Page 28 – 29 / 1941 – 42
Left Hand Page
A brief resume of the functions of the base depot medical stores, Malaya.
Continues from page 26 – 27
to the front line, whereas had this unit not provided supplies would not have got though. At times all pool transport was recalled for priority details and the fact that stores were lying on the dockside awaiting collection did not influence the transport clerks in the least.
COOLIE LABOUR. Six Coolies were requisitioned daily for employment in the store on such occasions as Heavy lifting, packing and unpacking and the loading and unloading of lorries. Additional coolies were requisitioned as required for outside details. These coolies were obtained through R.A.S.C. and by mutual agreement the same Nos. 1 & 2 were provided over a period of many months. They knew the store work thoroughly, spike [sp] and understood English and were willing workers. Also, a change in policy, during hostilities, whereby all labour was obtained through a labour bureau, resulted In the loss of these boys and the provision of a party or lazy, useless, and dishonest boys who spoke no English and were interested only in meal times. However, a little pleading in the right direction resulted in the return of the original boys.
FUNCTIONS. In addition to the obvious work of maintaining supplies to medical units many extra duties fall to the lot of the stores staff during the early days. The overhaul and issue of equipment to volunteer units, issue of P.A.D. equipment, formation of three ambulance trains from two held in store; fitting up of sub-depots, two Ambulance train stores from stock equipment of the Hospital Ship and reception checking and issue of medical equipment to newly formed units are included. The pressure of greatly increased demands was further increased by such matters as under, which represent but a few of their type.
Fitting up of an Indian General Hospital to 400 beds. This unit had lost its equipment at Penang, that is, with the exception of a few panniers and serviceable Gynecological outfit.
Fitting up an Indian general hospital to 1000 beds. This unit after assiduously unloading, during air-raids, its Ordnance and personal equipment witnessed the departure of the vessel only to discover their medical equipment had not been unloaded.
Six acts of Regimental Medical Equipment were built up for units up-country who had lost their initial supply. These acts were handed to a field ambulance proceeding north, only to be returned to store a few days later as the units concerned could not be located.
During later stages it a decided to pack considerable quantities of stores. Many hours were spent working out priorities etc. and the final stages were coincidental with the evacuation. This no doubt saved the Japanese or a working party many hours labour.
There were many details to be carried out which cannot of course be related in an article of this nature, few can be related and follow.
MOSQUITO CREAM. It is perhaps not generally known that those little screwed capped tins containing anti-mosquito cream were made in Singapore. It was one of the duties of the man on local purchase to find firms prepared to turn out these tins by the thousand; usually [unknown] thousand contained at least 950. The filling of these tins was undertaken at the Depot Store, until this tedious task was handed over to an out-of-work field unit. Much of the cream was not used as such, but did in fact form a sizable blast wall around the Regimental Pay Offices in Cuppage Road – created by the Store Staff.
ATERBRIN. It was decided to issue Aterbrin to the individual soldier up-country for use as prophylaxis. The original detail was 100 tabs per tin. Instructions were issued that tins should be painted white at each end and would bear a label instructing the soldier when and how to use the content. Actually white paint was not available and the tins were therefore painted green. Some 40,000 labels were printed locally by the Stationery Dept. Somehow or other these labels were delivered without gummed backs and therefore lots of fun and incidentally taking up of time which could be ill afforded resulted in sticking a label about the size of two postage stamps on the rounded edge of the tins. It began, seemingly, to rain Aterbrin, Col. Strachan produced well over the two million mark from the Kuala Lumpur district whilst entire stocks in Singapore were being brought up. Instructions were later received that the tins were to contain 30 tablets. The staff really didn’t mind for they were to the store on account of P.A.D. duties, other for short breaks for meals – the store maintained its own P.A.A. scheme. Supplies of tins ran short and a firm contracted to supply vulcanite containers; its [sp] was decided that all Atebrin should be issued in these containers and so packing recommenced . Shortage of labels necessitated the sweating off thousands from the tins, laying out to dry, and consequent sticking on the vulcanite containers. The tins were emptied and the work of filling the new containers well under way when the contractor produced washers for the screw caps, these of course had to beutilized. Later each tube had to plugged with cotton wool, and it is not to be wondered that the staff began to wear a jaundiced look. However the good work was eventually handed over to recruit of I/M.F.A. Actually very few of those tubes were issued; the war progressed too rapidly.
