The job decision that saved my life. A true story.

The job decision that saved my life. A true story.

In February 1942, Lieutenant Ron Savage, my father, of the British Royal Artillery, was captured by the Japanese Army as a result of the disastrous defeat and surrender of the British forces in Singapore.

Thereafter began three years of the most horrendous privation, torture and brutality in Changi POW Camp, from which only a tiny fraction of his friends and fellow soldiers ever emerged alive.

But this blog is not about that dark period of human history. It’s about how a hiring decision lead to my existence on this earth.

Ron was badly injured in the Fall of Singapore, his leg hanging by a thread. So he was shipped off to hospital at first. That sounds all right, but he was sent to the British Military Hospital, Singapore, where on 14th February 1942, the 18th division of the Japanese imperial Army rushed into the wards and operating theatres and bayoneted a total of 250 patients and staff members. Luckily for Ron, before they could repeat their brutalities in his ward, an officer ordered them to assemble in the Hospital grounds, but not before a group of soldiers had taunted and tortured him by pulling on his traction ropes.

But he survived and spend 6 month recovering on a stretcher in a Changi hut, with injured mates on either side. Roy Cross to the left. Tubby Allen to the right.

And what to do in this hell-hole but to fantasise about what they would do when the war was over?

Ron Savage 1946 (On left)

Ron Savage 1946 (on left)

Roy was of the view that Africa was the future. His father had a business in South Africa, and he suggested Ron join him after the war for a new life in sunny southern climes. Tubby believed in Asia, particularly Malaya, where he saw a post-war rubber boom. He wanted Ron to join him in Perak and start a rubber plantation.

They talked and talked. But, Ron revealed to me later, that they never really believed they would outlive Changi, so it was a distraction more than anything.

Incredibly, all three survived the War.

Ron returned to London, where his East End neighborhood had been flattened, the country was in ruins and under rationing, and the future looked bleak.

While considering his options, a telegram arrived from Roy Cross. “Come to Johannesburg. Job waiting.” A week later Tubby was in touch “Got job in Malaya. Spot here for you. Come at once.

Ron knew Europe was not for him. He was as proud an Englishman that ever walked this earth, and had literally given blood for the cause, but it was time for a new life.

But he had two firm job offers. What to do?

Remember no Internet those days. No ‘research’. Just gut feel and go!

He talked to parents and friends, and decided he would go to the pub for one last think. Blitz bombing had devastated the area around Forest Gate where he grew up, so he caught a bus into the West End of London.

He was joined by a few mates, and the conversation raged. South Africa or Malaya? Which job should he take?

In the end it was agreed. A coin toss! At the pub! Decision to be made there and then.

And indeed when the coin came down heads, South Africa, Ron left the pub, went home and began to pack.

And I am glad he did. Because the next year he met my Mum in Johannesburg, and moved to Cape Town where my three siblings and I were born, and grew up.

Thanks Ron. A great Dad who took a job on a coin toss, and changed his life. And never, ever looked back.

Today 30th June is Ron’s Birthday. Had he not long-since passed away, he would have been 97 years old, today.

RIP Dad.


About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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14 Responses to The job decision that saved my life. A true story.

  1. Joost Kreulen June 30, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Really enjoyed your blog on the coin toss. It tells alot about courage, hardship and determination. Values that have long gone by and hard to find in modern society.

  2. Mark Hall-Smith June 30, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    A very timely post on all the truly important things in life – family, friendship and courage.

    You didn’t really think I was going to add recruitment did you !

    Your Dad would, I am sure, have been very proud of all you have achieved and become Greg and again, I am not referring to recruitment.

  3. Julie Mills June 30, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for sharing this amazing story of tenacity – during this year of focussed remembrance the message is timely and makes us all remember that it is always the people that count – and they can do amazing things and make life changing decisions if we listen and provide the opportunity.

    My Dad’s story wasn’t quite so amazing but his resilience and belief in the fact that he fought to ensure his children could be whatever they wanted to be, particularly his daughter and granddaughters, was the driving force behind so much of what I have done.

