Robert W. Sollitt
- Created: 21 January 2014
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This biography is reproduced with the kind permission of his Family. It is unpublished and shown here in its entirety for the first time. Robert was a career soldier starting his career as a Private and ending with his capture in Singapore in 1941 as Sergeant Major. This is a story of Service to his Country, of love for his Family which shines through his writing. The photographs are simply stunning and the records that have been shown here such as letters and telegrams shout out the need for Robert to get home after the War ended. Robert and his men were held prisoner for just under 4 years in the most hostile conditions, they were subjected to diseases that killed many of the men, they were subjected to the inhumane behaviour of the Japanese who would kill a man without compassion.
This is Roberts Story in his words, all I have done is correct a few spelling mistakes, I don't think he would mind. One of Hull's finest and we salute him here.
Travels and Stations
1919 – 1945
My last civilian job prior to enlistment was with the Hull and Barnsley Railway at Alexandra Dock. It is now amalgamated with other Railways and is now called the London and North Eastern Railways. Life was in my opinion a little tough but improving after the 1914-1918 war. Our family consisted of Mother, three sons and five daughters. There were three older than I, Florence, Joe, Beatrice and five younger children, Ada, Tom, Harriet and Emily. We were known as a hard working family having lost Dad in 1911. Just imagine Mother’s responsibility having to bring up eight of us up, the youngest being just twelve months old. Mother’s work consisted of everything at home, feeding, washing, mending as well as going out to work. Day and night, unceasingly working to keep a roof over our heads. The worry of paying the food bills, the worry of the rent collector every Monday. Still God was good and the strength and courage of our dear Mother was really remarkable. Oh! Without a doubt she was one in a million. Other women would have soon married again but no she weathered the storm. How often do I look back and think of our family all married, all alive and kicking up to this day. Have we got a conscience? Have we helped her as much as we should have done? The answer is no, most of us have imposed on her goodness. Often I am pleased I have not been a burden to her, having left home at an early age to join the Services. I know and feel that my Mother loves me and all her sons and daughters, God bless her. Only he knows how she has done her duty by and for us. I am proud of my Mother and will always include her in my prayers, although not a strict Christian believer. May God receive her after her hard toil on this earth and bless her according to her merits.
I can picture my Mother and family waving goodbye as the train pulled out. It was not long after arriving at my first billet that I knew I had to take care of myself. Medical Inspection, close crop hair cut, bath and on to the stores for clothing. My first silly act was to sell my civilian clothes, quite a new suit and shoes, for ten shillings. My second silly act was not supplying myself with a lock and key for my kit bag. One pair of boots was missing in the morning after having slept in tents on the moors all night..
Marching and rifle drill with a spot of physical training were the initial duties for the first week. Then after that seemed to be everlasting, besides that we had to groom the horses, exercise them and after a fifteen minute break go on to gun drill and think ourselves lucky not to be on guard or picquet during the night. Three weeks of this and I became hardened, the routine became automatic as it were.
My stay in Newcastle was not a very long one for within a month of arriving I was ordered to proceed to Ireland
My Stay in Ireland
In August 1919 we sailed from Holyhead to Northwall near Dublin, the train journey was good and tea and cakes were served at Holyhead before embarking. The aspect was not to good weather and the evening was dark, windy and fairly cold.
Our ship looked smart but seemed small to me, just a cross channel steamer. On the ship we go for the night, sleep on the decks....no blankets, just an overcoat and kit for your pillow. The ship pulled out in the early hours of the morning, out into the Irish Sea, which was rather choppy due to a gale blowing. The journey was rough and I was glad to get ashore. We waited an hour before entraining, ate tea and sandwiches and were given a bag each containing our next meal during the train journey.
