James Kerr - Changi

Running time
2 min 35 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


There was 12 of us, 12 anti-tankers taken prisoner in Malaya, and then we re-joined the unit in October 1942. It was tremendous, catching up… Changi compared was a holiday camp, of course, you know? The food was quite good, three meals of rice a day, a little stew, a vegetable stew sort of thing. And it was run like an army camp, firstly, you never saw any Japs. So it was run like an army camp, except you were eating rice.

The officers were getting around as if, you know, it was still peace time. And yeah, they wanted to be saluted, and we were having parades and all that sort of business. I got myself into a bit of a strife, we used to have a parade each afternoon at roll call, and you're allowed to smoke until you were told: "Cigarettes out". So I, whether I didn't hear the order one day, I can't remember, but I took another puff as the commanding officer and his new orderly sergeant were walking through the ranks.

The commanding officer went "Put that cigarette out!", so cheeky mate being me, I took another puff. So he said, "You're under arrest". So I fronted the commanding officer and I had 21 days detention. So I was in Changi jail, in another jail, inside Changi looking through the bars doing 21 days detention for smoking on parade.

And the military police, the 8th Division of the military police were in charge, I always hated and still hated them. So they run a pretty tight ship in peace. So after 18 days, I got three days for omission. So I thought, "How can I get something of our own back here, they got their own veggie garden the MPs".

So there was five of us, we called ourselves the diamond gang. So five of us went over there one night and raided their veggie garden. People speak of Changi, you know, well you're in Changi as if it were some horrible camp like Belsen or one of those. But Changi compared to what went on in Thailand was nothing. I would have been happy to have stayed in Changi for three and a half years, I know that.

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