Sime Road Camp

Throughout the Japanese Occupation of Singapore during the Second World War, many British, Australians, Singaporeans and other nationalities were interned by the Japanese in various camps around Singapore and the region. One such camp was located at Sime Road, off Adam Road.
Within weeks of the Japanese surrender in August 1945, an advance party of British and US military personnel arrived in Singapore. Their immediate priority was naturally to take control of the Japanese forces still on the island, and to release the internees.

Of the places of detention, the YMCA at Orchard Road was the most notorious, as it was the headquarters of the Kempeitai, the Japanese Secret Police. The local population knew that severe torture took place within the building. When word went round that the Allied military had arrived in Singapore and had gone into the YMCA, my father (then 23) and his younger brother went there out of curiosity to see if they could get a look-around.

Well, they didn’t. The place was still off-limits to civilians. What did they expect? However, they were soon caught up in a little action.

An American officer came out of the building, and somehow went up to the two of them and asked, “Do you know of any internment camps around?”

My father said he knew of one at Sime Road (it was an open secret throughout the Occupation).

“Do you know the way there?”

They said yes, and were asked to hop into the jeep with the “yank”. My father remembers that ride well; it was the first time he had been in an open jeep.

They found that the internees of Sime Road Camp had essentially been released by the Japanese and had taken over the running of the camp. But it was still a shock to see the men. They were so emaciated, they were like “skin and bones.” But they had organised themselves enough to make a record of their internment which somehow — I don’t fully understand why — they lent my father to read. It was a kind of trade in that my father lent them his own memoirs of the Japanese Occupation.

Anyway, my father took their report home, and manually typed out a copy of it which he has kept through the half-century since.

I borrowed it from him, my sister then scanned it (with difficulty) and here it is below, a joint report made by internees of the Japanese within a week or so after the end of a terrible War. These are the dry words of men, almost starved to death through three and a half years of imprisonment, men who witnessed their friends and comrades being beaten, tortured and left to die, but who would still form a committee to record for posterity what went on in a little corner of Singapore 1942-1945.

September 1997
Sime Road Camp

Throughout the Japanese Occupation of Singapore during the Second World War, many British, Australians, Singaporeans and other nationalities were interned by the Japanese in various camps around Singapore and the region. One such camp was located at Sime Road, off Adam Road.
Within weeks of the Japanese surrender in August 1945, an advance party of British and US military personnel arrived in Singapore. Their immediate priority was naturally to take control of the Japanese forces still on the island, and to release the internees.

Of the places of detention, the YMCA at Orchard Road was the most notorious, as it was the headquarters of the Kempeitai, the Japanese Secret Police. The local population knew that severe torture took place within the building. When word went round that the Allied military had arrived in Singapore and had gone into the YMCA, my father (then 23) and his younger brother went there out of curiosity to see if they could get a look-around.

Well, they didn’t. The place was still off-limits to civilians. What did they expect? However, they were soon caught up in a little action.

An American officer came out of the building, and somehow went up to the two of them and asked, “Do you know of any internment camps around?”

My father said he knew of one at Sime Road (it was an open secret throughout the Occupation).

“Do you know the way there?”

They said yes, and were asked to hop into the jeep with the “yank”. My father remembers that ride well; it was the first time he had been in an open jeep.

They found that the internees of Sime Road Camp had essentially been released by the Japanese and had taken over the running of the camp. But it was still a shock to see the men. They were so emaciated, they were like “skin and bones.” But they had organised themselves enough to make a record of their internment which somehow — I don’t fully understand why — they lent my father to read. It was a kind of trade in that my father lent them his own memoirs of the Japanese Occupation.

Anyway, my father took their report home, and manually typed out a copy of it which he has kept through the half-century since.

I borrowed it from him, my sister then scanned it (with difficulty) and here it is below, a joint report made by internees of the Japanese within a week or so after the end of a terrible War. These are the dry words of men, almost starved to death through three and a half years of imprisonment, men who witnessed their friends and comrades being beaten, tortured and left to die, but who would still form a committee to record for posterity what went on in a little corner of Singapore 1942-1945.

