Japan and it’s beviour during WW II And that bridge over the river and Hellfire Pass the The forthcoming movie


Hugh Paxton’s Blog was in Singapore and visited The Battle Box. It is a rather muted wax works museum, with good audio effects, set into a central and strategic hill covered in lush, attractive tropical plants, and it goes largely unnoticed if you are here in Singapore for perfume shopping and not the ghosts, history and screams.

The Battle Box got me.

Here in this rather cramped bunker the British authorities of Singapore and their valiant Australian and other Commonwealth Allies argued about an incoming swarm of men who might be fanatics or who might be honourable in victory, and debated and feared for the Chinese residents if they were surrendered to Yamashita’s famous and infamous bicycle army.

There had been the Rape of Nanking.

Nearby, while the Allies in the Battle Box fretted about Singapore having its fresh water supplies amputated, some Anglo-Indian Sikhs colluded with the invaders and helped the Japanese against their former officers. Didn’t precisely help.

And it didn’t do them much good. Empires recognize a good fellow in a fight and use him as such, then they see a slave and a greedy flinching coward when they see one. The Sikhs didn’t look in the mirror. They thought Japan would bring them authority and liberation!

Not quite like that!

The Battle Box, small as it was, for me it shivered with ghosts.

The Japanese Empire smashed Singapore in this Battle Box without dropping a bomb on it.

The Japanese soldiers were flogged and bruised by thumpings by their own NCOs, who were thumped by their junior officers, every Japanese thumped somebody who couldn’t complain because they couldn’t complain themselves, and that builds a lot of anger. The British surrendered with honour and the Japanese murdered every Chinese they could find. Lots of nurses and medical staff. Nurses can’t really thump back. Not if everybody arrives in uniform rapes and murders them. Ironically most of those nurses would have looked after Japanese wounded. But the invaders wanted to try their swords. A lot of Japanese died in hospitals that didn’t have any nurses left to treat their wounds. I don’t find sympathy for them.

My mother, always a bit sensitive to things, felt sick when we entered a house in 1970. It looked nice to me. Flowers. A big bedroom. A floor where I could stand up my toy plastic soldiers.

She couldn’t stand it. “I want to leave this house, please!” Dad isn’t dumb. He sniffed a tainted scent, too. We saw a ghost we did!

No, we probably didn’t! I was knee high to a grasshopper! Just a whiff of wind that knocked my tiny plastic Japanese soldiers over. But I didn’t like them at all and they fell down the drain.

We later learned the Kempeitai, the Japanese super-Gestapo based in Outram Rd and elsewhere had used this place to tear people to pieces. Mainly Chinese. Or Allied prisoners caught with home made radios.

Singapore smiles and there is every reason to do so! A successful nation!

But it is doused, drenched in terrible things. Not of Singapore’s making.

Hugh Paxton’s Blog plans to expose some of these historic things and follow them to the bitter end.

There’s a film, a movie, coming out about the Burma railroads. The bridge on the Kwee. The Railway Man. Opening here in Bangkok on the 6thof May. The people involved in the research, production and film rather bravely intend the movie to hit the screens of Tokyo.

I will continue this series: After walking through Hellfire Pass I can do no less. A pass I can’t forget. It stank of degradation and in defiance of that there were brave men who suffered and dug and watched their hell.

I must add that before I do continue this series I have met many admirable Japanese people. Japanese people who are courteous, kind, lovely. I’ve married one! But I’ve also met men and women in today’s Japan capable of not having a remote interest in what some of the things their grand daddys did.

Look forward to my next blog: It regards North Korea and Japan and North Korea is just what the Singapore-Indian curator of The Battle Box told me, “The next of and last of these war cultures.”

Hugh! In Bangkok!

2 Responses to “Japan and it’s beviour during WW II And that bridge over the river and Hellfire Pass the The forthcoming movie”

  1. Andy Says:

    Fascinating! I was back in Singapore recently too and visited our old home in Siglap and the Singapore swimming club where I spent many happy childhood hours splashing about in the huge Olympic pool, leaping off the top board, swooping on the swings, having diving lessons from Mr Tan and eating Mellinis chewy sweets while watching the first Doctor Who episodes in the TV room!

    I loved Singapore, a truly heady mix of cultures and food and a fabulous outdoor life and yet…

    Yes it was haunted. When we first arrived in Singapore we were staying in a guest house near a charnel building, the stench was appalling, my mother told me it was the smell of raw rubber. Ghosts were driven away from funeral cortège by men banging gongs on the back of flat bed trucks. I recall paper money being burnt for the ancestors on the pavements of Siglap and sure enough they were still doing it nearly 50 years later when I returned, although the bungalow houses I remembered like the one we lived in had mostly grown to three story palaces.
    Yes there were ghosts everywhere and I particularly remember the horrible atmosphere as one passed Changhi jail and the dunes outside where I seem to remember being told many residents had been machine gunned by the Japanese during the war.
    Then there was the trip over the causeway to the Cameron Highlands and Frasers Hill in Malaysia to get the blessed relief of the cool cloudy climate and the deserted bungalow we explored in the jungle that no locals would go near. It ran with damp down green verdigris walls and reeked of despair and menace. We kids ran like hell from there and I nearly stepped on a huge black millipede. We found out later from our parents about the grisly history of the abandoned house we had found, that had reputedly also served as a Japanese torture centre!

  2. Hugh Paxton Says:

    As comments go they don’t get much better than this! Spot on, Andy. Frightening writing from you, eloquent and those memories you have shared mesh rather neatly with mine. There are places, blotting pads perhaps, that absorb and retain to claim your phrase “reek of despair and menace”.

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