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Personal Account - Lt Gen (then Capt.) Harbaksh Singh 5/11th Sikh

On the morning of 16th Feb, after the fall of Singapore, Japanese aircraft scattered leaflets ordering British and Australian POWs to surrender at Changi Jail while Indian POWs were to assemble at Tyrsal Park, a racecourse. The Indian POWs were formally handed over to the Japanese by a British Lt. Colonel. Then after an address by a Japanese Major General, they were handed over to Gen. Mohan Singh, head of the Indian National Army.

Those who did not join the INA immediately were subject to continuous and intense pressure to join. Eventually three Indian National Armies were formed under Mohan Singh, JKT Bhonsle and Subash Chandra Bose. (Lt Gen Singh refers (P.137) to 90,000 Indian POWs being handed over to the INA.)

The remainder, “the Obstructionists”, chose to work in labour battalions and very many died at the hands of the Japanese.

Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh joined up with the Jind Infantry Battalion, who remained as one unit throughout under Lt Col Gurbaksh Singh, together with remnants of 5 Sikh and 3/12 Frontier Battalion. This constituted a force of 1500 men who were initially consigned for work in Rabaul, then the Burma-Siam railway but in fact had the good fortune to be commandeered by the Japanese Air Force at Kluang Airfield for airfield clearance and maintenance purposes.

Later, after sustained propaganda, many of the Muslims in 3/12 Frontier Battalion left to join the INA. A relatively benign regime prevailed at Kluang with the POWs being left to largely manage themselves. Senior POWs clandestinely went outside the camp to obtain essential materials to help in their survival. However in the absence of proper nutrition and medicines, a number died of dysentery and malaria but, even then, their lot was significantly better than that of many other Indian POWs.

Although comparatively well treated themselves, they were forced to witness atrocities against local Chinese. Through contact with the local population they learned of the reign of fear that was used to maintain control over the local population with the limited Japanese resources available. The Chinese were separated into “black”, supporters of the Kuomintang Chinese Nationalist Army and “white”. It is likely the “black” became victims of the massacres perpetrated on the local Chinese after the fall of Singapore.

He refers to the arrival of two Allied officers from Force 136 who arrived in camp on the day of surrender. They had been in the surrounding jungle waiting for this day and were able to direct supplies in very quickly.

Summarised from In the Line of Duty – A Soldier remembers  by Lt General Harbaksh Singh , Chapters 10-19, published by Lancer Publishers and Distributors New Delhi