A REPORT ON JAPANESE ATROCITIES

Commission appointed by the authorities of Sime Road Internment Camp to record evidence from Internees who were arrested by the Japanese M.P. in consequence of a raid on Changi Camp on 10/10/43 first sat on Thursday 30/8/45 and completed the record of evidence on Sunday evening 2/9/45, having taken statements from 36 of the survivors. It was considered urgent to record this evidence prior to the dispersal of the Camp, which it is believed might take place as early as the 3rd September 1945.

On 10th October 1943 all internees in Changi Prison were paraded soon after down in the Main Yard as for a routine Roll Call. Soon after this the M.P. arrived and armed soldiers picketed all doors. A number internees were then called out by name, labelled and segregated. Internees were then ordered back to their Block Yards where further labelling and segregating took place. meanwhile a search was made of the personal belongings of all internees. During this search there was looting and wanton destruction by the Japanese. The investigation finished after dusk and the internees were allowed to return inside the prison. Many of them had no food since 6 p. m. (T.T.) on the previous day, and some suffered distress and even collapsed owing to the day long exposure to the sun without.

In consequence of this investigation, 57 internees were removed from Changi Prison by the Military Police on or after 10/10/43. With one exception these were all interrogated at Jap. M.P. centres in Singapore. The courses of the interrogation showed that the Japanese were trying to establish that there was a spy organisation in Changi Prison which received and transmitted by Radio telephony, which had established contacts in the town for the purpose of sabotage and stirring up anti-Japanese feeling, and which collected money from out-side for this purpose. In fact, there was no spy- org-anisation, no radio-transmission and no attempt to pro-mote anti-Jap activities outside the Camp. There were however radio-receiving sets in the Camp which were used solely for the reception of news, and money was collected from persons outside the Camp for the sole purpose of supplementing the totally inadequate rations supplied by the Japanese. The conditions under which internees were detained were rigorous in the extreme. They were crowded irrespective of race, sex, or state of health, in small cells and cages. They were so cramped that they could not lie down in comfort. No bedding or coverings of any kind were provided and bright lights were kept burning overhead all night. From 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. inmates had to sit up straight on the bare floor with their knees up and were not allowed to relax or put their hands on the floor, or talk, or move, except to go to the lavatory. Any infraction of the rigid discipline involved a beating by the sentries. There was no pedestal water closet in each cell or cage and the water flushing into the pan provided the only water supply allowed for all purposes, including drinking. It should be recorded here that nearly all the inmates suffered from enteritis or dysentry. No. soap, towel, toilet articles or handkerchiefs were permitted and in-mates had no clothes other than those they were wearing. The food supply normally rice occasionally vegetables and weak tea with no milk or sugar was less than half of that supplied by our own prison department as punishment diet for Asiatics. It was insufficient to support life over a long period and led to serious deficiency deseases in all cases of long detention. Medical facilities accorded whether visits of medical personel or the supply of medicines or drugs were for all practical purposes non-existing. In many cases, our own doctors sharing cells with the sick made urgent requests for prompt medical attention on their behalf particularly in cases where the victim was on the point of death, but these requests were invariably ignored. In one case, a Jap. Doctor who was called to see an internee suffering from a fractured pelvis and possibly ruptured kidney remarked that the man was not sick enough. The three women taken from Changi Prison were detained in exactly the same conditions as the men and shared cells with male prisoners of all races. They were afforded no privacy even for their most intimate requirements and any attempt on the part of European men to screen them was broken down by the guards. They were subjected to insults and obscene gestures by Jap. prisoners in the same calls and the Jap. prisoners with the assent of the guards tried to compel them to perform them most sordid tasks in the cell. The building occupied by the Jap. M.P. resounded all day and all night with blows, the bellowings of the inquisitors and the shrieks of the tortured. From time to time victims from the torture chambers would stagger back or if unconscious would be dragged back to their cells with marks of their ill-treatment on their bodies. In one such case an unconscious victim so returned died during the night without receiving and medical attention and his body was not removed until the afternoon. In these conditions and this atmosphere terror these men and women waited sometimes for months their summons to interrogation which might come any hour the day or night.

