Sunday, December 21, 2014

PENANG “Big bomb ends long nightmare for war-weary Penang folks”.

It's been awhile since my last posting. Oh, how time flies these days! After a long break, I like to divert to something else for a change.

I’ve extracted an article published by the New Straits Times on 19th February, 1992. The article was written by my late uncle Ahmed Meah Baba Ahmed, who was the eldest son of my late grandfather, Capt. Baba Ahmed, JP. 

He recollected memories of the last days of the Japanese occupancy in Penang, when the Second World War had just ended. Catch a glimpse (below) of what happened in Penang, during those historic moments.


AHMED MEAH'S  PROFILE 
Below, my late uncle, Ahmed Meah
receiving award from the 
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) .
MY FOND MEMORIES 
Ahmed Meah is fondly remembered by me, and everyone who knew him, for his gentle mannerism. I was very close to him, especially in his later years. I remember him as a soft spoken uncle, who was always smiling. Oh yes, he was very good at relating stories, that would leave his audience spell-bound.

He was a highly sensitive person. However, I had never seen him angry, or utter any harsh word against anyone, even those who were not so popular with him. He was easily pleased and appreciated little gestures of kindness he received. He was grateful and content with the life that he was Blessed with.

He was acknowledged for his achievements and never once bragged about himself. He was humble, sincere, and generous in sharing his knowledge.


Ahmed Meah was raised well by his father, Capt. Baba Ahmed whom he respected highly. He followed his father's footsteps and chose a career in Medicine. In his early years he was very close to his father, and they lived a very comfortable life. However, their lives changed drastically when the Japanese invaded Malaya. Thereon, he and his family struggled, as most people did at that time. He had many stories to tell of his experiences during the Japanese occupancy, and this was one of his stories.

He is loved and fondly remembered by me.  May his soul rest in peace.

(Right)  Photos of him and his family. The government residence they lived in, became barracks for Japanese soldiers, when Malaya was invaded.

"BIG BOMB ENDS LONG NIGHMARE FOR WAR-WEARY PENANG FOLKS" 
Written by Ahmed Meah Baba Ahmed. 

"The Japanese military occupation of George Town had lasted 44 months from 1941 to 1945.  During this period Penangites had been subjected to the nightmare and horror of an occupation by a totalitarian regime.

So when the occupation forces announced in the Press and through the radio on Aug 8, 1945 that Dai Nippon’s enemies had used a new type of bomb (only very much later described as the atomic bomb) on a Japanese city causing very extensive damage, Penangites with the exception of the quislings, were suddenly engulfed with a feeling of relief and high hope that the war and thus the brutal occupation would end sooner than expected.  

Malaya would not have to face another military campaign, this time, by the Allied Forces to recapture the country. This cherished hope turn into reality when on Aug 17 the Japanese Military Administration issued an official announcement stating that acting on the revered order of the Japanese Emperor, all hostilities had ceased on Aug 14, 1945.  However, Penangites had to wait another two weeks before the island was liberated.


Word spread like wildfire that the Royal Marines would be landing at 9 am on Sept 3, 1945 at Swettenham Pier.  Suddenly, thousands of Penangites had gathered at the pier, along Weld Quay, the Esplanade and along all roads leading to the pier.  Penang road was impassable because of the very huge crowd.  Never in the history of George Town had thousands of disciplined Penangites gathered for an occasion.


The Nips were also there at specific locations along the route staring ahead and seeing nothing.  No one was worried or interested in them anymore. This was their turn to experience the humiliation which they so cruelly inflicted on the British at Bukit Timah, Singapore, on Feb 15, 1942.  

The landing took place as scheduled.  Immediately on landing, the Royal Marines hoisted the Union Jack, the flag that was used in the Battle of Gibraltar. The Royal Marines in lorries, with tommy guns, looked serious and were apparently prepared for any eventuality. The serious look turned into broad grins at the first call of “Hello Johnny” from the crowd.  Then suddenly there were spontaneous and infectious “Hello Johnny” all along the route to the Royal Marines camps.


Handshakes, cigarettes, bread and chocolates were distributed as the happy crowd responded with thunderous hurray! There was this 11 year old beggar boy, shirtless, emaciated with scabies all over the body and terribly hungry standing with the others, along Penang Road near the former Queens’s Cinema (now Cathay Cinema).

His pathetic appearance must have tugged at the heart string of a young marine. This marine reached out his hand with half-a-loaf of bread towards the boy.  With a bewildered look in his eyes, the boy quickly grabbed the bread, his face turned into a broad smile.  The next moment he was already eating the bread with a relish suggesting that he had been starving for several hours.

This urchin could consider himself very fortunate along with many other fortunate Penangites, who were among the first to taste and appreciate bread, real bread, the type Penangites were accustomed to before the war, unlike the unpalatable hard, maize-based bread distributed by the Japanese.

Two inventions were introduced to Penangites for the first time.  The first was the jeep – a versatile military vehicle highly suitable for difficult terrain.  The second was penicillin which was immediately used in the Penang General Hospital with very dramatic results –much to the delight and satisfaction of surgeons Dr. R. Apparajoo and Dr. Tan Hor Kee and physicians Dr. S. M. Baboo, and Dr. R. Letchmanasamy.  

On Sept 9, 1945, the official landing ceremony was held at Swettenham Pier.  Several companies of Royal Marines took part.  This was followed by a route march. Admiral Walker took the salute. Thus ended an era of subjugation that Penangites would like to forget.  Today, 47 years later, Penangites marvelled at the achievement and prosperity of the Japanese nation. What their forefathers had failed to achieve through military force, the succeeding generations of Japanese have achieved the impossible through sheer hard work, and good work ethics with their first loyalty and priority to the prosperity of their nation.


In the dark days of the occupation, Penangites very reluctantly looked East to bow out of respect for the Tenno Heika.  Ironically, today they willingly look East for another reason – for Japanese technology, investments and loans to develop Malaysia into an equally prosperous nation”.

(Article source - The New Straits Times 19th February, 1992)

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