Feeling kind of nostalgic, so thought I’d share some of my favourite photos…
This is one of the earliest photos I have of my dad, he’s probably about 20 or 21 years old. Malaya, as it was known then, was still part of the British Empire. My dad had just started working in the railways as a parcel clerk, and joined the Railway Operating and Maintenance Company (ROMC) as a volunteer, together with his best friend, my mum’s older brother (this was before my parents had met). He's wearing the uniform of the ROMC in the photo. This was before the outbreak of the Second World War, and the volunteers were trained by British Army sergeants who, according to my dad, were "tough!"
Admitting to my ignorance here – for the longest time, I'd always thought the Pacific War began when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. In fact, it started in Kelantan (northern Malayan state) 90 minutes before Pearl Harbour. The ROMC volunteers were gradually moved south, still manning stations, until my dad’s section arrived in Singapore. He survived bombings & being strafed by a Japanese plane – years later, when he'd talk about it, he could still remember seeing the bullets hitting the ground & even remembered the smell. The ROMC was disbanded soon after the Japanese started bombing Singapore, which fell in Feb 1942. The volunteers pretended they were displaced railway workers; my dad got together with others from his hometown-area & they began their nerve-wracking journey home, never knowing what to expect from the Japanese soldiers.
It must have been horrible living under Japanese rule. According to my dad, when he returned home to Melaka, life was very different. To instil fear & ‘respect’ for the Japanese government, the soldiers had randomly picked an innocent teenager & had beheaded him; the grisly exhibit was mounted on a traffic post for all to see. All clocks had to be advanced by 1.5 hours to conform with Tokyo time; all sentries had to be acknowledged by bowing properly – face him squarely, stand at attention then drop head & shoulders forward. Anything less was considered disrespectful & the person would either have his/her face slapped or a hard kick to the body!
My dad continued working in the railways; the 3 Japanese who were in charge treated their employees fairly well... so long as none of them stepped out of line. And it made a difference what race one was – for the most part, the Indians & Malays were treated better than the Chinese (because of the Sino-Japanese War).
This is my mum's eldest brother, my dad's best friend. My mum was the second in a family of 6. Her brother was very talented, and could sing, dance, play any musical instrument. He was responsible for arranging my parents’ marriage (they were attracted to each other, but things had to be done ‘properly’). Six months after the wedding, he died from malaria, aged 22. My poor gran was devastated. She’d already lost her husband when she was in her early 30s, and then to lose her eldest son as well ... This is the only photo of him; my mum always kept it on her bedside table, from before I was born. I was rather touched when she told me to make sure I took it when she passed.
My parents were married in Dec 1942. Unfortunately, their hometown, Malacca, was flooded that day, and because of the Japanese ‘occupation’, there are no wedding photos. So this is the earliest photo I have of them together, taken in 1946, after my oldest sister was born.
In the 1950s, my dad was sent to the UK as part of a training course arranged by the railways (Malaya still being under British rule); once he'd settled in, my mum joined him. She'd never been out of the country before, and journeyed on her own, on a ship, the most economical way to travel. Braver than me, is all I can say. This photo was taken at Kew Gardens.
My mum holding me ... pretty obvious why it's one of my favourites :)
This photo is very special to me; I think it's the only one I have of 'young' me with my gran (my mum's mother).