day, to the magnificent Batu Caves and underground Arts Gallery (Dewan Kesenian). At a certain time of the year the devotees of a religious cult gather here for their rites, which involve having steel barbs and hooks inserted into their flesh. Then they are required to mount the 272 steps leading to the mouth of the caves. This requires an athletic performance to gain an entrance. Lady Galleghan was keen to notch up a victory here, placing it on a par with the scaling of the GREAT WALL, on the occasion of a recent visit to CHINA. Some went up, but many less ambitious members remained at lower levels.
The Museum or Arts Gallery cave contained portraits, statues, tableaux, etc. depicting Hindu mythology. Lord Ganesh, the elephant headed God, Tamil figures, Brahmin priests, etc., figured prominently. In Hindu mythology Lord Ganesh was considered the God of Knowledge.
Typical tin mining scenes were encountered on the return journey, water sluicing being the chief method used for concentrating the ore. Our guide quoted: "Tin mining founded this country, rubber sustained its growth, and palm oil is making it rich". Certainly, evidence of present prosperity was not lacking. Great developments were going ahead; new housing development areas, industrial works, reclamation of land from the jungle for the use of planters, construction of highways, bridges, etc. reflecting a healthy economy.
It was almost a case of bulldozers, bulldozers all the way.
The outskirts of the city are marred by the sight of the huge mounds of rubbish, which are deposited along both sides off the roads, wherever one goes.
Entering the city again we were taken to the WAR MEMORIAL - a collection of statues, sculptures, fountains set in a large pack on a grand scale, so grand that a person standing at ground level is dwarfed. It depicts members of the Armed Forces standing over their foe on the ground. During the Communist inspired troubles from 1948-60 this statue was blown up by the Communists, with legs and arms being knocked off, so we were told, but restoration of the statues shows little evidence of this desecration.
CHINATOWN, our last venture for the day, proved a fascinating culmination of a varied day's sightseeing. The seething, crowded, on-the-street living had to be seen to be believed. Here were the sights, sounds and smells of such quarters known to travellers of the Far East. We marvelled that the folk from this unpromising quarter, the children, the young men and women, the older folk, were so uniformly well turned out. We looked in vain for the scruffy coiffures, bare feet and careless attire familiar to scenes much nearer home.
When forty-four people travel by coach on tour, at some stopovers, late returning folk are a problem. If you have some four or five stops in a day and lose twenty to thirty minutes at each, it means a late dinner at night and so much less rest. Our good friend and leader, Ron Maston, lectured us all, through the P.A. system in the coach, on punctuality, etc., when the coach is on a tight schedule. If memory serves me correctly this cosy little chat was delivered at K.L. on our 1st trip. That morning we visited a Rubber Factory, a Batik Factory and a Selangor Pewter Factory. All three being extremely interesting to all the party. We left the Rubber Factory on time - mainly because of that most glorious odour, that all, associated with a Rubber Factory, know.
The Batik Factory, a little late, because Dolls and Guys were held up in the retail section. The Dolls had trouble making up their respective minds. The Guys, busy chatting up some glorious looking sales assistants. But the Pewter Factory? At the appointed time, on a poll count, the party was three head down. Some half an hour later the missing bods arrived. Could you guess? - none other than our gallant leader - Ron; Wife, Gretta and Niece, Mandy.
The afternoon being free, tour members took the opportunity to visit shopping centres and places of interest in Kuala Lumpur. In the evening, some visited a special Chinese Restaurant and enjoyed the loyal food.
In the afternoon Ron Maston had a two hours' conference with Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard to liaise on the plans for the tour.
This was the day on which we had to attend:
1). Museum Inspection with Tan Sri Dato Mubin Sheppard, our most important official liaison officer with local government authorities. He held high official positions and, through arduous preparation, and tactful supervision during the tour, contributed in a large measure to its success. He was a remarkable man. Formerly of the British Army and Diplomatic Service, he had been in the Malayan Armed Forces in the War and a P.O.W. of the Japanese in Singapore. He has for years dedicated himself to Malayan affairs. He has accepted the Muslim faith and is "Hajji", one who has performed the pilgrimage to Mecca.
2). Reception - Ex-Servicemen Association and Widows.
3). Reception - at Australian High Commissioner's residence, at 33 Jalan Langgak Golf.
The morning was free of official engagements, so members of our party took the opportunity to do some individual sightseeing. A Party of 12 visited the Railway Station. It was at this station at 02.30 hrs on Good Friday, 1942 that "F” Force had received their 2nd meal of the journey to Thailand. George Aspinall's main recollection was that it had had but one toilet, so that it was inevitable that the queue was long. The inside of the station was the most that any saw of K.L. on that journey.
The weather remained fine and sunny. At 1400 hours we climbed aboard the bus, bound for "Museum Negara" - the National Museum. Sandy Christensen was travelling well. Although his legs were a bit shaky, his determination to see all was high. A collapsible wheel chair was loaded on to the coach and there was no shortage off willing, helping hands for him.
The Museum was large and modern. Function was a little different from our institutions, modern as well as ancient and historical exhibits abounded. The skill of the taxidermist was admirably displayed in huge native animal tableaux.
We left for "Wisma Pahlawan", the headquarters of the Malaysian Ex-Servicemen's Association. It owns this building which is a car park and offices, and the income from the rents goes into their funds. Here we met Dato Senator Ibrahim, Deputy Chairman of Ex-Servicemen's Association leading a large assembly of ex-servicemen and widows and children. They pinned on to all of us one of their badges.
Thirty-six widows of Malaysian Ex-Servicemen and their children are helped financially by R.S.L. Sub-Branches, Clubs and individual members throughout Australia on an adoption basis known as "R.S.L. Aid Abroad”. An annual amount of about $250.00 Australian makes a worthwhile contribution to the standard of living of these families. Ours was the first organised body of Australian ex-servicemen to visit Kuala Lumpur and the Selangor Branch took advantage of our visit to allow R.S.L. members to meet the widows and their children.
Although again the language barrier loomed large, social intercourse was established as groups intermingled.
Speeches of welcome were made by En Haron Kamarbin Endot, Chairman of the Selangor Branch of Ex-Service Association of Malaysia, and Senator Ibrahim bin Haji Yacob, Vice President of Ex-Service Association of Malaysia and also Whip in the Malaysian Senate.
Replies were made on our behalf by Ron Maston and Lady Galleghan, following the presentation of a Malay Kris to Ron and as special piece of Malay cloth to Lady Galleghan.
A special pair of Opal Cuff Links were presented to Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard from the Group, as a token of our appreciation of what he had done for us. Also a special book on Australia was presented to the Chairman of Selangor Branch of the Ex-Service Association of, Malaysia.
Lady Galleghan, on behalf of the R.S.L. of Australia Aid Abroad presented an envelope containing the money, which constituted the amount then due to them, to each of the War Widows, "Doc" Wilson also gave them a card and a handkerchief, decorated with a motif of an Australian nature, as a gift from the Group.
Afternoon Tea had been set out on trestle tables, towards which movement was made then for refreshment. The children, shy and quiet at first, soon thawed out and, what with organised game activities (the music was Disco-loud) all were soon chatting away like life-long friends. Some of our members found the "Doovers" puzzling to describe and exotic to the palate, but all was in a good cause of bonhomie. MUSICAL HONOURS consisting of (1). Jolly Good Fellows, (2). Waltzing Matilda, (3). Auld Lang Syne, were sung with gusto by lusty Australian voices; not to be outdone, our hosts replied with a Malayan song, which was received enthusiastically and supported by vigorous hand clapping. Before leaving, Athol Charlesworth and Dick Henderson moved a vote of thanks to our hosts for their hospitality.
Returning to Holiday Inn for a spell, a shower and to "Brush-up", the coach called again at 18.30 hours bound for the reception given by the High Commissioner for Australia and Mrs. Graham Feakes at their official residence in Jalan Langgak Golf.
We were graciously received and all admired the lovely setting; the reception area opening onto wide, well kept lawns and a discreetly illuminated garden setting. We all remarked on the absence of mosquitoes, flies, insects, etc. At home, in Australia, such a night scene, totally devoid of gauze netting, as it was, would have been beset by flying pests of many kinds. Here we were untroubled, no one slapped, and the artificial lighting did not acquire haloes of moths and other insects.
The dress and atmosphere was informal. Refreshments were copious, being brought around by retainers diligent in attending to the wishes of the guests. Local dignitaries and guests were in attendance and the High Commissioner and Mrs. Feakes seemed pleased to chat about the home scene in Australia. Before leaving, a vote of thanks was passed by "Curly" Heckendorf supported by Kevin Ward. About 21.30 hours a move was made reluctantly to withdraw from an extremely pleasant occasion and we reached our quarters around 22.00 hours.
The day dawned when we were to leave Kuala Lumpur, a day fine and blue, with not a cloud to blur the bright horizons.
The minor miracle, a rainless tour was to stay with us. The coach took off with its full complement of passengers, chirpy Clem, our coach captain, was in fine form as he interspersed factual description of the passing scene with barbs of wit, as good measure. A brief stop was made to allow filming by George of Pudu Prison, where E.W. Sams and Terry Trevor were taken on 8 Feb. '42, Sams dying of wounds there, because of lack of medical attention. Trevor rejoined the rest of the Battalion in Oct. '42 at Changi. The other three 2/30 Bn men, whom they found in Pudu Gaol already were, Ashley Pankhurst, Roy Douglas and Jimmy Small.
We travelled through the suburbs of K.L. for some miles, with housing becoming more and more scattered, until finally we were passing through the ever present rubber trees, which in places gave way to large plantations of palm oil trees. At the risk of being considered repetitive the impression of Kuala Lumpur was that of a bustling thriving city, with roads jammed with traffic, both wheeled and pedestrian. The dominant feature
is the new freeway, built from the International Airport into the city, and of which a point of some note is the laneways, set aside for motor cycles and cycles, with which the city abounds.
Chinatown, with its maze of narrow streets, where wheeled traffic is almost at a standstill and pedestrians jostle one another on the narrow footpaths, which are jammed with stalls and eating houses.
The piles of rotting refuse and rusting car bodies heaped on both sides of the roads out of the city.
The incredible artistry off the Batik workers, where, for a mere pittance, they work long hours turning out beautiful cloths, that have never been matched by the Western World, despite their machines.
The colour and beauty of the statues in the Batu Caves, with the 272 steps, leading up to the main cave, which is also the scene of a Hindu festival once a year.
We arrived at Seremban about midday and, in passing, the Lake Gardens, the State Mosque, and a unique Malay house, built without a single nail, and which stood out boldly and at a casual glance was the same size, shape and general appearance of a better class Malay dwelling. However, in this particular case, the house had been on show in a London exhibition, and afterwards dismantled, shipped home and erected here as a tribute to Malay craftsmanship.
We were to be entertained at lunch by the members of the Sungei Ujong Club in Seremban, and on our arrival here were met by the Manager, who is a naturalized Malaysian, who saw service with the 8th Div. in Malaya. We were served a smorgasbord lunch, which consisted of the usual Malayan dishes, most of which were highly spiced. The club has 1,800 members, has two bars, a dining room and a large park like area overlooking two swimming pools. There were three Bally poker machines, which did not treat us too kindly in our efforts to get a jackpot. Jack Maclay did indeed get the numbers in line for a jackpot, but he gained it on the try of one token, so he was knocked back, because the Club Rules required three successive plays for a payout. However, it was quite a festive occasion. Our host, a rather well-to-do Chinese merchant, was not present in person, but ample provision had been made in the form of a stand-in with an eloquent flow of words and many smiling club members.
