Down Memory Lane

Japanese POW guards
Japanese POW guards

In December of 1941, the Empire of Japan began an all out war in the Pacific with the infamous attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbour.

Within weeks they were steamrolling their way all over the Pacific, within a week they had attacked Hong Kong and it fell on Christmas day.

Many allied soldiers including the 2nd Royal Scots were carted off into captivity, the Japanese in keeping with their behaviour elsewhere committed a series of atrocities. Singapore suffered the same fate the following February, falling with ignominy with the biggest surrender of British-led troops (80,0000) in history. In Burma too the Japanese crushed all opposition before being held at the Indian frontier. Many Scots were unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of Japanese, suffering barbaric and inhumane treatment beyond the comprehension of most decent people.

Some like Sgt John Calder from Dalkeith, whilst talking about his ‘stay’ with the Japanese, declined to talk about his ill treatment. He was not alone, it was just way too painful to recall.

John Calder was taken prisoner in February, 1942, after a year of fighting in Malaya. During his three and a half years in captivity he existed on a diet of rice and soup. He remembered that only once did they receive a Red Cross parcel and that was Christmas 1944. The contents seemed by like luxuries from another planet - cigarettes, chocolate, tinned meat and tinned fish. However, ironically by this time, John had given up smoking.

Read more of John Duncan’s feature in this week’s Advertiser. On sale now.