The ships of the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG) have recently headed East, passing Singapore on the global deployment CSG21 with the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth at the core.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has several Army personnel on board and one of these is Lance Corporal (LCpl) Charlie “Shaka” Hislop of 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic), part of the Royal Engineers.
“It was my first time heading this far east, and great to be in the same part of the world where my grandfather’s story took place" Lance Corporal Charlie “Shaka” Hislop
Shaka works in Geospatial Intelligence using mapping software to create specialised planning tools, useful for looking at placements of ships, analysing unit behaviours and for threat mapping. This allows the Command group to make informed and timely decisions.
As HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed through the Straits of Malacca and past Singapore, the Hislop family connection to the area came to light. Shaka’s grandfather, Captain Bill Hislop, was serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Jat Regiment, an Indian Army Regiment serving in Malaya, when the Japanese invaded in 1941.
His troop was stationed just outside Singapore and were involved in fighting inland of the causeway to the main island when they were cut off by the Japanese advance. Some days after the fall of Singapore, word reached their position of the allied surrender.
As more enemy troops landed and patrols of major roads made movement tricky, the battalion separated, slipping into the surrounding jungle in small groups to evade capture. For Bill and a group of British and Indian Officers, a daring escape attempt followed whereby local fishing boats were used to try and sail across the Malacca Straits and hide in the network of little islands.
A storm caused the group to seek shelter in the Sultan Shoal lighthouse, still a landmark in Singapore to this day. The local Malay lighthouse keeper and his family eventually helped them secure passage in a boat to connect to the neighbouring island of Sumatra and then an onward ship to Sri Lanka saw the soldiers safely back in British territory.
Shaka has been sailing through the same narrow waters where his grandfather once escaped, now one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. His family has maintained a link to the Jat Regiment, returning to India for regimental remembrance ceremonies.
Shaka explained: “It was my first time heading this far east, and great to be in the same part of the world where my grandfather’s story took place. I was particularly keen to see the lighthouse. I have really enjoyed this deployment and it has been a different experience being on a ship. I joined in 2020 and because I took part in some of the early training exercises preparing for the deployment, I now have more sea days than some of the Navy sailors on board!”