Right Hand Page
A brief resume of the functions of the base depot medical stores, Malaya.
WHITE ANTS. In the midst of all the trials and trouble of war time Depot Store work White Ants decided to attack the bales store at Nee Soon. This necessitated daily dispatch of a working party to turn over some 300 bales. The R.E.s removed the ants and also all the wood in the building including the door in rear. The Jaga still dozed and guarded the front door whilst in rear a lorry could easily have been driven fight into the goddown.
PARACHUTE PARCELS. An order was received to prepare and deliver to ….. aerodrome within the hour, packages to be dropped to our troops cut off up country. The packages consisted of field dressings, a hypodermic syringe and a bottle of Morphine wrapped in canvas. Apparently other Services were also instructed to provide packages but a hitch occurred as Medical were the only branch to comply. Some few days later a repeat order was issued and there were dire threats of Court Martial etc if further hitches happened. A warrant officer was detailed to convey the packages through the blinding rain and falling light to Seletar aerodrome. The parcels were delivered and accepted in Ops. room while a Squadron was actually taking off. The W.O. returned to Tanglin, dismissed the lorry and proceeded to a belated dinner, only to be called to the telephone to answer searching enquiries put by an important personage at H.Q. The W.O. was censured for not telephoning all correct from the Aerodrome and which was not given – as a result of which an officer was searching the Island for an overturned lorry. The I.F. seemed somewhat dazed when informed of the aerodrome to which supplies had been delivered and advised the W.O. to be very sure of his facts and write down timings for future reference. No more was heard officially but it was understood that another I.F. had mixed his aerodromes somewhat. It was understood that threats of Courts Martial were forgotten. It was then decided to hold several of these packages in readiness. Alas our Air Force moved out and the parcel was eventually unpacked.
INDIVIDUAL WATER STERILIZING OUTFITS. A consignment of thousands of tins containing two small bottles were received ex India. On examination the Thiosulphate was found to have turned to liquid and consequently all those bottles had to be emptied with a view to refilling from stocks.
COTTON WOOL AND LINT. A consignment collected from the docks had fallen foul of a broken fuel oil pipe, many of the rolls of lint were spoiled at both edges whilst the centre strip was serviceable. The trimming of some hundreds of rolls and repacking whiled away many pleasant hours.
“X” PARTIES. The telephone would ring maybe at about 5.30. It would be an order to equip for 550 men proceeding for three months at 8.00 p.m that night!!! The work would be completed, transport arranged and the order would be postponed. Hard work at the end of a hard day – how the staff envied the lucky A.D. corps lads playing tennis in full view of the store.
SALVAGE. Salvage work entailed many days of hard work under trying conditions. These days commenced with the arrival in mid-December, of the Medical Store staff from Penang and continued till removal to Changi days after the capitulation. The stores salvaged from Penang amounted to no more than the personnel could carry and included a Surgical Haversack, Surgeons, Roll, Atebrin tablets and very little else.
Searching of goddowns at the docks was of course routine before days of war. But with the daily bombing raids became more an unpleasant task and all the more credit is due to the personnel employed on this duty when it is pointed out that medical stores removed during the last four weeks of war far exceeded peace time output – this was not accounted for by increased arrivals in the port. Such items as one of X Ray films which had been lying on the open wharf side for some eight to 10 weeks were salved when the military personnel were given free hand. The civil staff idea of closing gates to transport at 11.00 a.m. until 1.30 p.m. daily died very hard. During these days the only consignment of note to arrive from Australia was moved into sotre [sp]. The freedom of the dockside revealed many missing cases and bales formerly declared ‘Lost in transit.’
Searching of railway trucks became a routine, A.C.C.S. equipment being the first to arrive from up-country and had the appearance of having packed in a great hurry. It appeared that the X Ray set had been entrained first as being the most important item, next followed the beer, than personnel kits and company files etc.
Ambulance trains bringing down stores from evacuated chemist shops. Units generally speaking, on evacuation to Singapore, brought and handled their own stores and anything found in the Medical line en route was brought with them. Variety in these days probably eased the monotony of continuous salvage. Probably for the first time in history of medical stores such items as Krushen Salts, Sloans Linament, Dr Clarkes, Bils Benns Syrup of Figs, in fact almost any known patent medicine was available. Salvage continued