Saturday, 6 December 2008

Not out of sight, out of mind!

Fear not, just because I am out of sight does not mean, out of mind!  I will be returning here with some more precious memories very soon.

I just would like to thank all my readers and followers for their encouragement and to wish one and all a very merry Christmas with best seasons greetings.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

More activity

That afternoon we were unpleasantly surprised to observe a long procession of Japanese army trucks entering Houtmanstraat from the south. We quickly closed up the front of the house and remained doggo while the trucks were parked along the open ground opposite. When night came we showed no light and although there was a lot of commotion and shouting until a late hour, we were left undisturbed. The next morning when I left for the office, I found that the row of parked trucks already extended to almost opposite the house and many Japs were in evidence. About a couple of hours later I had a guarded telephone call from Ena.

"Can you come immediately?" she said. "We have visitors".

I knew what that meant. When I arrived I found a Jap sprawling in a chair on the verandah. Elly and Ena informed me hurriedly that they had had three Nips wandering through the house until about 10 minutes before but that the other two had left, leaving the sprawler behind. I went out to the verandah and sat down opposite him. There was nothing we could say to each other so we just sat in silence, smoking. I just decided that I had to sit him out if possible, or at any rate to wait long enough to try and discover what he was after. About an hour later, he managed to convey by signs that he wanted paper and a red pencil. On the paper he scrawled some weird looking Japanese characters and leaving the verandah affixed the paper to a wooden post on the edge of the field opposite the house. He did not return.

In a short time it became evident that this sign was an indication for parking more trucks which again started to arrive in large numbers so that in due course the line had extended some hundred yards past the house to the north. We were now under Japanese surveillance with a vengeance. By lying doggo again we escaped attention that evening, but many neighbours had unpleasant experiences of Jap visitors who made themselves objectionable in ways which we ourselves knew only too well.

The next day the three of us held a council of war. Elly was all for joining her mother in Tjitaroemstraat and was kind enough to suggest that Ena and I could also be accommodated there if we wished.

So the upshot was that we decided to move the next day. Again I rang up the piano people, who must have been getting fed up with me by this time, and the piano came to rest for the second time in his warehouse. Incidentally, we never saw it again.

The following day, Saturday, found us installed in Mrs Kruseman's annex at Tjiarroemstraat 14. We had the, by this time, usual difficulties in obtaining transport but with the aid of some coolies and a hand drawn cart, and a few journeys backwards and forwards by 'sad' (dog cart) we managed to send the frigidaire back to the Dagoweg and to bring our stuff and Elly's to our new santuary.

On the Thursday of this week a notice had appeared in the newspaper ordering all British subjects to report at the Police Headquarters for registration and this Ena and I had done. On Saturday, therefore, I notified them of my change of address so that it was certainly not my fault that they had so much trouble finding me on the night of the 14th.

At the beginning of this week, too, Sparkes and his wife had both collapsed from nervous strain and had taken up their abode in a joint room at the Borromeus Hospital. I still suspect that in some way or other (perhaps from his neighbour, Mrs Graven) he had had advance information of the registration, and, suspecting (as I did) that it was the preliminary move towards internment had thought to dodge the issue by being classed as a hospital case. If that was really his idea, he miscalculated by only one day.

I recall that I visited him in Borromeus on Saturday and referring half jokingly, to the registration, said, "Thursday, we register - Friday they prepare their lists - Saturday is a half holiday and Sunday a free day, so they'll intern us on Monday".

Sparkes left hospital on Monday and was picked up the following night, the fatal 14th April.

For the past ten days or so previous to our coming to rest at Tjitaroemstraat, there had been many rumours flying around about sudden raids being held by the Japanese usually at night. Today one would hear of a complex of houses on the Dagoweg having been entered and the men taken away and tomorrow another story of the same nature would be told concerning a street in another part of the town. Already the headquarters of the Kempetai (Japanese Gestapo) in the Neetjanweg had acquired a sinister reputation and whispers were heard of the tortures which the Japanese Gestapo resorted to in order to extract confessions, real or imaginary, from their victims. Any scepticism as to the truth of such seemingly incredible tales was due, alas, to fade away in the light of subsequent events.

