Abdul Wahid - Wartime Experience
Written by Macbool Wahid
My father, Abdul Wahid was born in India on 11th May 1919, not long after the Great War which saw commonwealth forces serving alongside the British Army. As a young Muslim individual he enlisted in the British Indian Army along with countless other individual men answering the call to defend India against tyranny by the Japanese Empire.
After he finished his basic training, he then qualified as a mechanic and was part of ‘36 Mobile Unit’ which was possibly part of ME501 which is the marking on what we believe is his cap badge. His unit boarded a troop carrier ship heading to possibly Singapore, during the voyage the ship was blown up with the loss of countless lives. However, my father along with others survived the sinking and clung to a plank which was part of the debris; he drifted in the ocean for three days, and was eventually picked up by enemy forces and taken as a prisoner of war on 14 February 1942, to be held in POW camps.
He was forced to have “A Wahid” tattooed on his arm so they could identify him, made to do hard labour in extreme conditions and suffered a broken arm and other injuries during his incarceration in three POW camps ending up in Singapore region.
- Feb 42 – Jul 42 | Camp 1 | Saleeta | Singapore
- Jul 42 – Aug 44 | Camp 2 | Singapathani | Singapore
- Aug 44 – Jul 45 | Camp 3 | Java | Indonesia
We do know that something about his incarceration changed and his conditions were eased he was allowed to leave the camp but was still classed as a prisoner of war.
Just prior to my father’s death we discovered that during this time my father met a lady whom he married. He called her Singapore Ki Rani which means princess of Singapore, they had a daughter together, but at the end of the Second World War when the British Army finally came to take all the freed soldiers back to India, dad wanted to take his wife and daughter too, but was categorically told by the British Army that he either divorced her or he would not be given passage back to India, given such a drastic dilemma my father chose to return to India He left Singapore with the promise to return but never was able to return to see his wife and daughter.
In time he re-married in Pakistan after the Independence and separation of India. My father and mother travelled to England in the early Sixties establishing a home and family eventually settling down in Bolton.
During his lifetime my father rarely spoke about his time during the Second World War and what he went through as a POW, however sometimes he would be shouting in his sleep and occasionally what we assumed were Japanese words. It was only towards his later stages in life after falling ill did my father speak to us about what happened which is detailed above, he tried to find his old unit Captain but to no avail. My father passed away on 6th February 2001.
As a child I remember watching war films as that was one of the things my dad wanted to watch on TV, and it was my father who inspired me to join the Army straight from school at 16½ I enlisted in the Royal Signals serving 9½ years full time. I subsequently re-joined the Army Reserves in 2003 and I am still serving .
His life was living history of just one of the soldiers who was loyal to the British Indian Army.