Stolen Years: Australian prisoners of war
The Selarang Barracks Incident
On 30 August 1942 the Japanese demanded that the prisoners at Changi sign a document promising not to escape. To British and Australian prisoners, who saw it as their duty to escape if they could, this was unacceptable.
To force the prisoners to comply, 15,900 British and Australian prisoners in Changi were ordered into the barrack blocks and parade ground of Selarang Barracks. Before the war the barracks had held just 800 men. Only three taps were working, and latrine pits, kitchens and hospital beds were crowded into an area of about a square kilometre.
For four days the prisoners remained firm. Dysentery broke out and sick men began to die. Realising that more would die needlessly, the prisoners’ commanders decided that they would agree to sign, under duress. This became known as the Selarang Barracks Incident.