Page 32 – 33 / 1941 – 42
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‘Massacre’ An account of the Alexandra Hospital Massacre.
It was the seventh day of the Battle for Singapore and things were pretty lively up at Alexandra Hospital, for a number of hours shells had been falling all round the Hospital area though none had, as yet, landed in the grounds. Now, just as lunch was finishing, the sound of rifle and machine gun fire could be heard quite close by.
The Hospital area which lay about five miles west of the city and three miles north of Keppel Harbour was now virtually in no mans land and the Hospital itself still had more than 900 patients in its wards, many of them wounded from the fighting on the mainland.
The Japanese forces after gaining initial foothold on the island made the Bukit Timah read – the main trunk road which runs from North to South of the island – the axis of their advance. Sweeping down the road on the Bukit Timah village they established their headquarters there and continued their advance. One column advanced down either side of the main road, whilst another column made off at a tangent in the direction of Keppel Harbour. It was this column, which, after experiencing some tough and heavy fighting and suffering heavy casualties from the defending British and Indian troops, was in the neighborhd [sp] of the hospital on the ill-fated Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile in the hospital itself everything continued quite normally in spite of the tremendous noise of the bombardment which had quickly grown from intermittent shelling to the uproar of a heavy barrage. Already the patients had been for the most part evacuated from the upper floors down to the ground floor and the staff of C.A. Sisters had been sent off the island the previous day.
From his room on the first floor a doctor watched the ebb and flow of the battle. The continual and everlasting “Crump” of exploding shells and mortar bombs shook the very foundations of the building. Everywhere as far as he could see was a mass of uprooted trees and churned up ground. On the main road just outside the gates of the Hospital Drive lay a mass of broken and twisted lorries and cars, the wreckage of an Indian motor convoy, which had halted importunately outside the Hospital grounds on the previous afternoon, and had been subjected to an accurate and devastating dive bombing attack by Japanese aircraft. After the attack he had led a party out onto the road to succour the wounded and dying Indian soldiers lying mangled under their trucks. Their cries even now still bang in his ears. As he watched he saw a score of figures appear running through the undergrowth in the direction the Hospital. A machine gun opened up very close by and several of the figures fell. One turned at bay and fired his rifle at the hidden machine gun, the others, some of them still with their weapons, fled out off [sp] sight into the ground floor precincts of the Hospital.
The doctor, perturbed by what he had just witnessed, was just going to report it to the commanding officer when he saw more figures coming through his grounds. They were more Japanese troops armed with rifles and tommy guns and moving also in the direction of the Hospital. They disappeared in the direction which the British Troops had taken and the doctor, his mind made up, went down the corridor to the Commanding Officer’s room. Here he found his C.O. looking ‘like death’. “I think the Japanese are murdering the patients”, he said.
The doctor told the story of what he had seen and then, as more people came into the room, said that he would go and try to tell the Japanese that it was a hospital which they were attacking.
The doctor told the others to remain where they were, and then went to a window and opening it displayed his arm band with its Red Cross to the two Japanese soldiers standing in the grounds. One of the Japanese shouldering his rifle put a bullet through the Red Cross, missing the doctor by inches. Considerably shaken he got under cover form Jap, and made his way back to the Commanding Officer. It was obvious that this method of identification which had always worked before during the campaign would not work now.
The Commanding Officer held a council of war with the officer who were present and they all agreed, that since no word had yet been sent from the staff on duty, they had best go and find out what was happening for themselves.
Accordingly the whole party led by the Colonel deseeded the main staircase.
The following part of this story is best told by the doctor himself in his own words.
“As we neared the bottom of the main staircase, we were mystified by the atmosphere of unbroken quiet which bung likes a veil over the wards. We entered the reception vestibule. And here I was horrified