We arrived at a place called Cahir (?) county of Tipperary. The hour long march through the countryside looked lovely. The Barracks looked more like a prison than anything. Roman Walls at least fifteen feet high, with peep holes at intervals of about every ten yards. The Barracks had not been occupied for a very long time except a small detachment of Lincolns. The main square was covered with grass and weeds everywhere. We collect our bedding and shown to our Barracks Rooms. Thirty men in each room, iron pullout beds, a fire place in the centre of the room, wooden floors and huge window frames looking out onto the square.
We are known as the 6th Division, 31st Brigade consisting of four Batteries, three 18 pounders, one howitzer Battery, 29th, 31st, 41st and 45th Battery. I belong to 45th Battery 18 pounder Guns.
Our daily routine, Reveille 0600, Physical Training 0630, Breakfast 0800, On Parade 0845 hrs. We have no Guns or Horses and our main job is to give the barracks a thorough cleaning, weeding, which we hate, scrubbing out rooms, window cleaning, coal fatigues etc, guards and picquets.
Ireland (South) is peaceful during later months of 1919, Trouble starts in 1920, a peaceful and picturesque village at the foot of the Knockmeafton (?) mountains. Mountains are rocky with heather and blackberries, There is a river flowing through the village, two public houses and one fine looking Roman Catholic Church.
Sinn Fein activities commence; we fortify our little barracks with sandbags piled up by the windows and main gate, our job is to quell any mass meetings or prevent. Any battlements being erected and to stop any wanton destruction of bridges etc,
Most of our activities are carried out at night time, say about 7pm to 7am next day, Our dress being canvas overalls and rubber shoes, We have fifty rounds ammunition each, rifle and bayonet. Our intelligence officer is a young gent named De burgh; he is, strange enough to say, a Southern Irish man,
We went out in three partial advance, main and rear parties, How our intelligence officer got his information of Sinn Fein Headquarters is nobody's business. Each time we went out and raided from mansions or other, we arrested men of importance.
As a Lance Bombardier, I was in charge of the rear party and one of the party kept hanging behind, I warned him to keep up until I was fed up telling him, so I went to see who he was so I could fix him on return to barracks, Dressed in overalls and shoes, tunic, rifle, bayonet, smoking a pipe, 1 recognised him as being the intelligence officer and apologised and called him Sir, He rebuked me and told me to call him Tom, Dick or Harry, not Sir,
Our one really bad incident was when we were ambushed by a lot of Sinn Fein rebels, only fourteen and one officer in the party. The rebels seemed to fire from all angles, Our six horse team in the wagon where our wheel driver, only sixteen years of age was fatally wounded (Dvr Cody), one chap, lost his right arm over the affair and four gunners had slight guns hot wounds,
Things looked pretty grim and Lt, Jones asked for a volunteer to ride his horse ad get reinforcements, Gnr Woods took on this job and made a dash for it, his horse getting peppered in the hindquarters, Luck was with him and he arrived safely at our station, Two NCO’s of previous war service escaped through the woods and arrived at Brigade headquarters and gave the alarm, reinforcements came in from all sides and the rebels were dispersed, We pursued them for miles and arrested about two hundred of them who were sent to Dublin for trial,
All this was reported to General Lucas in command of Southern Command, he ordered a reprisal and our objective was Ballyboreen, We marched to the village, allowed all personnel, women, children and old people to flee to the woods, and the place was then set on fire. The two NCO’s who escaped without firing a shot were afterwards Court Martialled and discharged, Gnr Cody’s Mother received £2000 from the Irish Government, the sergeant received £800 for the loss of his arm and the Gunners £200 each for their gunshot wounds,
Whilst at Joheen, I was entertained by an Irish family called Hickey, I was friendly with one of the daughters called Alice, and when I say just friendly, that's what I mean. There was no picture palace of places of entertainment in this village and one made one's own entertainment by the fireside at night, the accordion being the most popular musical instrument,
During my stay at this station, I was schoolteacher to the 3rd and 2nd class candidates, thereby getting my first stripe in the Army, I took up signalling and passed out quite early, I was also efficient in Mills Bomb throwing and revolver practice,
I taught the Major's daughters to swim in the river whilst being there, a detailed guard was sent to protect us in case any rebels appeared on the scene, the guard consisted of two machine guns trained on the area where we were in the river, and a soldier accompanying us with his rife. I was well looked after by the 'Major and his wife, being quite a brand new soldier,
I leave Ireland October 1920 and go to Catterick Camp, which consisted of a few tin huts, now a huge military training centre, a Brigade of Royal Garrison Artillery already encamped there
We entrain for Portsmouth to a place called Hillsen Barracks and stop there for a few weeks, and then to Southampton rest camp prior to embarking for Constantinople, Turkey.
