James Kerr - Cut off and surrender

Running time
2 min 27 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Unfortunately, we never got back to the main body again. So we're 19 men behind the Japanese lines, then. So all we did was try and get food off the natives to feed 19 men, just sleeping wherever you could, and then we decided it was just too hard to get enough food for 19 men, so we decided to split into three groups. I went with five other members of the 2/29th. So our aim was to get to the west coast and steal a boat and try and get out of Sumatra. So we were just walking all day, trying to get better food off the natives, sleeping wherever we could at night.

And then this day, we met a well-educated Indian, and he said, "What are you doing?", so we told him what we were going to do, our plans. He said, "Did you know that Singapore had fallen?", and we said no. He said, "It fell five days ago". So that was the 20th of February. So we had been wandering around like we had been for over a month. So we had a talk amongst ourselves and we said to him "Do you know if they're taking prisoners?", and he said, "I wouldn't know"…

So we decided that we couldn't keep going the way we were. So we decided we'd let him go and bring the Japs up to us. So we waited there not knowing what our fate would be. And out they came and unfortunately took us prisoner. We just sat there quietly. We didn't talk amongst ourselves. And when the truck pulled up, there was a drain, we're on one side and the path ran down the other side. And we heard the truck pull up, so we stood up and they came down with their rifles, so we just put our hands up and we jumped across the drain and they put us in the truck. Strangely, they put us in the truck next to their rifles. So I thought that was a good start. But they could have shot us there on the spot and nobody would have known. They would never have known our fate. But they took us prisoner, so we were fortunate, very fortunate.

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