By a Staff Reporter.
"Singapore Cathedral was packed out that last Sunday morning, I can tell you. A young priest gave a stirring sermon. . . You should have seen the long lines of people waiting for Confession. I was among them, of course. And the priests—members of a French Order—so calm and detached and slow about the whole thing, giving advice to each penitent in turn! I felt it wasn't advice I wanted so
much as absolution! " The girl, a teacher who had begun by pleading that she had nothing to say, was at length warning up to her subject.
The tale of her escape covers two months, from December to February, and the givat stretch of the Malay Peninsula between Kuala Kangsar and Singapore island; her journey was crowded with incident. She saw little fighting but much confusion. And she has brought home with her some very definite impressions.
" I was teaching in Kuala Kangsar," she told me, " when we had our first warning of the rapid approach of the Japanese. Plans for the removal south of all white women were kept very secret, in order to cause the natives no alarm. I was to leave with another English girl who had been trying to make up her mind for months to marry. We were already on the move when I heard she had hurried north to Taiping towards the advancing Japanese, having at last made up her mind."
" Did she escape?" I asked.
" Yes, she got away by car, though her husband was captured. I think he was serving with the volunteers.
" Our destination was Ipoh, and—by the by—the seven or eight newspaper correspondents in the company lowered slightly my good opinion of the profession."
" Why was that?"
" Well, they were apparently being paid to relay first-hand information and impressions from the fighting line, and here they were on the run with the rest of us, depending on stray reports."
She thumbed a dog-eared diary.
NEW YEAR'S DAY • " Tell me." I ventured. " how did you spend New Year's Day?"
" Very queerly," she answered, " I played golf in the afternoon. We were still at Ipoh."
" Peculiar you should enjoy quiet and golf with the guns blazing under a hundred miles away," I aid. " Was this an ' official ' calm?"
"Alas, it was. There were two reasons for it, I think. The first was the desire to prevent any panicking, and to carry on normally until the enemy were practically on top of us; the second was a curious, cloudy optimism that ' somehow everything would be all right.' It was aggravating our attempting to explain how swiftly the Japanese were coming on and how terribly dangerous the whole situation was.
" There was complete faith everywhere, just as there was in England during the Battle of France. Then we would occasionally hear news of the
Malayan fighting transmitted to us Irons London and discover, to our amusement,. that the forces of the B.I3,C. were still fighting for territory actually yielded to the Japanese two or three days before."
NO TREACHERY—ONLY INDIFFERENCE " in Burma," I said. " enemy progress was often made possible by treachery. Did you find or hear anything similar with regard to the Malays?"
" There was no treachery so far as I know. There was a definite indifference. The Chinese, forming a kind of middle-class backbone of the peninsula, were always, it seemed to me, a closed community of their own with no roots. They would remain outside their own land until they were rich enough to return. The Malays were no more positively loyal. They all melted away before the invaders."
" What was the attitude of the people in Singapore?"
" The same as everywhere else on the road down. There have been exaggerations in the press here about the unreasoned nonchalance abroad, and yet I did hope that the official eye would be more opened by events to the desperateness of the situation. ' Everything as usual ' was the order of the day : there were troops in abundance with little to do, and during my month in Singapore I slaved away as a canteen-worker."
(Continued on page 5)