Last week, when I wasn’t feeling well due to a gum infection, I read Scorpion on the Ceiling, by Roddy Martine, which Santy, my Technical Manager, recommended. Santy was born in Peru, his Mum lives in Spain, he studied in Belgium and married a French woman, so I’m not sure what his interest was in Scorpion on the Ceiling, which is about life in Singapore, Penang and Sarawak in the 1930s and 40s, but I’m glad that he told me about it, and I can now recommend it to others.
I didn’t know much about Sarawak, or about the part Singapore played in WWII, but Martine gives a very readable account of those times, related through the experiences of his parents who were based there.
A lot of effort was put into making Singapore defendable just before the War. It was stocked up with armaments, fuel, and soldiers. A causeway was built to the mainland.
Then when Japanese invaded the mainland further north, most of these armaments were destroyed and the fuel dumps were blown up so as not to fall into enemy hands, and the causeway was breached.
When Singapore fell to the Japanese, the soldiers were then put to work to repair the causeway and rebuild the fuel dumps.
Looked at it that way – what a complete waste of effort!
Some of the civilians in Singapore were able to make their escape before the Japanese arrived, but many were killed or captured and the same hapened in the islands further south. Martine’s mother walked through the jungle from Sarawak and eventually made it to Australia, whilst his father ended up in Changi Jail for some time.
Here are some other books by Roddy Martine.