The ship we sailed in is called Huntsend; a German prize, of the 1914-18 Great War, We were pretty well crowded and slept in hammocks. How glad we where to get out of the Bay of Biscay, which was pretty rough. From then on it seemed pleasant.
We embarked at Gibraltar for a few hours and marched through some orange groves, On to Malta where the ship was besieged by hawkers and children who constantly dived for pennies or silver if you had it, Left Malta and went passed the islands South of Greece then on to the Aegean Sea enroute to the Dardanelles, Lectures of the landings on Gallipoli where given by officers who were in the campaign,
Entrance to the Dardanelles must have been difficult for any opposing hostile country, On the left bank was a towering hill, its sides representing a rabbit warren, riddled with holes where guns where emplaced, We passed a lot of sunken vessels in the channel before entering the Dardanelles. Out of the canal onto the Sea of Mamoru, everything calm and clear with plenty of fish,
The spectacle we arrived at, early dawn we see what is called the golden Horn, gates to the Bosphorous, where stands the Sultans Palace, The great Mosque of St Sophia with its lovely gold glittering in the sun. A huge lighthouse where the Admiralty signalled from, on the well known Galoto Bridge.
On the right bank of the Bosphorous is a place called Seatari where we disembark, Seatari brought back memories of schooldays where we read about Florence Nightingale, tending the troops during the Crimean war,
This side of the Bosphorous is very smelly, big fat Turks sit smoking their huge pipes, hubble bubble we called them, then sipping thick black coffee.
We get on the train for our destination in what looks like a desert, Travelling 10th Class. Train very slow, 1st station - Kezief, Tobruk, 2nd Station – Bostangjik, 3rd station - our destination, Pavlo, Hills and sand everywhere, The station is one little hut, an ordinary goods siding and a single line railway, Transport takes our kit to Camp and we march to our billets.
The accommodation is semicircular tin huts with wooden floors, one window at each end and contains 30 men, the beds are bags with a bit if straw inside called pallisase, we lay on the boards about a foot apart from each other, our camp is enclosed in a barbed wire fence, the stables and Gun Park are outside the fence. The camp area is quite large and we have with us five different caste of Indian Duke of Wellington Battalion, Essex Regiment and the 9th and 10th Hussars
We look forward: to exploring Constantinople, which is only eighteen kilometres away, Life is very gay there, all types of amusements available, motoring, donkey riding, cabarets etc. The Y.M.C.A. provides very good sleeping accommodation and good food, quite cheap.
In 1923, trouble breaks out between the Turks and the Greeks. We are ordered to evacuate and embark on the Dorchester, back to the Dardanelles, and dig ourselves in trenches not many yards from the Turk front line. Our Navy is in readiness and we expect a big show. The place we are at is called Chamak. A month or two waiting for the balloon to burst,
All goes well and the trouble is settled, We leave Chanak and trek to a place called Chel Heja on the Greek frontier, passing through many battlefields of the last war,
The march was very tiring; hot, little water and taking action stations very frequently, We made little tents of our waterproofs at night time, Sleeping on the sand one night, an overgrown ant got into my ear, I think I must have woken the whole camp that night, for the little brute was boring into my eardrum, nearly sending me mad, I eventually extricated it using my numeral pin, which held my titles on my epaulette,
So much for Turkey, a good three and half year’s experience.
