World War II

World War II

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World War II It has been years, but I am still unable to forget the most gruesome
and pitiless wars of all time: World War II. Its memories still haunt
me till this very day. Its etched ever so deep in my heart that even
when time runs steadily and things change in the world I am still
living in its past.

It was on that fateful day on December 8, 1941, that I heard distant
noises of explosions. Even though I had heard through the radios that
World War II had started, I knew it had not Singapore just about yet.
So, when I heard the distinct noise of bombings, I, just like everyone
else started to panic. Living in a kampong house during that time, the
house was not that stable standing on wooden slits. The house was also
made out of wood and during rainy days the houses were easily flooded
as even the rooftop of the house had tiny, fine, hairline cracks in

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which leaks could occur. Our nearest neighbour lived about a mile away
and our nearest mode of communication was through the telephone. So
when and if a bomb was ever to fall near us, I would never be able to
tell it to them in time. As the day dragged on, I could hear the
explosions getting louder and louder. I thought that possibly the
bombings were getting closer. Throughout the day I feared for my
parents life and mine. I was only an eight-year-old girl then with no
siblings and did not understand about the war going on much but I knew
from my mother’s concerned and distressed tone of voice that it was
sometime fearful and terrible.

Suddenly amidst all the sounds of the bombing and explosions, I heard
something flying down fast and looking up into the sky, I knew it was
a bomb. I immediately grabbed my parents’ arms and ran out of the
house and continued to run without looking back. As we ran, we heard
the bomb explode with a loud bang. The effect of the bomb swept our
feet away from the ground and sent us flying. In the next few seconds,
we found ourselves falling back onto the firm, flat ground again. When
we looked back at our house again, it was in ruins. However, since we
had escaped in time, we survived the attack with a only few minor
burns which were caused by the radiation of the bomb exploding. We
felt extremely blessed and lucky. Barely able to walk, being weighed
down with fear if the next few bombs would hit us, the pain our wounds
exploded with made us feel like we rather die than live. However, this
war was about survival and we were going to do just that.

A few minutes later, I heard a few more explosions that sounded so
close; I thought that the sound itself was about to deafen me. At that
moment I felt that the Japanese soldiers had no heart. How could they
just kill innocents for something that is not even worth their lives?
Hatred burned in my heart for the Japanese. Through the radios, I
heard that the Japanese were now marching through Malaya. On December
31, 1942, I heard that the British in hope of slowing the Japanese
advancing towards Singapore destroyed the causeway. Despite this, only
eight days after the Japanese crossed the Johor Strait, they made
their landing on Singapore.

For a few days after they had landed, there were no bombings happening
and so I felt that life was finally getting back to normal, even
though the people still lived in fear of the Japanese being around
them. Our kampong house being destroyed now, we had been living in the
slums ever since. The slums infested with rats cockroaches and we were
living in unhygienic conditions. Fleas were everywhere and it seemed
like we were living with another species. During the time that I was
living there with my parents, my father took ill and died. The people
who lived there were poor and they just like us were trying to survive
at the safest hiding place. So, all the people who died there were not
buried but left aside to rot. My mother, cried over my father’s death
filled with worry of how we were going to survive now without his
support. She too slowly became ill from malnutrition and the
unhygienic conditions we were living in and soon passed away. She
passed away only after a month of my father’s death. That five letter
word “death” ripped my family apart and it was the Japanese who had
caused it. How my heart burned with anguish for my parents’ death that
I felt like murdering those wretched Japanese soldiers who did this to
me. This anger overwhelmed me but I could not do anything to suppress
it.

Killings and war was on the streets just as bombs started showering
upon Singapore. I tried to get some sleep but could not. Early down of
the very next day, the town was lit up by large klieg lights as an
entire tank division came pouring into our tiny island. The rumble of
the machines shook the ground beneath me and created a sound so
powerful that it seemed as though the earth was splitting into two. I
could not take it there in the slums anymore. So, I went in search of
my grandmother. I only vaguely remembered where she lived but I
decided to give it a shot anyway. During my search for her, it was
impossible to find food. Now my bones were showing but I knew I still
had the strength in me somehow to survive. I guess it was the fury in
me to survive this seemingly ever-ending war.

Once I found my grandmother’s house, which I noted was a huge mansion;
I decided to stay there but only in the cold, dark basement of the
house. Although it was where spiders and rodents loomed I decided it
was the only place where I would be safest. There I found a small
ancient looking box. I opened it and I saw a small diary coated with a
thick layer of dust surrounded me making me cough and sneeze. I opened
it carefully; noticing the damages done on this delicate book was far
more than I could bear to see. Anticipation awaited me to find out
what was in the book but to my dismay, there was nothing written in
it. I decided it to be my companion throughout the war.

I did not go out of the basement for a few days due to my fear of the
Japanese lurking around the house. When I finally went to see my
grandmother in her bedroom, the very sight of the gruesome and
pitiless murder that awaited me there made me cry out in horror. My
grandmother’s throat was slashed by a bayonet and with blood trickling
down her limp body she had died. It was no surprise that she had
passed away during the period of war but despite it all, I still felt
a huge sense of loss and despair deep in my heart. Now that she had
left me, I was standing all alone in that huge mansion with no clue as
what to do. I saw fighter planes in the sky constantly and those
Japanese soldiers kept marching in and out of my grandmother’s house
while I was still hiding in the basement of the house. Every single
time they did that, I felt my heart being ripped out of my chest in
fear. Living in such fear made me feel like I rather die, as through
living each day, I felt like I was cheating death itself.

Finally on 15 February 1942, even though it was Chinese New Year’s
day, I heard that we were not allowed to celebrate the event. However,
it was on that day that the British finally surrendered to the
Japanese. This made me relieved in a way but the Japanese were not
about to leave us alone. So, I realized that my grandmother’s mansion
was no safe hiding place for a young girl of the age of nine like me.
I left my grandmother’s house and lived on the streets. The Japanese
brought so much hardship to us. They had bayonet wars on the street in
which people were killed and when looting took place, the people who
looted were also not spared. They were shot or beheaded, and their
heads were displayed at public areas. Bowing to the Japanese as a sign
of respect also had to be done or they would be slapped, kicked or
punished in some other brutal manner. During that time I just went
around house to house, walked on the streets aimlessly, just to ask,
or beg and find for food. The Japanese occupation and its torture
lasted for three and a half years. I do not really know how but I had
survived it.

When the Japanese surrendered to the British on 5 September 1945, it
indeed was a very memorable day for Singapore and me. In that year, we
went back into the British rule but I could not be any happier than
finally being free of the Japanese. On 12 September 1945, a grand
victory parade was held at the Padang to mark the surrender of the
Japanese troops. I too rejoiced with Singapore on this occasion. I
remember the occasion just like it was yesterday. My parents now are
not here with me nor is my grandmother but I know that they are still
taking care of me from wherever they are. I am now well feed and
nourished by my foster family. I still have the book with me that I
took as my companion throughout the war. It’s still unwritten in but
it will always remind me of the past. Now Chinese New Year is nearing
and I hope that I would not get lost in the memories of the past. I
have to move on and stop living in time’s past.
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