32 Squadron Badge found in POW camp in Singapore?
Tigers in the Park
The Adam Park Project (TAPP) is a ground breaking battlefield archaeology project looking into the wartime heritage of the Adam Park housing estate in Singapore. It is headed up by the Singapore Heritage Society and the National University of Singapore and partly sponsored by the National Heritage Board of Singapore. The project founder Jon Cooper, alumni of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, is now currently managing the project.
A very intriguing query was received from Jon Cooper, in that a badge or brooch resembling the SAAF 32 Squadron Badge had been found.
“I am the Project Manager for The Adam Park Project in Singapore and we have unearthed a brooch, enscribed with the number ’32’ and bearing an uncanny resemblance to the emblem of 32 Sqn SAAF at the site of what was an old WW2 POW camp (see attached image). I have found very little on 32 Sqn’s war time record and was wondering how this badge got to Singapore – can you help? were any 32 sqn men sent to Singapore and ended up as a POW?
Steve Mclean, one of our researchers commented ” I’m certain the badge is from 32 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and not 32 SAAF.32 Sqn SAAF only existed from December 1939 to August 1940 and, even allowing for sorties up the west coast into SWA, was very much Cape based. They had very limited personnel, all of whom can be traced to other SAAF units later in the war. Thus, as far as I’m aware, none ended up in a RAF unit that might have seen Far East service.
32 Sqn RAAF was very active in that theatre, flying Hudsons and Bristol Beauforts against the Japanese. Their badge was a frontal image of a parrot (parakeet?) with it’s wings spread. Removing the crown and scroll (rusted away? broken off) and allowing for a bit of rust that may have broken off the badge Jon has, the profile is an excellent match.”
More from Jon Cooper:
“32 Sqn RAAF were fighting in New Guinea, Milne Bay & Coral Sea in 1942 but they weren’t in the Malayan Campaign having been activated on 21st Feb 1942, 6 days after the fall of the Singapore. They were sent to the south of Australia in September 42 to retrain on Beauforts and spent the rest of the war patrolling the East Coast. It is easier to imagine one of their men somehow ending up in Adam Park rather than 32 Sqn SAAF however the badge has no sign of broken bits being missing and is much more like the a diving eagle with a bomb than a parrot on a perch.
My theory is that one of the aircrew from the disbanded 32nd SAAF ended up flying for the RAF / RAAF in Malaya – perhaps swapping his Junkers for a Buffalo !!. The timescale fits for this to happen – my biggest problem is proving this – out of the SAAF airmen in theatre – how many were captured and is it possible to track down their service record?
I’m sure which ever squadron it was the story behind how it got to Adam Park will be as equally as fascinating.
I will pursue this line of enquiry with the RAAF historians but in the meantime please ask around the SAAF vets and historians and maybe something will pitch up on the SAAF guys who were in Malaya and their fate.”
Steve McLean responded:
“Herewith a copy of the 32 Sqn badge (SAAF), the outline of the African continent is missing from the Adam Park badge.
There are a couple of reasons I doubt the SAAF connection:
32 Sqn SAAF existed for a short period of time (Dec 1939 – Aug 1940), and remained a small unit throughout it’s short existance. Only 19 aircraft were ever on strength during this period, some for as short a period as 1 week. At it’s peak, it had three Ju86’s and four Ansons on strength.
Following on from above, it featured a small aircrew compliment during it’s existance, most of which remained from inception to re-designation.
As a result of the limited number of aircrew, all can be traced to SAAF units later in the war. Unfortunately no 32 members survive to this day.
However, as with all matters relying on what was, on occassion, elementary record-keeping by the locals 70 years ago in the desire to hastily swell numbers, there does remain the possibility that an ground crew member’s records slipped through the net.
Allow me some time to revisit 32’s personnel records in an attempt to provide a definitive answer that may, or may not, exclude 32 SAAF.”
Jon Cooper again:
“Thank you Steven
Sounds like you have access to an excellent archive –
One thing we noticed about the badge – it seems to be homemade – roughly cast and lacking great detail. The stencilling of the number is pretty shoddy. We have uncovered other examples of roughly cast pendants and pieces of molten metal – looks like the POWs were possibly making badges to order to pass the time.
Alternatively the badge may have been swapped in Capetown on the way to Singapore as many of the Brits stopped off there on their way to the Far East
Again thank you for your time – much appreciated”
We would be very interested in any other theories or comments?