A 93-year-old veteran who served in Singapore during the Second World War has spoken of his “emotional” return to the city state for the first time in 73 years.
David Pack, who lives in Shirley, Solihull, joined the RAF as an eager 17-year-old in 1939 before the war began and was posted to Singapore in August 1941.
He went on to serve in various parts of Asia until the end of the war, when he settled in the Midlands and joined Warwickshire Police Force.
Until this year he had never been back to Singapore since leaving the island on February 13, 1942, just two days before the then British colony surrendered to the Japanese.
But with the help of a grant from National Lottery subsidiary Heroes Return, which funds commemorative visits for war veterans, widower Mr Pack had the chance to revisit sights he never thought he would see again.
He said: “I went back to my old RAF station, Tengah, which is now the Singapore Air Base. The billet that I lived in was still standing, though not in use.
“And the twin water towers that I used to climb up looking for Japanese aeroplanes were still there.”
The trip also allowed Mr Pack to visit the Kranji War Memorial to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the war.
And in the two-week tour of his old stomping ground there was time for more light-hearted moments.
Mr Pack was determined to return to renowned luxury hotel Raffles after he was refused entry as a teenage airman.
“I tried to go in 1941 and they said no, you can’t go in, you’re not an officer,” he said. “When I went back, I went for lunch with the party I was with and I mentioned what happened 70 years ago. I went to Raffles mainly to say to them that they had refused me access before, just to say now I’m back and that’s what happened 73 years ago. I was merely a 19-year-old, naive and believing the world owed him a living.”
Although the hotel was still standing, Mr Pack said Singapore was barely recognisable as the place he lived in more than seventy years ago.
“It was the first time I had been back in 73 years. It was emotional, very emotional indeed in places, but the Singapore that I knew bears no resemblance to what it is now.
“It’s a marvellous state now, it really is. Back then – you can’t compare the two. There’s been 72 years of development. They have done all sorts of things.”
The veteran found himself something of a celebrity in Singapore, being interviewed three times by the local press.
But modest Mr Pack is adamant that he is not a hero.
“I don’t allow sentimentalism or people saying we were brave,” he said.
“It was a question of you were there, you had a job to do. I was one of thousands of us who did our job.
“I’m not in any way asking to be regarded as brave.
“I just want to thank the lottery people and the people who play it for the contribution they made towards the cost of going back there. Most people don’t even know that the fund exists.”
Designed to reflect the nation’s debt to Armed Forces veterans of the Second World War, the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return programme has to date awarded over £28 million to more than 57,000 Second World War veterans, spouses, widows and carers to make journeys of remembrance. Call Heroes Return on 0845 00 00 121 or visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn.