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Otterman speaks...

Cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore - Archives

List of Categories : cycling * meow * world * movies * NUS * mangroves * mac and the internet * lit * Singapore Naturalist * museum * science * kakis * life in Singapore * travel *

Tue 06 Jun 2006

Penrod Vance Dean, R. I. P.

Category : life in Singapore

We were lucky to have the accounts of Penrod Dean - most recently, National Archives put together a documentary you can see at Memories at Old Ford Factory. There he gives an account of "The Malays" in the hours leading to the Battle of Pasir Panjang.

"The Malays started to fight the Japanese on Reformatory Road," said Lt. Penrod V. Dean of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. "They had dug slit trenches but they didn't have a lot of weapons. They started fighting the Japanese just with rifles virtually. And when the Japanese broke through them, the Malays took to them with bayonets, they put bayonets on the rifles and with a bayonet charge they drove the Japanese back across Reformatory Road."

"They were very brave people. They fought very hard, but for every Malay soldier there was about 10 or 12 Japanese soldiers. So it was inevitable what was going to happen."

- Trancsript by Trey tm at Mind's Eye.

The Pasir Panjang Guides were just informed by Kenneth that Penrod Dean has passed away. RIP.

"Changi conquered on courage." By Mark E. Dean. The Australian, 06 Jun 2006.

Penrod Vance Dean
Farmer, soldier and writer.
Born Perth, November 19, 1914.
Died Melbourne, May 16, 2006, aged 91.

PENROD Dean was a survivor of the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore, where he learned Japanese and later had the satisfaction of giving evidence against his captors at the war crimes tribunal in Tokyo.

Dean was the fourth of five sons born to Edward and Alice Dean. His father was the chief draftsman for Perth and laid out several of the early suburbs there.

Alice Dean was known as a woman of strong disposition and drove the streets of Perth in an aging, open-top V8 Fiat purchased at a bond warehouse sale.

Dean was educated at Hale School in Perth but following the early death of his father in 1930, during the Great Depression, was forced to leave school early to work and help support the family. In his late teens he worked as a stockman on Roy Hill station in Western Australia.

His early years are evocatively described in Singapore Samurai, an autobiographical account written of his extraordinary experiences in World War II. He describes waiting at his post above the Straits of Johor for the arrival of the Japanese army, reflecting on his days as a child playing on the banks of the Swan River, sailing his skiff and catching abundant blue manna crabs.

In 1937 he met Mabel Molloy and they were married shortly afterwards. Nellie Melba had coined the name Bunny for Mabel in 1927 and it stuck. Bunny's uncle, Thomas Molloy owned and operated His Majesty's Theatre in Perth and a number of nearby hotels.

In 1941 Dean joined the AIF, completed officer training at Randwick in Sydney and was commissioned lieutenant. He left for Singapore later that year and following the surrender of the allies in February 1942 became a prisoner of war in Changi prison.

Shortly before his capture he was involved in an intense battle at the village of Bukit Chandu on the coast of Singapore. The battle was fought in and around a rubber plantation and plantation house.

In 2002 he was invited by the Singaporean government to the opening of a war museum established in the plantation house. The museum contains interviews with Penrod and excerpts from Singapore Samurai reproduced in an audio-visual installation. During this visit he also attended services to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the fall of Singapore at Changi and the Kranji War Cemetery.

The story of his years as a prisoner of war are an extraordinary tale of courage and the will to survive. On March 12, 1942, he escaped from Changi with another prisoner John MacGregor. They were captured after living in the jungle for three months and tried before a Japanese military tribunal in the High Court building in Singapore.

Both were sentenced to two years solitary confinement in a military prison. They escaped the death sentence because the Red Cross was in Singapore at the time and was investigating allegations of war crimes and atrocities committed by the Japanese on allied prisoners of war.

During his two years in solitary he was taught Japanese by one of his guards.

He and MacGregor were among a small number of survivors who completed their sentences before being returned to Changi, where they remained until the surrender of the Japanese in 1945. Prior to returning to Australia he assisted in the surrender by working as an interpreter.

Following the war he was one of 12 Australians, including nurse Vivian Bullwinkle and Brigadier Arthur Blackburn VC, to give evidence to the war crimes trials in Tokyo. His affidavit is held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The family lived on a farm at Roleystone in the Darling Ranges near Perth, where they grazed cattle and grew oranges. They moved to Victoria in 1953.

In Victoria Dean pursued a career in business and was a director of a number of private companies and ran his own importing business for many years. Golf became a passion and he won the annual handicap at Greenacres golf club in 1955. Between 1962 and 1968 he was a director of Moomba.

In 1971 he and Bunny moved to Sorrento and more recently they lived in Mount Martha, returning to Melbourne in 2005.

Simon and Schuster published Singapore Samurai in 1998. Writing in The Weekend Australian on July 5, 1998, Red Harrison described the story as one of extraordinary courage, resilience and comradeship.

In November 2005 Bunny died with Penrod by her side. Over the next six months he adapted to life without her and lived happily at Waverley Valley, where he was cared for with great concern and good humour.

Dean was a voracious and wide reader; he borrowed five books every week from the Hawthorn library. He also continued to write and was completing a work of fiction when he died.

During his long and eventful life Dean displayed many fine qualities but his enormous courage was always at the fore and he will be deeply missed by his five children, younger brother Kerry, 14 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

The Australian

Posted at 3:47AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | , .