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War-time Experience of My Life:PRE-CLINK - Part 2 Print E-mail
Fate was never on our side. To begin with military command took over St. John’s and asked the Director to make available classrooms on the ground floor for members of the R.A.F. This was the moment we were waiting for. Removing desks and chairs etc. became for us a labour of hope and a gesture of participation of a “piece of pie in the sky”:we loved it and our love increased with the arrival of military trucks with mattresses, pillows and blankets. How good it was for us to share in our humble little way in what we knew was the spring-board of Armageddon for the enemy. We also knew that we had Singapore, battleships and aircraft carriers etc. etc. etc. and what made our optimism greater than ever, were vivid newspaper accounts of the tremendous strike power of the H.M.S. Prince of Wales which had recently been launched. They also portrayed the enemy as coming from a nation not only short in stature, but also a nation suffering from a high rate of short-sighted people.

Shortly after we had everything in place, the moment of disillusionment came. Our R.A.F. visitors started to roll in, not in the usual spick and span military trucks that we had come to associate with British Military equipment, but rather, in nondescript lorries labelled as property of this tin mine, that tin mine, this rubber estate and that rubber estate, this provision supplier and that provision supplier, etc. etc. Were we dreaming or what! It turned out that we were not dreaming, as load after load of fair skinned, blond hair, blue-eyed personnel jumped from their transport and lined up in military style for instructions.The Officer-in-Command, as I recalled, spoke to our Number Two, Brother Bernard Jones and asked for instructions. He was shown the rooms made ready, and the school hall and soon the contingent was housed as comfortably as possible.
                  
Slowly news filtered through that these men had lost their equipment and were on the run to Singapore. Their non-desript transport was what they had commandeered along the way, to replace their own trucks which could not cross the rivers where bridges had been blown up by Jap infiltraters.

Things began to settle down however and we had lots of occasion to chat with these men. Like ourselves they  were puzzled by the debacle they had experienced. They were confident of a haven in Singapore’s impregnable fortress and an imminent recovery of their base in Butterworth. One conjecture, in fact the only one that made sense, was that this withdrawal of British and Commonwealth forces was just a stunt to entice the Japs into stretching their forces too far thus preventing them from a defense position and a counter attack. This was random thinking to say the least and more “pie in the sky.” No one had even the inkling of the detailed planning and scope of the mighty war force and ambition to destroy the Asian British Empire.

The R.A.F. forces stayed for about a week and their relationship with us was cordial and a pleasure. The cloistered life that had been ours, was to a great extent only a dream by now, apart from morning prayer, meditation and Holy Mass and an evening prayer we were more or less on our own. 

One day a call came from Whiteway and Laidlaw for help to destroy its liquor stock. Somehow Bro. Bernard got the use of a small pick-up truck and driver / owner. Five of us went on this extraordinary mission. It is no exaggeration to claim that we made cocktail history. We assembled in the lane behind the store, a sliding panel was raised, and out came a long ladder with rollers instead of rungs. Armed with a hatchet each, we began the cocktail party. From inside the store, case after case of the finest whiskies, brandies, gin, rum etc. etc. came rolling. Our job was to hack open each case, to take one gleaming bottle after another , deliver a death blow and dropped the shattered bottle to the ground. It was worth mentioning that a group of labourers (trishaw pullers and others) soon got wind of the party and stared lovingly and longinglyat what might have seemed  more than a mockery. Armed British guards stood grimfaced and ready for action, should our thirsty audience attempt a sally. It must have been a sacrilege in the eyes of the guards too, but duty came first. Soon there was a steady cocktail flowing from our hatchet work and some of our spectators dared to scoop up peg after peg. I wonder if we had on our hands an item for the Guinness Book of Record!   

An hour later our job was done, we were invited in to the ground floor to help ourselves to anything. We could not see what was available because there were no lights, and day light was cut off by sand bags piled high outside the store. So monk after monk began to emerge with arms full of anything – ladies and gents felt hats, dresses, bloomers, shoes, soaps etc. etc. It seemed ridiculous at that time, but proved a boon for some 400 refugees that were about to come to the relative security of the S.J.I. from Rawang area north of KL.

Note: More liquor party …….. (please click "Next" to read part 3)
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