The George Wills Tapes
George Wills was 21 years old when Japanese troops attacked Malaya and Singapore on 8 December 1941.
Over the next four years, George was to be confronted with all the defining events that characterised the collective experience of Saigon Battalion: the ill-fated defence of Singapore, six weeks of captivity at Changi barracks, and then fifteen months on the Saigon docks before being transferred to Thailand to work on the Burma Railway.
After completion of the railway, he became one of the hundred or so POWs from the Saigon group to be selected for the "Japan party". They sailed from Singapore as part of a much larger contingent on 4 September 1944, on the suffocatingly overcrowded Japanese "hellship", the Kachidoki Maru.
On 12 September 1944, the Kachidoki Maru was sunk by a US submarine, the USS Pampanito. Most of the Saigon Battalion men on the ship had either died on board, or were drowned or eaten by sharks. But almost fifty of them did survive, and one of them was George.
All the survivors had jumped within the first ten minutes. After two days drifting in the freezing South China Sea, George was picked up by Japanese vessels and taken to Japan to continue his captivity. He was still there, nearly a year later, when he saw in the far distance the atomic mushroom cloud.
Like many, George rarely mentioned his terrible wartime experiences in the decades that followed.
In later years, however, his son Alan arranged for him to be interviewed by a representative of the Imperial War Museum, in the hope that he might speak more freely to an independent expert than he could to those who were closest to him.
These audio tapes of those interviews are thought to represent the only occasion on which George told his full, remarkable story.
Audio clips below...