On the morning of the 14th, Mrs Van Ginkel rang up. She said to Ena, "Bill is probably going on a journey, but you yourself not yet." This we interpreted as a hint that she had information to the effect that my internment was imminent, but as we had by now become somewhat fatalistic in our attitude towards this possibility, I am afraid we did not react in any particular way.

And so I arrive back at the moment when the stillness of the night of 14/15 April, 1942 was shattered by the peremptory ringing of the door bell at Tjiroemstraat 14.


And so, my friends, we come to the conclusion of the first chapter of my Dad's manuscript. I hope you have enjoyed and learnt from this 'taster'. In the new year I hope to be able to transcribe the rest of the manuscript into book form which will be available for purchase. This will take a little while since there will be a lot of typing! The remainder of the manuscript includes a short daily, if somewhat brief, account of life in Sukamiskin Prison whilst at the same time my father describes in detail, moments of his life. There will be a wonderful insight into life in Scotland during the early 1920s; life as a youngster at school and beyond. This proved to be a clever way for my Dad to keep his mind exercised during very long boring hours whilst cooped up in a cell. Each word was written in pencil and as time went on and paper became scarce the writing became smaller and smaller. I still have some of the writings and even the stub of the last pencil used. For me, it has been an inspiration and has allowed me to 'rediscover' my father as a very keen, sensitive person who lived through troubled times but someone who still managed to keep his sense of humour and above all, his sense of worth.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The next few days....

During the next two days Ena and I cast around for other accommodation.  Not only was everybody very cramped at Dagoweg as a result of our arrival, but quite frankly, with the threat of internment hanging over us, we did not wish to be found in the same place where we had stored the belongings we had salvaged.

On the second day, our search found us cycling along the Houtmanstraat (road)nearby where we were hailed by some people sitting on the verandah of this particular house.  These proved to be friends of ours, Mrs Kruseman with her daughter and son in law, Elly and Leo Reindees .  The latter had been, as all other reservists, called up months before and was in the uniform of a captain.  A motor car accident a few weeks earlier had resulted in minor injury to his leg, and as he had been on the sick list when the Japs arrived, they had so far excused him from internment, but he expected to be rounded up any day now.

We learned that they had taken over this house, furnished, from a woman who had gone to Batavia to be with her husband who had been posted on duty there. The Reindees themselves had come from Batavia as Leo's duties necessitated his staying in Bandoeng.  In passing, I many mention that this shifting about of men from one part of Java to another was one of the shafts of criticism levelled at the methods of the military authorities, but I am naturally not capable of judging whether or not such criticism was justified.

As soon as Elly and Leo heard of our predicament, they immediately suggested that Ena and I share the house with them as there was any amount of room.  Their 18 year old son, Robbie, had already been interned and Mrs Kruseman, who had been staying with them for a few days, was returning to her own home on the morrow.  Consequently, they would only be too glad to have our company.

It was really a fine large house and excellently furnished and with such congenial companions we did not hesitate in deciding to take up our abode there.  So the next day, Monday, 6 April we moved in, not without having experienced no little difficulty in finding transport for the frigidaire which we had brought with us.  And, as we had an impression of permanency about this place, I had the piano also brought from the shop and installed in the front room.

The Houtmanstraat was, and still is, built along one side only affording a fine open view of level fields and the foothills some miles away, with the mountains in the background.  This street forms actually the eastern boundary of Bandoeng, and though it was rather far from the office and town generally, the quietness and lovely view more than compensated for this disadvantage.

On Tuesday evening, while I was giving a cinema show with my Kodascope,  imagethe 'phone rang.  It was a message for Leo to the effect that he had to report for internment at 9 am next morning.  It was on this evening, too, that we had listened to the BBC announcer glibly telling the world that the Dutch were still holding out in various parts of Java and that fighting was in progress in the hills around Bandoeng.  The world was apparently as sadly misinformed about the course of events in Java as it had been since the capitulation of the Japs in August, 1945 up to the date of writing.  Next morning Reindees left.  There were now only the three of us and we could not help feeling that a net was closing around us.

