Thursday, 21 February 2013

Research on Arthur John Jones RAF - can anyone help?


Hua Jones writes....

My father, Arthur John Jones, died in 2011 at the age of 92. During his life he sometimes referred to his time in the RAF as a flight mechanic/rigger, particularly in India (Peshawar I think) and Singapore.
In relating his story about leaving Singapore I hope it might “ring a bell” with someone. As a child of the fifties I have been fortunate not to have witnessed the things that my father did, I therefore feel that the stories I recall may have been censored.

He was in RAF 36 squadron working on Wildebeests and Swordfish and described being on the base during bombing raids when the “old hands” like him, would just roll under their bunks as the Japanese methodically bombed the officer’s quarters and the cookhouse.

He was always adamant that he was on the last ship out of Singapore (I assume that many ships were the “last” ship) but he described his experience as follows. He was ordered, with some other RAF men to go up to the hill where there were British troops overlooking the straits. He had been told that they (the troops) had spare shaving kit etc. And that they were to collect it and report to the dock. In conversation the troops told him they would be on the next boat out – the one after his – but he always maintained that this would not happen as he was on the last boat - a fact which he did not pass on to the soldiers.

My recall is that he says he left Singapore on the SS Mendoza which I suspect is incorrect – either in my recall or his. However he told a story that they were instructed to liberate anything (loot) which might help them survive the passage out of Singapore. The only “food” they could find was tinned asparagus and boxes of chocolate which they loaded on the tramp steamer that was taking them out. As he walked along the dock with an armful of boxes of chocolates a submariner called him over to his docked vessel and asked could he have a box of chocolates, to which my father said “yes”. The submariner told him to wait a moment and disappeared. He re-appeared with a book, a Pears Cyclopaedia, which he gave to my father. When he tried to refuse it the submariner said “one thing on one thing off”. He still had the book in 2010 but after his death it had disappeared from his effects.

He only talked about his voyage from Singapore in his last years, I believe they were attacked by Japanese aircraft and he told me they were pursued by a Japanese warship but escaped by hiding in a shallow river in Sumatra where the warship could not follow. Other stories involved the captain of the all India women’s hockey team – which, as any child would I found embarrassing and didn’t pursue too far.

Interestingly though he described an Anglo Dutch matriarch and hospital matron who, with her daughter,  entertained him and some other colleagues on his way out to Singapore (would it have been in Java?). His descriptions were very vivid and when, one evening I watched a documentary on the facts behind the fictional series Tenko, one of the women the series was based on was being interviewed. I telephoned him immediately and he confirmed it was his hostess from around sixty years  previously.

I am visiting Singapore in a few weeks time  so my father’s stories a very real to me at the moment, I hope these ramblings are of interest to you and that they might help someone give me a few clues to research.

Russell Braddon


Dr. Nigel Starck, Biographer of Russell Braddon visits Singapore
By Andrew Glynn
In January I had the chance to meet with Nigel Starck and talk about his excellent biography on Australian author Russell Braddon.

Surviving the horrors of the Thai-Burma railway, Russell Braddon aged 21 weighed just 32.7kg.

Drawing on his experience as a Gunner in the 2/15th Field Artillery and the horrid conditions as a Japanese prisoner slave, Braddon wrote a gripping yet critical narrative. The “The Naked Island”, condemned by Australian officers, has sold over 2 million copies and remains in print.

Struggling to re-adjust in post war Australia, Braddon suffered a mental breakdown, attempted suicide and spent five months in a mental institution.  Booking a passage to England with the last of his army pay, what followed was a prolific writing career of 15 fiction and 15 non-fiction books and a distinguished BBC career.

Finally, the fascinating life of Russell Braddon has been immortalized in “Proud Australian Boy”, by Dr. Nigel Starck, of the University of South Australia.

Braddon hoped a biography would never be written. Indeed after a long career in London, he destroyed his personal papers before returning to Australia. Beneath the fa├žade of Russell Braddon, lay a largely concealed personal life at odds with values of that time.

Which makes this biography all the more extraordinary. Building from Braddon’s surviving papers, Nigel Starck embarked on a remarkable journey of discovery that brought him in contact with his former Managers, Accountants, friends and partners. Including Dame Joan Sutherland (who writes the forward), the artist Ronald Searle (creator of St. Trinians and Thai Burma railway veteran) and actress Lesley Hazlitt (formerly Piddington).

This is a remarkably detailed and captivating biography (now an entrant for Australian Biography of the Year), and I thank Dr. Starck for sharing details of his journey of discovery with us.  It’s a little hard to buy, and the best way to get a copy is direct from Australian Scholarly Publishing www.scholarly.info.

Eric John Batten - can anyone assist?

Peter Batten writes......

I have been doing some Family tree research and eventually got a round to trying to document my Fathers Career.

ERIC JOHN BATTEN 1907-1982

He worked for the Admiralty in the Naval Base at Singapore  and had 3 tours of duty in there:-

1937-1942
1946-1950
1956-1959

So he was there and got out from Singapore when the invasion and fall occurred.

I don't have much information , like many he was rather reticent about talking through events . though he did say he escaped through the jungle and managed to get a ship, which I think was a Destroyer, he used to play the piano and I believe he did some entertaining to keep spirits up on the journey out. Though where that was to I dont know. He also remembered the huge cranes being toppled into the docks to deny them to the Japs

His retirement record shows detached duty in Hong Kong, Bombay, Java, Columbo and Sarawak though again don`t know what this involved.

He was an Engineering Design Draughtsman and went on to be involved in Torpedo Tube design for the rest of the war then to Hamburg and Kiel German Naval Dockyards after VE day to research what ever could be found!.

Thats just a bit of background , having seen your site after a few idle searches I thought I would ask if you might have any suggestions or indeed knowledge of where and what I should be looking for to give me some more insight into those chaotic last days.