The Back-up Board
The Japs thought the Aussies played a silly game with the board
- but it was deadly serious!
At Changi in Hut E1 where Bob lived, some times there were excess rations (actually little more than scrapings) after every man had his share, so a system was worked out so one man benefited from any extra rations - this was thought to be more beneficial than any extras being shared between 46 prisoners when the amount each received would not have had any benefit being so small.
A board , not unlike a "crib board", was made of wood with all the hut occupants written down the left side (Kelsey - no. 4 from the top) and peg holes drilled in columns. Across the top of the board were headings for the various foods that were given as rations. The man who last received an extra, had a match placed in the hole corresponding to his name and the ration. As an example: Abel - "Shadow Stew" - so the next man in the Shadow Stew column (Jessup) would receive the subsequent excess of Shadow Stew and the peg would be moved to his line. The Japs thought the Aussie prisoners played a silly game with the pegboard - but it was deadly serious - it was hoped the the extra ration would help keep them healthy and fit for work (no work - no rice). The menu was "Shadow Stew" - weak soup with a shadow of something in it, "Rice" - boiled polished rice, "Hash" - rice vegetable mixture, "Pap" - ground rice porridge served at breakfast, and "Rissole" or "Douvers" - likely to contain just about anything mixed with rice, pressed flat or shaped and fried. Throughout the building of the railway and back in Changi, working parties called "Douver Parties" collected wood for the fires where douvers were made and cooked.
Bob wrote about the board: "Will she go a back-up?" - "the barometer of our lives was the hut "Totem" - A small peg was plugged against the last winner of surplus scrapings. A PoW who was next on the back-up list for a "Rissole" aquired great prestige - especially if it was due on a Sunday when they were much larger. But great was his agony of mind if under such circumstances - he felt Malaria coming on - one missed a back-up by going to hospital!"
Bob kept the Totem or Back-up board from Changi Hut E1 and it has rarely been seen accept by family and close friends.
Every piece of spare ground in Changi was dug up to grow vegetables.
Food was so scarce in Changi that the Japs gave permission for the PoWs to grow vegetables - working parties were set up and garden beds dug on every piece of spare ground. The men worked on expanding the Changi aerodrome during the day, as well as growing sweet potato and amaranth, the leaves of which were eaten. The only ferlitizer available was urine so it was collected and distributed to the growers by "Pee Parties" hauling a man powered trailer - that's if the Japs didn't order it diverted to their own vegetable gardens!
This photo is of the Hut E1 gardeneng party taken after liberation when they had all put on about 20lbs. in weight.
Bob was given permission to use a small piece of land below the Jap showers where he dammed the waste water for his garden. He grew a crop called Kangkong or water convolvulus, which is a leafy green vegetable.
Bob the Bookbinder
Following a foot infection Bob was placed on light duties and allocated to repairing books from the library. The old men in Changi, often missing a limb or maybe two, were put to work rebinding the library books that fell to pieces from over handling.
Other Nationals as PoWs in Changi
There were other Nationals as PoWs in Changi - the prisoners from Indonesia, both white and coloured were treated as Dutch as at that time Indonesia was in fact a Dutch Colony. The photo is of the first group of Dutch prisoners marching into Changi. Large numbers of Dutch Indonesians died on the railway.
Some Americans were also there - mostly shot down and captured pilots and aircrew - they were not liked in Changi and refused to help with growing vegetables in the gardens or joining trailer parties collecting wood.
An Italian submarine entered Singapore just as Italy surrended and the Japs interned the crew in Changi but they were locked up by the Australian Command as a precaution.