Saturday, December 17, 2005

Celebrating X'mas in Ipoh, 15 December 1941

" ... In these December days the town, sparkling under the Malayan sun in its lovely setting of forest-clad, limestone hills, looked as quiet and peaceful as it had ever looked. The casual observer would have noticed little that was out of the ordinary in the life of the streets. Cars, buses, bicycles, rickshaws, thronged the road; hawkers tortured the air with their raucous cries; people of all races - Europeans, Chinese, Malays, Indians - seemed to be going just as usual to work or to market. The schools had closed for the Christmas holidays, and children were everywhere at all hours, dragging their parents round the shops and gaping at the bright treasures they contained. One big store among the many gaily decocrated shops was the particular focus of children interest. There in the entrance stood a tall, scarlet-robbed Santa Claus, nodding his head and beckoning the children to step inside and admire the wonders of Toyland. Beside him was a post-bag into which children, anxious not to be forgotten, dropped their letters. From morning until evening he was surrounded by an eager crowd, excitement and joy ...

" This was the scene I passed when, on the morning of the 15th December, I set out in a small car to visit a maternity case in the little town of Chemor, on the main road, some ten miles north of Ipoh ... when I noticed a number of aircraft circling like hawks above the hills. Mat Yunus, the chauffeur, noticed them too. 'Look at the planes, Missy,' he said. 'Why should we fear when the R.A.F. is guarding us?' The aircraft did not look to me like the R.A.F. Bufflaloes with which we were familiar, nor had their engines the characteristic sound of the American planes ...


'The Japs are over Ipoh,' he said. Many bombs have fallen in Brewster Road, and I think your house is on fire.'

It was a moment before I was able to speak. Then, 'I must go back at once," I said.

'Don't do that, Missy. You'll never get through. It's terrible. The planes are still over, and they're machine-gunning the streets. I was nearly killed."

'I must go. I must find out what has happened to my children. Besides, I may be needed.'

+ Excerpts from Madam Sybil Kathigasu's wartime memoirs, No Dram of Mercy (Singapore, Oxford University Press, 1983; pp. 18-19).The Chinese translation of the book was published last year and its English original will be reprinted soon to honour this great Christian Malayan of Eurasian origin who sacrified so much to save lives and to fight those shameless fascists who brutalised our land and people with barbarity beyond human comprehension and imagination +

Britain's Malayan Campaign

Communist Party of Malaya's Defend-Malaya! War of Resistance

60th Anniversary of the Victory of Anti-Fascist War

BBC History - World War Two