Dying and Living

October 29, 2011

Meals by Brian Spittle

The content and tone of my father’s notes changed somewhat during his last year of captivity. For the first time he started to reflect on his condition and references to food – or the lack of it – became very common. Until recently I had associated this shift with his move to Kranji. Conditions there were worse than at Changi and while the end of the war could now be contemplated what this would mean for him and his fellow POW was far from obvious.

Still, a more careful reading indicates that the shift began (or at least was first expressed) in March and April 1944 a few weeks before the move to Kranji.

Why this was so, I cannot say for sure. But this was a time of deteriorating conditions and morale at Changi. The Japanese were tightening their control over camp life and imposing new restrictions and regulations. And POW who had been more or less distributed across the Changi promontory were now required to move to the immediate vicinity of Changi gaol. On top of this, many thousands of prisoners were returning from upcountry and the collective nightmare of the Thailand-Burma railway. Many of them were in very poor condition.

Attap huts and tents were erected around the gaol and rations were restricted. Had it not been for the gardens cultivated by the POW, food would have been very scarce indeed.

Changi may have been a holiday camp compared to some others.  But by March 1944 it was starting to lose that reputation.

Dying and Living
It is said that you don’t need to worry so much about dying as you do about living.

Meals
Is it to reduce resistance or is there a definite shortage of food? Hip bones protruding make it difficult to lie on one’s side in bed (even with biscuits).

Meals
In bulk these do not satisfy. By long residence in the camp it has been possible to discipline oneself with regard to being able to exist on half rations. At one time rice was plentiful & the difficulty was in flavouring it (with tinned fish, tomato, egg, blachan, condensed milk, curry, coconut, pickled whitebait, raisins, soya bean sauce, salt, cinnamon). Now the reverse is true. Meat, vegetables, sugar etc. being relatively more plentiful and rice scarce.

In the early days novelty made the meal enjoyable. Now it is monotony.

Green Book 12, March-April 1944

2 Responses to “Dying and Living”

  1. Philippa Says:

    Hello, thanks for writing such an interesting blog and it looks great on iPad! I currently live in the old barracks in changi in upavon road. It’s really interesting to read and see the pictures. Thanks for all the work.

    • Brian Spittle Says:

      How lovely to get your message. I do know of some people in Singapore who are reading the blog but for the most part I was already in contact with them because of the research I was doing on my father’s time in captivity.

      I was in Changi Village for just a few days in January but feel quite close to it because of the time my father spent there. I certainly hope to get back there some day but it is rather a long way away; though I grew up in England I live in the United States now.

      Many thanks again and best wishes,

      Brian Spittle

      May I ask how you came across the blog? I’m assuming it’s the historical perspective on the village that interests you.


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