Usually interrogation started quietly and would so continue as long as the inquisitors got their expected answers. If for any reason such answers were not forth-coming physical violence was immediately employed and methods were :-

(1) … Beating with iron bars, brass rods, sticks, bamboos, wet knotted ropes, belts with buckles or revolver butts, all over the body. While these beatings were being inflicted the victim was sometimes suspended by the wrists passed over the beam. Sometimes their hands were tied behind their backs and the were forced to kneel on sharp pieces of wood or iron, and while sharp pieces of wood or metal were placed behind their knees so as to cut into the flesh as they knelt. While they so kneeling the Jap. would jump on their thighs or on the projecting ends of the bar or wood behind their knees, a Japanese would perch himself on the shoulders of the victim or the victim with hands untied would be compelled to hold heavy weights above the head. They were often forced to remain in this position without intermission from 9 to 10 hours during which period interrogation would go on remorselessly punctuated by blows. At times the victim would be tied to a table and flogged until he lost consciousness, In one case the man so flogged counted over 200 blows before losing consciousness. This treatment was in some cases carried on daily for 4 to 5 days consecutively. In on case a European who died later was interrogated with the usual beatings for 55 hours at a stretch and another European since dead underwent 144 hours of beating in all, according to the estimates of his cell mates.

(2) … Water torture. There were 2 forms of water torture. In the first the victim was tied or held down on his back and a cloth placed over his nose and mouth. Water was then poured on the cloth. Interrogation proceeded and the victim was beated if he did not reply. As he opened his mouth to breathe or to answer questions, water went down his throat until he could not hold anymore. Sometimes he was then beaten over his distended stomach , sometimes a Jap. jumped on his stomach or sometimes pressed on it with his foot. In the 2nd, the victim was tied lengthways on a ladder face upwards with a rung of the ladder across his throat and his head below the ladder. In his position he was slid head first into a tub of water and kept there until almost drowned. After being revived interrogation continued and he would be re-immersed.

(3) … During interrogation the inquisitor in amy cases burnt the victims with cigarette and cheeroot ends even on the most sensitive parts of the body, e.g. the arm-pits, between the toes on the scrotum and penis. Several Asiatics and petrol poured on their bellies and ignited and other Asiatics had their hands tied together and immersed in a bowl of methylated spirits which was then ignited.

(4) … Electric torture. There were 2 forms of this. In the first and induction coil was used. On electrode being attachd to the hand and foot and the other a bare wire was applied to various parts of the body. One victim reports that he was thrown across the room by the violence of the shock. The effect has been described as one of physical and mental disintegration. The 2nd form apparently more severe was called the electric table or electric cap. There is evidence that his was used but not on any of our witnesses.

(5) … In addition to these forms of torture the inquisitors often employed other methods such as Jiu-jittsu twisting of limbs, bending back of fingers, twisting of sharp edged wood between fingers, punching, repeated blows on the same spot and so on. These methods in many cases resulted in dislocation and permanent damage to limbs and joints. In one case the inquisitor punctuated his question by flicking off with the frayed end bamboo flesh bruised in a previous beating. This left a permanent scar 6″ by 3″ on the victim’s thigh.

(6) … In several cases victims were led to believe that their execution either by beheading or shooting was imminent. They were advised to write a letter of farewell Preparation for execution were carried out up to the penultimate stage with such realism that in 2 cases the victims fainted.

(7) … Thrests to families. Threats were also made to take action against the families of the victim (the wives of some internees were believed to be in Japanese custody in other parts of Asia).

Torture was carried out to the limit of human endurance. One internee attempted to commit suicide by jumping over the verandah. In his fall he fractured his pelvis but, despite his condition, his interrogation under torture was continued until just before he died. In another case the internee asked his inquisitors for the means to commit suicide. A pistol was produced and snatched away only when the man was about to carry out his declared intentions.

The survivors who returned after lengthy custody by the Military Police required prolonged treatment in the Camp hospital for extreme emaciation (except where oedema was present) chronic dysentry, neuritis, sores, ulcers. Commision also recorded the evidence of the three surviving members out of the 6 of the body-disposal squad who were arrested the Japanese Military Police in the Municipal Building Singapore in March 1942 and who were sentenced after a so-called trial to two years solitary confinement each for “anti-Japanese talk”. While in prison 3 of the 6 died without receiving any medical attention whatsoever. Requests made for medicine on their behalf evoked the reply “They are enemy prisoners and not allowed any medicines”

Signed:
S. N. King M.C.S. Chairman
N. S. Alexander M.S. Ph.D. Prof: of Physics.
W. L. Blythe M.C.S.

Sime Road Internment Camp
Singapore
3rd. September 1945.

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