By Ian D. Henery
Written for Walsall’s community play
Uncle Bill is a story of a Walsall man who left his home town in 1935 to go to one of the outposts of the British Empire. He joined the Singaporean Volunteers Regiment, a real life Regiment who served with distinction with the Australians on Jranji Beach to thwart the Japanese invasion in February 1942 and thereafter with the Malays along the Jurong – Kranji Line he surrendered to the Japanese and became a prisoner of war. The graves of the Singaporean Volunteers Regiment are in the Kranji Memorial in Singapore which is also where, poignantly, Presidents of Singapore are Buried.
The plight of the Westerners in Asia during World War 2 has obscured the views of local people. The nadir of Japanese behavior was on the Thailand – Burma Railway in 1944. Western accounts estimate he suffering of British, Americans and Australians state around 14,000 died. In fact, 10 – perhaps 20 – times as many Burmese, Indians, Chinese and Malays were to perish. Of the 78,204 sent from Malaya, a staggering 29,638 died. The source of this information is the acclaimed book, “Forgotten Armies: the fall of British Asia 1941 – 1945” by Christopher Bayley and Tom Harper, Published by Allen Lane.