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War-time Experience of My Life : PRE-CLINK - Part 3 Print E-mail

On arrival back to the community (after the Whiteway liquor party), we were questioned closely by the Director who himself must have been shattered and devastated, as the lock-step life that he and we took for granted. It was now wiped out. But he took it all stoically and with courage. The only remark I can recall from this day was:“Did you bring anything back?" (referring the liquor gala).
“No”, said Brother Bernard.
“Why not?” said he
“Because you said not to,” said our leader humbly.

Unbelievably, or nearly so, next day a call came from the manager of Robinsons, a well-known departmental store. He said he and his family were leaving for Singapore and requested help from us to destroy the liquor stored at the store. Down we went again on this extraordinary mission, and once again we took on the bizaare task, with hardly a thought for the cloister. I often think now, of how bewildered  must Bro. Cornelius have been. He had for many years captained the ship and his slightest wish was a command. Now he could wish and wish, but there was no one to command. He was a captain without a ship. I must not forget to mention here, that Bro. Justinian D’Souza, a member of the community was uniquely helpful because he was quite fluent in the Malay language and real go-gether in every way – as a teacher, as a sportsman particularly on the tennis court etc.

By noon our mission was over at Robinson’s and we returned to “the bosom of our community” – this was the way the Provincial Bro. James referred to it on many an occasion. I must add too that Bro. Bernard was the right man, at the right time. He had a deep sense of humour. It showed itself again and again.We needed that especially, when our cloistered life style was shattered. We had lost our sense of direction to some extent, and a new adventure open its way before us. And by the way, he did not forget to bring back from Robinson’s a gleaming bottle of brandy!

I guess we could be called professional looters by now. Our style of looting was all the more appropriate as time ticked on, because Father Ashness suddenly came on the scene with a request to Bro. Cornelius to provide for a few hundredof his parishioners whose wives and daughters were terrified at the thought of front-line troops on the roll to Singapore. Bro. Corn must have been guided from on high, because he gave  an  immediate assent  and  not  only  that, he  called  us  together  and  informed  us  o this dramatic situation. He even told us to mix with them and comfort them as much as possible with singing, impromptu concerts etc (imagine.....!!)
And where were our R.A.F. refugees you might ask? A few days earlier, they had orders to retreat south. We were close enough to them not only to be informed of their move, but also to be invited to come with them – as all white men falling into the hands of the Japs would be given short shrift to eternity. Needless to say, we were positively elated at the idea and were just waiting a nod from the boss. The nod came in due course but in quite an unexpected way. We were assembled one morning after breakfast and were told of the new prospect facing us.

“Those wishing to go,” said Con, “may go. Just come to the office now to settle things.” I won’t be with you – I’m staying!”

A paradigm shift took place among us and from a group wholeheartedly aspiring to an immediate withdrawal, not even one of us could dream of leaving the old man behind on his own. A unanimous “No” was our response.

Next came a call from the commanding R.A.F. officer to standby, ready for departure. The officer-in charge told us that his men were ready to leave and that space was available for us. Bro. Bernard thanked him profusely but told him that we had changed our minds and were staying put. He stared in disbelief, and then tried to coax us by saying that we might be massacred. The reply was that we would take that risk. We all accompanied him to the departure area and gave the contingent a warm wave and a hearty “God’s blessing!” They returned the salute.

Next issue: 2 or 3 earth-quaking explosion, near and far …….. (please click "Next" to read the final part) 
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