In the course of the day Ena and I went for the second time to Dennenlust in an attempt to contact Mrs Graven with a view to gaining possession of the trunks we have left behind.  I have forgotten to mention that we had gone to Dennenlust on the previous Sunday for this purpose but had not found Mrs Graven at home.  On that occasion we had the unique experience of burgling our own house.  Not being able to contact anyone we proceeded to 'Sunny Corner' just to see how it looked.  As the house appeared unoccupied we had wandered round to the rear premises where we found native 'djaga"' (watchman) on duty.  On enquiry we learned that two Jap officers had indeed already taken up residence but that they were usually absent from early morning until late afternoon.

When I asked the 'djaga' if he had a key to the house, he replied that he had, and when I told him to unlock the door he did.  So Ena just went in and grabbed as much as we could carry away on our bikes.  Music, gramophone records, ornaments and goodness knows what else of which we made two huge bundles and which we deposited in the house of a friend, a little way down the hill, to be called for later.  We just said "Terimah kasih" to the 'djaga' and gave him a tip of 25 cents.

On this second occasion, after a lot of running from one place to another, we succeeded in meeting Mrs Graven who assisted us in securing the trunks and in bringing them to Houtmanstraat in her car, Niekerk at the wheel as usual.

**** to be continued

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Good Friday?

For some time past no bread had been procurable and I had taken it upon myself the task of providing ourselves with this commodity, calling upon the lore of my planting days when I used to watch my cook making bread in my bungalow up on the estate.

On this Good Friday at 11 am I was busily engaged in kneading dough in the kitchen when that bird of ill omen, Mrs Graven, came for a second time, accompanied by her shadow, the traitor Niekerk.

This time the sword definitely fell.  There was no respite possible.  We had to be out of the house by 2 pm as two Japanese officers were moving in.  We could take clothes with us and other personal belonging but the house furnishing must remain as they were.

This was my first meeting with Mrs Graven.  She was rather tall and solidly built for a Japanese woman with typically Nip features and not a bit attractive.  Her age, I guessed, would have been about 40.  She stayed for some time and I must admit that she was by no means unpleasant in her manner but gave the impression that she was just carrying out an order which she found neither pleasant or unpleasant.

In the course of our conversation I asked her, on my part jokingly, if we could take our Beckman baby grand piano with us.  To my surprise she replied "Boleh" (You may), perfectly seriously.  A little later, going through the house, she passed the large GE frigidaire which stood in the lobby outside the kitchen.  "You can take this too," she said.  "Those who are coming in need not know that there was ever a frigidaire here".

This was very gratifying but we could not but wonder how we were to get it away, as we had no means of transport.

She also agreed that we could leave a couple of trunks in one of the small store rooms to be called for some days later.  When we wished to fetch them, we must call at her (Sparkes) house for the key.

On this occasion too, I had some conversation with Niekerk who acted as a sort of Dutch echo to Mrs Graven's Malay and he then volunteered the facts about himself which I have already set down.  He also told me that he had known Mrs Graven for about 30 years and according to him, had helped her in her private affairs for a long time and as now merely standing by her in her present job.  I can hazard a shrewd guess as to the nature of the link between them both before and after the Japanese invasion.

As soon as our visitors had gone, I dashed to the telephone breathing a silent prayer that it would function.  It did.  I just got on to the firm from whom we had bought our piano and asked the owner, whom I knew very well, if he could store the Beckman for us and, if so, to send coolies immediately to take it away.  He agreed and within an hour we had the satisfaction of seeing the instrument being carried down the hill, safely out of Japanese clutches, at any rate for the time being.

