Alexandra Hospital

The Alexandra Massacre

Jeff Partridge, PhD Candidate, National University of Singapore, in Association with Alexandra Hospital and Singapore Polytechnic




Preparing for War

Diary of a Young Medic

Malaya Under Attack

The Alexandra Massacre

Civilian Hospital

First Limb Re-Attachment

Purchasing the Book



I. The First Massacre: February 14, 1942

The first Japanese troops could be seen from the hospital's upstairs verandah around 1:00 p.m. They advanced in single file, led by a soldier carrying the red and white Japanese flag. All were dressed in green uniforms, steel helmets, camouflaged with tree branches and twigs, and armed with rifles with bayonets and sub machine guns. They were moving up from the Ayer Rajah Road, with another group advancing towards the Sisters' Quarters. Although the hospital was clearly marked with red crosses, the international symbol for medical sanctuary, Captain J. E. Bartlett of the RAMC decided to take no chances. When a Japanese soldier entered the gap of the overlapping blast wall, Captain Bartlett went out to meet him. The Captain raised his arms to signal his peaceful intent and pointed at the red crosses on his brassard. As he spoke the word "Hospital," the soldier raised his rifle and fired at the Captain at point-blank range. The Captain dived into the adjacent ward duty room as a hand grenade exploded near him.

Around one hundred camouflaged soldiers advanced in short rushes, taking cover wherever possible. In his office, the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Craven, began discussing surrender with the Registrar, Major H. Henderson, the Hospital Chaplain, and Major J. W. D. Bull, who had just entered the room to report on the Japanese attack. Looking out the window, Major Bull saw two Japanese soldiers about two-hundred yards away, one with field glasses and the other with a rifle. The Major took up a red cross flag and held it up at the window, thinking that there might be some doubt in their minds that they was still a hospital. The Japanese responded with a shot which missed Major Bull and struck the wall behind him.

Then the hospital was wrapped in such cacophony that it was impossible to know whether the battle was outside or inside. Shouts and screams followed a battery of explosions and gunfire. Men ran in every direction for cover. Thirty minutes after the assault, Lt Col Craven, Major Bull and the other officers were finally able to make their way to the ground floor below the C.O.'s office. The scene was a bloodbath. Some fifty dead and many more wounded were strewn throughout the hospital.

II. Terror in the Operating Theatre

For Captain Smiley and his colleagues in the operating theatre, it had been an exhausting day. The surgical team had continued operating throughout the barrage of shells and bullets. One of the Japanese platoons climbed into the verandah between the operating theater block and the surgical wards, firing into the corridor. The surgical team tried to carry a patient from the corridor into the operating theater, but were prevented by a hail of bullets that thudded against the walls. Captain Smiley approached the doorway and pointed to the Red Cross on his arm, but took cover when a shot whizzed past him and struck Private Lewis in the shoulder.

A Japanese soldier entered the room and found the men standing together in the middle of the floor with their hands above their heads. He motioned the men into the corridor. There a dozen Japanese soldiers set upon them with bayonets. Dr Rogers was stabbed in the right side of the chest and two more times as he lay on the ground. Dr Parkinson, who tried to run around the corner into the main corridor, was gunned down. McEwan and Lewis were killed by bayonet. The patient in the theatre, who was under anesthetic, was bayoneted to death on the operating table.

Captain Smiley received a thrust in the breast, which was deflected away from his heart by a cigarette case in his pocket. He blocked the next thrust with his arm and took the dagger in his groin. The next two thrusts severely injured his right arm and hand. Captain Smiley fell onto Private Sutton, who had thus far escaped attack. The Captain told Sutton to fall down with him and pretend to be dead. After the soldiers left, Private Sutton dressed Captain Smiley's wounds. Both lived to tell of this event.

III. The Second Massacre: February 15, 1942

In another part of the hospital, the Japanese were busy assembling a group of more than 200 surrendered men. They were hospital staff and walking wounded, some of them in splints and bandages and hobbling on casts. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were then tied into groups of eight. These groups were led out of the hospital by the north wing. A group of about sixty officers and men gathered from the upstairs area joined this larger group.

The prisoners were herded along the railway tracks, past the burning Normanton oil tanks, through a drain tunnel under the railway embankment to the Ayer Rajah Road, then to a row of buildings a quarter of a mile from the hospital and set about fifty yards back from the road. Men who were too weak to walk were allowed to lay their arms on the shoulders of more able-bodied men. But those who fell were bayoneted and left for dead. As fighting around the hospital was still intense, the prisoners were also subjected to the shelling of their own army.

The prisoners were packed into three small rooms, the biggest of which measured approximately 10 feet by 12 feet. Each room was crammed with 50 to 70 men. The doors were barricaded with lengths of wood and the windows shuttered and nailed up. There was no ventilation. The men remained tied together, but managed to take turns sitting on the floor to rest. A number of men found it possible to untie themselves and others, but there seemed no way out of the building short of a miracle. The men were forced to relieve themselves where they stood. All were thirsty, and many severely dehydrated. Some became delirious and slipped into unconsciousness. A number did not survive to see morning.

The following morning, a Japanese officer opened the door of one room and said in broken English, "We are taking you behind the lines. You will get water on the way." When the Japanese began taking the men out two-by-two along the courtyard and around the latrine, the prisoners' hope for air and water brightened. More than 100 men were led on the water march. Soon the prisoners left behind began to hear screams of anguish, and cries of "Oh my God," "Mother," "Don't, don't." The sight of a Japanese soldier wiping the blood off his bayonet confirmed their worst fears: the prisoners were being systematically massacred.

Suddenly, the sound of shelling could be heard. One shell struck the end of a building and tore the doors and window shutters, filling the air with dust. A number of men dashed from the building. Most of these men were shot down, but a few of them managed to get clear of the buildings and into the brush surrounding the storm drain. These included Corporal C.N.C. Bryer, Privates S.W.J Hoskins and F.A.H. Gurd, Captain R. de Warrenne Waller and Medical Corporal G.W. Johnson. These were the only men out of two hundred taken prisoner in the servants' quarters who lived to tell their stories.

While the massacre was underway across the railway tracks on February 15th, the hospital had become a battle station. No medical activity was allowed by the Japanese. Later in the day, the remaining prisoners cleaned up the wards. Medical Ward 6 was turned into a mortuary.

At 8:00 p.m on February 15 the allies surrendered to the Japanese.

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