Excerpt from “The Naked Island” by Russell Braddon ~~Captured~~

We worked on a “two-man-ahead patrol” system – on the All Clear from them the remaining seven moved up, whereupon the next two took over. Thus we leapfrogged for about two hours. Hugh and I patrolled together: Harry and the first infantryman, called (we now learnt) Herc: the two young sigs: and the sergeant and Sandshoes.
The latter pair were now ahead. We waited for their “All Clear”.
“Pair of no-hopers, they are,” declared Harry acidly, as he lay with his feet resting high up against a rubber tree, “done nothing but bellyache ever since we started.”
There was a moment’s silence whilst everyone thought of the undoubted degree of the no-hopers’ capacity for bellyaching.
“O.K.,” said one of the sigs, “she’s clear up ahead.” We looked up and saw the sergeant waving us forward.
Harry got to his feet and Herc with him. Roy and Rene, the sigs, followed with the officer. Hugh and I brought up the rear. As fast as possible we walked forward to where the two bellyachers waited and then on along their patrolled beat. We had covered perhaps fifty yards of it when we cleared the first small rise in the rubber. The jungle lay cosily by our left hand. We trotted down the far side of the rise. And instantly the air was full of bullets, whilst ahead of us and to our right about fifty yards away, with automatic weapons blazing, were Japanese soldiers. We had walked straight into an ambush. The bellyachers had funked their patrol.
I didn’t wait to see what happened. I was off at once, sprinting wildly, towards that jungle on the left. Beside me, I was aware without seeing him, ran Hugh. Cursing myself for every fool in the world, I thought yearningly of those four beautiful hand grenades now lying uselessly beside a canal the other side of Yong Peng.
“Stop there,” I heard the officer’s clear voice directed at us, “stop and surrender or we’ll all be shot” and my absurd Army training made me falter for a second and look back. I saw Herc already bleeding from a wound in the arm; and Sandshoes and the sergeant lying on the ground; and the officer standing quite still, the sigs looking at him questioningly and Harry in outrage. Just for a second we faltered. As in any race, when one falters, it was then too late. The path to the jungle was cut by a Jap soldier with a tommy gun. We stood still, our only chance lost. Then, very slowly, very foolishly and with a sense of utter unreality, I put up my hands.
At that moment all that occurred to me was that this procedure was completely disgraceful. I have not since then changed my mind. I have no doubt at all that I should have continued running. One does not win battles by standing still and extending the arms upwards in the hope that one’s foes have read the Hague Convention concerning the treatment of Prisoners of War. It was unfortunate that the Army had trained me sufficiently neither to disobey instantly and without hesitation, nor to obey implicitly and without compunction. Accordingly, I had done neither: and I now stood in the recognized pose of one who optimistically seeks mercy from a conqueror whose reputation is for being wholly merciless.
The enemy patrol closed in on us. Black-whiskered men, with smutty eyes and the squat pudding faces of bullies. They snatched off our watches first of all and then belted us with rifle butts because these did not point to the north as they swung them around under the ludicrous impression that they were compasses. They made dirty gestures at the photographs of the womenfolk they took from our wallets. They threw the money in the wallets away, saying, “Dammé, dammé, Englishu Dollars”: and, pointing at the King’s head on the notes, they commented: “Georgey Six number ten. Tojo number one!” And all the time two Tamils stood in the background, murmuring quietly to one another, their hips tight-swathed in dirty check sarongs and their wide-splayed feet drawing restless patterns in the bare soil of the rubber plantation.
“Done a good job, haven’t you, Joe?” demanded Harry savagely but they wouldn’t meet his eye. Just kept on drawing in the dirt with their toes.
Hugh picked up a ten-dollar bill and stuffed it defiantly back in his pockets. Then they tied us up with wire, lashing it round our wrists, which were crossed behind our backs and looped to our throats. They prodded us onto the edge of a drain in the rubber. We sat with our legs in it, while they set their machine guns up facing us and about ten yards away.
“That bloody intelligence officer would have to be right this time of all times, wouldn’t he?” demanded Harry we all knew that he referred to the “Japanese take no prisoners” report, and Herc, bleeding badly, nodded rather wanly.
“We must die bravely,” said the officer desperately at which the sergeant howled for mercy. Howled and pleaded, incredibly craven.
Neither he nor Sandshoes had been hit at all when I had seen them prostrate on the ground, merely frightened. The sergeant continued to bawl lustily. We sat, the nine of us, side by side, on the edge of our ready-dug grave.
The Japanese machine gunner lay down and peered along his barrel. It was my twenty-first birthday and I was not happy.

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1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Military, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “The Naked Island” by Russell Braddon ~~Captured~~

  1. Russell Braddon was born in Sydney, Australia on 25 January 1921, and died on 20 March 1995, aged 74 years. “Naked Island” was published in 1952, detailing his experiences in World War II, with four years spent as a prisoner of war.

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