My second call was to our good friend, Lt Kagee of the Dutch Military Police.  As soon as  I told him about what was happening, he said "We'll be right along".  And they were - six of them within 10 minutes of bringing with them a 15 cwt truck and a passenger car.  We shall always feel a debt of gratitude to these grand chaps who just came in and said, "Now show us what you want us to do."  And the whole bunch set to work helping us pack our belongings into trunks, suitcases and baskets.  The faithful Amat took upon himself the task of packing our dinner service.  We decided that, in Mrs Graven's own words, "as those that were coming in need not know it was here", and what Mrs Graven herself did not know of, we should take with us, and thanks to our friends, the MPs, we were able to take away with us much that would otherwise had had to be left behind and irretrievably lost.  And thanks to Ena's mother to whose house the stuff was brought, we recovered practically everything after the liberation.

The frigidaire was man handled on to the truck, which was then loaded up with other things, as was also the car, and while Ena and I and two of the chaps carried on feverishly with the good work of packing, the first load was rushed down to Dagoweg 31e, quickly unloaded, and truck and car brought back to Dennenlust again for the second load.

One of the articles taken in the car on its first trip was a Firefoam extinguisher which I had presented to the MPs as they seemed keen on having it and I did not consider it worth while salvaging.  The chap who was driving had put the extinguisher on the seat beside him and coming back from Dagoweg, turning a sharp corner, the things fell of the seat on to the floor of the car.  It fell unfortunately on the knob which has to be pressed to set it working and the result can be better imagined than described.  The inside of the car was a mess of spattered soap suds.   The poor chap had had to drive most of the way back with his thumb on the valve to keep the thing from completely emptying itself.  When he drove in, he called to us in his predicament and we went to his aid, all of us doubled up with laughter.  And just to finish a fitting climax to this amusing contretemps, just as he was easing himself out of the car, his thumb slipped off the valve and all of us got a generous share of the suds.  It was just like an old fashioned slapstick comedy film and had the same salutary effort on our somewhat dampened spirits.

The truck and car were loaded up for the second time, including ourselves and all the livestock and, with our military escort, said goodbye again to 'Sunny Corner' and descended once more on poor old Ma, who in spite of all the difficulties attendant on our unexpected arrival, was delighted to have us back with her.

Wherever those good chaps may be now, Ena and I say bless them for what they did for us on Good Friday, 1942.

***** to be continued

Monday, 3 November 2008

Continuation of events

But to continue the sequence of events as from the visit of Mrs Graven to 'Sunny Corner'.  The day after she had turned up, Saturday, I felt it better to stay about the house in view of her warning as to an internment and in case other Japs should present themselves with an eviction notice.  Our telephone had become very unreliable in the past two week and I could not get contact with the office to inform them that I was not coming into town.  Not that it mattered in the slightest because there was really nothing to do.

We had,however, succeeded at an early hour in getting through to Mrs Van Ginkels, a good friend of ours, and had asked them if they could take some of our books in safe custody in anticipation of our having perhaps to leave the house at short notice.  Mrs Ginkels, accompanied by a mutual friend Bert Krevels, arrived at the house about 8 am in Krevel's car which bore a Batavia licence number.

After we had told them all about Mrs Graven and our uncertain immediate future over a cup of coffee, the books, etc were loaded into the car and our friends took their leave.

Sometime during the afternoon, the 'phone rang.  It proved to be some branch of the Dutch Military Police inquiring as to my whereabouts.  I could not understand this interest and asked what it was all about.  The MP explained that they had had a message from Sparkes to the effect that I was missing.  This puzzled me considerably.  About half an hour after the 'phone call, a motorcycle roared up the hill bringing a Police Inspector who was out in search of me, the local police also having been informed by Sparkes that something had happened to me.  This only served to intensify our mystification.

Later on, Sparkes himself turned up and the mystery was cleared up.  About 8 am he had driven up to the house intending  to offer me a lift down town.  Seeing a car with a Batavia licence plate standing outside the house, he had come to the conclusion, how, heaven only knows, that Japs were in the house and instead of ascertaining if this was actually the case, he had stepped on the gas and carried on into town.  When I did not turn up at the office in due course, his too lively imagination had suggested that I had been taken away and he had immediately started telephoning right and left setting all authorities both civil and military, by the ears.  That was the explanation of the whole business and it is a typical instance of the reactions of many people to the state of tension in which we lived during this period.

