The defiance of humour

PHOTO PROMPT -© Dawn Q. Landau

<Where is it? You! WHERE IS IT?>

Screaming in Japanese, the guard did a foxtrot of fury in front of the Australian prisoners. Half-starved and three-quarters worked to death, each still managed a smirk, an expression of amused and insolent cheek that only intensified the ridiculous little tyrant’s rage-dance.


Stretch finally spoke up in his broad Queensland drawl, “Well we didn’t bloody take it did we? We’ve been building your bloody railway bridges all bloody day haven’t we?”

Behind the laughing Aussies, hidden deep in the foundations of the bridge, mortar hardened around the entombed bike.

Word count 100

A slightly more personal story for the Friday Fictioneers today, as this is a dramatization/fictionalisation of a story my grandfather told me decades ago when he was talking about his time as a Prisoner of War of the Japanese at Changi in Singapore during WWII*. The essential elements of the story are true – a Japanese guard was distracted (possibly sleeping), and whilst distracted the Australian and British POW’s stole his bike and ‘integrated it’ into the structure they were working on as a little revenge against their captors. I can’t strictly remember if it was railway bridge or an something else (an aircraft runway?)… thus the ‘fictionalisation’ aspect to this tale. (Also my Grandfather was never called Stretch).

I suppose what I really wanted to get across here was the much lauded sense of defiance of authority through humour that forms such a central part of Australian’s national pride. The ‘Larrikin’ spirit you might say. (Perhaps an odd choice as, as my Grandfather was a Brit…).

You can find the rest of the Friday Fictioneer stories prompted by this photo here.

Let me know what you think.


*WWII has been in the back of my mind, as I recently finished reading the graphic novel ‘Maus’ by Art Spielgeman – a harrowing comic that is part an exploration of the horrors of the Holocaust, and part exploration of the difficult relationship between the cartoonist and his father, a survivor of Auschwitz.  I did a book review of Maus yesterday (link here).






35 thoughts on “The defiance of humour

  1. Dear KT,

    I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but have you ever read James Clavell’s King Rat? And more to the point, had your grandfather? I’d be interested to hear both of your answers.

    I was laughing right along with the prisoners because I felt sure that I knew what was going to happen. You see, once upon a time I did the same thing with my Executive Officer’s bright shiny bicycle, only the bride was the silty waters of Pearl Harbor. Reaction the same on both sides.

    Good job this week.



    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Doug – I haven’t read this – I just googled it and I may have to put it on my list this year. I’ve got another POW story on my list already – Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road To The Deep North. As I get older and my grandfather gets less and less ‘present’ (he’s 91 or 92 and dementia is settling in fast now), I feel like I should know this stuff better. My mother took a bunch of notes of his story years ago, I really need to get a copy.

      I’m glad you liked it – this one felt pretty good to write 🙂

      And its good to have you back – trust enjoyed a bit of NZ summer (they tend to be a bit milder than here in Australia – I think we were about 10 degrees hotter last week!).

      Cheers mate

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, hi Patrick – at best I can say it was related as a true story to me 🙂

      I did hear plenty of other stories, including decapitations via sword, but to my dim recollection this was generally used as a consequence of escape attempts.

      As for the missing bike, I seem to recall being told the theft was blamed on the locals (but that would have taken more words than I had available)!

      Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂


  2. I love the “foxtrot of fury.” You really captured this scene very well. And, Stretch’s response is great. Not much he can do about that bike now. What an ingenious plan they came up with!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eep! Haha, I do these in Word, paste into wordpress & then do a final read through before posting- I probably found & corrected a sentence and forgot to do a recount!


      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s sad to think that these stories will go to the grave if no one writes them down. My parents are gone now and I wish that I had asked more questions and written their histories down. I love the connection to your grandfather and I could see that furious guard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tracey – I think you’re right. If my mum hadn’t written a bunch of his recollections down, then I think it would be too late now.

      Thanks for reading and your comment.


  4. Great storytelling KT. The voices are most engaging and the historical slant works well. I’ve just finished Richard Flanagan’s book. Don’t leave it on your ‘waiting to read’ list too long. It’s great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Bjorn – Funny, I had the Brian Brown character in ‘A Town Like Alice’ mini-series in mind when I envisaged Stretch & his speech, but I can definitely see this in River Kwai too 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words!


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