We arrived Sack at Southampton about October 1924, from there we were ordered to Brighton, a grand reception at Brighton, who was to know my fate was sealed. There a little girl watched the procession, she was to be my wife.
Brighton days were a paradise, for the Downs were an asset as regards training, everything seemed at hand. Evenings after a day’s toil were something to look forward to, nothing of real military importance occurs at this stretch, I am a non Commissioned Officer, being a member of the Military or Regimental Police. On duty one night, about 6 pm, I meet a young girl waiting outside the barracks, Can I be of any assistance? I think I’ll ask her, waiting for a drive in my battery. I take a fancy to her myself, see her a couple of nights later, eventually arrange to meet. Go to the cinema, thrilled to see her each evening. She leaves for London. Time passes, think it’s goodbye, fate plays a hand and I meet her again, after at least a year has gone by.
We marry, 19th Dec 1925, get a room living with a person called Stater. Heavy going on a Lance Bombardiers pay, still we pull through. Baby girl, Carol born 25 Dec 1925, Carlisle Street, Elm Grove Brighton.
The Brigade Goes to Germany in 1926, Wife and child follow early 1927. We take rooms with a German woman, things are comfortable at first, one or two sleepless nights with Carol in her washing basket, we move to new lodgings with Frau Erhardt. Robert was born in 1928, having to travel from Briber to Wiesbaden to take wife to hospital,
We again go to new lodgings with a Frau Beer, Promotion is in the offing and I get the chance of being Mess Caterer, How much scrounging and scheming have I done to make ends meet during the few years of married life, Bits of food here, fuel from another source just as a bird builds its nest. Encounter a very bitter winter, in 1928 the Rhine is frozen over, Several sentries reported frozen to death at their posts, One trip up the Rhine in summertime, to a place called Boppard,
Leave Wiesbaden, Germany in 1929 and endure a tiresome journey to the French coast, Channel crossing a nightmare for the women and children as was extremely rough. Miss the train at London, I being unfortunately in charge of married families put up in a Hotel in London for the night. Entrain and proceed to Salisbury next morning,
Arrive at Greenlands Farm and have been allocated a small brick house at this camp, Brick floor, kitchen, scullery, two bedrooms and a nice garden.
Greenlands Farm Sgts Mess was a bit too near the married quarters, I am fond of my liquor which after means a bad temper. Peggy is born in July 1930. From 1929 to 1931, we stay at Greenlands Farm. The garden pays for itself, the hens pay for themselves five times over, 'Rabbits are plentiful and Mother dishes them up sometimes in a pie, roasted or in soup. Mushrooms are also plentiful and we make the best of them, Greenlands Farm was a happy station, My duties being Range Sergeant, pacing targets out on the plains for the days shooting,
We leave Greenlands Farm and proceed to Newcastle, Again quarters are allocated, though our stay is not long just a matter of a few months, the next station being Bordon Camp, a really healthy spot. Duties usually training manouveres, drill orders ad practice camps, guards, picquets and orderly Sergeants etc,
Two years pass by and we see London for our next station, Training the 63th Field Brigade, Royal Artillery T.A. London is an agreeable spot. After being in camps a good way from any large towns. A lot of time on our hands and fairly well treated the C.O. and all TA personnel, Canteen in grounds; billiards, ping pong and darts our favourite games. Occasional trips to Highbury to see Arsenal, also visit Millwall, Charlton and Chelsea grounds. Take TA.'s to practice Camp Larkhill and several non firing camps such as Bordon twice, Falmer once. Ronnie is born.
Weekend training had their good points, i.e. getting troops together, billetting schemes, tent pitching, sanitary arrangements and cooking, as well as normal training, signalling, survey, gunnery etc,
Leave the TA London in November 1937 and return to Bordon. Got home nicely together and orders are received that I shall spend the last eighteen months of service abroad, In January, I am called to Brigade Office and ordered to join a Brigade in the Far East. Do I wish to take my wife and family? Myself, inwardly, says yes, but I tell the Adjutant I will talk it over with my wife. Mother is astonished but says, "where ever you go, the children and I are going".
