William Bell's Story

The Escape

It was while I was at North Point Camp that a decision was made to attempt an escape from the Japanese. A group of us, including some of my closest friends, were involved in the planning of this escape. One of these Grenadiers was a very good friend of mine named John Payne. John was an artist and drew many sketches of life as a Grenadier while we were posted in Bermuda and Jamaica. One of the sketches he created was of me as an R.P. (see photo below).

We all drew straws to decide who would attempt the escape and, by fate, I drew one of the long straws. The four men with the shortest straws were to carry out the escape. Our officers were involved in the planning and the men who were chosen by the drawing of straws were issued good clothing and footwear, rations, a knife and even a sidearm that was hidden up until then. They were equipped as best as possible "under the circumstances", and given a supply of food that was pilfered from the kitchen, including raw Chinese vegetables like daikons. We had constructed a ladder of sorts out of bamboo which would be used to get the men over the fence.

On Friday, August 21st, 1942, four members of our group escaped from North Point including Sgt. John Payne H6016, L/Cpl. George Berzenski H6700, Pte. John Adams H6294 and Pte. Percy Ellis H6771. The ladder was hoisted to the fence and I was there to assist them when the four of them went over. They were in battle type fatigues and wore putty boots and carried haversacks when they left after "lights out". It was a stormy night and very dark out. The camp was surrounded by water, and I remember there was a san pan tied up on the shore very close to the camp. I'm not sure if the four had used it in their escape though.

At about 11:00 p.m. the following night we were all called out onto the parade square. We were made to stand at attention until about 5 a.m. the next morning. During that time there were many beatings administered by the guards. The night was extremely cold and it was raining. It eventually became clear that our four comrades had been caught, and we were finally allowed to go leave the parade square. Before allowing us to stagger back to our huts, the Japanese assigned each of us into groups of ten men. They made us sign affidavits promising not to escape, and acknowledging that we would be put to death if we so tried. We signed these documents on the advice of our officers. We eventually learned that upon their capture all four of my comrades were beheaded by the Japanese.