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Authors: Douglas Reeman

Pride and the Anguish

BOOK: Pride and the Anguish
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Published by McBooks Press, Inc., 2016. Copyright © Douglas Reeman 1974. First published in the United Kingdom by Hutchinson, a division of Random House Group Ltd.

The right of Douglas Reeman to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the written permission of the publisher. Requests for such permissions should be addressed to McBooks Press, Inc., ID Booth Building, 520 North Meadow St., Ithaca, NY 14850.

Cover painting: Geoffrey Huband

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Reeman, Douglas, author.

Title: The pride and the anguish / Douglas Reeman.

Description: Ithaca, New York : McBooks Press, [2016] | Series: Modern naval fiction library

Identifiers: LCCN 2016003107 (print) | LCCN 2016008300 (ebook) | ISBN 9781590137093 (paperback) | ISBN 9781590137116 (ePub) | ISBN 9781590137109 (Mobipocket) | ISBN 9781590137123 ( PDF)

Subjects: LCSH: World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Singapore--Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Sea Stories. | FICTION / Historical. | GSAFD: Sea stories. | War stories. | Historical fiction.

Classification: LCC PR6068.E35 P75 2016 (print) | LCC PR6068.E35 (ebook) | DDC 823/.914--dc23

LC record available at
http://lccn.loc.gov/2016003107

Visit the McBooks Press website at
www.mcbooks.com

First digital edition

Author's Note

T
HE INVASION
and lightning defeat of Singapore—the “Gibraltar of the Far East”—was a catastrophe and a disgrace, but like most military disasters there were shades of glory, too. Looking back over the twenty-six years since those tragic days it is perhaps significant that the courage and desperate determination of the few overshadow the craven incompetence and foolish optimism of the many.

Today, the true weight and meaning of that defeat are still showing themselves, for with the fall of Singapore an enduring and respected link between East and West was broken. It has never been, and may never be, repaired.

The reasons for the swift success of the Japanese invasion have been stated many times. The ill-founded belief that an enemy would attack by sea and never through the Malayan jungles. The confidence in naval and air power, which because of other commitments and crushing losses, as well as shortsighted planning, were not available when they were most needed.

But there were other reasons of a more personal nature, for which there was no quick solution. While far-off Europe had endured two years of anguish and war, Singapore had retained a remote, colonial existence, where segregation was the rule rather than the exception, and the bravery and value of fighting men were not considered until too late.

When the blow fell, morale crumbled with it, because danger, like affluence, cannot be shared unequally.

D.R.

1 | The Flagship

T
HE MIDDAY SUN
blazed relentlessly across Singapore's wide naval anchorage so that the lines of moored warships and auxiliaries seemed pinned to the sea's flat, glittering surface like models. Around and between the grey hulls there was an aimless but constant movement of other, stranger craft. Sampans and water-taxis, and tall weathered junks, reminders of another way of life which lay behind the haze-shrouded hills and the gleaming white buildings which crowded the waterfront.

The slow-moving taxi ground into bottom gear and climbed up a straight road away from the anchorage, its wheels spewing out yellow dust across the ever-changing procession of Malays, Chinese and Indians which grudgingly parted to allow the taxi through, and then closed ranks immediately in a seemingly endless throng of humanity.

The Sikh driver swung the wheel and jerked the taxi to a halt. “This is the place, sir.” He stared incuriously at the square white building with its marine sentry and neat Malay policeman and reached out to open the door for his passenger.

Lieutenant Ralph Trewin winced as he stepped on to the road and felt the sun smash across his shoulders like an open furnace. He saw the helmeted marine watching him cautiously, and beneath his unblinking scrutiny he felt suddenly unclean and crumpled. He was wearing the same uniform in which he had stepped aboard the big troopship at Liverpool, and that too seemed to add to his sense of unreality. It was like part of the England he had left behind. The England of 1941, grey and grimly united at the end of a long summer of disasters and defeats.

He turned and shaded his eyes to peer down at the shimmering anchorage where some sturdy tugs were already nudging the same troopship into the fairway ready for her next trip. Out here, in the sunshine, surrounded by life and colour of another
world, she looked alien, a reminder of the war Trewin had left behind. She was an old Shaw Savill liner, her tall sides shining in dazzle paint and streaked with rust and red lead from her new and harder usage. Trewin watched her backing between two anchored cruisers and then thrust her from his thoughts. That part of it was over. The long weeks in convoy, with each thrust of the screws carrying him further and further from the life and death he had come to understand so well. Even the stopping places seemed vague and distorted now. Through the Bay, with its high-crested rollers and the nerve-jarring crash of a torpedo in the night as a lagging freighter fell victim to one of the shadowing U-boats. Gibraltar, and a day of gaiety, the strange sights of well-lit shops, crowded streets, but hardly a woman to be seen. On and on, with ships joining and leaving the convoy like busy tradesmen. Freetown, where the battered little corvettes had handed over to an escort of lean destroyers. Simonstown, and, after a night of heavy drinking, on across the empty vastness of the Indian Ocean to Trincomalee, where the trooper had taken on another mass of soldiers en route for the final destination, Singapore.

Trewin paid the driver and turned hastily away as the taxi roared back down the hill, tooting noisily as it cleaved through the endless throng of people.

