The following article by the late Captain Fred Stahl (QX6306) was first published in the 8th Division Signals Association magazine “Vic Eddy” in 1994. It tells the story of the first Australian Flag to be flown in Singapore following the Japanese capitulation in August 1945.
THE STORY OF THE X3 FLAG
I called on my good friend Jim Ling, who was a member of a champion "scrounger group", told him what I had in mind, and asked him if he could help. He was not found wanting. Within 48 hours he and his cobbers had obtained for me from the Japs (naturally without their knowledge or permission) some blue material, canvas binding and a length of rope. One of the English lads in the camp donated a Union Jack 18" x 9" which he had smuggled through many searches, and with white handkerchiefs from Red Cross parcels for the stars we had all the necessary material. Fortunately the Japs had supplied us on 1st August with a sewing machine intended to be used to repair damaged Nip uniforms and also what was left of our own clothing, and in Sgt. Darcy Smith of the R.A.O.C. we had a first class tailor. Using as a guide a tiny replica of the Australian Blue Ensign in the A.I.F soldiers' handbook I had carried through all my wanderings, Darcy produced a 36" x 18" flag correct in every detail. That same day the second bomb fell on Nagasaki, and I felt the flag would soon be flying free.
After Sgt. Ohori (known to us all as "Danny") told me in the evening of 19 August that the war was over I attached the flag to a malacca cane walking stick I had carried all through my P.O.W. days, and at daybreak on 20 August I fixed it to the gable of the hut in which I lived. There it fluttered free in the breeze until we evacuated the camp - not at 0900 hours as Danny had said, but at 1200 hours. Though Danny could not avoid seeing the flag, he gave absolutely no sign he had done so, and during the trip by truck from Bukit Panjang to Kranji it gave me a great deal of pleasure to fly the flag, unfurled, from the end of my walking stick, as I did once again next day during our journey from Kranji to Changi.
For the purpose of enabling us all to hear the description of the official surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945, a public address system was erected and the Union Jack was to be broken from the flagpole on the gaol. I received a summons from "Black Jack" Galleghan, our A.I.F P.W. commander. He was a very direct man and when I reported to him he said, "I believe you have an Australian flag, Stahl." "Yes, sir" I said. "I want it", said B.J. "Sorry, sir" said I, "It's my personal property, you can't have it." Fortunately being a direct man himself he appreciated a direct reply. "I don't want to keep it, you bloody fool," he said. "I want you to raise it on the A.I.F Headquarters flagpole to mark the surrender. You can have it back as soon as our own forces bring one in." "That's different, sir" I said, "I'll go and get it." And so the flag was not only the first Allied flag to fly on Singapore Island after the Jap surrender - at Bukit Panjang on 20 August - but it also flew for some days at A.I.F H.Q. at Changi when the Japanese surrender became official.
When I received the flag back from B.J. I found that he had written on the largest star, "Dear Stahl - Good luck. A very game action to fly this flag - FG. Galleghan, Lt. Col. Comd. A.I.F (P.W.) Malaya 20th August 1945." I believe that in making this statement he was expressing his appreciation of the efforts of all who took part in the making of the flag - Jim Ling and his friends who ran a great risk purloining the materials, Sgt. Darcy Smith who took a similar risk whilst making the flag, and of course the donor of the Union Jack - for without them there would have been no flag.
The flag is now in the War Memorial in Canberra and is
on display in the P.O.W. gallery.
Footnote by Mrs Elaine Stahl widow of Captain Fred Stahl 2004. “X3 camp was an isolated Camp at Bukit Panjang, situated approximately at the centre of Singapore Island. The troops had been selected from various units at Changi and Captain FE. Stahl of 8 Div. Signals was O.C, of this Camp. The Camp was opened on lst April, 1945 and closed on 20th August, 1945. The men in the Camp were occupied in building tunnels in the nearby hills for use by the Japanese when the expected landing by Allied troops took place. “A" section lost a member in Ken Wilson who was working in these tunnels when an earth collapse occurred due to the refusal of the Japanese to allow timber shoring up for safer excavation. Jim Ling said at least after this incident the Japs bowed to pressure and from then on this safety measure was permitted.”
Article presented by Lt
Col Peter Winstanley RFD (Retired) JP
with the consent of 8th Division Signals Association and the approval
and encouragement of Mrs Elaine Stahl , widow of Fred Stahl.