"Your host" said Maj. Charles Jackman, Club Manager, "is unable to be present on account of an urgent journey he had to undertake, do not hesitate to drink his beer, he owns as many dollars as Tommy Lipton had tea leaves".
"When the Japanese were coming down the road in 1941-42, the gentleman rushed to get his girl friend. He took her to the priest and they were married. Then he rushed her off to the jungle - and just in time, I can tell you."
The hospitality was warm and freely flowing; after the ample lunch, many of our party eyed the attractive swimming pool but loosened belts and a certain well fed torpor cancelled any idea of a swim. On again, the coach carried a somnolent well contented contingent.
Down the coast road, passing through Rembau, we arrived at Tampin, a busy town with the usual double facade of shops fronting the street. Why they never thought to put the inelegant workshop portion around the back and reserve the front of the business premises for the promotion of public relations, we were puzzled to know. However, that is the general custom. We were pleased to find, on pulling up at the Rest House, that it stood cool and clear. We paused for a comfort stop and enjoyed the view of the town from the elevated site.
Turning east, we steered for the Gemencheh River and the mecca of our long journey.
"It's an odd feeling", Ron Maston said, "to stand here and shake hands with history". He pointed down to the old blown bridge site at Gemencheh River.
From the rising ground, on which we stood, we could see where the jungle growth had been cut down and cleared away, and the people, gathered there, to greet us.
So many years ago; the memory of those dedicated young soldiers in a bygone war, and now these people today serious and quiet, come from far and near; the children, wide-eyed, standing quietly and drinking in a novel scene as children will the wide world over.
It became, for a while, a little too much. A lump would rise in the throat and some of us turned away.
This experience was an epitome of our whole trip, of our pilgrimage into the past.
We felt surprise that so much came out now for what went before all those years ago. Surprise that these people, foreigners in a foreign land, would treat so kindly with our own precious past.
It left within one a kind of awe, a kind of wonder, and a reminder that high duty and sacrifice do not come lightly. They shine and live while the human race survives, they intertwine and grow with the progress of our kind.
From adjacent buildings people were preparing and setting out refreshments. Excellent preparations had been made through organisation of Tan Sri Dato Mubin Sheppard:
1. Area of Ambush, occupied by twelve Platoon and "B" Company Headquarters together with old bridge site, had been cleared of undergrowth for some distance, so that participants in ambush could clearly see the position.
2. Marquee, provided at Bridge and erected by Public Works Dept. of State of Negri Sembilan.
3. Tables and chairs provided by Sungei Ujong Club.
4. Afternoon tea, also provided from the Club. This afternoon tea and cost of transport of chairs and tables provided by Dato Ng. Chee Yew of Seremban. A Chinese gentleman, who knew Australian soldiers at Seremban in 1941.
5. Afternoon tea, prepared by Mrs Zainuddin G. Harun who has a shop near ambush site.
6. Portable microphone and loud speakers arranged by E.S.A.M. Negri Sembilan Branch.
7. Two Policemen on duty to control traffic.
Guests included Mr. G. Feakes, Australian High Commissioner; Group Captain Guntin, Defence adviser - Senator Dato Ibrahim bin Haji Yacob, Vice President of E.S.A.M. and Whip in Senate of Malaysia; Captain Ahmad Hadi, Chairman Negri Sembilan Branch of E.S.A.M. and thirty members of this branch, who had cleared the site.
With Malay families and children there would have been about three hundred people present. It was covered by T.V. and press.
Speeches were made by Ron Maston, who told the story of the ambush, welcomed visitors, and thanked all those who had worked to make the occasion a success:
Negri Sembilan State Government for providing our luncheon through the local ex-Service Association. Also for erecting the marquee at the Bridge and providing police to control traffic.
Dato Ng Chee Yew for hosting the afternoon tea and the drinks at the Bridge and Sungei Ujong Club for providing tables, chairs, etc.
Captain Ahmad Hadi, Chairman of Negri Sembilan Branch of E.S.A.M and members of that Branch for clearing the jungle growth from the ambush area and providing a public address system.
Tan Sri Dato Mubin Sheppard for all he had done in organising for this gathering to be a success.
Captain Hadi replied on behalf of local branch of E.S.A.M and Senator Dato Ibrahim bin Haji Yacob, - Vice President of E.S.A.M on behalf of the ex-Service Association of Malaysia.
After afternoon tea; one minute's silence was observed, followed by the recitation of the "Ode" by Jack Maclay. The 5 members of "B" company, Dick Henderson, Jack Maclay, "Dutchy" Holland, Fred Johnston and Jack Fell were then invited to give a brief account of their feelings before and during the ambush. They had been present and they told of their impressions and reactions. "Curly" Heckendorf told the story of the patrol he lead from Bn. HQ to the ambush site in the night of 14/1/42 and morning of 15/1/42.
We stood in silence and remembered those, who gave their lives at the ambush and the next day at the main Bn. position.
Reluctantly we left the Bridge at about 17.30 hours to travel to our hotel at Malacca.
An early call found the coach drawn up at our stopover quarters, the Straits Travel Inn. The weather was fine and clear; some members elected to remain in Malacca for the day, the remainder, armed with maps, charts, sketches, diaries (a particularly good map, was the concise and comprehensive strip map provided by Stuart Peach), at the ready, sallied forth at 0900 hours, to locate and revisit the Gemas area. Before setting out, an amusing interlude was provided by an exchange with the trishaw drivers. This provided a great opportunity for photographs in and on the vehicles. The run to Gemencheh Bridge through Tampin was uneventful. First stop was at the bridge to enable George Aspinall to take some more photographs and, after the previous day's visit and ceremony, the locating of the ambush positions was easy. With the jungle growth cleared away from the old bridge site, photographing views, to the east and to the west was facilitated.
"Dutchy" Holland pointed out the exact place he had occupied on the ambush day and told us how the force of the blast had thrown him heavily to the ground and momentarily stunned him. When we saw the short distance that he had been placed from the bridge on the rising ground and we recalled the generous amount of explosive used, we believed that he had fared rather well in an unhealthy spot.
Jack Maclay had been one member of a small suicide squad, volunteers, who had to be single and with no allotments in their Pay Books and for whom, on the first call, there had been no one step forward. Their task was to lie in the grass on the sloping approach to the bridge; not to move once settled down, not even in response to the call of nature, lest evidence of their presence be shown by trodden down grass; when the bridge was blown, and trucks had been halted on the Bn. side of the bridge by "B" Coy "fire action", to toss bakelite grenades up under those trucks which were near to them. In the absence of trucks, in actual fact, they could roll their grenades only into the midst of the cyclists.
Features at the bridge are little changed. In place of a small timber mill with the peaceful pigeon loft on top, there is now a kind of refreshment stop consisting of two or three buildings, below the size of what could be described as a kampong. The road was diverted very little, forty or fifty metres perhaps. The vistas and lines of sight remain largely as "B" Company knew them. It still looks an ideal site for an ambush. After clambering up the slopes towards Quarry Road, examining still visible foundations of the original bridge and having taken photographs of the scene from all angles, the party embussed and proceeded the two and a half miles to the Gemas battle area. The general landscape was much the same, but a huge, modern timber mill occupies much of what had been "C" Company position on the northern side of the road facing up to the tank trap position.
All the company positions were easily recognisable. A detailed search was made to locate the exact site of the Battalion Headquarters Dug-out. Agreement was reached by the score or so of the party there present as to the site and "Curly" Heckendorf posed, not, as in the original "Galleghan's Greyhounds" snap, but with Lady Galleghan taking the place of "B.J.". Even the mile pegs along the road were found and identified. Some ranged across "D" Company positions to the railway line, others moved farther east to H.Q. Company's position and the direction of our line of withdrawal. Much of the terrain was muddy and small drains and rivulets were present. Practically all the area south of the road is now under rubber.
On moving again towards the tank trap position and the new timber mill, we saw what was undoubtedly remains of the concrete cylinders of the tank obstacles. Two in number they lay, partly obscured, on the roadside near the timber mill fences.
We went to the main entrance gates and the gate-keeper, devoid of English, did not seem to relish the entry to the mill of all and sundry. Ron Maston said, in effect "Take me to your leader" and we were ushered into the main office, seeing there half a dozen girls and as many men. Again practically no English. Besides Ron, "Curly" Heckendorf, George Aspinall, "Joe" Geoghegan and Andy Hyslop tried to tell them that, we, as visitors to an historic site, were interested in the preservation of the concrete cylinders.
Once this principal notion was grasped, (and it took the Chinese timber staff a long time to do so) we were surprised and gratified at the swift action that followed.
George Aspinall had noticed and persuaded them to use, a giant grab lift (it was the kind used for the manipulating of large logs) and in short order, it wrenched the cylinders from the embedding clay and carried them inside the gates.
Two of our party had gone on a solitary look about. They headed in the general direction of the railway line. Now you must know that the terrain, has altered somewhat. Some rubber still exist. The rubber is not kept clean, as it formerly was. Result - much underbrush, almost to head high and my head reaches the six foot mark. In some places, the timber men had been there - leaving much sawdust, scantling etc. behind. Nature is making a valiant effort to overcome this obscenity and overall our bed mate - Lalang grass - is endeavouring to encompass the whole area. It truly wasn't the place to lose anything of value. Yet this is what occurred. The pair on look-about found it necessary to cross a muddy, smallish watercourse. The taller of the pair, who carried one of those smallish, automatic cameras, that you carry by a strap around your neck, your wrist, or firmly in your hand, leapt mightily across this puddle, in the process he miscalculated, nearly turned head over heels, threw out the arms and attached appendages, including said camera, which sailed gracefully through the air and landed, the two of them knew not where.
A fruitless search ended with them returning to our bus some minutes after expected departure time.
The tale of woe was told, so our gallant leader, turned all guys out for a search of said area, only exemption "Sandy" C. It seemed fruitless, but miracles do happen. After some 20 minutes, and that lynx-eyed, sometime red-headed Rooster - you guessed, the one and only "Changi", found said camera hanging from a bush, completely undamaged.
Strange as it may seem, the loser was no other than George Aspinall's man Friday - cum labourer - cum shadow - self-appointed assistant, "Dutchy" Holland. "Dutch" got "Double Dutch" for a few days, until the party's eyes focused on some other unfortunate tour member.
I sincerely hope "Dutchy's" camera is still with him and that he desists from hanging it on convenient pieces of scrub. Despite everything, George and he were a wondrous pair, they appeared tireless and carried out an endless job with diligence and skill.
All restored and with time wearing on, we assembled and embussed for Segamat. On the way we made a short stop at the entrance to the Fort Rose Estate. Then it was on to Segamat, where we were to have lunch at the Rest House. Much to the astonishment of the staff, a horde of thirsty Australians descended from the coach and in a very short time had bought all the bottles of beer that they had in stock.
The Rest House was large, roomy and well appointed. We ate the luncheon, that had been purchased and brought along for the occasion - bread rolls and butter (rather soft now), bananas, pineapple, watermelon, etc., washed down with tea, coffee, soft drinks or bottled ale from the Rest House bar.
It must be prominently noted the ubiquitous role played by our cameraman, George Aspinall. If it is not mentioned in every page of this tour story, yet it is true, that George was present in large numbers. He came early and stayed late to get his pictures. He climbed and clambered, toiled and lugged his heavy equipment. Often he held us up and kept us waiting, but always he stuck to his task, bathed in perspiration and seemingly at exhaustion point, to set down, at all costs, the record of our tour.
Today, at lunch at Segamat, George drank three cups of brew with "Dutchy" and Andy and took a well earned breather.
After lunch we went on to identify the railway bridge.
Who will forget that far-a-way night, when the Old Man sought desperately to get his men across the only outlet, the high Segamat railway bridge?
