A HAND painted card read ‘bring your plate, fork and spoon to E garden.’ It was an invite to a first birthday party in an internment camp in Singapore.


Jenny Martin spent the first three years of her life interned and when her first birthday was marked all the children in the camp joined in. Food and ingredients had been saved up and it was a day to remember.
That invite is now on display in the Red Cross Museum in London 75 years after a three-year-old Mrs Martin and her mum were liberated. They were freed when Victory in Japan was secured on August 15, 1945, bringing the Second World War to an end.
As a young child during internment, Mrs Martin has few memories and like most former internees her parents rarely spoke about their experiences.
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However, when her mother was asked to speak to a Women’s Institute meeting in the 1970s, their story was captured for the first time.
Mrs Martin, 78, said: “I went to the meeting and heard much that I had never heard before. I still have her typescript – which she called “Cover my Defenceless Head. When we returned to the UK in October 1945, families got a letter from King George VI. It said to put things behind us and get on with our lives and that is what my parents did. 
“I knew my family history and about what had happened, but it was rarely spoken about. My father never spoke about it.
“Men and women were separated in the camps and my father Hamish Davidson, known as James, was sent to work on the Burma railway. He was very ill, diseases such as typhoid, beriberi, were rife - we were very lucky to have him back at all.”

HeraldScotland: Jenny Martin's parents Daphne and Hamish Davidson met in SingaporeJenny Martin's parents Daphne and Hamish Davidson met in Singapore
As the 75th anniversary of the end of the war approaches, Mrs Martin says it does make her reflect.
“It does make me think about my father and mother Daphne and how we were saved in the nick of time. Already we had been suffering from a lack of food and I don’t think the Japanese army could feed us any longer or themselves. 
“The Children of Far East Prisoners of War group has been important to me and you can open up speaking to other members in the group who know what you have been through.”
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Her father, from Inverness, went out to Malaysia in 1923 when he was 19-years-old and was in charge of a rubber plantation in Malacca. However, when the slump came in the 1930s, he found himself jobless in Singapore and living in a small guest house where he met Mrs Martin’s mother.
She had been born in Singapore, to a colonial family. Both her parents were born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. When she met Mrs Martin’s father, she was working as a secretary for the Colonial Secretariat.
When they were expecting their first child, Mrs Martin, however, the Japanese army invaded the peninsula and took Singapore on February 15, 1942.
“My mother was very busy at work up to the last moment burning files in an incinerator at the back of the office. The house had been bombed and they had moved to a flat in Fort Canning. But like many other women, she found herself taken, with one suitcase. That was all she was allowed, and it contained some muslin nappies, as she was taken to Changi Prison,” said Mrs Martin.
“As she was pregnant, she was allowed to ride on a truck with others who were elderly, pregnant or with small children, including her sister Diana who had a little daughter just eight-months-old. Their youngest sister Isobel had to walk the long hot trek from Singapore city.”

HeraldScotland: Propaganda image taken of baby Jenny and her mother DaphnePropaganda image taken of baby Jenny and her mother Daphne
Conditions were overcrowded with a squatting toilet in each cell. They had showers but there was a shortage of bedding and furniture.
Mrs Martin added: “Men and women were separated, but one way the women tried to send a coded message was by sewing the famous Changi Quilts. Using the fabric of the rice sacks, my mother embroidered a square on one of them, stitching over her signature. I knew nothing about it until I returned with my family in 1991. My cousin told me to go to the Changi Museum as there was something my mother contributed to. It too is now in the possession of the Red Cross museum.”
When her mother was due to give birth, the camp commandant arranged for her to go to Kandan Kerbau Hospital nearby for her confinement.
"When we returned to the camp the women were getting only half the food they needed, and a quarter of what they were used to. I got the best nourishment for my age, of course, but when a photograph was taken of me for propaganda purposes, a bottle was supplied. All other photographs or cameras, had been confiscated so it was the only picture mother had of me as a baby.”
It wasn’t until Easter 1943 that Mrs Martin met her father for the first time.
Mrs Martin added: “My father had been sent to look after the Japanese officers’ horses on one of the islands off Singapore. I was about ten months old when I met him and someone had made me a pram out of an old box.
“He said "woman, don’t you know you should never have a baby facing the sun?” and he picked me up and turned me round. That was the only time he ever saw me before my third birthday."
Mrs Martin and her mother were moved to Sime Road camp, an old RAF camp in 1944, where there was more fresh air and a chance to grow vegetables.
“We were all under nourished by then and had a pound of rice per person per month to live on. The women were very depressed, but thankfully I was just a child and didn’t understand it all, but then everything changed.
“Unknown to us, a bomb fell on Hiroshima and then another on Nagasaki. One day the guards all disappeared and then a plane flew overhead and dropped from its undercarriage thousands of leaflets, which fluttered to the ground like snow. Around me everyone was saying: “Thank God, thank God!” The leaflet read: “The War is over. Japan has surrendered. We are coming for you very soon. Do not over-eat!”
Mrs Martin and her mother boarded the first ship to leave for the UK, the Monowai, and returned home in October 1945 to enjoy their first Scottish family Christmas.