Page 34 – 35 / 1941 – 42
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‘Massacre’ An account of the Alexandra Hospital Massacre.
Continued from page 32-33
to see the M.O. on duty lying dead on the floor, shot through the head. A little further on lay the body of another doctor terribly mangled by bayonet wounds. At the entrance to the main ward on the ground floor lay several more bodies of orderlies and walking patients, nearly all of them had been bayoneted. In the ward itself we found very few of the patients and no sign of the orderlies on duty. I walked through the ward and down the passage at the other end into the operating theatre. Here a similar sight met my eyes. One of the Surgeons lay across the operating table, half his head blown away, whilst another doctor lay dead on the floor, his white surgical coat dyed red with his own blood. Bottles had been smashed and instruments were upset all over the floor. The room reeked of chloroform and the sweet smell of blood.”
“Sickened by this terrible sight I left the theatre al went upstairs again to see what was happening in my own ward. During all this time the crash and roar of the bombardment and battle outside was shaking the building and making it impossible to hear any sounds within the hospital. I found that the patients in my own ward on the first floor had no knowledge of what was going on downstairs, though several of them were frightened by the noise and asked me what was happening. I told them that nothing was happening and that we were driving the Japanese back. I sent an orderly to get a morphine injection for a patient and went to look at the other wards on the floor. They were all perfectly alright, though their inmates were badly scared by the uproar. I did not think it safe to tell them what had happened below and therefore told the same story as I had before. Returning to my own ward, I found that the patient I had ordered morphia for had not had his injection, and finding no sign of the orderly I had sent to get the injection, I detailed another man to do the job, he went off but did not return, so I decided to go and get the injection myself. I went downstairs to the dispensary store, but found it locked up and no one about. Greatly mystified I went down to the men’s quarters at the end of the passage, where I found hospital staff herded together and sitting on the floor. Afterwards I found that I was practically the last person to arrive.
“Meanwhile the Japanese shock troops, as they turned out to be, seeing the British troops enter the Hospital, evidently thought that it had been evacuated. Following into the building, they shot or bayoneted all who stood in their path and chased the British troops away. Before order could be restored, a number of the hospital staff and patients had perished. The Japanese angered by what had happened gave orders to the orderlies who remained on duty that all patients who could walk were to get up.
These patients along with some fifty of the Hospital staff and about ten officers were then taken outside and marched down the road for about half a mile to the building which up to day ago had been the Nurses Hostel. Here they were divided into three groups of about sixty each and locked into three tiny rooms in the building which had formerly been the Chinese pantry boys rooms.
These rooms were so small that it was with difficulty that twenty people managed to fit into them. Nevertheless sixty people, some of the wounded and some of them sick with malaria and other illnesses were made to crowd into them and were left there from five o’clock in the evening until the next morning.
Of these people few are now alive to tell the tale of that night in a modern Black Hole of Calcutta. Cries for water and food echoed the night long. Sick man ritched [sp] over their comrades or fainted from exhaustion. It was practically impossible to breathe in such a space and by the morning many could not stand and at least two had died. But the constant cries for food had caused the Japanese to relent and in the morning the welcome sound of opening tins could be heard outside.
The Hospital area now being in Japanese hands had, however, come under fire from our own artillery and everywhere around this building was being subjected to a very heavy barrage. The doors of the first two rooms were opened and their inmates were made to line up for food and tea which the Japanese had prepared for them. Suddenly with a scream five shells straddled the building, killing and wounding several and blowing open the door and sides of the third room. The inmates of this room not knowing what was going on and not too sure of their fate immediately bolted through the braches [sp] made and attempted to escape. Only five succeeded in breaking away and regaining our lines
Nothing has been geard [sp] of the remainder of these prisoners, but it is practically certain that they were all killed.
The story of the ‘Massacre at Alexandra’ as it is now called is not a pleasant story and gains nothing nothing [sp] in pleasantness from the fact that the British authorities are partly to blame. The suddenness and quickness
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‘Massacre’ An account of the Alexandra Hospital Massacre.
of the Japanese advance may provide adequate reasons for causing the evacuation of Alexandra Hospital into the city to be overlooked. But it is an unprecedented fact that a base hospital should be allowed to remain right in the front line of the battle, without any effort being made to succour it or make its presence known to the enemy. Again no satisfactory answere [sp] has been found as to why no Red Crosses were allowed to displayed on the building, especially as throughout the campaign the Japanese troops had scrupulously respected the Red Cross.
The Japanese must also bear there [sp] half of the blame for this tragedy. The maniacal murdering of a group of harmless medical personnel and their patients by hysterical soldiers could possibly have been averted if any offices or person of authority had been near in the first place, but the cold blood murder of the people who had been locked up in the nurses quarters took place in the presence of the Japanese officers who had come up and restored order in the first instance. Perhaps the only excuse which can be made for this act was the difficult circumstances and the hysterical condition which the troops who captured the hospital were in. Evidence of the costly fighting, which had taken place in the neighborhood of the hospital was given by the five men who escaped and had to cross a field strewn with hundreds of dead and dying Japanese soldiers in order to make good their getaway.
Even so the memory of this wanton shooting of a group of wounded and non-combatants will die hard with those who knew them.