Below on the girders, demolition charges had been set. In the rear the Japanese were hard on our heels in the push down from Gemas.
The men were tired; it was very dark; the spider-web tracks and sleepers seemed at a giddy height over the dim river below. Speed was the essence of the contract; "I" Men moved in to speed the movement by helping, pushing, pulling, directing, even half carrying tired, dazed men over the crossties. Other helpers were there "Dutchy" Holland recollected. It was an Indian Engineer Unit, which had the task of blowing the bridge, he had one look down and, out of the darkness, someone was beside him, one of the Indians, who could not be seen, but who made his presence known by taking "Dutchy"' by the elbow; leading him forward and saying, "This way, Master".
The grey light of dawn saw the last of the Battalion off the Bridge and out of the closing trap.
The bridge was blown with a mighty bang behind them.
Back to 1979, we laid to rest the memories, as the bridge, whole and trafficable now, slid from view. Then down the main road, through miles of rubber plantations and palm oil plantations, to Labis and Yong Peng. Opportunity was taken on this run to introduce and practise the singing of a Battalion song written by Andy Hyslop in 1941 whilst still in Bathurst Camp.
B.J. in his usual manner, said to Andy, "We need a Battalion song", and as a result, Andy produced the words of a song, as set out on page 22. However, due to the pressures of preparing for war, it was never set to music at the time, whereas Ward Booth's version had made use of the tune of "Waltzing Matilda". Andy recently set music for his song, so that we now have an excellent piece of band music, which gives a stirring tune to "Galleghan’s Greyhounds", as he named it.
Using a cassette player, Andy introduced us to the song and we practised it as the bus travelled quickly through the Malaysian countryside.
We finally introduced the song to the public at the afternoon tea party given by Johore Branch of E.S.A.M. at the Orchid Hotel in Johore- Bahru.
We turned right at Yong Peng, passing through the area, held by the Battalion, when waiting for 2/19 and 2/29 Bns. to withdraw. Then on to Parit Sulong Bridge, where we stopped to stand in silence, and pay our respects to those men of 2/19 and 2/29 Bns. whose heroic stand is remembered with a bronze plaque on the approach to the bridge.
Andy Hyslop writes - "At Parit Sulong bridge I felt I stood on holy ground, that I should take off my shoes. I read the bronze inscription affixed to the bridge head. My gaze turned past the village houses at the roadside to the middle distance, where stood the building, where the wounded were machine gunned and petrol poured over them and ignited and yet, miraculously, some survived".
"The elevated roadway between Parit Sulong and Bakri let one see, how difficult it must have been for those Battalions withdrawing and fighting and knowing that they were cut off."
We arrived back at Malacca at 18.45 hours and found that we were to be entertained by the Malacca Branch of E.S.A.M. We were welcomed by Ismail Bin Othman, Chairman of the Malacca Branch of E.S.A.M, and Dato Ab Aziz Bin Tapa and Ahmed Nordin, representing the Malacca State Assembly. Presentations were made to Ron Maston and then we were invited into the courtyard to witness a display of the Malaysian art of self-defence and martial dancing by a youth group made up of sons of local Ex-Servicemen. We were asked to help ourselves to a bewildering array of Malaysian food, most of it highly spiced and followed by the usual tropical fruits and dessert. Thanks to our hosts was given by Ron Maston, Reg Napper, Ron Johnston and Lady Galleghan.
Step out, straight out,
Soldiers on Parade.
Forward the Greyhounds!
Forward the Greyhounds!
Cookhouse bugle calls us
up for stew,
Chorus: here's to the Second Thirtieth Greyhounds..........
When we're sailing far
across the sea,
Chorus: here's to the Second Thirtieth Greyhounds..........
We'll come back home when
the job is done,
Chorus: here's to the Second Thirtieth Greyhounds..........
An early start allowed a look around tour of Malacca, with its colourful blend of the old and new. The oldest city in Malaysia, it has lost none of its charm despite the advance of modernisation. Great interest had already been engendered, in the glimpses already obtained, of a veritable treasure trove of history. When European trading interests turned to the east the Portuguese, Dutch and English voyagers found a ready made rendezvous in Malacca. The sheltered Straits waters and the ready-made, indigenous settlements provided the backdrop for keen trading rivalry, which was to lead to armed hostilities at various times. To trace elements of these commercial, military, cultural and religious movements in the quaint "frozen history" relics of the old city was fascinating. Our time was, all too short, the incredibly narrow streets, the ancient Dutch tiles, the building material, laboriously carried half way round the world from Holland, the crumbling fortifications, the Chinese temple, Cheng Hoon Ten, Dutch Studhays, Porta de Santiago and the ruins of St. Paul's Church, where St. Francis Xavier was once buried, were but a few of the magnets to draw the attention.
Our first stop was at the Post Office, an ancient building “rich with the spoils of time". Outside in the open, public letter writers plied their trade, with pad and pencil busy, and typewriters, tapping there, with the pigeons around and above them. An aged cleaning staff sedately lifted fallen leaves and sluiced water channels in the antiquated fountain.
Don Company member, Ken Lindsay, our first casualty in Malaya, was buried in Malacca in November, 1941. We were at pains to locate the grave, even co-opting a well known local identity of the trishaw fraternity - who had lived in the vicinity over a long period of years. However over long trampings were fruitless and we had to give up, with the conclusion, that the War Graves Commission had transferred the grave to another site. We later found his grave in Kranji Cemetery at Singapore.
Leaving the town of Malacca we proceeded along the coast road through Muar. At noon we passed from the State of Malacca into the State of Johore.
We drew up at the Muar Rest House for lunch and were agreeably surprised to see such developed facilities as cold drinks for the ordering, a bar, cool, high ceilinged public rooms, and a menu that tempted hungry travellers.
Pushing on after our leisurely lunch we travelled steadily through settled, flat country. Now we were really moving, full tilt to one of our chief stamping grounds, Batu Pahat. Would it be changed much? Would any of the old originals be left now?
Peering eagerly through the coach windows we saw that the flat coastal scenery reflected closer settlement; the views gave the impression of more prosperous living quarters; there were many modern looking houses surrounded by closely tended plantations of dusun, coconut, rubber, palm trees. The type of home being well above average with high roofs and built well above the ground to allow for tropical breezes to cool the rooms.
At 1400 hours we emerged into the suburbs of Batu Pahat.
First, to find the old camp site; and this was not easy as first thought might suggest. The high reservoir hill was unmistakable, the English School, the Mosque, but all else was questionable. We directed the driver down very narrow roads vainly looking for more immediate landmarks. We could hardly turn around. Then we saw the padang, scene of many a parade.
Some thought they saw the rickshaw stand, but time was pressing and new buildings and overgrowth had changed the locality completely.
Well that village has certainly changed. After one has been there an hour or so, more familiar features - the hills, Chamber of Commerce, etc. are still recognisable.
The town is about ten times as big as it was pre-war but whilst it had had two hotels and a Rest House, when we were in camp there, one of those hotels was out of bounds, since it was known to be owned by Japanese.
Batu Pahat is now one of the fastest growing cities in Malaysia with a population in excess of 300,000. The ferry has been replaced by a bridge over the river and the open air meat market has long since gone.
So back to the main street, now grown many times its original size, and to pick our way out to the local equivalent of a show and meet the local branch of the E.S.A.M. at afternoon tea.
The meeting place was a commodious pavilion-like structure, where again the ex-servicemen were lined up to greet us and treat us to afternoon tea. Again the language problem loomed large, but goodwill and cheerful spirits accomplished, what linguistic skill failed to do, the establishment of a happy rapport. Hosts and guests mingled happily, while imbibing sweet tea, and "drovers", which, to our uninitiated palates, seemed of enigmatic origin, together with sweetmeats of lineage quite obscure.
At speech time our leader, Ron Maston, expressed pleasure and gratitude for the benefit of our reception; in return our hosts, issued us with a warm welcome to Batu Pahat and made a gift of a Malay Kris to our leader.
Back to our respective hotels, the Merlin and the Asia for a brief freshen up. Jack Black was quartered in the Merlin and gives his impressions:
"Tour leader, Ron Maston, had warned us that the hotels in Batu Pahat would be the high point (or low?) of the trip. We were not encouraged, when told on the bus that it had been necessary to conduct a sort of lottery to determine, who would stay at the "good" accommodation. The idea was that those lucky ones would get the "crook" accommodation at Mersing next night, when the "losers" would be in luxury at the Mersing Rest House. We, Jack Black and son, Jeffrey, were amongst the "losers".
"0ur first view of the Batu Pahat Merlin Intercontinental was one of curiosity mingled with mild shock. Not one of your great hotels like the Peninsula, Manila, Hilton or Raffles but handily placed on the corner of the main street.
"In common with the modern trend for hotels, it had shops (engineering works, motor accessories, produce stores and cafes on the ground floor. The reception foyer was in the corner of the stairway on the first level. Here we were greeted by the non-smiling Chinese Manager in a decor of all grey concrete with painted solpah floor.
"As we proceeded down the corridor of the 2nd (top) floor, we enquired politely of Thelma Jones, as to how her suite was? - "Well it's DIFFERENT" came the quick reply. It surely was!!!
"On entering our room, we were immediately struck by the management's concern that nobody should get in with us - or alternatively that we shouldn't get out. The windows were louvred and barred with a cast iron grid.
"Having heard that the hotel, into which we were originally booked, had burned down the previous week and with horrendous pictures of people trapped in similar hostelries in Bangkok running through our minds, we turned to the corridor again.
"There we met Athol and Thelma Charlesworth, who, similarly alarmed, because of their former travels, were making a quick reconnaissance.
"Fortunately, our rooms were to the rear of the building. At the end of the corridor we found a small unbarred windows that it was some thirty-five feet down to ground level without any sign of a staircase, presented some problems. However, the plan was that in the event of an emergency (no one was game enough to mention fire) we would throw out the mattresses: lower the ladies as best we could and then think about jumping."
"The room appointments were interesting,"
"Two beds, no sheets but a sort of breakfast table cloth over the mattresses plus two reasonably clean khaki pillows and a bollard (or "Dutch wife")."
"A reminder of army days there was an opening about two feet wide in the middle of the ceiling and in and out of this decorative feature ran several geckos.
"The en-suite was also something. Shower, toilet, basin, all in together, with the window also heavily barred. The proprietor thoughtfully had provided four large old rubber thongs, each of a different size, in case one preferred not to stand on the floor, which was none too clean. Our toilet worked, others told us, it was rather chancy, whether the shower OR toilet operated.
"If anybody wondered, where old Batu Pahat had gone, they can be reassured - it was below that room. We overlooked an open drain, two old houses with bricked courtyards and various little sheds for use of the occupants".
Then to gather again for the "piece de resistance" of our stay, the dinner at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
This we approached with some trepidation for we knew, in a general way, that the Japanese, in 1942, had not taken kindly to local assistance given to British and Australian forces. In fact we suspected that our friendly Chinese hosts had suffered for their kindnesses to us.
We were to find out in no uncertain terms. We sallied forth in our coach and were duly deposited at the front entrance to the well remembered building. Inside, small tables were set out for eating, but no air of formality was present and smiling Chinese gentlemen joined us to form foursomes. It turned out, as the dinner got under way, that what was lacking in formality, was made up for, by a great and glorious amplitude of good food, to eat, and what was offered to drink.