So comes the selling of the home we have got together for next to nothing, as we have only three months or so before embarking.
Entrain at Borden Station and off we go to Southampton. The ship is waiting for us, she looks a fine steamer, her name being Dilwara. We sail on the 23rd February 1938, arrive at Singapore 23rdMarch 1938.
The sea journey normal, just a bit rocky for those who had not travelled before, as our ship had a tendency to roll, being a bit top heavy, Had a stroll round Port Said with wife and had our future told by an Egyptian 2/6d a time, pretty good he was too, Sailed to Columbia took wife round shops and bought a ring. Sailed from Columbia, encountered a monsoon in Bay of Bengal, the ship listed to starboard for five to six hours during the terrific gales, all families ordered below decks. Inoculated against cholera onboard ship, wife had a bad arm. Little Ronnie contracted measles and has a very bad time on the ship for a week, and a further two weeks on land, after arrival.
Pulled into Kappel Harbour, Singapore 25th March 1938. Lorries on quayside waiting for us. Transport takes us to Changi to married quarters, We take Ronnie to the Doctor and he orders him to bed and special attention is to be paid to him, We are in isolation for two weeks ad not supposed to visit anyone else's house or go in the Sergeants Messes,
I am attached to the 3rd HAA Regiment. Then begins the training of the 6th Battery HKS prior to forming a regiment of Indians. Recruits start appearing from India, I have eventually 32 squads of 26 Indians in each squad. They get medically inspected, clothing and bedding, then the training commences, PT, foot drills, marching drill, rifle and general drill. 14 weeks for each squad. The 1st HKS Regiment is formed and send 24th Battery to Aden on the outbreak of hostilities (Punjabs).
I join the 2nd HKS Regiment, on promotion, as B.Q.S.M. to the 14th Battery R.A. I find the work most interesting. I leave the 2nd HKS, again on promotion and join the Cadra Class who have just finished their course on searchlights. I take over the 14th Searchlight Battery from the R.E. R.S.M Began. I receive a Battery of men from England, having only six weeks training. My C.O. Major Peacock, Captain Kemp and myself get the Battery up to standard in six to eight months, besides training three hundred Malays who are with us. We are stationed in the State of Jahore on the Malayan mainland.
Having been away from quarters for eighteen months, I have a chance of returning to Changi. My job is in charge of Malay Training with Captain McDonald, an ex-planter. War in Europe has been on nearly two years, now the Japs start on the 8th December- 1941, bombing Singapore at 4am. Myself and family watch the first Jap air raid on Singapore. The searchlights pick them up and hold them in the lights all through the raid. Our Artillery, Navy and everything we had, opened up on them but to no avail as far as we know, Flaming Onions from light A.A. Batteries, 3.7’s and 405 HAH, pom poms, quite a pandemonium and flashlight display. When announced on the wireless early next morning, the feeling I had can hardly be explained, I knew it meant sending my family away,
I knew instead of being behind an artillery gun I was to be an infantry man, with rifle and bayonet, although I managed to get hold of a revolver and Tommy gun, besides some hand grenades. The Malays I had been looking after and training, were sent from Selerang to Nee Soon.
So out of the frying pan and into the fire we went. Billeted next to an air field, you can imagine the glorious time we had, first of all the Japs blitzed the aerodrome knocking out plane after plane and the ammunition dump, what the aerodrome didn’t get we did, The jap secret service must have been good because they knew when they had completely striffed the aerodrome. Our turn next, he came over with his relay of 27 bombers simply showering their bombs out like rain, our area so concentrated he could not miss us. I had 12 Malays buried with the first stick of bombs, after digging them out the casualties were 1 killed and 3 wounded, next day I lost one, killed after his poor body was shared by two bombs. The following day one killed next to his lorry.
