I was shocked to see the state of my mother’s ancestral home in China. By today’s modern standard, her ancestral house still looks shabby. However, the house used to be unsafe, dilapidated, and it could not withstand strong wind and rain.
This is the very house that nurtured 4 children, who are now grandparents. These are also my cousins that I have never met. Continue reading →
A few months ago, I shared with you some touching letters from China to my mother. These letters built the bridge between my mother and her remaining brother in China, both were separated by war, politics and poverty for 40 years.
During their separation, my mother never ceased to support her brother’s family in the Fujian province of China even though we had very little ourselves. We lived in Malaysia and Singapore then and my mother would squeeze any money that she could find and then sent money and medicine (such as ginseng) to China, for example, to help fix a leaking roof, and to help pay for the bride price so that her three nephews could get a wife in their poor village. My mother also enabled her elderly sister in law (now 96 years old) to visit Singapore in 1992 to fulfill her once-in-a-lifetime dream. Continue reading →
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 →
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 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 →
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 →
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 →
“(…In Southampton), my mother went down to greet a ship bearing soldiers who had been Japanese prisoners of war. These men were in a dreadful state when they disembarked and were greeted with stunned silence. My mother never bought anything which had been manufactured in Japan for the rest of her life.”
Have you ever sucked or chewed on raw sugarcane before? I have. My auntie grew sugarcane on her small plot of land and I loved walking to the top of the hill to find her. Through my eyes as a child, sugarcanes were gigantic plants that were stretching to the sky. My auntie would cut off the sugarcane segments and removed the husks for me to suck the juice out of the sugarcane stalks, in her crazy wild land with chickens and ducks. I would walk home with a few stalks of sugarcane on my shoulders. Sucking and chewing on the sugarcane stalks were the only and the best way that I knew of to enjoy the juice. I did not need huge roller mills to squish the sugar cane stalks. Continue reading →
My mother’s mother never ‘walked properly’. My mother and her mother were living in Singapore during the Second World War under the Japanese occupation. Just after the war ended in 1945 and the British re-occupation of Singapore, when my mother was fifteen years old, one early morning she woke up to find that her mother, who shared the same bed with her, was unusually cold to touch. My mother’s mother had died during the night.
My wobbly bound-foot grandmother
“My mother had bound feet. She was wobbly.” My mother told me her mother kept simple housekeeping jobs in Singapore, looking after children and cleaning. “She couldn’t do much. She had to stay indoors a lot.” My mother recalled her mother being sickly. During the Japanese occupation, my mother therefore had to work for the Japanese for essential rice and cassava for the family. She helped ferrying stones in buckets at the Changi area where roads and the airport were built. Continue reading →