And not only must eating be done, but eating must be seen to be done. As one course followed another (there were eleven of them) with a gourmet's abandon, our tables began to assume the appearance of a gastronomic battle. Jack Fell confesses, "We were given chopsticks to use, but few of our party could cope with these. I tried, but I succeeded only in getting more food down the front of my shirt than I did in my mouth". As there were no knives and forks etc., we had only spoons. Course dishes and remains were not so much tidily cleared away, as piled, victory upon victory. The fish, the soup, the lobster, the prawns, the chicken (roast, fried and fricasseed), the bewildering array of side dishes, sauces, savouries, vegetables, greens and salads, added to the pile of plates and dishes, in monumental splendour.
And the drinks; Black Label Johnny Walker flowed as copiously as ale, and there were copious quantities of Anchor beer. Smiling young attendants watched our glasses with a benign interest, and lest there should be a lagging of any sort, poured in replenishments with such zeal that our glasses remained full, try as we would to contrive otherwise; George Aspinall often left his seat to take photographs, thus leaving his glass unguarded and every time he resumed his seat he found it full again. As he was drinking whisky, he had his doubts on how his last snaps would turn out, because he operated the camera controls almost automatically by that stage.
"Some were smart, or foolish, enough to drink only beer. Others got a taste for the cognac and in the light of later events, we would have been better off with a topping of brandy too", said Jack Black.
All this time the talking went on. At a prominent table sat an original Committeeman. He pointed out his likeness on a copy of our original Battalion photograph. He did not lack eloquence, and as the eating and drinking got solidly under way, he held forth with his story. "Yes", he said, "when the Japanese came in 1942, they asked far all Chamber of Commerce Committee Men, and they killed them all off. They shot them (he shouted). But I did not come. I got away. I took a small boat and went to Sumatra". (Here was an aside, in a loud voice, to bring down perdition on all traitors, miscreants, and fifth-columnists). "They search for me everywhere. They published my picture all over Malaya, with a reward for anyone telling of my whereabouts. But I was not caught. At last, after a large sum was paid over to the occupation forces, I was able to come safe home".
It was an exceptional story told by a fiery narrator. "Now", he said, "I live quietly on my plantation. I can't be bothered with politics any more".
During the evening, George Aspinall, on behalf of the group, presented an enlargement of the 1941 picture of the 2/30 Officers and N.C.O.'s taken with local hosts, to the Chamber of Commerce members. Tour leader, Ron Maston presented a "Book of Australia" also, and speeches were exchanged expressing friendship and goodwill on both sides.
Our hosts at the dinner at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce were sons and daughters of Chinese, who had entertained us at the afternoon tea all those years ago in 1941. A great deal of interest was taken in the enlargement - in that our hosts were searching for their fathers and uncles in it.
Dato Kang, who is now a Chinese millionaire banker, living in Kuala Lumpur, came to the dinner and was Chairman for the evening and he, as a young boy, remembered us being in camp at Batu Pahat
Musical honours were sung lustily to the tune of, "They are Jolly Good Fellows", and at 2300 hours the party broke up the peace, love and harmony of a memorable reunion.
Jack Black resumes his narrative, "Returning to the Merlin we were accosted by the proprietor, and most of his team of relations, with demands that we all give full details and register. This required us to produce passports, even though it was late at night. No doubt the manager will use that page of his register to show other travellers the international nature, that prevailed in his business.
"Off to our rooms, on to the cot and it immediately became apparent that there was trouble.
"A female voice screaming in Chinese, followed by a male reply; then CHOP, CHOP, CHOP, CHOP and the swirling hiss and steam of cooking in a kwali. We were directly over a late night cafe and the flaring flames from the kitchen did little to calm our heartbeats.
"About three a.m. miraculously the cafe closed. At which; time the hotelier turned on the outside floodlights, doubtless to ensure that we didn't take off into the night.
"This distraction was accompanied by someone (probably the short order cook) playing old tunes, such as "Tea for Two" and "You are my Sunshine" on an ancient cracked gramophone.
"Next item, just before dawn, was provided by two bantam cocks in the backyards below, followed by the residents at their ablutions. These cheerful sounds being accompanied by much coughing and spitting."
Jack Fell says, “I was awakened by the Imam at the mosque calling the Muslims to morning prayers."
"Well, we showered but were not game enough to clean our teeth before we left (forever) at 0700 hours.
"The good news was that the breakfast at Batu Pahat Rest House was simple, hot and well served. The view of the hills with the morning mist rising brought back lots of memories. Moreover it was a long way to Mersing with time for a kip on the bus.
"We were glad also to he told that the 'crook' hotel at Mersing turned out to be quite acceptable. The room we occupied at the Rest House was old but clean.
"I was soft in the head, the Corporal swore, "to get mixed, up with this bloody war.".
The black mud surrounding Ayer Hitam is still as sticky, still as gooey, as when the NCO delivered himself of the above assertion in 1942. With several others, he was manhandling rations off the road to a section position, when his boot sank out of sight into the mud.
To reach Ayer Hitam we had risen rather early, performed ablutions in a hurry, and had met the deadline, 'LUGGAGE UP' before breakfast could be contemplated.
In any case, it had been decided that, as accommodation at Batu Pahat was something less than sumptuous (it was well off the beaten tourist track) we would fare a field and try our luck with breakfast "on-the-go".
We stopped the coach at the Chamber of Commerce building the scene of last night's orgy, to take some snapshots.
Yes, daylight revealed the old familiar outline, shown in our pre-war time photograph. The facade had lost something of its freshness over the lapse of thirty-seven years. Shops had sprung up around the building and hemmed it in, with early morning trading going on apace, even before our arrival.
Alter a brief survey and some random photography, we all clambered aboard and made for the rest house.
This turned out to be a different story from digs overnight at either the Merlin or the Asia Hotel, and a much better proposition. A large, airy, well kept building on the outskirts of town, the rest house was set in attractive garden like ground.
We were soon served with European type courses: eggs, ham, bacon, cereals, toast, coffee or tea, etc to our great content.
Here we saw our old friends the lawn cutters; the round arm, blade-swinging mowers. Their leisurely action suggested no hurry at all, but, as they moved in a line across the sward they seemed to do an effective job.
"'Dutchy"" Holland asked if anyone would join him in a partnership for a Victa Mower Franchise to oust the Tamils. It would seem that it would have been the means to make a fortune.
We trundled on over the flat country to Ayer Hitam, and here nothing seemed changed. Over the crossroads were new signs but the dingy little shops were just as before.
We turned north and easily identified the Company positions; '"B" east of north-south road and forward; '"C"" Company, rear of "B" and "'D" Company west of the road and forward of Bn. H.Q. and H.Q. Company.
Crossing the bridge over the Sembrong, we identified "A" Company's position on Lalang Hill. Ron Maston, Kevin Ward, "Doc” Wilson and George Aspinall set out on a reconnaissance to pinpoint positions originally occupied, when they had moved in the dark, on the night of 23rd Jan '42, as described on pages 18 onwards in the Battalion History. They pushed in along a small track at the back of Lalang Hill, where "A" Coy HQ had been.
Fortunately a scrub fire had burnt the grass making for easier walking, but it made a mess of trousers and long socks. The forward slopes of Lalang Hill are covered now in thick jungle but from the top 'Doc' Wilson and Kevin Ward easily located their old positions. Looking back towards Ayer Hitam the country looks the same as in the photograph in “Galleghants Greyhounds". The not so hardy souls were content to remain in or near to the coach. The Sun was now high in the sky and the day was hot.
Please see photos facing page 32 for photos taken then.
A small road-side stall was soon the centre of attention The drinks offered were of doubtful appearance, so no one bought any. Lady Galleghan's discerning eye discovered a small piece of attractive pottery bearing the famous “AW" trade mark. This caused a small rush, but it turned out to be fruitless, as no more choice pieces were found.
The Men's search party returned well content, claiming to have pin-pointed the exact positions of 7, 8 and 9 Platoons. Many mosquitoes still inhabit the locality, and, as was said before, black mud is everywhere.
Remembering Stuart Peach's epic dash in the darkness of the night in 25th January, 1942, it did seem a great distance from the cross roads, from Ayer Hitam and from Bn. HQ to Lalang Hill.
We traversed from Ayer Hitam to Kluang the often used narrow bitumen road, that reminded us of war time travel. The Kluang aerodrome is now in military use and security rules yet remind one of the Communist guerrilla activities, that harrowed the country after World War II. Helicopters are stationed here, their personnel are trained here and shuttle for action on the northern border, where there is still anti establishment guerrilla activity carried on in the border region. As well, there is a Brigade of Troops, Support groups and a Commando Force. No photographs were allowed. We were met at the guard posts and escorted by outriders for a brief inspection. A Major Jaafar giving a conducted tour of the area. The hospital was clearly visible, the Mosque, that was used as an O.P., the high water tank behind the hospital, where a perpendicular ladder had led up to the top, but leaned outwards to permit negotiation of the parapet, all brought back memories of our role as defence of this aerodrome in the practice exercise December 1941 (See pp 48 of the Bn History, "Galleghan's Greyhounds").
Before we moved on Major Jaafar, invited us in for drinks in the canteen.
The next point of interest, Jemaluang; was reached by a long, winding road through jungle with much the same appearance as in wartime days. This was "Wah-whah" monkey territory, but we neither say nor heard any this trip. The take-off road to Gibraltar Hill, where “D" Coy performed a stalwart role in trail blazing was identified.
Many narrow tracks still appear to criss-cross the terrain here.
Passing by the sites of Battalion Headquarters and 27th Brigade Headquarters, we came to the rebuilt township of Jemaluang; but, as we had an appointment at Mersing, we did not stop. In passing it appeared that the few buildings were solid and permanent.
A far cry from the sad days of 1941, when the place went up in flames and the forlorn refugees lined the road, burdened with their belongings.
Our overnight stop was at Mersing. It had been a long journey for us to come from Batu Pahat. We were glad to reach our destination. A warm welcome with refreshments in the form of tea and sweetmeats was accorded to us. Our hosts, were the Mersing Sub-Branch of E.S.A.M., their Chairman, Abdul Wahab bin Jumaat welcomed us in Malay, as did several other speakers. Ron Maston had the job of replying. Again we were impressed with the warm friendly way in which we were received by the members, their wives and families, who served the afternoon tea. There was one Malay, who spoke perfect English and who had served in the British army for many years. A group photograph was taken and a presentation made to women and children. The Malaysian Outward Bound school is located six miles South of Mersing at Segamat. Here specially selected young people and Government servants from all over Malaysia are put through special courses designed to develops leadership and character. The Commandant, Major Haji Ahmad gave us a very enthusiastic talk about the aims of the School and the results being achieved. We were seated in an open lecture hall looking out over the South China Sea. A very long day had tested our endurance but the interesting talk failed to keep all awake.
Dinner at the Mersing Rest House was an excellent a-la-carte meal with special delicacies from the sea.
Mersing now has a population of 45,000 people and there are many western style homes that have been built along the sea shore. Rubber, Palm Oil, Bananas, Pineapples and other tropical fruits are grown. Tin Mining and Timber and Fishing are also, as of old, very important.
A very early morning call and "luggage out" signal this morning as we had a 10.00 hours assignment in Johore Bahru, and the run from Mersing thither was quite a stint for the time set. Our appointment was to call at the Istana Besar (the Old Palace) to inspect the Royal Treasures. This, we were told, was a rare honour these days.
Despite the early hour, some members of the party were up betimes and were rewarded by seeing a beautiful sight. The Rest House stood beside the South China Sea, the morning was clear, and on the shallow sea-flats, small, foamy waves were driving towards the shore. Traveller palms and flamboyant tropical shrubs stood in the lawns sweeping down to the sea. Putting greens on the adjacent golf course gleamed dew wet in the level light of the early morning.