The Malays are now frantic, about 40 deserted, going off to Singapore without permission. We get a move from, there, as things are really too hot for us. My Q stores have been blown up, all water mains and electricity have been put out of order. I send all Malays to march through the jungle to Woodlands, a place fairly well concealed in the rubber plantations, near the causeway. I send the Malay Sgt Major in charge, whilst I conduct transport to collect all kit, cooking utensils, ammunition, guns and stores.
I arrive at woodlands after a hard day’s work and find the Malay Sgt Major had lost his nerve and abandoned all kit and stores in the middle of the camp, on the main road, When I accused film of neglect of duty he starts crying, had it not been for the CO, I should have placed him in the guard room, But I was ordered to put him in a bunk and tell him to go to sleep.
The following has been taken from a second small note book
It was a sad day when I said goodbye to my wife and children on the 31st December 1941. All hustle to get married families out of the war zone, It also grieved us because all our personal belongings were not allowed on the ship, I had in my hands five boxes of household goods which had been bought week after week out of our pay over a period of four years. How it grieved the children to have to part with their hobbies and pets, Carol; with her paintings and aquarium, Bob, his pigeons and delight to be among the natives. Peggy and her guinea pigs, Ronnie, the dog, so faithful, named Gyp. The Chameleons, the pets they had were many, will they ever forget the time they spent in the Pagar, swimming, all being good swimmers.
Love for them all was more than outward signs could define, How my heart has ached for their welfare, but little did they know it, even my dear wife, if only she could read my heart, she would not have thought me so bad after all, Heartaches I have caused my dear wife, I have always been sorry and God above alone knows how repentant I have been, yes, even to being hidden away from my family, praying and losing many a tear because I have grieved my family. Still, God has been far more loving and helpful to us than we have been to him.
A cablegram arrives from Tanjong Priok. Wife and chicks having a pleasant journey arrived Java, January 1942. Time passes quickly and next time the information bureau say wife and family arrived at a Scottish port, March 1942. When shall I see them all again, One, two, three years, who knows.
Well, back to duty, see what happens. HQ fortress says cannot keep you in Selerang, must go to Nee soon, why, it’s hard to think out, Still keep training the recruits, they may be helpful. January 1942 I have fifty two recruits ready to be inspected, passed in drill and sent to different units for work such as searchlights, coastal defence, motor transport etc, Telephone the Brig Curtis, takes two hours to make him realise how important it is to see and be amongst these boys. He eventually arrives, I greet him and ask him if I may carry on, he says curtail the drill to review order only, get it over with and he is greatly satisfied,
Air raid alarm, everybody to the trenches, planes pass over thank God, C.R.A. goes back to fortress Singapore, that is the last we see of him until two days before surrender. We have had many air raids, the lads nerves are on edge, by the next morning, out of the 52, I can only produce 36, the remainder having deserted, I might add- that I had no mean task with them, they worked hard while I had them building 160 slit trenches in one week,
Our first bad air raid on January 24th, having a drink in the mess all the waitresses rushed out, I calmly finished my drink, I go outside, mount my bicycle and proceed to the square, got about 20 yards from the square, look up and see the sky full of jap planes. Think I can get to the square before bombs drop but fail to do so. Down they come, take shelter in a trench nearby, having to go through a big shell crater of the previous day. The whole earth is rocking, I seem to bouncing backwards and forwards in the trench, I am alone, did I pray, yes with all my heart for deliverance. The bombing ceased, I had 12 lads buried alive, Pattern bombing they called it. Working feverishly for 3/4 of an hour we extricate three wounded and one dead, Raid next day, one lad panics, runs out of trench and meets two bombs, not a bit of woodwork left on his rifle, boots torn off his feet, left arm off, in fact his poor body was mutilated very badly, another I have to bury, And so it goes on, at least a casualty every day.
