Extracts of Singapore Burning
From Chapter Twenty-three:-
For the Australians all the rumours they had ever heard about Japanese bravery,
or fanaticism if you were at the wrong end of it, were coming true.
But it seems that several of the Japanese, though prepared to die rather than
be captured, were playing dead in the hope that the Australians would move on
and leave them to fight another day.
Sergeant Desmond Mulcahys particular Lazarus was a fallen sergeant of the
Konoye Guards. He was about to search him for the letters and unit identification
beloved by battalion intelligence officers, when the dead man sprang indignantly
to his feet with a grenade in his right fist. Mulcahy grabbed his left hand to
stop him pulling the pin. This was good thinking but it allowed his opponent
to bludgeon him about the head with his grenade while he did his best to fend
him off with left jabs. Mulcahy shouted for help and while he was holding his
arms the Guards NCO, so far from the pomp and circumstance which had moulded
his military career, was first bayoneted and then shot.
More puzzling was the case of the unarmed man who got to his feet and charged
Private Bluey Watkins, a Welshman born in Swansea. Watkins had sportingly
thrown down his rifle and took on his assailant only to have the bout ended by
a .303 fired at such close quarters it left him deaf for a while. There appears
to be no good reason why this particular Japanese could not have been restrained
and captured. But it seems that it rapidly became the norm, as it did almost
everywhere the Imperial Japanese Army ever met western troops, to regard almost
any attempt to take them alive as much too risky. From that first engagement
we learnt not to trust their wounded, remembered Charles Warden, a private
in B Company during the fight outside Bakri and, five months short of his seventeenth
birthday, one of the 2/19ths underage infantrymen.
Both sides could be unpredictable. At Slim river the Argylls Lt Primrose
had shot a Japanese officer in the stomach at close range and survived a beating
to be taken prisoner. Yet the Japanese had casually murdered those wounded prisoners
unable to walk rather than be inconvenienced by them.
By the time they had made sure of every Japanese they could see, and counted
all the bodies, Andersons battalion reckoned they had killed 140. Among
them was an officer wearing a distinctive white shirt who died leading an ill-advised
charge. He was hit by Bren and tommy and rifle fire and his shirt just
flew into little pieces, observed Warden. Australian losses had been ten
killed and fifteen wounded. With this and the destruction of the tanks the Australians
had started as well at Bakri as they did at Gemas but it would turn out to be
their high water mark.