It is 70 years ago today that the fortress of Singapore fell to the Japanese. 18,000 Australian soldiers went into captivity, many of whom would die on the Thai Burma Railway or in the notorious Changi prison.
It is particularly poignant for me as I play lawn bowls every week with a Changi survivor (he is my skip), one of only around 500 still alive today from the 18,000 who were taken prisoner. Colin Hamley is his name, he was honoured in the parade around the MCG last ANZAC day (I think he still participates in each year's march). He is 89 years of age and still sharp as a tack, mentally, if a bit slow in the legs these days (as he is the first to admit).
Colin was in the 2/2 Pioneer Battalion. I was recently doing some research and came across another Hamley (Donald), from the same Battalion, who died on the Burma Railway in 1943. I assume a relative, although Colin never speaks of it and I am not going to ask him (although I might ask Val, his wife).
All I can say is that they obviously made them tough in those distant days!
I used to have to travel, for work, to Singapore reasonably frequently. I once visited the Kranji War Cemetery, where many of the Australian's killed during the assault, are buried. Kranji is quite close to where they fell, in fact.
It is a very sobering experience to walk among lines and lines of graves and see thier ages. 19, 20 and sometimes 'old' men of 24. 73% of the casualties suffered during the battle of Singapore were Australians, though they only counted for 15% of the troops. Nearly 2,000 Australians died in battle.
Anyway, if you are an Australian (or a Brit or Indian for that matter, there were more British soldiers than Australian and also Indian soldiers there at the fall), spare a thought for those that didn't survive, either the fall or later and for those that have gone in the intervening years.
Hawthorn - AFL Premiers 1961, 1971, 1976, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2008.