A delightful spot, but the schedule of our travel demanded a hasty sally to the breakfast table on pain of being left behind. So, a quick photograph or two, a bite to eat, embussing, and then pell-mell down the East Coast Road, as fast as we could go. We retraced our steps to Jemaluang, identified Nithsdale Estate, where 2/18 Bn. had staged an ambush against the Japanese on 25th January, 1942, with such loss to the Japs, that, like as at Gemas, they had to withdraw and replace their attacking detachment.
Then through Kota Tingii to Johore Bahru.
The Comptroller of the Palace conducted us through the two storey building, which had been built by Sultan Abu Bakor, the Grandfather of the present Sultan.
We feasted our eyes on treasures, the like of which we had never seen, and our eyes literally popped out of our heads, as we gazed in wonder at the vast array of precious stones, gold and silver plate, swords and maces of State, which would be valued at many millions of dollars. The crown and special regalia, used at the crowning of the Sultan, had been brought out of the strong room for us to view. Gold necklaces worth over two and a half million dollars each. Gold dinner services including gold knives and forks. Crystal tables and chairs, especially made and imported from Europe. Clothes that are worn on state occasions, when the Old Palace is used for Receptions and special dinners, etc. This part of the trip was of tremendous interest to our ladies. The Trophy Room contained all sorts of trophies from the hunt, tigers, even a Melbourne Cup, won by a horse belonging to the Sultan's Grandfather.
A quick visit was made to the Orchid Hotel to freshen up and then away to the Royal Johore Polo Club at Pasir Pahangi for lunch as guests of His Royal Highness the Sultan of Johore.
The whole party was presented to the Sultan and his Sultana, who is a most gracious princess from the Northern state of Kelantan and is the Sultan's second wife. His first wife was killed in an accident several years ago. The Sultana would be about 30 years of age and the Sultan would be 82.
The lunch was an eight course Malay Curry, served by the Sultan's staff and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Plenty of beer, both Tiger and overseas available. The Sultan's second son, the Raja Muda and his wife and older children and retinue from the Palace acted as hosts to our people with the result that everyone had a most pleasant time.
After lunch we were shown the Sultan's stables, where over 200 polo ponies are kept in the best manner possible, looked after by a staff of 75. He keeps a couple of aeroplanes and a helicopter as well as numerous motor cars.
We were invited to stay and watch a Polo match but, unfortunately had to leave at 3.50 p.m. to keep an afternoon tea appointment with the Johore Bahru Branch of the E.S.A.M. So, on saying our farewells we moved on to the Orchid Hotel for this afternoon tea with more members of the Malaysian Ex Services. More presentations were made and we then retired to our rooms to freshen up after a long day. Some went shopping but crossing the very busy streets is very hazardous. Pedestrian crossings are almost non-existent and the best one can hope for is a lull in the traffic and a hurried dash to the other side.
Today we saw how a tremendously wealthy Sultan and his family live, but they are accepted by their people, who expect to see their Royal family living in this style.
Johore Bahru is now a city of tall buildings and spreading housing estates, where people can buy three bedroom brick homes for thirty to thirty five thousand dollars (Malaysian) all fitted with sewerage, water and electricity. Motor cars and lorries are everywhere. There is ample evidence that a strong middle class is developing in this country.
A select band, "The Stayers" today faced up to the scheduled "Visit to Simpang Rengam", a goodly number of the remainder, a few oldies and softies were, by now, feeling the strain of rushing hither and yon to "post, air, land and ocean without rest" and felt the need of respite.
So, for the last "search and find" session on the mainland the team comprised: Ron Maston, "Curly" Heckendorf, Reg Napper, Ron Johnston, Kevin and Dorothy Ward, Jack Maclay, Dick Henderson and "Doc" Wilson.
To the assiduous and ever durable "Heck", we owe the following notes:
“We left Johore Bahru at 08.30 hours and proceeded to 40/41 Mile pegs. (Simpang Rengam). On the way we noted:
1) The Embussing Point for Singapore Island, 1942, at 14½ mile peg.
2) At 17 Mile peg we saw the approximate site of Sgt. Christoff's grave, and at 18 mile peg the stretch of road where he was killed, whilst in the turret of the armoured car, "The Angel" during a low level air attack.
3) Point at 22 mile peg, where "C" Coy neutralised Jap patrol and secured the Samurai sword, which subsequently was placed in Canberra National War Museum by "B.J.".
4) Ayer Bemban area, where we were heavily shelled during several periods and particularly during withdrawal.
5) Simpang Rengam battle area, where we drove along estate tracks to the point, where the armoured cars were sited on left flank of "D" Company. Walked through "D" Company area and returned, passing through "B" and "C" Company areas. A Contour map, drawn by Alan Penfold (I Section) in action, was helpful. It was not difficult to recognise the terrain despite the fact that rubber trees in the battle area had been replaced with oil palm trees. Estate roads and tracks are practically unaltered and jungle at rear of Battalion position is still the same”.
Around midday we assembled in the foyer of the Orchid Hotel, baggage was checked into the small carrier coach and with lingering glances and sighs for an all-too-short a stay in fascinating Johore Bahru, we sped on our way to Singapore Island.
"Sped" might not be the operative word for such a short journey, it seemed to take hours, and there were noticeable delays. First on the Northern shore of the Strait of Johore, was the Malaysian Immigration check point. Here there was some delay, whilst George Aspinall's photographic gear was cleared by Customs. George had the necessary form, from when he had landed at Kuala Lumpur, but unfortunately the Customs Officers on duty had never seen it before. Therefore, George and our tour guide had to carry George's gear up the hill to the main Customs Depot where eventually a clearance was given. Whilst this was happening the rest of us waited in the bus half way over the causeway in No Man's Land between Malaysia and Singapore. Fortunately the air conditioning unit on the coach tempered the Singapore air to a certain extent.
After about 1½ hours George was brought to us in the cabin of a Chinese truck - red faced, sweating and vowing "never again". Here we must pay tribute again to George's enthusiasm and tireless energy in creating a film record of our whole trip despite all the problems he had to overcome
So over the famous causeway, repaired long since from wartime damage and now fully functional and very busy. Next the Customs and Immigration at Woodlands on the Southern side and in Singapore Territory and here the hold up was not so long, but the inspection was thorough and courteous. Jack Black's carefully selected whisky supply came under scrutiny. Result comings and goings, calls for interpreter and some delay. We had to leave the bus and walk to the customs office for our carry bags to be inspected, and show of passports.
We had, at this point, a fascinating view of what happens during a luggage inspection in one of the more enlightened modern communities. Uniformed men stormed our little trunk-ferry, bags were hauled out and hand sensors were applied back, front and sideways. Anon some very busy black dogs were led forward, they started sniffing the luggage most enthusiastically, tails wagging with all the joy of the hunt.
In anti-climax, nothing dubious was found, dogs and devices were removed, baggage repacked and we were sent on our way. Before moving off the opportunity was made to make a small monetary presentation to our driver, guide, and baggage boy. We were most grateful to them for the way in which the driver had handled the coach; to the guide for his informative description of the places through which we passed, and the baggage boy for his loading and unloading of our luggage.
At long last, back to Singapore, we bored holes in the coach windows to recognise and identify Woodlands Road, Mandai, Bukit Pajang Village, Bukit Timah, Ford Assembly Plant, etc., as we sped by. Without further incident we arrived at the Century Park Sheraton Hotel. It is a vast, newly-built hotel adorned and designed to rival the Hilton hotels around the world. From its elevated situation one gets vistas of trees, lawns, parking areas, large ornate swimming pool, a front piece fountain, and overall it creates an atmosphere of luxury accommodation and service. Every conceivable convenience is available.
The party was greeted by uniformed, gloved attendants at the entrance and passed through reception to the sumptuous quarters on the various floors above.
Ron Maston and "Doc" Wilson made contact with the Ex-Service Association of Singapore, who had arranged to participate with us in the wreath laying ceremony at Kranji. Captain Liew Teck Onn, Mr. W. R. Soloman and Mr. Koh Baba came to the hotel to make sure that all arrangements were satisfactory. These gentlemen were most helpful during our stay in Singapore.
Contact was made also with Mr. G. Price - High Commissioner for Australia in Singapore, to confirm arrangement for our visit to the gaol at Changi, Selerang Barracks and Kranji Cemetery. The High Commissioner and his staff were most helpful.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent by some looking at the new shopping complexes with which Singapore abounds, and more seem to be going up everywhere one looks.
Most of us went to bed early to make up for the days of travel on the Malaysian mainland. We found it difficult to believe that we were back in Singapore after all the years that have passed since 1945.
Meals at the hotel were somewhat expensive, but the word went around that good reasonably priced meals could be had at a restaurant above one of the supermarkets, and this eventually became the venue for meals. Across the road from the hotel was an eating place called tho Rasa Singapura which catered for all culinary tastes. The food here was cheap and plentiful and patronised well by the local population, but it was a little too noisy for us.
Our new resident guide was Abraham Isaacs (Able), a veteran with a wealth of topical information to impart. It immediately became apparent that he was a zealous supporter of Mr. Lee Kwan Yew and his reform in Singapore. On the morning of his takeover, on the run up to the North East corner of the Island, he not only gave a run down on the local scenery, but a tabloid address on socio-political events. Singapore is now one of the four busiest ports in the world, with population of 2.8 million. His story cited the tiny fishing village island, population 150 as the scene of Sir Stamford Raffles British East India Co. visit in 1819; the astronomical birth rate, hence the restricted birth rate of today. Family Planning Ordinances decree abortion legal in Singapore. The Government encourages families to plan for two children. More than two children incur them in loss of privileges in education, medicine etc. Education is free up to Primary School, and pupils attend in shifts, morning and afternoon. Teachers work a six day week to stop them getting a second job.
The official languages are English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil, but the national language is Malay. Conditions under the Japanese occupation in World War II were severe, life was terrible, said our guide. He was here. Rich people became poor, many committed suicide. Young girls were forced into prostitution, young men were conscripted and taken away for forced labour.
In 1965 Singapore was separated from Malaysia and became a republic. Workers retire at sixty. No overtime is worked. Employers pay a fixed percentage of employee's wages to Government funds to provide for retirement pensions. Old buildings are systematically pulled down and rebuilt to maintain construction forces, engineers, tradesmen, etc. in full employment.
A tall, striking cream monument (Chopsticks Monument) has been erected to the memory of 25,000 Chinese and Indians who died during Japanese occupation. Former landmarks of P.O.W. days are gone; now bulldozers and earth roving equipment scar the land in
all directions. Tropical trees, bamboo and coconut palms grow in abundance on every spare piece of ground. The dark green foliage gives a striking contrast to the concrete buildings.
Inmates of the Sheraton were treated at 1900 hours to a fascinating display. Whether it was for the Chinese New Year or the official opening of the hotel was not made very clear. A huge Chinese dragon appeared, loud with clamour, very violent and breathing smoke and flames.
About forty feet long, brightly coloured, it was supported by agile young men garbed in white. They carried it on poles and leapt to and fro to give the green and red monster a lively, simulated movement. They took quick running and dancing steps, while raising and dipping their poles. The fiery breathing was supplied by flare carrying outrunners, who, from time to time, puffed their naphtha flares to the sound of drum beat, gong and cymbal clashing.
Dr. Johnson observed - "Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully".
Also, to be thrown into Changi Gaol with a thin diet of string bean soup and rice, concentrated the mind. This we knew from experience; the mind dwelt, to escape from hunger, upon succulent roast, beef, veal pies and the glorious apple dumplings of a former day.
That old horror, the prison itself, still stands, much the same, as we knew it, and on this day we ventured upon an inspection.
Today's programme began with the arrival at Changi Gaol gates by coach at 1000 hours.