We were left in peace at 'Sunny Corner' until 3 April.  Good Friday!  As far as we were concerned this was a definite misnomer.  It was the worst Friday of our lives!

****** to be continued

Sunday, 2 November 2008

A rather unpleasant experience

I find that I have omitted from its chronological place in this record a rather unpleasant experience which occurred on, I think the Monday before Mrs Graven's visit.  I left the house a little before 8 am on my cycle to go to the office.  When I reached the Lembangweg, just about half a kilometre from 'Sunny Corner', a Japanese soldier with rifle and bayonet indicated that I could not go down the Lembangweg to town, but must turn down another road.  I thought nothing much about this as we had more or less become used to finding one or another road temporarily closed off, and was merely mildly annoyed at having to make a rather wide detour to reach town.  When I reached the road junction about a hundred yards further on, however, I found more Japanese soldiers and a small group of people.  No one seemed to know what it was all about but it soon became evident that the purpose of this action was to collect all Europeans passing in or out of Bandoeng by way of this road.

About half an hour after I had been caught, Sparkes with his daughter and Percy Eyre, one of the Soebang refugees, were also caught in the trap.  They were in Sparkes' car which he had so far been fortunately able to retain.  I took advantage of the presence of their native chauffeur to send him with my cycle back to 'Sunny Corner' with a message to Ena that we were held up but that I would go with Sparkes in the car when we were free to go.

As the hour dragged past the group swelled until there must have been well over 100 people standing on the road, mostly Europeans but also a number of Indo-Europeans as well.  Of the latter I noticed two unpleasant looking individuals in khaki shirt and shorts displaying a badge with the inscription 'NSB Ngawi' through which ran a jagged lighting symbol.  These must have been a couple of the Dutch Nazis interned by the Dutch at Ngawi in East Java, and released by their friends, the Japanese.  This friendship was, however, apparently at a discount on this occasion.

Still nobody knew what it all meant but everybody was very uneasy and I am sure that I was not alone in thinking, whenever a truck with Japs hove in sight, that we were going to be packed into it and spirited away to regions unknown.

About half past eleven a Jap officer turned up a real nasty looking bit of work, with mad baleful eyes gleaming through large horn rimmed glasses.  Leaning on his Samurai sword, he stood in the middle of the road issuing his orders through the medium of an interpreter he had brought with him.

After a lot of the usual misunderstanding and confusion, we understood that we were to form two queues, those going to Bandoeng to his right and those coming from Bandoeng to his left.  We were also informed that we had to produce some evidence of identity, driving licence, post office legitimation card or other document of this nature.

Since putting away the car I had given up carrying in my pocket the special folder in which I kept my driving licence and other things, but I did have my passport with me.  Sparkes and I were rather far along in the queue and while we moved up slowly, I showed him my passport and remarked that I hoped the Jap would not cut off my head when he saw it.

In course of time our turn came.  Sparkes' daughter, Eyre and Sparkes himself were given a clean bill and were told to proceed immediately to the Concordia Club where a department had been set up for issuing permits to travel between Bandoeng and outlying districts such as Dennenlust.  They got into the car and waited in anticipation of my joining them.

But it was not to be.  Thinking that I might get the Jap into a good humour by showing him some of his own weird looking Japanese characters, I had opened my passport at the page visa-ed by the Japanese Consule in London in 1938.  As soon as his eyes fell on this he gave an angry grunt and glared as me as if he wanted to bump me off right away.  He jabbered to the interpreter turning over the leaves of the leaves of the passport the while.

"Inggris?" he spat, and I am sure he said this through his clenched teeth.

I admitted the accusation.  He stood glaring at me for some moments as though he was considering letting me have it.  Then with an angry ejaculation and gesture, he mentioned that I was to stand aside to be dealt with later.

I called to Sparkes, "Tell Ena I am held", and he drove off while I stood behind the Jap feeling very lonely and wondering what my fate was to be.

