Stawell's Robert Illig, whose late father Stan served in World War II and was a prisoner, working on the infamous Thai-Burma railway, delves into the history of the battle of Singapore.
This installment highlights the role many Australian's played and the ANZAC spirit.
Mr Illig used a combination of stories from his father, newspapers and historical books he had read over time to compile the following story four part story and for the sake of this story, referred to the Japanese Imperial Army as the enemy.
MY FATHER'S WAR - PART 2
During the jungle warfare training, my father was one of 39 Australian soldiers selected to attend the British officer cadet training unit, to train and become an officer in the Australian army.
In January 1942 he graduated and was immediately promoted to the rank of lieutenant, but was to carry out the duties of acting captain.
Before he was commissioned as a captain, the enemy had invaded Malaya at a town in the northeast of the country named Kota Bharu. The enemy was streaming down the Malay Peninsula towards their ultimate goal of Singapore, 700 kilometres away.
It took them only two months to travel the distance to the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula.
Their mode of transport was bicycles. They went into battle riding bikes.
My father was put in command of a small piece of the Allies' weaponry defence, an anti-tank unit whose job it was to stop the enemy's tanks from invading Singapore.
The anti tankers' last effort to achieve this goal was carried out in a battle near a little town on the southern part of the Malay Peninsula named Mersing, located about 100km north of Singapore island.
My father and his men were very busy setting up their anti-tank guns and could hear the battle going on further up the road.
The unit decided to set the guns on a stretch of road about one hundred and fifty metres from a sharp bend further up.
If the fighting which was going on up the road did not hold the enemy, the anti tankers would have the element of surprise when the enemy came around the bend.
Unfortunately, this did not work, and history tells us that the Australian troops were outnumbered.
They were ordered by the Australian command to capitulate back to Singapore where they were to reset their battle lines in order to defend Singapore.
When Australian command was satisfied that all the Australians were back on Singapore Island, a decision was made that the causeway that linked Singapore Island and the Malay Peninsula be destroyed.
The objective of blowing up the causeway, which traversed the Johore Straits, was to cut off the enemy from invading Singapore Island.
After four days, the enemy had repaired the causeway and was marching into Singapore.
The Australians fought day and night in their endeavour to turn back the enemy.
A lot of the fighting was man-to-man.
The Australian Air Force had been obliterated while trying to defend the Malay mainland and as such the Australians had no air support.
The enemy's bombers were dropping bombs all over the island, causing much destruction and many deaths, not only military personnel but also to the civilian population.
The fighting went on for about three days.
The Australian command called its officers to a meeting and told them they were to go back to their men and tell them that their orders are; 'it is every man for himself, they are not to surrender, and they are to fight until death'.
These were the orders my father had to deliver to his men.
While all this was happening, the fighting continued for another three days.
General Arthur Percival, who was the British officer in command, could see what was happening and finally decided that he had no other option but to surrender to the enemy.
He carried a white piece of cloth on a pole, indicating to the enemy that Britain and her allies were surrendering.
He and a contingent of allied officers marched down Bhuka Tima road. They met a contingent of Japanese generals and officers outside the gates of the Singapore Ford Factory where the surrender documents were signed.
The surrender has been described as the British Army's greatest humiliation in its entire history.
The British Prime Minister at the time Winston Churchill said it was the worst disaster and the greatest capitulation in British history.
In the meantime, whilst the surrender process was being finalised, the Australian soldiers were told that they must assemble at the Singapore Botanical Gardens where there was a very large lake. They were told to throw all their weapons and valuables into the lake so that the enemy could not get hold of them and be used as part of the enemy's arsenal.
The soldiers - my father alongside them - were then rounded up by the enemy and were taken to Selarang Barracks, which was the headquarters of the British arm in Singapore.
Before the surrender, it had been used to house and train 800 allied soldiers.
Over 20,000 Australian soldiers were crammed into this area.
The reason for this action by the enemy was to officially inform the soldiers that they were prisoners of war and under no circumstances must they try to escape.
If they did escape and were recaptured, they would be executed by beheading in front of their own troops.
The enemy demanded that every solider must sign a document stating that they would not escape.
The Australians refused to sign the document knowing full well that under the Geneva Convention, which laid out the rules for warfare, it clearly stated that it was a prisoner of war's right to escape and if recaptured was not to suffer any recriminations.
For four days the prisoners remained firm and refused to sign the document.
The Australians were left out in the open with only four taps of water to supply all the soldiers. There was very little food. The wounded were receiving no medical attention and were dying.
On the fifth day, the men were told by the Australian command that they could sign the document but were told not to sign their own name but to sign a fictitious name so that it would make the document invalid.
My father said that he did not realise there were so many Australian soldiers named Mickey Mouse.
This became known infamously as the 'barrack square incident'.
From the barrack square, the Australians were transferred to Changi, which was a very large prison.
This was the beginning of their life of hell for the next three-and-a-half years.
NEXT WEEK: Prisoner working on the death railway
Story continues online next Thursday at stawelltimes.com.au or in Friday's edition of the Stawell Times-News.
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