Trewin returned the marine's salute and walked through the gateway. There was a well-watered square of lawn upon which stood a painted signboard. It stated: “Rear-Admiral, East Coast Patrols.” Beside it was a smaller board which said: “Tennis tournament tonight!”

He strode along a neat gravel drive, his uniform clinging to his body like another skin, his throat dry and craving for a drink. He still did not know what he was doing here. He had left England with a handful of other naval personnel, his orders clear and concise. He was to take command of an armed patrol launch, one of several which were being sent to Singapore to help in the work of preventing infiltration by saboteurs and
arms-smugglers. But within a few minutes of the troopship's arrival he had been seized by a harassed lieutenant from naval headquarters and had been ordered here instead.

When he had pressed the officer for further details he had snapped, “Your launch never arrived, old boy. Nor did any of the others. The ship bringing them was torpedoed two days out of the U.K.” He had smiled vaguely. “Curiously enough, their engines got here right on time in another ship.” He had gone off, shaking his head, without a further word.

A marine orderly stepped from the shade and asked, “You'll be Mr. Trewin, sir?” His eye strayed to the wavy gold lace on his sleeve and his lips puckered slightly. “If you'll come this way, sir?”

Trewin followed the orderly through a long, cool corridor, past offices which for the most part seemed deserted and silent. He had not failed to note the expression on the marine's face. In point of fact, Trewin had already noticed how few reservists there seemed to be in Singapore. Like the war, they seemed apart and far away.

The marine opened a door and said curtly, “If you'll wait here.”

Trewin walked to the window of the small waiting room and stared down across the square of green grass. He could see a few groups of white-uniformed officers walking away from the main building as if some silent signal had driven them from their hidden offices.

Another door opened, and a tall, tanned lieutenant in white drill gestured with a sheaf of papers. “In here, please.” He waited until Trewin had followed him into the larger office and then said impatiently, “You're a bit late, Trewin, so I'll make it short.” He leafed through some more papers and added, “You know about the change of orders, of course?”

“Only what I was told in the trooper. Does that mean I'll be going back to England now?”

The lieutenant stared at him. “Good Lord, no!” He glanced at his watch. “You've been passed on to us. A lot of our people
have been sent away to other ships. We're getting a bit thin on the ground out here.” He looked over Trewin's creased uniform. “Still, I expect you'll settle in all right.” He handed Trewin a sealed envelope. “You're to report aboard the
Porcupine
immediately. It's all in the envelope, old boy.” He reached under his desk and picked up a tennis racket. “Now I must dash. I've got to get in some practice.”

Trewin stood his ground, feeling the tired anger throbbing behind his eyes like an old wound. “What is the
Porcupine
? And what am I supposed to do?”

The lieutenant glared. “You're to take over as first lieutenant.” He walked deliberately to the door. “I'd have thought that as a reservist you'd have jumped at the job!”

Trewin had been carrying his raincoat across his shoulder, and very deliberately he let it fall across his arm. He saw the lieutenant's eye fall to the ribbon of the Distinguished Service Cross which had been hidden beneath the raincoat and then said calmly, “Thank you for telling me. Now don't let me detain you from your, er, duties.” He walked past the officer and out into the sunlight.

The marine orderly was waiting for him. “I've laid on a car, sir. It'll take you straight down to the flagship right away.”

Trewin turned guardedly. “
Flagship?

The marine nodded gravely. “Oh yes, sir. The
Porcupine
is the flagship of the squadron.”

Trewin was still smarting from the lieutenant's rudeness and his own cheap revenge. “That'll make a change!”

He waited as the marine went to call the car's driver and then stared at himself in a tall mirror beside the entrance. Even if he had been dressed in a crisp drill uniform he guessed that he would never match the other officer's smartness. There was something rebellious, even wild, about himself, he thought vaguely. The grey eyes which stared back at him from the mirror were steady enough, but there was something else too. Hurt perhaps?

He was tall and well proportioned, but any smartness gained by the strong shoulders and the easy stance was lost immediately in the dark, unruly hair which curled up around the edges of his cap.

Almost nervously he moved his left shoulder and tried to gauge whether the stab of pain was really from his wounds or from their memories. He closed his mind to them immediately. They were behind him. This was now.

He saw the driver watching from the doorway. “
Porcupine,
sir?”

Trewin hitched his raincoat across his shoulder and picked up his case. He nodded firmly.
“Porcupine,”
he said.

T
HE LITTLE HARBOUR LAUNCH
wended its way casually between the busy traffic of native craft and service boats, a defiant plume of blue smoke trailing from its funnel. Trewin, the sole passenger, stood in the cockpit his arms resting on the canopy, his cap pulled forward to shield his eyes from the glare as he watched the anchored ships sliding past. How different they all seemed from those he had left behind, he thought. They looked clean and graceful, well painted and ready for an inspection. Taut awnings shaded their quarterdecks, and more than once he saw a raised telescope watching his slow progress.

Again he felt his mind drawn back to his last ship. Actually she could hardly be described as a ship. A Fairmile armed motor launch with a three-pounder, a couple of machine-guns and a crew of sixteen men. But she had been his command, and they had gone through a great deal together. It was easy to think back and see things more clearly than at the time. But Trewin was equally sure that commanding M.L. No. 99 was the first positive thing he had achieved in all his twenty-eight years of life.

BOOK: Pride and the Anguish
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