It was more than half an hour later that the queues came to an end.  In the meantime another unfortunate had joined me but who he was I never discovered.  As the last few in the queues were being dealt with, a car came off the main road.  The Jap turned towards us, yelled something, and motioned towards the car which had stopped close by.

With the other man, I started forward, thinking "So this is it!" and was half way towards the car when a yell from the Jap stopped me.  I was not to go.  The other chap was hustled into the car which drove away quickly.

I returned to my old place and stood for about another 10 minutes while the Jap conferred with the interpreter.  At last he turned and barked at me again.  I came forward and had to hand over my passport again.  Again it was meticulously examined and the Jap barked once more.

"Poelang!" (Go home) said the interpreter.

I bowed (we knew we had to bow by this time) said, "Terimah kasih" (Thank you) and turned to go back the way I had come some four and a half hours before.

Another yell brought me up short in my tracks.  I was not allowed to go that way but had to take another road which paralleled the Dennenlust road, but entailed my having to cross the wide and deep ravine between.  However, I was so relieved at getting off thus lightly that I did not mind the fairly long walk back to 'Sunny Corner'

At last I reached the house, only to find that my troubles for this day were not yet over.  Ena was missing.  Amat could only tell me that she had driven away with Sparkes hours before.  I learned later that for some unfathomable reason, but probably owing to his nervousness while in the queue, he had gone to 'Sunny Corner' and told Ena that I had been held by the Japs because I did not have my passport with me and Ena had ransacked the house looking for what was actually the reason for my being held at all.

I walked down to the Sparkes house, only to find this also empty of everybody, except for the native boy, who told me that the whole family had left a long time before.  So there was I at 'Sunny Corner' unable to get into town because of the pickets and worrying about what had happened to Ena and knowing that she would be even more worried wondering what had happened to me.

After some anxious hours, Ena turned up safely and with the news that the pickets had been withdrawn.  As I had thought she had been dreadfully worried as by the time she had, with Sparkes, reached the spot where I had been held there was nothing more to be seen and had naturally assumed that I had been picked up owing to my not having identity papers.  They had all gone to the Concordia Club image to procure the necessary passes in the hope that with one for myself they would be able to secure my release from wherever I had been taken to, but as they had no means of discovering where this might be, had returned to Dennenlust in the hope of learning something there.  Our mutual relief at finding each other safe and sound can be appreciated.

***** to be continued

Friday, 31 October 2008

New visitors!

It was, I think, on Friday, 26 March, in the second week of our return to 'Sunny Corner' that a further development occurred in our private affairs.  I had been going round to the office for a few hours each morning and it was during my absence, when Ena was alone in the house that the following happened.

Ena was washing the floor of the bedroom when she heard a car drive in.  Looking out she saw a Japanese woman and a European man coming towards the door.  A third man, also a European, remained in the car.

As they passed the bedroom window on their way to the door Ena addressed the woman, who, however, ignored her and by the time Ena got to the front room, the two visitors had already entered.

"Saya dari Generale Staf" ( I am from the Jap General Staff) announced the woman in Malay by way of introduction.  "Saya maoe pakai ini roemah". (I want to use this house)

Ena asked where we were supposed to go.  "Oh", was the reply, "You will be interned".  This unwelcome visitor then proceeded to inspect the house going through it as if it belonged to her.  While she was thus engaged the Dutchman (for such he proved to be) in a few remarks confirmed what his companion had already said and offered the information that the woman was Mrs Graven and introduced himself as Niekerk.

After her inspection, Mrs Graven returned to the front room and said to Ena, "I thought this house was bigger.   It is too small for me.  I have nine children."

She suddenly decided, apparently, to be friendly and drew Ena with her in to the rear sitting room closing the folding doors.  Niekerk returned to the car.  Mrs Graven had Ena sit down with her on the settee and started a long story as to how she and her husband and children had been interned by the Dutch.  She said that we were to be interned and advised our having suitcases packed against this, and advised Ena to conceal her rings etc in cakes of soap.  According to her, Ena and I would be interned together.  Although she herself would not now be taking our house, she warned that it would no doubt be occupied in due course by Jap officers.

