In February 1942, Lieutenant Ron Savage, my father, of the British Royal Artillery, was captured by the Japanese Army as a result of the disastrous defeat and surrender of the British forces in Singapore.
Thereafter began three years of the most horrendous privation, torture and brutality in Changi POW Camp, from which only a tiny fraction of his friends and fellow soldiers ever emerged alive.
But this blog is not about that dark period of human history. It’s about how a hiring decision lead to my existence on this earth.
Ron was badly injured in the Fall of Singapore, his leg hanging by a thread. So he was shipped off to hospital at first. That sounds all right, but he was sent to the British Military Hospital, Singapore, where on 14th February 1942, the 18th division of the Japanese imperial Army rushed into the wards and operating theatres and bayoneted a total of 250 patients and staff members. Luckily for Ron, before they could repeat their brutalities in his ward, an officer ordered them to assemble in the Hospital grounds, but not before a group of soldiers had taunted and tortured him by pulling on his traction ropes.
But he survived and spend 6 month recovering on a stretcher in a Changi hut, with injured mates on either side. Roy Cross to the left. Tubby Allen to the right.
And what to do in this hell-hole but to fantasise about what they would do when the war was over?
Ron Savage 1946 (on left)
Roy was of the view that Africa was the future. His father had a business in South Africa, and he suggested Ron join him after the war for a new life in sunny southern climes. Tubby believed in Asia, particularly Malaya, where he saw a post-war rubber boom. He wanted Ron to join him in Perak and start a rubber plantation.
They talked and talked. But, Ron revealed to me later, that they never really believed they would outlive Changi, so it was a distraction more than anything.
Incredibly, all three survived the War.
Ron returned to London, where his East End neighborhood had been flattened, the country was in ruins and under rationing, and the future looked bleak.
While considering his options, a telegram arrived from Roy Cross. “Come to Johannesburg. Job waiting.” A week later Tubby was in touch “Got job in Malaya. Spot here for you. Come at once.”
Ron knew Europe was not for him. He was as proud an Englishman that ever walked this earth, and had literally given blood for the cause, but it was time for a new life.
But he had two firm job offers. What to do?
Remember no Internet those days. No ‘research’. Just gut feel and go!
He talked to parents and friends, and decided he would go to the pub for one last think. Blitz bombing had devastated the area around Forest Gate where he grew up, so he caught a bus into the West End of London.
He was joined by a few mates, and the conversation raged. South Africa or Malaya? Which job should he take?
In the end it was agreed. A coin toss! At the pub! Decision to be made there and then.
And indeed when the coin came down heads, South Africa, Ron left the pub, went home and began to pack.
And I am glad he did. Because the next year he met my Mum in Johannesburg, and moved to Cape Town where my three siblings and I were born, and grew up.
Thanks Ron. A great Dad who took a job on a coin toss, and changed his life. And never, ever looked back.
Today 30th June is Ron’s Birthday. Had he not long-since passed away, he would have been 97 years old, today.
Reposted with kind permission from Mr Greg Savage.
You can catch more of his posts at: http://gregsavage.com.au