Tag Archives: British Empire

Pilgrimage of a son: How Changi Cross made history

Fifty five years after the the Changi Cross (St. George’s Cross) was crafted at the Changi prisoner of war camp in 1942, the world finally discovered the full identity of the maker of the symbolic Changi Cross: British Staff Sergeant Harry Stogden. He made the Changi Cross with a 4.5 Howitzer shell and strips of brass. Sadly Sergeant Stogden never made it home, leaving three orphans in Britain. He died at sea aged 38 in 1945 after spending 3 years as a Japanese prisoner of war in Singapore and Japan.

In 2001, The Singapore Tourist Board invited the son of Sergeant Harry Stogden and his family to visit Singapore to mark the end of the 59th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. Changi Cross was a symbol of hope and strength to hundreds of POWs at Changi. The creation of the Cross also marks the resourcefulness of the POWs incarcerated in Singapore during the Japanese Occupation. Continue reading

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The Incredible Journey Of Harry Stogden’s Changi Cross In Singapore

When Padre Eric Cordingly was imprisoned at the Changi prisoners of war camp in Singapore in 1942, he kept a diary with fascinating details. For example, he mentioned how ambitious the POWs were in making their own wine from raisins for communion. When Padre Cordingly suffered from “Tummy trouble” (dysentery) before the Holy Week in 1942, he was treated with Bismuth and chloroform. His wonderful comrades also surprised him with the precious gift of two packets of cigarettes. Now I know from his newly-published diary that cigarettes got occasionally smuggled into the Changi POW camp and they cost ten dollars for fifty, about twenty-five shillings.

Eric Cordingly’s book Down to Bedrock: The Diary and Secret Notes of a Far East Prisoner of War Chaplain 1942 – 1945 is full of heart-warming details of camaraderie amongst the POWs. One day he was offered “several mugs of real tea with a really generous dose of tinned milk and sugar in it” and for him, it was pure happiness. Continue reading

Eric Cordingly – Diary of the Changi POW Chaplain in Singapore

Eric Cordingly was an army chaplain. He was a prisoner of war at the Changi POW camps in Singapore. The year was 1942.

Eric Cordingly was a chaplain with a territorial battalion of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers during the Second World War. On 4 February 1942, Cordingly’s unit arrived in Singapore. Two weeks later, British forces lost the Battle of Singapore and surrendered to Japan.

My mother lived through the Japanese occupation in Singapore. She told me that when the Japanese invaded Singapore on the Chinese New Year day on the 15th of February in 1942, it ruined everyone’s dinner. My mother and her family ran away to a safer place and they were taken in by some Malay family for a few days. Continue reading

Remembrance Day in Southampton

Historical posts have dominated my posts recently. I meandered through the conflicts during Malayan Emergency from 1948-1960, the Batang Kali killings in 1948 with no closure yet, and how Stanley Warren’s Changi Murals are evocative of pain, endurance and hope.

In the thick jungles which blotted out the sun, where the humid warmth was stifling,  340 UK troops died in Malaya during 1948-60. BBC News charted a graph listing Where they fell. The UK WW1 war dead was 886,342, and the WWII war dead was 383,667. Continue reading

The Uplifting Changi Murals and Stanley Warren

In 1958, there was an international search for a mysterious artist. The only clue was that the artist was a prisoner of war in Singapore after the Fall of Singapore in February 1942, which was described by Winston Churchill as the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.

Five large murals of scenes from the New Testament were discovered in Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore. These murals touched many hearts and shocked the world. Who was the artist who painted the near life-size murals in the chapel of St. Luke there? Who was the artist who yearned for hope and peace in the darkest days of despair through his biblical paintings?

