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Daniel Ralph Brown ACII RAF 605 Squadron

February 1942

6th February

This morning we are told to pack our kit and prepare for disembarking as we are to reach Singapore today. For the past couple of days we have been passing various small islands all of them colourful and very impressive, but nothing seems to shake off the gloomy feeling at what we can expect in the future. The news reports are getting worse, nothing seems to be stopping the Japanese advance. Early this morning we entered the Sunda straits and all the available points of advantage were taken up with machine gun posts. At some points along the coast we know that the enemy is hidden, unseen but seeing. The convoy is in single line ahead with the escort of destroyers chasing up and down. Singapore is but a short way off.

A flying boat circles overhead, all eyes are looking at it. "Its all right boys, she's one of ours", is the unanimous cry. But simultaneously as the flying boat leaves the danger warning is sounded and "Action Stations" is heard all over the ship. All men not on duty are ordered below, so I make my way below decks. We have hardly settled down and got the cards out when the drone of the enemy is heard, its started. Twenty-seven of them. They dive bomb the convoy for over an hour, and our guns are going continuously. Several times the noise grows fainter and we think the attack is over, only to be once again the target as three more of the planes come down at us and the guns let off at them. Suddenly there is an explosion alongside, the lights go out and the ship lurches. Dead silence below decks and everyone looks at the man in front of him. Then just as suddenly as they went out on come the lights and once more the guns are pumping away. A sigh of relief is heard all round. I think every man aboard said prayers during those few dreadful moments.

At last the raid is over, and we all scramble on deck to see what's what. We find the ship has left the convoy and is in sight of Singapore. There has been a little damage done on deck, two men killed and several injuries. Our gunners had a "bag" of three planes. The "Empress of Asia" was fired and beached. Heavy casualties were suffered aboard. Other ships were damaged a lot more than us, in fact we got away the lightest.

'Scorched Earth' - Singapore harbour after the evacuation; the army destroyed the docks and other equipment: by David Goodwin, Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Australia, 1941-1942
HMAS Perth leaving Singapore to evacuate troops from Singapore to Alexandria. Barrels of an anti-aircraft gun in the foreground. Singapore dock buildings in the background: by David Goodwin, Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Australia, 1941-1942

Docking at Singapore we disembarked the Navy, Army, and ground gunners of the Air Force. Also unloaded guns, ammunition and stores. This lasted till midnight. As there were no stevedores on the docks all the work had to be done by those aboard and I found myself winch driving, a ticklish job. After dark this work became very dangerous as we had to work by flares. While this work was going on we were taking on troops that had come down from Malaya and wounded. Most of them being R.A.A.F. They were in a terrible state, no kit, ragged clothes and many of them had eaten little or nothing for hours.

We left Singapore and its blazing docks and oil wells at midnight and made our way through the Sunda straits under cover of darkness. We were unescorted and alone making for Java. Dawn brought another raid, less severe than the previous one and the gunners succeeded in driving off the raiders before they did any damage.

9th February

Night shift assembling Hurricanes at Batavia airport, 7th February 1942: by Fred Goodwin
Japanese Navy Zeroes attack Tjililitan airfield, 10 miles from Batavia: by Fred Goodwin

We arrived safely at Batavia, Java and disembarked immediately on docking. We had no sooner got our kit onto the dockside when Jap planes were once more overhead. They gave us a sound strafing with gunfire but dropped no bombs.

Directly after the raid we were taken off in "buses" and lorries by Dutch army to an empty school, "King William III", where we were given a meal of bread and butter, bananas and tea. We had a few days leave and a chance to get our clothes cleaned.

12th February

Moved up country by train to Buitenzoeg. This town is high in the hills and therefore very cool compared to Batavia. We worked on an aerodrome just outside Buitenzoeg, which is already subjected to daily raids. Our job was not to send the planes up, the Dutch were doing that. We had to repair the planes as they came back, most of them wrecks. We made good use of our evenings and visited most of the beautiful surrounding country, the parks and villages, not forgetting a good supper each night in Buitenzoeg before returning to barracks.

25th February

This went on for about a fortnight when we had to abandon the 'drome due to bombing and return to Batavia for further orders.

27th February

Sent to Bandoeng where the Air Force had established G.H.Q.

28th February

The next day we went on to the Dutch army barracks at Tjimhai where we worked on the nearby aerodrome at Andir. Only worked at the drome for two days as this was also abandoned.