We debussed and were directed to a large, enclosed waiting room opposite the main gates. Little change was noticeable to the structure of the prison itself. Outside the walls the environment was greatly changed. Additional buildings have gone up, apparently of an administrative nature, and whereas 30 years ago considerable open ground was in the vicinity of the gaol, now the area is almost fully built up. At least, that was the impression gained, although our tour only took in the area outside the main gates. Security is very tight. After a short wait, which allowed a previous party to depart, we were conducted through the small door into the yard and up narrow steep stairs to the Chapel, where the service was to be held. The day was fine and sunny, the shutters were open and a cool breeze made conditions pleasant. The wooden pews were handsome and held a highly polished finish. Around the walls were over fifty nine plaques and colours of various regiments, including Eighth Division Units. The 2/30 Bn. shield bearing purple and gold colours stood out clearly as did the plaque for Brig. Sir Frederick Galleghan. In 1953 the prison chaplain, with permission from the authorities, converted one of Changi Prison's old hospital wards into a chapel. In 1963, Australian ex-servicemen, through the Australian High Commission, donated twenty pews and a carpet in memory of the internees, who died during the Second World War.
The Memorial Service was simple and impressive. Ron Maston introduced Padre Khoo, other visitors and the Superintendent of Changi Gaol - Mr. James Ten Boolatt, who had been incarcerated in the Gaol with his parents by the Japs in 1942.
Padre Khoo gave a brief account of the history of the Chapel and told how it is now used. A short service was held, two verses of Recessional Hymn were sung. One minutes silence was observed and "The Ode" was recited by "Doc" Wilson. After the blessing, flowers were presented to Padre Khoo by Lady Galleghan on behalf of the Association. These were arranged on the Altar, to provide a touch of colour during services, that are held for prisoners on Sunday.
Time was then taken to inspect Plaques on the wall and, a privileged sanction, we were allowed to photograph the inside of the chapel. Also the gaol authorities were most co-operative and on being approached with request to photograph a gaol block in which some of us had been inmates, no objections were raised. So there are now photographs of gaol blocks throughout N.S.W.
On February 17, 1942, two days after Singapore fell to the Japanese forces, some 3,400 European civilians were marched from the Municipal grounds to Changi prison, where they spent two nightmarish years in overcrowded conditions. The men were housed in blocks A, B and C and women and children in Block D. Despite their ordeal, the internees organised religious services and later formed a library with books acquired from members of the clergy outside the prison.
On October 10, 1943, about 500 military police (Japanese Kempetai) made a thorough search of the entire prison and certain leaders of the civilians were trapped, tortured, in some cases died, committed suicide, one man is credited with cutting out his tongue so that he could not be forced under torture, to disclose the names of accomplices. A copy of a BBC News Broadcast was found. Thereafter, all lectures, classes and entertainment, except religious services, were prohibited.
On April 14, 1944, the European civilians were transferred to Sime Road Camp in order to make way for the 12,000 prisoners of war from Selarang Barracks. Hundreds of these P.O.W. were concentrated in the prison building and the rest in wooden and attap huts, which the prisoners built for themselves in the gaol courtyard and outside the walls of the gaol.
All evidence of the gardens, cultivated for food growing, the workshops, the wood-burning boilers, the boreholes has disappeared. The airfield, upon which prisoners toiled for twelve hours a day, excavating soil and rock and loading the material into hand trucks, still exists. In process now is the extension and enlargement of landing grounds to take the largest aircraft, since Changi Aerodrome is to be the main commercial airport for Singapore, projected to be opening in 1980.
From Changi Goal our party proceeded to Selarang Barracks, now in regular use by troops of the Singapore Defence Forces. Quarters occupied by individuals and groups in buildings around the barrack square were inspected. Before leaving Australia arrangements had been made through the Australian High Commission in Singapore for our visit to Selarang, so that we could visit the Barracks, cookhouse, etc. and so that George Aspinall could film and photograph throughout the area.
Before leaving Australia George had developed ten photographs, which he presented to the unit at Selarang Barracks. These are to be placed in a glass case with the full story of what they represent and how they were taken.
Captain Tang was assigned to our group and took us wherever we wanted to go. George Aspinall and “Dutchy" Holland had a corporal attached to them, whilst they took photographs which show what places look like, which George had photographed in 1943. The corporal was a red-cap Provost.
Sandy Christensen and Joe Geoghegan were interested to see the cookhouse where they had performed in 1942-43.
We were impressed with the bearing, smartness and friendliness of the young soldiers we met.
It was quite something to stand with men of our Battalion and their wives and look at the Barracks Square and cast one's mind back to how it looked in 1942.
A stop was made at the Officers' Mess and then again at Robert's Barracks to view the Changi Murals. It is said that Bombardier Stanley Warren, while recovering from renal disease, and inspired by Australian prisoners singing Merbecke's arrangement of the litany, began working on these murals. Today only three and a half pictures can be seen; they are biblical scenes, and present an embodiment of the faith that sustained many in what were otherwise hopeless and unbearable conditions.
Time was running out. The tour continued to Changi village, an up-to-date and bustling commercial centre, a modern shopping plaza, where one can buy practically anything, not in any way recognizable as the down-at-heel Kampong of 1942. Gone are the open fronted shops with the shopkeeper reclining on the top of the counter waiting for business. A return to our hotel was made via Bedok, East Coast Lagoon and Nicoll Highway, our tour, through the city, took us along North Bridge Road and the side of River Valley Road Camp.
Anyone, who had been a member of a Trailer Party for obtaining salt water at Changi, would not recognise East Coast and Changi Beaches now. The sea, instead of being a few yards from the palms and kampongs, was several hundred yards away. A twelve mile strip of about 1,300 acres, between 600 and 1,000 yards wide, has been reclaimed, commenced in 1966.
The ultimate reclamation project will add more than 6 sq. miles to Singapore Island.
We returned to the hotel in the late afternoon, and once again for some, the time was given over to more shopping.
At Kranji Cemetery. "Gone are the living but the dead remain. And not neglected; for a hand unseen, scattering its bounty, like summer rain. Still keeps their graves and their remembrance green," (Longfellow)
This is not the place to embark upon a "description" of the elevated dignity of the cemetery at Kranji. Descriptions abound, and many have seen its grandeur and beauty for themselves.
It is an inspiring place. The impressive surroundings and simple reverence of our service created an atmosphere moving in the extreme. Many wept.
How applicable were the inspired words of Lincoln at Gettysburg: "We have come to a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that our nation might live. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather to be dedicated to the unfinished work, which they, who fought here, have this far so nobly advanced that we here highly resolve, that those dead shall not have died in vain."
Sunday morning we boarded the coach for the trip to Kranji War Cemetery, once again passing along well remembered streets. Bukit Timah Road is a very busy thoroughfare and carries a heavy volume of traffic.
Kranji Cemetery is a beautiful place and is a credit to tho War Graves Commission on the way it is looked after.
It was 1000 hours as members left the coach at the lower entrance to Kranji Cemetery and moved up to the Memorial at the top of the cemetery. Piper (Maj. A. Moodie) and Bugler Sargent Chow Chee Kong took up positions. The Battalion pennant, which had been brought to Singapore by Kevin Ward, was laid on the forecourt and wreaths were placed on this.
Ex-members of 2/30 Bn. and Singaporean Ex-Service personnel formed up in two lines, flanking the Memorial. Balance of the Assembly moved to position, forming third side of open square and facing the Memorial, much the same pattern, that is followed at Pymble. Order for Ceremony:
1. Ex-members of 2/30 Bn.
and Ex-Services' Association of Singapore.
Maston welcomed visitors and gave outline of story of 2/30 Bn.
Lieut. Hyslop recited THE
Eulogy by Lieut. Hyslop. - "Christ said, 'I and the father are one', and we believe this to be true.
"It was said on earth,
and today we feel deeply in our hearts that Divine Compassion rests upon
the great sacrifice made by the men, whom we honour here and wherever they
Members moved through the cemetery and memorial to locate graves and scrutinize lists of names, then to sign the visitors' book.
The Australian High Commissioner, Mr. G. Price, accompanied by Mrs. Price and his son and daughter and Defence Adviser, Capt. D. Thompson, were present and Mr. Price took part in the ceremony.
Maj. Alistair D. and Mrs. Moodie were present. He acts as piper for ceremonies held by Singapore Ex-Service Association and had kindly agreed to act as piper for our ceremony giving it the usual 2/30 touch.
Sergeant Chow Chee Kong from Singapore Armed Services Band acted as bugler and gave a first class performance. All at the ceremony were greatly impressed with his smart military bearing.
Mr. Whoo Weng Kay, who had met up with the Battalion at Caldecott Hill and McRitchie Reservoir, joined with the party.
Mr. Tan Chuan Seng, Group Supervisor of Kranji War Cemetery was present with record books, from which we were able to locate, where members of the unit were buried.
He also had record books for all war cemeteries throughout South East Asia and from these we were able to trace, where chaps are buried in Burma and Thailand.
There is no doubt that the War Graves Commission deserves high praise for the standard, at which the Kranji Cemetery is kept. Those families, whose sons or fathers are buried there, can be certain that, they rest in lovely surroundings.
After the conclusion of the visit, the party returned to the city by way of Caldecott Hill.
Planned for today are Sentosa Island visit and Reception by High Commissioner for Australia (Mr. Geoffrey Price).
Faithfully on time the coach carried us to the wharf near Jardine Steps. There we boarded a small ferry to cross the harbour waters past Pulau Brani to Sentosa Island Ferry Terminal. There we boarded an ex-London double-decker bus, minus glass windows and proceeded along a scenic drive, past a golf course to the "Coralarium". This proved to be a most beautiful aquarium containing unrivalled specimens of coloured tropical fish, shells, coral, etc. of all descriptions. Taking in the Maritime Museum we arrived at Fort Siloso, now turned into artillery museum, where fortress guns are kept as reminders of warfare now past. Ancient Portuguese muzzle loading cannon, swivel guns, ammunition chambers, magazines, mostly brought from Fort Canning. Printed panels referring to the history of the place, added to the interest.
Jack Black, Fred Johnston, Doc Wilson and Dick Henderson were able to give detailed information of World War II scenes since they were all on the Ps.O.W. Working Parties on the isle, but named from early times as “Blakang Mati" interpreted "behind death", having notoriety arising from the fact that pirates out of Singapore would attack ships, which sailed behind it, to use the narrow passage between it and Singapore; with a favourable wind the ships made the passage safely, but if slow moving or if the wind failed they were plundered and the crew billed.
Jack Black also says, "About 5½ years ago I returned for the first time since 1945. Everyone told me it was impossible to see, as it was, or had been, a Singapore Armed Forces base. After some difficulty extending over thirty-six hours, I found Jardine Steps, which were inside a construction site at the time, engaged a small boat and headed across the harbour. Miraculously the Army had moved out and the contractor had not yet moved in. Things were almost exactly as they were in August 1945. It was one of the most chilling experiences of my life, as I wandered, completely alone, expecting at any moment to hear the magic word "Koorah!!” This trip (Monday, 22 January) is my 3rd visit; from the ferry I could see that all the bays round on the harbour side now have retaining walls and are being filled to make more recreation space. The road system remains virtually unchanged, as we turned left at the junction just through the village; on past the wireless shop (how many stories can be told about that house?) power station, and down past "English" and "Australia Houses" to the base of Serapong, 301 ft. high and the highest point on the island.
"Australia House" is now a smart restaurant or guest house, complete with swimming pool. The garden area through to the sea has been cleared of jungle and is now a first class golf course.
"English House", has the roof partly off. The paint has been cut back and you can see the old camouflage and bomb shrapnel marks. Obviously it won't be too long before that building also becomes flats or a guest house.
