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What happened in Singapore?

In Episode 5 of To Be Continued, reflecting on his relationship with Sorina following her death, Dick writes, “I had thought that those events that happened in Singapore had killed the deep love I always had for her, and to some extent I had been afraid of letting myself love her too much again after that”. 1960.

Dick refers to these ‘events’ several times in his journals, without ever saying exactly what happened in Singapore. For example, on 29th May 1975, he writes “I recalled, of course, the fatal change in her relationship with me that took place very shortly after her arrival in Singapore. How could I ever forget it?” He also says that he remembers writing about the events in some detail at the time.

Dick left the UK to travel to Singapore in August of 1935, to take up a job at The Straits Times. He writes in his journal on board the ship until he comes to the end of his notebook. It appears that he is halfway through describing the Purser, when he gets to the end of the page and writes "(continued in next vol)".

That 1936 volume was not included in the cardboard box that we found the journals in. I wonder where it is. Did he destroy it? As far as I can work out, the rest of the journals are there (at least up to 1976). The loss of this journal means that none of his time in Singapore is documented, including his marriage to Sorina, which took place in Singapore in September 1936.

Records show that Sorina left London for Singapore on the 13th May 1936. She is listed under the name of Gertrud Erbes - Erbes being the name of her second husband who she married in December 1934. The document below also lists Germany as her 'Country of Intended Future Permanent Residence'. Did she come to Singapore intending to marry Dick? Had she already divorced Fritz Erbes? Four months after her arrival, she and Dick were married, and soon after, they left Singapore for a round-the-world trip that lasted several months.

Passenger list showing Sorina bound for Singapore.

Curiously, Dick's journal shows that Sorina's son, Gunther, also joined them in Singapore. In 1940, Dick writes.“On the one hand, I know that this very great love that Sorina has for her sons, and they for her, especially Wolf, has all along stood to some extent between Sorina and me in our marriage. Had it not been for this, would Gunther have come and stayed with us in Singapore all those months and would things not have been much easier if he had not come?”

In 1937, he returned to the UK from his round-the-world trip with Sorina. It appears that Sorina did not join him in London, but instead returned to Germany for a while. In November of '37 he writes, “Have had great worries since I last wrote, as I had a letter from Sorina saying that it is no longer possible for her to get the money we are owed by Gunther, owing to action by the authorities. She had apparently been getting money from her sisters, not from Gunther. They heard from someone that this was illegal, and on consulting the authorities, learned that it was so. It seems impossible, seeing that it is entirely a case of returning British money lent to a German subject to get him out of difficulty. I cannot believe that if either Gunther or his father had ever had the slightest wish or intention to return the £150 he owes me, they could not have quietly given it to Sorina without all this fuss. As it is, the usual result is that I have had to get still further into debt in order to send Sorina money to live on. It is all a very great shock and I was very annoyed about it. I suppose now that I shall never get back the £150 that I was so unpleasantly forced to pay out for Gunther. It means to that the future prospects are darker than ever and that we shall have less money than ever and I am so afraid that Sorina will be less content than ever. I have written to her very fully and frankly on what I think of it all.”

In 1937, £150 would have the purchasing power of around £11,000 in today’s money. I wonder if this ‘loan’ of such a huge sum of money is what he is referring to when he writes about the ‘events of Singapore”? He did not ever record that the loan had been repaid, and it appears that Gunther died in World War 2.

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