Evacuate Nee Soon and go to a place near the causeway called Woodlands, difficult to get senior NCO’s to keep their heads, wanted to put the Malay BSM in the guard Room for cowardice, Q.C. says no, you will lose all the lads if you do, put him to bed. Woodlands gets too hot as the R.E.s are blowing up the causeway, February 1st 1941, we go to Malay settlement, Greylands, again it gets too hot for us and the japs have supposed to have landed at Paula Urbin opposite the old Pagar. We are ordered to Singapore, Cairn Hill House directly in line with Government House, where Sir Shenton Tomas and his wife live. The Union Jack flies bravely on top of the Building. I have lost all my NCO’s by now, having deserted at Greyling, but have 100 stout hearted kids who see it through. I make a few of them NCO, strictly against regulations, but they get a kick out of it,
The jap, ranges his 5.9 guns on Government House, do we have hell back door and front door, but thank goodness, no direct hits, The Union Jack is torn to ribbons, so thick is the shell fire. All of a sudden, one of Sir Thomas' servants hoists a new one, he deserves a VC, and my British NCO’s are at the front of this house, examining a rare kind of caterpillar, I am able to warn them to take cover, we all just get under the house and down come the bombs.
The Q.C. is nearest to the bomb that explodes near us, only ten feet away, he gets covered with dirt, is in shock but still alive. The building is in a state of collapse, go to a different billet, Oxley Rise, again in line with fortress. 5.9 scream over much better. By the way, we made this move on the 13th February, crawling in ditches or drains as we went on our way, food supplies not sufficient here but we had left a lot at our last billet. This is where the young Malays made a name for themselves, They asked my permission to salvage some food but would not let them go unless I sent a British NCO with them each time. Away they go, pick up light cars abandoned on the road side and go and collect food, Exciting time, but no casualties.
Bombs continue to drop and fell big trees across the road, Stops our getting transport to the source of supplies. All my British NCO’s and five Malays with saws and axes, clear the road. Night of the 14th, heavy bombardment by 5.9 guns about 7pm, I am having a shave, something tells me to go amongst the Malays to tell them to be calm. I get in the doorway and a young Malay is rushing to take cover. A 5.9 hits a tree near the window of the room, the lad falls at my side with a piece of the shell ripping his stomach open. The lad immediately behind him gets hit in the knee, the Malays are praying madly, one of my NCO’s says make them shut up Sergeant Major, I say no, let them pray on.
Night darkens and I don't sleep, The NCO’s are in one room and I and the Q.M. are in another, the NCO’s have a rude awakening by a shell bursting the side of their room away, all are safe. Orders for cease fire come about 9pm the next might. We don't believe it, but it's true, we are prisoners,
My orders next day are to disarm the men, I do so and get the place cleaned up before arrival of japs, about 6pm, on the 16th. I am surrounded by fifty japs. I tell the lads to keep their heads and to keep sat down. I get in amongst the Japs and tell them where their HQ is. Horrible looking lot, bearded, dirty and ragged, still one by one they go. I am the only Britisher there present, all others being inside the house. Japs did not search the House and I can say I did not put up my hands at the surrender, although the old heart pounded a bit, The Q.C. said well done, it was no use me interfering, you had the situation well in hand. I pack the Malays up with a day’s rations and they are taken away to Farrier Park. We march back to Changi.
and so for Robert and his men starts just under 4 years of captivity being used as slave labour for the infamous Burma Railway. amongst Roberts paperwork there is a little note, I reproduce it here in its entirety.
Burma Siam Riy, the so called Death Railway
Constructed by 54,000 Allied Prisoners of War (6000 British)
of which 13,000 died (2,700 British) from Tropical Disease, Starvation
and Ill Treatment by the Japanese.
The Railway runs from Moulmein near Rangoon, Burma through Bangkok, Thailand to Riy (282 Miles)
and was built between May 1942 - March 1945
The following are Telegrams sent by Robert on his journey home. The very last one he has arrived Liverpool at the end of his journey by sea 3 years and 10 months since being captured. It took him almost 2 months to get home after being liberated.