Musicka, Harold Wood (Warrant Officer, b.1914)

Accession Number AWM2019.1210.1
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 1 cm; Wallet/s: 1
Object type Document, Diary, Memoir, Manuscript
Maker Musicka, Harold Wood
Place made Malaya, Netherlands East Indies: Java, New Guinea, Singapore
Date made 1973
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection relating to the Second World War service of 2041 Warrant Officer Harold Wood Musicka, No. 1 Squadron RAAF, Malaya, Singapore, Java, 1940-1945.
Collection consists of one typed manuscript entitled “Survival of the Corruptest.” The manuscript was written in 1946 by Musicka, with this copy being one of 15 printed in Port Moresby in 1973.

The manuscript begins in May 1940 with Musicka’s training in Australia, at Laverton and then his journey north to Darwin via Adelaide. Following the trip to Darwin, Musicka moves to Singapore, where he describes the entertainment available to soldiers. This includes shows, sports, fishing, and touristic activities. Next, Musicka moves to Rangoon, with descriptions of visits to Mandalay and other nearby places of interest, including witnessing the long-necked women of the Shan state. While there, Musicka notes an account of meeting with a squadron of RAF pilots who were previously flying Vickers Valenica bombers, targeting small villages in on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, giving a detailed account of their actions. Following descriptions of other sites around Rangoon, the account then moves to Musicka’s time in Khota Bharu, Malaya, just prior to the Japanese invasion.

Musicka notes the Japanese invasion at Khota Bharu, including the Lockheed Hudsons sent to defend their position by attacking the incoming Japanese forces at their landing point. This was the first interaction that Australian soldiers of any kind had interaction with Japanese soldiers. Hence on this defence is also noted the first time Australian soldiers encountered Japanese aircraft such as the Mitsubishi A6M Reisen Zeroes. Musicka notes the destruction of the Allied base, then through the following pages notes his unit’s rapid movement out to Singapore, including their frequently poor treatment as ‘colonials’ by RAF officers – a theme that persists throughout the memoir. At Singapore, Musicka notes the poor air defences and the rumours of other aircraft arriving to defend the city but never arriving. Following the rapid advance of Japanese forces through Singapore, Musicka then notes his move further away to southern Sumatra, then down to Badeong. These movements are done in planes, largely Hudsons, that were caught in disrepair, with Musicka and others patching them up just sufficiently enough to be flown. One account, for example, is given of a Hawker Hurricane using water to supplement the low supply of hydraulic fluid available. After reaching Badeong, Musicka and the remainder of his fellow members of No.1 Squadron make it as far as they can and try to commandeer a boat to try and reach Australia. After describing their search, Musicka discusses them finding a sunken boat, raising and repairing it and trying to sail, however owing to strong tides and poor seamanship, their boat gets washed ashore in northern Java and they are taken prisoner.
The next section of the account relates to various aspects of life living as a prisoner of war of the Japanese in the Pacific. This includes obtaining extra rations, breeding of pigs, tricking Japanese soldiers into providing extra supplies, and a description of a ‘Hell Ship’.

The final section of the memoir sees Musicka discuss the role played by his Japanese captors following the Japanese surrender, and how the power dynamics slowly changed to reflect this.