    Thanks Greg – I miss my father’s wise counsel every day and your message was a great opportunity to keep the focus on the what those who have gone before us did so we can be who we are – sometimes in the flurry of today’s busy life that can get missed but is rarely forgotten.


  4. Di Pass June 30, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    Great story Greg. We are the fortunate ones if we have known a Dad that we were really proud of and knew with certainty that he was proud of us!

  5. Adam Bate June 30, 2015 at 11:51 am #

    Hi Greg,

    What a fantastic story, your father and his cohort were made of steel and remained very optimistic of the future and the world they were defending and rebuilding, what a generation to be admired.

    Today’s world could do with a bit more calculated positive risk taking, endurance, optimism, essence of life, inner strength, sacrifice and committed duty to others.

    Thank you.

  6. John June 30, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    My Dad failed his medical for the British Army so joined the Medical/Hospital corps. His last posting was … in Singapore in the 1940s and may have cared for your father. My dad would have been 96 this year. As a youngster with cuts & grazes he could bandage my wounds better and gentler than anyone. If he looked after Roy in Singapore you would have no complaints.

  7. Margie Gadd June 30, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    Amazing story of survival and success showing the strong character traits of that generation. My father was on the Burma Railway and he too showed great tenacity, humour and a will to live that saw him come home, albeit dying early as a result of his experiences. Thanks for sharing your Dad’s story.

  8. Pack Heng June 30, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    Thanks Greg for sharing Ron’s moving life story of hope.

  9. Alan Whitford June 30, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    Hi Greg
    Thanks for sharing your amazing and very personal story.

    Ron (and Roy and Tubby) were amazing men who were of the generation that ‘just go on with it’. We should all raise a virtual pint to Ron today.


  10. Jan van der Meer June 30, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    Hi Greg. What an inspiring and moving story.


  11. Teri Moxham June 30, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

    Thanks Greg – what a fantastic story and a wonderful tribute to your brave and resilient Father (and his friends). We have so much to thank them all for and should try to emulate their tenacity and courage. My Parents were a little younger than yours – survived the war and also bravely moved to a “New World” to raise their family !

  12. Jan Reeves June 30, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

    Hi Greg

    Great story for someone like me, bought up in the UK after the war. War stories; war songs; war everything.

    My Dad had damaged kidneys but flew gliders anyway which shortened his life to 39. All those sacrifices were worth it though and we thank them all for it.

    Thanks for sharing. A timely and heartwarming story of hope, survival and decision making 🙂

  13. Bill Ellerton July 1, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Greg. What and amazing story.

    My Dad if he was still alive would now be 92. He served in the RAF during and after WWII. He passed away here in Australia when I was only 22 which is 40 years ago now. I still miss him and hope I can perhaps understand a little of what you are feeling on your Dads birthday. My Dad was such a compassionate man who hoped there would never be any more wars.

    My Grandfather, after whom I was named, served in WWI and was captured by the Germans in France. One of only a handful of individuals from his regiment to survive he spent almost 2 years in a POW camp before returning to England. We have the letter he received from King George hanging proudly on our living room wall.

    It is through the courage and sacrifice of men like these and like your father that we are able to enjoy the freedom and opportunities that we do today. May he and all such brave and courageous souls rest in peace.

  14. Robyn (Griffin) Green July 11, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Their lives were so differnt to ours weren’t they? Equally for the women. My grandmother lost her fiance in WWI. A lad who lived in her street in London came back from the trenches blind from a sharpnel injury and burdened with the after effects of being gassed. In order to be sent to a rehabilitaiton village that would teach h
    im to be a poultry farmer and a basket weaver, he needed to be married. So, with his mother he came and knocked on my grandmothers door, asking to speak to her parents. They explained the situation and, after some thought my grandmother agreed to marry him, saying that as so many young men had died to protect those at home, this was the least she could do, despiite never having met Harry before. The result is my family. My father too joining the services at 15, lying about his age in order to sign up for WWII. It was whilst being posted to Singapore that I was born in Singapore Military Hospital. So see Greggles, we have more in common than we knew, way back when. 🙂

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