Signaller lucky to escape from Singapore

Name: Allan Quick
Date: 1942
Unit: L Section, 8 Division Signals
Location: Singapore, Ceylon

For someone who was a signaller trained to keep things short and to the point, Allan Quick wrote remarkably thoughtful and detailed letters home from the war.

His wife received a number of letters after he had been wounded in Malaya, written first from hospital in Singapore and later, after evacuation, from 12th Australian General Hospital in Ceylon.

Allan Quick remained positive through his ordeal, despite his serious injuries, and spent more time worrying about his comrades left behind in Singapore.

Malaya 24 January 1942

We are still getting heavy air raids here. You can guess where I am at the present time. [Despite the address on his letter, he was actually in hospital in Singapore.] I can't get much further away from the fighting. The Japs dropped a stick of bombs the other day that fairly shook the building, it was certainly not far away.

The boys have certainly been through a issue up at the front, they are fighting tremendous odds. I struck a mate of mine here in hospital, wounded, they luckily escaped through the Japanese lines when their unit was surrounded. They were subject to machine-gun fire, dive bombing and everything the Japs could hurl at them. Fortunately all their party got through and after several days wandering through the jungle they came across one of our units and the wounded were sent back to hospital.

One thing, if a man is lucky enough to get through all this, he will certainly have something that will stay in his mind forever. There are sights that will take some forgetting. I say lucky enough as I think those who come through will have plenty, I don't wish to alarm you.

Singapore 3 February 1942

Now we are all back here (Singapore) it will at least give the boys a chance to have a rest for a while. They have been through a gruelling time. I can tell you it has been no picnic. They fought bravely against great odds and suffered hell from the air. They were subject to continual dive bombing and machine gunning from the air. Many went out never to return but I suppose that is war. This little animal called man with his modern method of destruction must have his fling. I suppose it is the greed within us all. Let us hope that after this storm is over some method will be devised that can bring all mankind together so that we may be permitted to live in peace.

I can tell you it was a pitiful sight to see those refugees streaming down the road. They had lost everything. Their years of toil went in just a matter of a few minutes. All their life savings and means of livelihood were wrenched from them. It is a gloomy outlook, but they remain cheerful and perhaps just as well.

About three weeks ago we returned to Segamat, I daresay it is permissible to mention names now, our original battle stations were not in that area, but we spent several months in camp there after we moved from the island.

Segamat was on the main northern road and it was through here that we saw all the refugees streaming down to the island. They were just coming in from Kuala Lumpur when we arrived there, the Japs were hot on the trail.

Ceylon 23 February 1942

Well from the address you may gather that I was one of the few fortunates who got away. When you think of the poor beggars who were left behind, the nurses, the sick and wounded, it makes you shudder. Although I hear that quite a number of nurses got off the island at the last moment and that the Japanese guaranteed the safe passage of another boat back there to take off more of the seriously wounded, If this rumour is true it will at least be comforting to know that some of these poor beggars will be able to get away and receive some attention, which I assume would be certainly limited there.

We certainly have no complaints of the Japanese treatment of hospital ships. On two occasions a Japanese bomber circled around the ship we were on, they came down to about 50 feet, just circled around, waved and made off. They could have quite easily given us a bomb instead of a wave.

On another day about six bombers flew over but did not worry us. It is rather hard to understand the attack on the hospitals and hospital ships in Darwin. When you hear that some of the planes carried a Swastika they may also have been in charge of Germans, which may account for the attack, but one never knows.

We only got away at the last moment. They only held out a couple of days more so I consider myself extremely fortunate. What happens next we don't just know. We will have to wait and see. We thought at first we would be taken straight back to Australia, but received a disappointment. Anyhow, most of us will be able to get about by the time we get there.

I am making good progress and have hopes of getting the old plaster off in a week or two. It is not too choice getting about on crutches, I have had six weeks of it. You know how I feel about being laid up for so long.

It is certainly good to be out of Malaya, the climate here is much more pleasant & bearable. I have been wondering how things are getting on at home.

We have all had anxious moments and will possibly go through more before this is all through, but we must not let it get us down. The main things is to keep fighting and do everything in our power to put a speed end to it all and settle back to a normal life again, and live like human beings.

Allan Quick left Ceylon early in April 1942 and returned to Australia. He resumed duty despite suffering from jaundice and was posted to Queensland where he was involved in the testing of mustard gas. He died in 1963 from cancer at the age of 48.

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

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Signaller lucky to escape from Singapore, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 9 December 2023,
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