The barrack square, where the Japanese quarters were at the top of the hill remains virtually untouched and you can nearly pick out the site of the Jap kitchens and piggery. Both of course have long gone.
On this day near the satellite tracking station, which has been erected there, we came on a colony of monkeys. These were the only animals we saw in several hundred kilometres of travel in Malaysia. "Sight of them brought back memories of an old Jap guard at the waterworks, who used to go on shooting expeditions against the monks with his .303. It pleased me greatly to see their descendants and reflect, that those monkeys must have been survivors too." said Jack Black.
As has been mentioned, we visited the Coralarium, and then the fort at Serapong, to which the bus did not go. Extensive reclamation is going on at this end of the island also. There is a fine view of Singapore city from there. We were able to see, where the intrepid Australian frogmen from the "Krait" had entered the harbour and wreaked havoc with Japanese ships.
The Surrender Chamber is now in those buildings, which are near the fort. The tableau, originally prepared for the Municipal offices near the Singapore Padang, is a first rate exhibition. Well worth a visit by any ex-P.O.W.
I specially noted that there is no figure at the table representing any commander of P.O.W. forces.
I stood on the steps to see Lord Mountbatten and others arrive on that day in late August 1945, but I can't recall seeing "Black Jack" - nor have I ever seen him in any picture of the surrender. What a shame that he apparently was not there (as Wainwright was in Tokyo). The Japanese would have understood his presence.
This Surrender Chamber was unique; life-size waxwork figures depicted the authentic scene of the signing of the surrender document by senior Japanese commanders. A spoken commentary lent verisimilitude to the tableau. The whole exhibition was completely glazed so that sightseers could view but not touch. On the walls of the verandah leading into the Surrender Chamber are large photographs of the Malayan Campaign particularly of the last few days leading up to the fall of Singapore.
Coming out of the building a heavy downpour of rain occurred, just as we were to board the open sided double decker bus for the trip to the cable car station, only a sudden tropical downpour, but it made everyone scramble for umbrellas. It seemed strange to be standing in the aisle of a double decker bus with umbrellas unfurled, shielding ourselves against driving rain. By the time, that we had reached the cable car station, the rain had stopped, as suddenly as it had started, and we were able to enjoy the view of the city from six passenger cable cars as they slowly travelled 195` above the waters of the harbour.
It was a giddy height above the water, so that a kaleidoscope of bustling marine activity appeared, the Keppel Harbour wharves, Telok Ayer wharves and the container Terminal. In the background are tall skyscrapers, which serve as the financial, industrial and commercial heart of Singapore. The Singapore power house is long gone, but the signal station remains on the hill. Also, just across Pasir Panjang Road, the old Jap headquarters building stands. It has been extended by the present owner but the architecture is the same and it is clearly recognisable.
The cableway was built in one year. Jardine Steps are found easily now, as they are the site of the ferry terminal and the stopping place for the cable car.
Boarding the coach again we made a call at a gem factory to see large numbers of skilled artisans cutting, polishing and setting precious and semi-precious stones in a great variety of jewelled pieces and illustrative framings. Jack Maclay brought home a very striking souvenir from there.
Back to the Sheraton for a meal and a brush up and then away again to the Australian High Commissioner's residence as guests of the High Commissioner and Mrs. Geoffrey Price, at "Glencaird", 73 Dalvey Road, Singapore.
A distinguished throng of guests attended the reception and again we marvelled at the evening scene; doors thrown wide open, groups "al fresco" on patio, verandah and lawn and never a baleful insect in sight. The High Commissioner with his defence adviser. Captain David Thompson, had been with us at the ceremony at Kranji Cemetery on the previous day, as had his wife, their son and daughter. Friendly and interested in our pilgrimage, it was a pleasure to renew acquaintance. A notable amicable figure was the British High Commissioner, apparently pleased to hear an Australian point of view and not slow to put forward his perceptions. Gathered to meet us were a host of V.I.P.'s representing the cream of the diplomatic corp. All the people, that we met, were most friendly and eager, questioning us on our time spent as POW. Jack Fell said that he spoke to a Welsh man, who was a seaman on one of the merchant ships carrying fighter-planes destined for Singapore, but were off loaded in Java, only to be destroyed before they could be used. He now owns a small shipping line in Singapore but is in the process of transferring his head office to Perth. Jack also had the pleasure of talking to a most charming Vietnamese born lady, now married to one of the Australian Diplomatic Staff in Singapore. Hospitality was lavish and as the night was warm, justice was done to the copious drinks proffered.
A speech of thanks was proposed very ably by our experienced parliamentary member, Norm King, and this was seconded with well chosen words by Fred Johnston.
Time was all too short, and we were sorry to take leave of our hosts for the trip back to the hotel.
Morning was free for shopping and visiting places, which we wished to see ourselves. Very quickly we found laundries where our washing and ironing could be done much more cheaply than at the hotel.
Every minute of our visit to Singapore was used to see those places and scenes, where we first met the mysterious East in 1941-42.
Jack and Vera Fell spent a couple of hours in the beautiful Botanical Gardens.
George Aspinall and "Dutchy" Holland made a visit to St. Patrick's School, where 10 Aus. Gen. Hosp. had been in those first days in February 1942. George having been an ambulance driver for 2/10 Field Ambulance on the Island, in those last days of battle, bringing wounded from C.C.S. to this Hospital.
Norm King, Athol Charlesworth and some others, tried out the fairways and greens at Singapore Golf Club.
Norm King made sure that George Aspinall photographed at the lakes on the golf course, in order to show, where tree trunks were launched into the water, after being felled in the jungle and brought to the banks of the lake, as he was one of those, who had to swim alongside the logs, guiding them to where they were wanted by the Japs for their bridge on the road to their shrine. George's photos show only the sections of the piles, showing above water. The bridge was destroyed and the tops of the piles cut off, after August 1945. Incidentally it was "Dutchy" Holland, who was able to pinpoint in one photo, the jungle, where Jack Egan was killed, whilst on the Shrine Job by a tree, which had been felled, but the top hamper of which had been so interwoven with vines, that its butt swung back and hit Jack in the face. (See map page 242 "Galleghan's Greyhounds": "Syonan Biazya" - "Divine Bridge".)
"Sandy" Christensen and Ron Johnston went to Bukit Timah Racecourse. The Asst. Secretary made tickets available and they found the lounge comfortable, air-conditioned, giving a good view of the course, and the windows for placing their bets, a matter of going only a few steps over the plush carpeting.
They did not know the horses and their form, but took as their guide the jockeys, whom they did know, from Sydney, Melbourne and England, although the last, Piggott was not on top for the day.
Sandy says that he had a great day. He came out in front with his bets, but he did not know if he could say the same for Ron, who was tearing his hair at one stage.
An interesting point over there is that, without TAB, the racecourse is the only place where bets are allowed to be placed. There are 4 courses, Bukit Timah in Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and George Town (Penang Island). Racing days are set for each in turn and, at those three, where there is no racing, the crowds are as large, as if there were racing, even although there is not a horse to be seen. All the action is on the Television Screens placed around, wherever the punters congregated, and bets are laid in the normal way with the bookies and Tote, as though the racing was on the course. This phenomenal scene was witnessed by the party on the Saturday at K.L. since their Hotel gave them a view over the race course there. In fact photos showed people everywhere but no horses at all.
In the afternoon those of the group interested in seeing Singapore Harbour and neighbouring islands left the hotel at 14.00 hrs. travelled by our coach to Clifford Pier, where they boarded a Chinese junk. In the following 2½ hours they travelled past hundreds of small craft, which are used to carry people and supplies to ships anchored out from Singapore.
The harbour itself and the Singapore Roads are a hive of activity. There is nowhere near enough wharf space available and consequently most of the unloading and loading is done from lighters. These boats of various shapes and sizes are coming and going in a never ending procession, as far as the eye could see in all directions were freighters, lying at anchor, discharging or receiving cargo. Then into the Outer Roads, where ships from all over the world are anchored. It was fascinating to look back at the Singapore skyline with its mass of tall buildings. The last time most of us had seen it was from the deck of the "Esperance Bay" in September 1945 and the tallest building was the Cathay, which today is still there as a picture theatre and office building, but cannot be seen, because of the heights of other buildings around it. Multi storey buildings now are the rule rather than the exception.
A strong easterly breeze was blowing and this whipped up waves, which caused our junk to bounce around and gave us quite a thrill.
We called at Kusu Island or Pulau Tembakal, as the Malays call it, originally two rocky islets joined by a sand bar at low tide, now joined as one by dredging, so that it is now a day holiday resort, where Singaporeans can swim and enjoy the sun. We had a brief stop for refreshments, then we were off again. The Chinese have a temple at one end, the Malays one at the other end, at first one on each of the islets. The temples may be visited at any time, but early February, in the Chinese ninth moon, thousands visit their temple with offerings.
Leaving Pulau Tembakal the diesels were reduced to idling speed and the sails hoisted, to give us an idea what it was like under sail. We rounded Sentosa Island (Blakang Mati), into the main harbour and passed Wharf No. 10, where the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt tied up all those years ago in August, 1941, and we as young men looked at the strange sights and heard the strange sounds of Singapore, not to mention smelling the exotic smells.
We sailed back through the coming and going of all sort of craft in the inner harbour, past the Container Terminal, to Clifford Pier and then drove through the afternoon Singapore traffic to our hotel to relax.
Here a further opening ceremony was in process, in fact, there were three of these whilst we were there. We understood that the Sheraton Hotel is financed by Japanese interests and managed by Americans.
In the evening, at the time of the short Singapore twilight, a colourful event occurred at the hotel in the form of a Chinese lion dance. It was in connection with the Chinese New Year, then being celebrated, and intended to tie up with the Sheraton Hotel's official opening, for which many distinguished guests attended.
The arrival of the lion was announced by the approaching of loud sounds (surely this could not be described as music) produced by the vigorous playing of drums, cymbals and gongs.
As it drew nearer, the noise became deafening, but at the same time rhythmic and impressive. The effigy of the lion was very colourful and so strongly constructed that the violent, convulsive movements imparted to it by the two acrobatic young men, who manned it, did not appear to damage it in any way.
At the front entrance there was placed some food for the lion; lettuce (or the like) and oranges. Towards these the lion approached with great caution and many feints and departures.
The dance was quite protracted but at last the lion partook of some of the offerings and finally went to sleep.
Morning being at leisure, opportunity was taken by many group members of sightseeing, shopping, and making private contacts. It seemed to be a consensus of opinion in the matter of shopping that bargains were few and far between. Good quality merchandise there was to be had in abundance, but prices were not low. Many offered the opinion that our receding currency could be a cause for this circumstance. However, keen buyers made good buys in clothing, jewellery, ornaments, glassware and novelty items.
The weather remained fine but close and humid.
At 1900 hours we sallied forth to the Raffles Hotel and were ushered to the Palm Court for a dinner of many courses including barbequed dishes. There were problems, as there was a strong wind blowing, rattling the palm fronds and flapping table cloths. The barbeque bank was set upon stands fired from pressure gas containers, the wind was not kind to this procedure and the staff was kept busy adjusting the flames and the cooking processes. The lighting did not seem to be adequate and there was some guesswork in the choice and management of the food for some members of the party.
The name of this hotel is, of course, taken from the founding father, Sir Stamford Raffles. From the very small beginning in the 1800's as a "Tiffin-house" when gharries, drawn by a pony led by a groom, were fashionable modes of transport, the hotel grew to be "more than a hostelry, twas an institution" in the early 1900's. The "London Sphere", in 1908, described it as "The Savoy of Singapore" and Kipling advised "Feed at Raffles, when visiting Singapore". When Singapore fell in 1942, high ranking Japanese officers took over the hotel until 1945.
