The evacuation had begun. Huge planes from the various nations began descending on Singapore. The wounded and the sick men were prepared hurriedly -- all the marks of imprisonment still apparent -- and processed for their departure. Many tears were shed as we embraced our buddies fondly, knowing that in all probability we would never see each other again.
Soon came the time for my own departure and, to my surprise and consternation, I was informed that I would be flown out. I didn’t want to fly; I much preferred to travel the slower way home, allowing time for me to consider the many adjustments to be made upon my return to civilization. There were so many physical and mental scars to be healed. I also hoped to add a few pounds to my emaciated frame.
My departure was delayed for a number of weeks because of this decision, but I was thankful for this time so badly needed for recuperation. Finally on November 1, 1945 -- a beautiful day in Singapore -- I embarked on the good ship “Sobieski,” a Polish ship manned by a combined British and Polish crew. The four-week voyage gave ample time for refection. Our bodies, too, responded to the good food, rest, and recreation. The calm sea and the excellent weather added to our enjoyment. We basked in the sunshine, breathed the pure air, and thanked God for having spared us. There was one incident that marred the tranquility of the voyage. Looking into the beautiful blue ocean one day, I saw the bodies of a few seamen floating nearby. A wave of sorrow swept over me as I contemplated that some mother’s son, or a father, husband, or boyfriend had met with a water grave and would never return home. My contemplation led me to think of the resurrection. I remembered the Scripture, which says, “And the sea gave up her dead” (Revelation 20:13). Even those who had been swallowed up in the ocean’s mighty depths would one day answer God’s call in resurrection.
During those days of relaxation our commanding Officer, Lt. Col. John Huston, issued a farewell message. “On going our various ways after the ups and downs of the past five years, I want to thank all ranks of what was the 196 Field Ambulance for the faithful work, steady discipline, adaptability, and common sense they have always shown. You were a good team!”
As we journeyed slowly home we had time not only to reflect on the past, but also to contemplate the future. I kept my mind alert with various notes that I had made, in the hope that they would stand me in good stead as I publicly witnessed for the Lord in future days. I knew by this time that there was only one course that I could take in the uncharted future. I must surrender myself wholly to the Lord, no matter the cost.
I also reflected more than ever on the parting word of my dear mother before leaving the house for the last time. “Every morning,” she said, “I will go into your room at 8 a.m. and kneel at your bed and pray for you.” I appreciated this more than ever as I recalled the mighty hand of God on my life during these strenuous months and years as a prisoner of war.
I also appreciated the prayers of the Assembly at Tillicoultry. With tears running down their cheeks these dear people, coal miners for the most part, cried to the Lord for my safety and preservation, though no one knew whether I was dead or alive. God answered the prayers of a devoted mother and the supplications of my brethren and sisters in Christ. I believe that God answers prayer.
I began to philosophize on prayer and made another entry in my diary. “Worldly men laugh when Christians mention the power of prayer. We are not altogether surprised at this, but let us take ourselves to task. Do we really believe in prayer? I am inclined to believe that deep down in our hearts we really doubt the power of prayer, although we acknowledge the power with our lips. This was my own experience, but prayer is real. It is something tangible. I have found out from my own personal experience that prayer moves the hand of Him Who moves the universe. God answers prayer. It is one of the most powerful and potent means that God has put into the hands of the believer. In fact, one has written that ‘Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.’ “
En route home, the “Sobieski” stopped at Colombo, Ceylon, for a couple of days. When word came to this beautiful port city that prisoners of war were stopping for a day or so, the authorities immediately confined all girls in the Forces to their barracks. Policemen were stationed at every street corner, some carried firearms. Soon the authorities realized that they had misjudged the troops. We had been so long in subjection, obeying orders of every description, that the simplest command was met with immediate obedience. Soon the policemen were withdrawn, the girls were released from the barracks, and the city returned to normal. Bands played lively music and the ex-prisoners danced in the streets with the fairer sex.
The voyage home was uneventful. We sailed via the great fortress of Gibraltar, eventually arriving at the busy seaport of Liverpool. Arriving in the late afternoon we were forced to drop anchor approximately five miles out. We were pleasantly surprised by the announcement of mail call. This brought to some uninhibited joy -- to others intense sorrow. The letters brought the news to some of broken engagements, others found that their homes had been broken up, still others found out that their loved ones had been killed in the air raids. Then there were the fortunate ones like myself, who were thrilled at news from loved ones who really cared.
On the following morning the ship drew alongside the dock. People seemed to be everywhere -- on the tops of buildings and at every vantage point -- wherever a foothold could be gained they clung desperately to keep from falling. Many carried banners bearing the names of loved ones who would never come home. They cheered and sang, and the bands played. High up on a dockside building I recognized my old friend, Arthur Greenwood, Evangelist. We exchanged greetings from the distance -- I did not have the pleasure of meeting with him at this time. Struggling down the gangway with my luggage, I heard a voice asking, “Are you Dan Snaddon?” To my surprise there stood another old friend, Duncan Stevens, from Glasgow. Duncan had been a prisoner of the Germans.
We were hustled off to one of the camps outside the city where we were fitted out with proper clothes, identification papers, money, and a free rail ticket home. It was the “wee”
hours of the morning before we eventually turned in to bed -- but not to sleep. Very early we were called for breakfast then put on board a bus and taken to the train station. What excitement! With the help of Duncan Steven, I eventually entrained. With a shrill whistle and clouds of steam we slowly left the crowded station, gaining momentum by the minute.
For me this was the second last lap of my long journey. All along the way tremendous crowds lined the railway station platforms looking expectantly for loved ones. A deep sense of being home enveloped me as we crossed the border in Bonnie Scotland, my native land. As the train approached the great city of Glasgow my heart began pounding. I knew that some of my friends would meet me there, But who?
Detraining at the Central Station in Glasgow, I soon was being smothered in the arms of my sister Jessie, and her husband Johnny. Hardly a word was spoken, but the silence was eloquent. The other friends who were there helped me with my baggage into a waiting bus. As we drove through the familiar streets to Queen Street Station my emotion erupted -- it was good to be among loved ones again.