The low down on Malaya

Name: Anonymous, Through magazine
Date: 1941
Unit: Signals 8th Australian Division
Location: Singapore

Through magazine was the official journal of Signals 8th Australian Division. The first edition was produced in Singapore in December 1941, shortly before Singapore fell.

It contained numerous articles covering the various phases, activities and talent of Signals 8th Australian Division.

It was edited by Cpl G.C. Bingham and had as its patron Lt-Col C.H. Kappé.

Under the heading Impressions of Malaya, a number of short articles, written by members of the Division, were published.

By A Man in the Ranks

There are many in Australia who have friends, relatives and loved one sin this country, and whose thoughts must turn continually to this strange - and to them - very much unknown land. We, in writing, have failed often to let them know what conditions, hardships or comforts we experience.

I have taken the opportunity through the pages of my Unit journal to describe the conditions under which we as a Unit are living and which would be fairly representative of the whole of the A.I.F. in Malaya. Nor am I disillusioned.

Malaya, like the Near and Middle East, is suited to a certain percentage of temperaments. The glamour of tropical moons, swaying palms and green jungles lose their appeal when one is forced to live under the palm trees continually, to suffer the tropic moon as it is suffered elsewhere under more romantic conditions, and to penetrate this jungle which often hits back with its many pests and discomforts. On the other hand, there are many who can sincerely eulogise on the glory of tropic moons, on the soft fronds of swaying palms, and on the dark mystery of the jungle. To both we take off our hats.

I would say that on the whole we are happy, without knowing it. Psychologically there is the constant protest against inaction. We enlisted to do a job. Fight Hitler. Very good. Gradually we are realizing our part in the Great Scheme. Slowly we are seeing the truth of the adage "When the cat's away the mice do play". We realise mice can be troublesome, nibbling at forbidden food.

Our comforts are not few. In this camp we live under canvas. We have lockers in which to place our clothes, we have charpoys on which to sleep, in contrast to the old palliasses of our own country. In this camp too is a recreation tent. In it we have cane chairs and tables, we have books and a wireless which alternately announces "V for Victory for England" and "V for Victory for Germany over the rest of Europe". Writing paper is supplied. Comforts issues, at first far apart, now come twice monthly and thereby we are spared much expense.

The leave we have is very good. Now we may see Singapore be we anywhere in Malaya. The kind people of Singapore have built us a spacious Anzac Club. We can tour Singapore in the day and for twenty cents (about 10d) sleep in good quarters at night.

The food is good in our camp. It is in fair quantity and is well cooked. I doubt whether that is so in all camps. I have experienced otherwise.

So much for camp life and conditions. It is necessary to do a little debunking. We do not dance with taxi girls, forget our wives, sweethearts, sisters and mothers, and make brutes of ourselves in the dark, drab parts of Singapore. The greater percentage of taxi girls are not a doubtful quantity. Their parents wait to escort them home. The price of dancing is above the means of any Private or Signalman.

Food is dear. Clothing is dear. Presents are dear. Everything is dear. We have been the dupes of vendors of goods in shop and on the street, who took advantage of our guile and innocence. Now, we know differently, and in our dearly bought experience do we warn and coach others who would not believe such sweetly smiling faces could hold the souls of aught but angels.

We do not go to millionaires' homes. Millionaires are scarce, therefore the scarcity of millionaires' homes. The country does not abound in palatial swimming pools in which 'bronzed gods from down under' lave their magnificent bodies, and then occasionally dash off to do a jungle march, lay a line or fiddle with a morse key.

The white residents of the country have been very good to us but in a quiet way. We have to seek our own amusement, and have found it mainly in the canteen, the recreation hut and in bug infested cinemas. Some of us study the quaint customs of the people and delight in learning their language. Contrary to general opinion we do not have hobbies. We do not collect match brands and weave mystic materials. We indulge in good clean sport and have a record in cricket and football of which we are justifiably proud. We have made friends with the people of all colours. Meanwhile we are training steadily, waiting for the day when we will relieve or join our mates in the Middle East, or, should things take a sudden turn, the end of this hopeless strife called war.

All we ask is that we should not be glamourised, painted as sinners or saints.

We have a task to do. We are doing it. Let Australia herself awake to the responsibility which is hers.

Written by an anonymous "man in the ranks" for the first edition of Through, the magazine of Signals 8th Australian Division, published in Singapore in December 1941.

The material for this article was supplied by Mrs E.A. Quick of South Australia


Last updated: 3 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), The low down on Malaya, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 2 October 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/low-down-malaya
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