The POWs returning to Singapore were treated like lepers
When they arrived many were spent and had to be driven by their officers to unload all there merger gear for transport to Changi. Of importance was the cooking utensils as the returning prisoners were thought to be an additional burden on the resources in Changi Prisons. What a shock awaited the returning prisoners - they were treated with suspicion and even disgust by those who never went up on the railway working parties (Referred to as "Changi Chocos") and fenced in a special camp called the "southern area". In Bob's words "We were treated like lepers by the Changi Chocos" - no one believed that human beings could be in such a terrible physical condition and still be alive! To visit the main Changi Prison which was across the road, prisoners had to obtain a pass and only a few were issued daily. No one in Changi wanted to know or associate with these poor skeletonised humans!
Bob remembers that compared to the railway camps, Changi was a "paradise"! But a change awaited the Changi Chocos and they too would experience the bestial work gangs of the Japanese as the IJA decided to expand the Changi aerodrome. The returned prisoners, held in a separate camp called the "southern area", were amalgamated into the main camp at Robert's Barricks. They were resented as the lifestye enjoyed by the Changi Chocos changed for the worst for them, but changed for the better for the railway survivors. Work commenced on the Changi aerodrome and all fit prisoners were forced into work gangs.
Other gangs worked in the vegetable gardens or at wood gathering using trailers made from burnt out vehicles hauled by prisoners like oxen. The wood gathering parties were referred to as "trailer parties", although trailer parties hauled other loads when required if no motor vehicles were available.
After a while the Japs decided to move all the prisoners from Robert's Barricks to the Changi Goal and an area round the outside of the walls of this Goal. The men were given 2 weeks to move - only one vehicle at first (an ambulance) and then a second vehicle was provided. The huts, cook houses and hospital facilities had to be dismantled and moved about 2 miles to Changi Goal. The men hauled everything by trailer parties to the site and the engineers re assembled all the huts and cookhouses. It was a mamouth undertaking but achieved successfully and with some satisfaction. Bob was put into hut E1 with Australian and a few English Officers - each hut held about 150 prisoners. E1 was to become the home of a secret radio, operated by a young English prisoner, Russel Wright, assisted by Bob - although many have falsely claimed to have been part of this "radio group" no one else, except Rus and Bob, knew of this radio for almost 18 months.
There was a peep hole beside Bob's bed through which he kept watch when the radio was in operation during the night and it was also used to pass messages to other prisoners without knowing who they were.