Last week, Lorelle vanFossen highlighted an extensive search using satellite images in Google Earth for the aviator and balloonist Steve Fossett, after he was reported missing flying his plane over the Nevada desert in 2007. In the non-digital age in 1958, the search for the prisoner-of-war artist proved difficult. He could have been any of the 50,000 allied soldiers detained by the Japanese. Was the artist British, Australian, Dutch, or Indian? Was he still alive? Did he later get sent to build the Death Railway in Thailand and Burma and manage to return? Continue reading

Story of a British veteran’s Pingat Jasa medal from Malaysia

In the past two months, my blog was transformed into a Jungle Warfare zone for a brutal war that happened before I was born. My posts about Malayan Emergency from 1948-1960 since the death of the Communist guerrilla leader Chin Peng received interesting feedback. In How much was Chin Peng worth? my reader Ruby left this comment:

“My father fought in the Malaysian uprising (on the British side). Well, he spent his National Service in Singapore; not sure he did much actual fighting. He got a medal for it recently – from the Malaysian government.”

From the comment by Ruby on 20 September 2013.

This comment was too good to believe for any blogger. With Ruby’s help, now I’ve got an intriguing story from a British veteran who served in Malaya in 1955. Continue reading

Batang Kali: The voyage without a suitcase

Lim Ah Yin still remembered vividly the evening of the 11th of December in 1948. That was the turning point of her life as a 11-year-old child. Her childhood ended on that day.

Lim Ah Yin’s father was taken away by the British troops, and was shot dead the following day in Batang Kali of Malaya during the Malayan Emergency. Her mother, who was eight months’ pregnant, was spared. However, when Lim Ah Yin first heard of the gunshots, she thought British soldiers had killed her mother. She was distraught. “What about me and my little sisters?” Lim Ah Yin loved her sisters. Continue reading

Batang Kali: Story of a dispersed family

LIM Kok used to be running around the rubber plantation where his father worked in Batang Kali in Malaya. His father Lim Tian Swee was a proud man. He drove a lorry. Every early morning when it was still dark, he would pick up his workers from the rustic villages nearby to take them to collect rubber latex in the plantation. For other workers, Lim Tian Swee was their supervisor, so he was nicknamed Lam Kow, an honorific name for ‘the head’. One day, the nine-year-old Lim Kok did not jump onto his father’s lorry for a trip to the plantation. A day later, Lim Kok’s uncle told him that his father had died.

He was beheaded. Continue reading

Batang Kali: “Heaven knows the truth.”

A Chinese tear-a-page calendar is hanged on the wall in Chong Koon Ying’s front room. The much cherished traditional Chinese lunar calendar informs her of Chinese festivals such as the New Year, Dragon Boat Festival and Tomb Sweeping Festival. Last year, when I visited my mother in Singapore, I also saw a similar Chinese Lunar Calendar on the wall in the kitchen, even though my mother is illiterate and she could not possibly understand the Chinese characters embedded in the calendar.

People of a certain age are particularly fond of the Chinese lunar calendar. It relates to their culture and tradition. It reminds them of their ancestors’ ways of life thousands of years ago. Traditional people observe the rules set out in the calendar in their everyday life, from farming, entertaining guests, travelling, moving furniture to worshiping ancestors. By adhering to the rules, Chinese people feel attached to their root, usher in happiness, and avoid misfortunes. Continue reading

Batang Kali: Inspiration from a historian

When the writer Mr QUEK Jin Teck moved to a new village called Ulu Yam in Selangor in Malaysia in 2005, he was trying to retreat from a hectic life as a social activist, and was ready to retire due to his ill health. Mr Quek was a historian with 9 major books into Malaysian history, including the War of Resistance against Japan in Malaya and his research into Lai Teck the Spy (马新抗日史料: 神秘莱特).

However, with a twist of fate, Mr Quek did not retire quietly. Instead, he shouldered a massive burden in 2008, culminating in a moving campaign in Malaysia to bring justice home to the families whose fathers and sons were brutally killed by the British troops, on the 11th or 12th of December 1948, six months after the 12-year Malayan Emergency was launched. Continue reading