February 5, 2012

Kranji memorial tree 1 by Brian Spittle

In May 1944, the Japanese moved the POW out of Selerang barracks to Changi gaol or to huts in its immediate vicinity. The hospital itself was divided with about a thousand patients being transferred to Kranji about ten miles away on the northern coast of Singapore island. My father was among the hospital staff who went with them. He was to remain there for the rest of the war.

My father never mentioned to me that he had been held anywhere other than Changi until a year or two before he died. Even then it only came up by chance. I had asked him how he had managed to keep his notes hidden for so long. “Oh that was easy enough,” he chuckled. “The awkward bit was when they told us to move and I had to dig them all up again!”


But then he had also only just shown me his Changi bird notes for the first time, or at least his article about them in the Bulletin of the Raffles Museum. I had known about the notes since childhood but they were never talked about. It had not even crossed my mind that they still existed. As for the Kranji notes, I would not discover them until after he died.

They do not make easy reading. In part this is because they are fragile and his writing both small and faint. Paper was very scarce and he wrote on every scrap he could find. The other reason is that for the first time he wrote about his own condition and state of mind. Both were pretty grim. Changi may not have been a holiday camp exactly, especially during the last year of the war, but it may have seemed as such from the perspective of Kranji. There were times when he wondered whether he would survive.

Not much is known about Kranji it seems. At least, not much has been published about it and I have yet to research primary sources. It is now the site of the Kranji War Memorial honouring those who died defending Singapore and Malaya during World War II.

In the following posts I will try to piece together what I can of the camp along with my father’s experience during his final year of captivity.

2 Responses to “Kranji”

  1. Fascinating stuff Brian. Are you goingto publish everything in book form soon?

  2. Margaret Morgan Says:

    I have only recently discovered where my dad was held during his time as a FEPOW. On the questionnaire he filled in on release Kranji and Selarang are given as 2 locations. He was with the Dental Corps and then the Medical Corps as an orderly I think as dental materials had been used up. He was at Kranji from May 44 till Sept 45. I was born in 1946 and my dad rarely spoke of his experiences as a POW throughout his life. I didn’t like to ask too much as I sensed that he had seen and survived much horror. I have read as much as I could about that period of time but primary source material is of course very rare. My dad died in1985. He was a very compassionate person and I imagine he must have given what comfort he could to many sick and dying comrades. He said that civilisation is a very thin veneer and his experiences in the Far East taught him that. I would love to read the notes written so carefully and at great risk by a very brave POW.
    Margaret Morgan

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