Page 30 – 31 / 1941 – 42

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A brief resume of the functions of the base depot medical stores, Malaya.
Continues from page 28 – 29

as our troops retired down the peninsula.

The retreat of our forces necessitated the recalling of advanced stores. No.2/A.D.M.S. at Kuala Lumpur packed the bulk of its store and dispatched to Singapore during early days – these stores were lost. The staff remained operative until the last possible moment. No.8/D.M.S. from Bedong evacuated to Serangoon after having been subjected to enemy shelling. Whilst at Serangoon one of our own A.A. shells entered the store exploding and causing very little damage. Later, on evacuating to Tanglin married quarters the C.C. (Lieut Lewis I.M.D.) was hit by shell burst and died shortly after.

The sub-deport at Kuala Lipis moved towards Singapore by easy stages until eventually it was operating in line with 3/A.D.M.S. and therefore came across the Causeway. It was sent forward later but eventually returned to Serangoon. The same week a modified sub-deport was sent further North to join up with a Field Ambulance but on arrival in position found that the field unit had moved to a new position, the stores were returned to Singapore saturated with rain, per commandeered lorry. The stores were exchanged and sent forward once more.

The Ambulance Trains were taken off as lines of communication shortened and their equipment together with that of that the Ambulance Train stores was salved. One store formed up at McArthur Camp against the day the trains were re-commissioned. Eventually this was evacuated and its [sp] unfortunate that the N.C.O. i/s/c/ proceeded to Alexandra instead of Tanglin for he was amongst the more unfortunate members of the staff of the hospital.

The store staff assisted in the evacuation of 1/M.G.H. and 3/A.D.M,S. FROM Johore and so the entire medical establishments were now situated on the Island and were all serviced from the Depot. The depot store presented a remarkable sight being inundated with salvage both civil and military. During these latter days the store at Nee Soon was evacuated to River Valley Road and Cuppage Road, whilst all possible stores were removed from Serangoon.

Word came thro’ that the Navy had evacuated. A tentative journey was made by one lorry. It returned loaded. The story told by the N.C.O. was incredible. At 7 p.m. two further lorries proceeded, Medical Stores were taken from the Asiatic Hospital which had been left ‘As for Matron’ Inspection. The dockyard presented an eerie appearance in the gathering dusk. Not a soul in sight except a few men from the store, whilst somewhere over that narrow strip of water the enemy were massing to assault the Island. The salvage staff were equipped with a box opener!! Further journeys were made up to the following morning. The medical stores, wards and offices presented a picture of a hurried departure. A total of some 8 to 10 lorry loads were removed, this in addition to an effort to displace our own stocks. However, Naval packing are very convenient weighing 50lbs against the military packing of 1 cwt upwards. This salvage was stored in married quarters and included such items as 14 Oak Sprayers, dressings of all sorts, lab. equipment drugs etc.

News came thro’ of the evacuation of the Oxygen Coy at Pasir Panjang the only source of suply commercially in the Peninsula. A party left immediately and salvaged many cylinders now in use at Changi. As the encroached on the Island so salvage of other units became secondary and consideration of disperse of Depot Stores became of primary importance, and so began evacuation of the main stores.

EVACUATION OF MAIN STORES: The battle of the Island of course meant that the Depot Stores were well within Artillery range. A British Field Battery set up position some hundred yards distant and this did not help matters as far as we were concerned for it was now a matter of time before the enemy returned the fire. This and other factors led to the order being given, during the late afternoon, to evacuate to River Valley Road. Three lorries only were available and all worked with a will moving all possible stores and equipment. The store now to be occupied was an ancient barn of a place with a galvanized iron roof – an old goddown in the centre of Singapore city. From the staff point of view the absence of sleeping quarters presented little concern but the absence of food presented a major problem for we were now away from our parent unit. A visit to Main Supply Depot and the ration dump at Alexandra proved futile. We now appeared to be outcasts; however a visit to Fowler Camp proved a success for one day only – the dump was shelled but an hour after our visit. Rummaging around the following day we discivered [sp] 1/M.G.H. in Fullerton Building and so our ration problem was solved. However a more serious problem arose; shells over-ranging Fort Canning were bursting in the River Valley Road area, dive bombers attacking our front line were circling our location and falling shrapnel from our own A.A. did not sound too good on the tinned roof. So once more we were moved, this time we are ordered to occupy the first floor of the Cathay Theatre. This sounded good but a prior inspection changed our opinion. The cinema had been taken over as A.I.F. Convalescent Depot, the café was a reception room from the A.G.H. the foyer was a haven for hundreds of lost souls – some still in pyjamas. A visit to two storage spaces flanking the

Left Hand page

A brief resume of the functions of the base depot medical stores, Malaya.

foyer showed the unsuitability for a Medical Store, besides being very inadequate, it was thronged with the usual crowd of refugees. These were ultimately dispersed by the simple method of packing the place with boxes.

Whilst we were there the Cathay was subjected to shell fire, and one shell entered above the screen and caused severe casualties among the troops and civilians congested there. We saw many sad cases, including two women suffering from shock, one had her husband and child killed by shell fire at her side, and the other, after carefully hiding herself and her child under cover throughout the war, had heard that the war had finished and she had come out to go to her home, and was caught in the last raid, the child being killed outright, actually the rumour that lured her from safety was premature only by a few hours.

We had mucked in with the A.I.F. for sleeping accommodation and feed, the accommodation being a small room, and our food, having once reached there [sp] cookhouse, never returned to us. There [sp] Orderly Sergeant too seemed to resent our presence, and maintaining that as we were not able to function as a Medical Stores, he was perfectly entitled to use us for fatigues, which of course, caused trouble.

We should have again tried to move to fresh quarter, but were forestalled by the capitulation. After this we were for a time the subject of visits both by Japanese officers, and also prying Japanese troops, an obliging Japanese officer, however placed a cabalistic sign at the entrance and we were then ‘out of bounds’ and were spared these often unpleasant visits.

In due course we were ordered to proceed to Changi, and then commenced the sorting out of as much of our kit as had not been thoroughly looted by the Australians, and the Stores we were to take. We loaded under the watchful eye of Japanese troops, and were a little scared of the reaction to the numerous rifles, grenade etc we had accumulated, but things passed off without incident they accepted our explanations and removed then en bloc. Imagine our horror when wedged between the last two cases we found a Service revolver, we silently tanked [sp] the infantry soldier who had assisted with the loading and left us, as we offered this explanation.

And so to Changi as Prisoners of War, and to continue to function as a Base Medical Depot Store.