Raffles hotel is built in the French Renaissance style, an architectural rarity, but it could not be said to be abreast now of the size, style and opulence of the Sheraton, the Mandarin, the Hilton, etc. etc. Quaint legends linger; the Dutch anthropologist, who consumed eight to ten bottles of gin for breakfast every morning; the tiger shot under the billiard table (it had apparently escaped from a show at Beach Road). The hotel dreams of its past splendours and treasures the honour roll of famous patrons.
During our dinner in the Palm Court, a presentation on behalf of the ladies of our party was made by Lady Galleghan to Ron and Gretta Maston and "Doc" and Clover Wilson.
An exhibition of Malay folk-dancing in the ballroom was colourful and interesting, especially the one that made use of rapping bamboo poles.
This was our last official gathering as a group, so the opportunity was taken to introduce some formality into the proceedings. "Doc" Wilson proposed the loyal toast, "The Queen". Andy Hyslop proposed the toast of "The Regiment", coupled with the names of the Commanding Officers. His words were brief and to the point:
"I have the honour of proposing a toast to our regiment, 2/30 Bn. A.I.F. coupled with the names of its commanding officers, firstly, Brig. Sir Fred G. Galleghan and secondly, his successor, George Ramsay. This has been a grand tour; respect and honour have been shown to our glorious dead; hospitality has been showered upon us, the humble representatives of all that, for which our regiment stood.
Our regimental tradition endures and it will endure because it has been founded upon the noblest principles of service to our country. The remembrance of our leaders will endure for they met the challenge of their posts with selfless devotion to duty. We could paraphrase Longfellow and say: Lives of great men all remind us - How they made their lives sublime - and departing left behind them - footprints on the sands of time. Not only our leaders, but the rank and file of our battalion, if we are to believe the evidence of our eyes and ears on this tour, also left behind them FOOTPRINTS ON THE SANDS OF TIME
Ron Maston replied to this toast and took the opportunity to thank all members of the group for the very high standard set throughout the tour. The. conduct of the group had been such as to create a most favourable impression upon all the people met in Malaysia and Singapore from Trishaw peddlers through to the Sultan of Johore and the High Commissioners of Australia at Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
In a letter received by Ron Maston from Tan Sri Dato Mubin Sheppard he has written - "It was a great pleasure for all of us to have the opportunity to meet and entertain such a friendly and responsive group, and I am sure that you will all be most welcome, if you can come again".
The last day, with the morning free of official engagements, and by the comings and goings, the parcels, packets, string bags, et al. it appeared as if members were determined upon a memorable assault against the shopping front and a testing time for luggage and baggage capacities.
Ray and Mavis Godbolt, Vera and Jack Fell were amongst those, who still found there were things to buy, and presents, previously forgotten, to get at the last opportunity, but they were able to spend an afternoon at the Tiger Balm garden, which has been greatly increased in size, since we were there last. Corners have been set aside to represent the various countries of the world and these are most interesting. There is even an Australian corner, with the predominant feature, carvings of kangaroos.
Singapore is no longer the same city, as we knew it so many years ago. Some things have not changed, such as the coolie women mixing cement and doing heavy labouring jobs, and the Tamil street sweepers. Gone are a lot of the kampongs, their places being taken by high rise housing apartments, but even with these modern apartments, washing is still hung outside the windows on bamboo sticks.
The streets have been widened and, in many cases are divided roads or one way traffic. However, a restricted zone has been established in the inner city with no entry for private cars before 10 am, one needs to go in on foot.
Supermarkets and shopping blocks abound, and the staff are always polite and helpful, but are still persistent in their efforts to sell you articles you don't want. The better class department stores have all their articles priced and will not alter their prices.
Most of the deep open drains have gone and it is impossible not to be impressed by the cleanliness of the city. "This even gets to the tourists, because I found that instead of throwing my cigarette butt on the ground as I normally do, I looked for a receptacle to put it in", said Jack Fell. "No Betel Nut is chewed now, since to spit it out costs a fine."
There does not appear to be much visible signs of unemployment as there are still many jobs that are done manually. Long haired youths are non-existent, non existent in the sense that they may be, and are treated as non-entities, if a queue is formed and a long haired youth is in it, anyone can hick him out and take his place, he has no remedy, no one will give them a job, they have no rights, so they quickly learn to conform in that respect at least.
Scheduled programmes had been completed, objectives had been achieved, it remained but to tidy up and pack up for departure, homeward bound. Rooms had to be vacated by noon, bags outside room doors for collection. First flight, QF2, departing airport at 2040 hours, second flight TG 981 departing airport at 2220 hours. At least, that was the timetable. In the event, telephones commenced ringing early in the afternoon calling for urgent, earlier departures. Alas, key personnel were absent in parts unknown and arrangements had to wait. However, all returned safely and we departed from the hotel at 1800 hrs.
Hospitality suites were made available by the hotel 425 and 429. Eventually one coach, only, appeared and all embussed. Air tickets and $10.00 departure tax were handed to the guide en route, and we were informed of baggage allowance; first class passengers - 30 kilos; economy class passengers - 20 kilos. As far as can be determined, despite the impediments of sundry paraphernalia and accessory bundles adorning the person of many members, no one paid excess baggage rates.
The rapidity with which flight departures were announced was a measure of the traffic through this busy terminal. All too soon the time of departure of those travelling, on the early flight came around. Firm hand shakes and kisses for our ladies with a hoarseness in the voice and glistening eyes, as, in the few days we had been together, all the blood relationship of men who had served in 2/30 Bn. had come to the fore.
Those of us, travelling on the later flight, boarded our aircraft about 2300 hours and, after some minor problems with double bookings, found good seats and settled down for a comfortable flight home.
Day 16 - Friday, 26 January, 1979
Our early group on QF 2 arrived at Mascot at 07.45 hours and passed through immigration and customs control with no trouble. George Aspinall had to check his photographic equipment through customs, to show that it was, as he had registered with them, before leaving Australia.
The group, travelling on TG 981, arrived at Mascot about 09.45 hours after a most interesting flight, including sighting of Simpson Desert and other interesting places in Central Australia and N.S.W.
Both groups were thrilled to be met by Alex. Dandie and Garry Evans, by sons and daughters and grand children, who had come to welcome us back.
All in all, it was a great experience and one that will be talked about for a long time to come.
The organisation of the tour was a tribute to Ron Maston and "Doc" Wilson, who left no stone unturned to make our trip as enjoyable as possible. Without their help and guidance we would not have seen or done as much as we did. Once again we say thank you to Ron and "Doc".
This tour was a high, uplifting thing and it was a great pleasure, too. The company was so good, the arrangements so efficient, our welcome so glorious. Contacts with past scenes, with memories of old comrades revitalised in living renewal; these things let us take a fresh hold on life and charge our souls anew.
Out of our experiences has come a determination to build a bridge between Australia and Malaysia and Singapore. A sub-committee in the Association has been formed with the object of fostering friendship and understanding through exchange of letters and photographs. Also to ensure that visitors from these countries to Australia are welcomed and hospitality extended to those we met, their relatives and friends.
The success of any human endeavour depends on cooperation, team work and individual people accepting their responsibilities.
This certainly applied in connection with our Tour and in the preparation of this record.
Therefore with great pleasure I record the names of the people, who helped:
D.R. ("Doc") Wilson, as a very effective second-in-charge and his good wife, Clover; Bruce Upcroft, Noel Johnston and Bruce Ford, in the organization leading up to the trip. Tan Sri Dato Mubin Sheppard, for his great help in Malaysia. George Aspinall for his preparation of photographs to be presented to organisations in Malaysia and Singapore and for his able and tireless photographic coverage of the tour and his putting together of a 90 minute film of the Trip. Dutchy Holland for the help that he gave to George.
Andy Hyslop for acting as official record keeper and for the story of the trip, which he has put together; and the others who have contributed, Jack Black, Jack Fell, Jack Maclay, "Sandy" Christensen, "Curly" Heckendorf, "Dutchy" Holland. Alex. Dandie fore his publicity in "MAKAN" and his assistance in putting together this record. Linda Wilson for the many hours typing from hand written manuscripts, that must have been hard to read.. Ray Streatfeild for his technical advice in the printing stages.
The Ex-Service Association of Malaysia for their kindness and hospitality, wherever we went in Malaysia. The Ex-Service Association of Singapore for their kindness and help in Singapore.
All Members of the Group for the very high standard of conduct during the tour and your excellent cooperation with me. Finally to Gretta for your patience and understanding in all those months leading up to the tour, during the trip and in the job, which has had to be done since returning.
This has been a report of the Group Tour, set off with copies in black and white of some coloured prints, the subjects of which were thought might interest Members.
George Aspinall also prepared a cine-camera record of the trip, as well as recording some activities by still photos.
He will be prepared to show these films in Sydney, hopefully, in either late September or early October and in Country Areas during his January Work Break.
Will country folk please let "Makan" Editor know, which centres feel that they could gather enough folk together for any showings, (remembering that kith and kin of deceased members are desired to be included in such gatherings as well as the family of Members), with an idea of: how many, possible dates, and the places.
In keeping with the idea of Battalion Family Gatherings folk would be asked to bring a plate of eats and the drinks.
Appeals for funds - Australia - Malaysia – Singapore
You may call it the "Bridge of Friendship" or the "Helping Hand". Whatever, may be its name, it may be recognition of the assistance afforded, in one way or another, to us or to our cobbers during the period, when we were resident, by way of duty to our own country, and, involuntarily on our part, during our time of incarceration in their countries.
I remind you that, there are some appeals for assistance, some have been long standing and some of more recent date.
I have numbered four such appeals below. Any donations, which anyone feels disposed to send in through "Makan" Editor, even just specifying one or more of these appeals by Number as 1, 2, 3, or 4, and no matter how small will be thankfully received and faithfully sent on to the Appeal designated, unless you prefer to send in direct.
1) AIF / Malayan Nursing Scholarship
This was commenced soon after our return to Australia, that means that it is over 32 years but still requires donations, in order that its objects may be fulfilled.
It was put that the Scholarship was to show appreciation of loyal and generous assistance given to Australian Troops by the Asiatic Community in Malaya.
Its object is to bring to Australia Nurses from Malaya & Singapore` for additional or advanced training or for observation of nursing and hospital procedures in Australia.
2) R.S.L. Aid Abroad
This is a scheme whereby widows of Malaysian Ex-Servicemen and their children are helped financially by R.S.L. Sub-Branches, Clubs or Individual Members throughout Australia on an adoption basis, by means of an Annual sum of about $A250 per family, provided through the R.S.L. of Australia and its counterpart ex-Servicemen's Association of Malaysia.
3) Sir Frederick Galleghan Memorial Awards
of the Australia - Malaysia-Singapore Association, established by it in 1976 to honour 'B.J.', who founded the Association in 1964 and was its senior Vice-President until his death.
The awards provide free return economy travel and free accommodation for a selected Malaysian and a selected Singaporean in the field of the Arts, Professions, Industries or Commerce in order that they might visit Sydney for 28 days to confer with Australian Colleagues in their vocational field.
4) St. Patrick's School, Katong, (Singapore Island) - Development Appeal
TARGET - 1st Phase $750,000 (Singapore Dollars) for rebuilding of School Gymnasium Building.
Approach has been made for assistance from 8 Div. Personnel, by reason of the use of the school as Aus. Gen. Hospital during the War in Malaya and on Singapore Island, and by Recovery Units as Hospital again for Recovered Ps.O.W. in conjunction with the Red Cross under Lady Blamey, following the Japanese Capitulation and prior to the Repatriation of those too sick for immediate return to Australia.