She then left 'Sunny Corner' and it was not long before we learned that she went straight to the Sparkes' house and commandeered that.  The Sparkes family came to vacate almost immediately but fortunately were able to find accommodation in 'Cress Cottage' next door to their own house.  'Cress Cottage' had been occupied until recently by General Van Oyen, commander of the Air Force, but who had left for Australia shortly before the capitulation.  We did not envy the Sparkes family with the Gravens and their spawn as neighbours during the few weeks that followed.

Now, a word about this unsavoury trio who had thrust their way so unceremoniously into our lives.

Mrs Graven herself was Japanese and had lived, we learned, in Bandoeng for about 30 years.  She was the sister in law of Sakura, who had a long established and well known haberdashery on the Groote Postweg.  Her husband was a white Russian, a drunken sot, at one time reputedly an officer in the Russian Imperial Army.  The man Niekerk, who could only have been a traitor to his country, had at one time been employed in the Volkskreditbank (The People's Credit Bank) a sort of Loans Society but had retired, on money, I suspect, earned by espionage activities, and had built a complex of attractive bungalows some miles up the Lembanweg to the north of Bandoeng, occupying himself one of them with the exotic name of 'Nirvana'.  He also possessed a number of houses in the town itself.

It gave me great satisfaction to meet this individual again in Internment Camp #4, Tjimahi, early in 1944 and to find that he was mere skin and bone and hardly fit to move thanks to the starvation cure imposed on us all by his Nipponese friends.  I learned, too, that his traitorous activities were known to the Dutch authorities and I am satisfied that he will get  his due reward in due course, if he has not already got it.

These three individuals were just part of the scum which the Japanese stirring up had brought to the surface at this time.

At the first opportunity after this visit we informed our good friend, Lt Kagee, of what had transpired and he advised us if anything of the kind happened again to get on the 'phone immediately and let him know.  Before very long we were to be very grateful for this suggestion.

**** to be continued

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Dutch MPs

The Dutch MPs had been retained by the Japs in their functions for the time being and it was a clever move as it had relieved the Nips themselves of the responsibilities for keeping order in the town.  It speaks for itself that the European, and most probably also the native population appreciated the fact.  Ena and I were to become very friendly with the MP party which had been detailed to look after Dennenlust.  The NCO in charge was a certain Onder Lieutenant Kagee, a fine type of long service military man and we often wondered what became of him.  He was terribly broken up about the Dutch capitulation and told us that he simply could not take it in, that the Dutch Indian Army had ceased to exist.  It had been his whole life, poor chap.

The MPs used to patrol regularly and we never let them pass the house without calling them to come in and have a glass of beer, of which we still had a small stock.  It become the regular custom in the weeks that followed for them to drop in once or twice a day for a chat, a snack and a drink and we were only too glad to be able to do something for them as the rations they were receiving from the Japs were quite insufficient and they were always hungry.

Even in those early days the Japs gave evidence of the muddle headedness of their ways of doing things.  One day these MPs would be armed with revolvers and the next day another Jap would take way all fire arms from them, while on the third day still another Jap would insist on their being armed and issue revolvers and ammunition again.  We accepted this as being due to the general confusion to be expected at this particular time but it was proved indicative of the usual Japanese way of doing things and it will, I think, always remain a mystery to the Western mind how the Japs were able to  accomplish as much as they did.  In all our experience of them no reason or object could be traced in their methods and the proof, in my opinion, that their success was attributable to the mistakes and blunders of others and not to their own organising capabilities, it is to be found in the eventual, chaotic state of all territory which they occupied.  They showed themselves to be past masters in the art of ruining a country in an incredibly short space of time and the mess they made of Java in three and a half years baffles description.  One can only conclude that they realised from the beginning that they had no chance of achieving ultimate victory and therefore determined to do as much harm as they could in the shortest possible time.  It seems the only explanation.

***** to be continued

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Return to 'Sunny Corner'

About 11 am Sunday, a Dutch MP on a motorcycle came to warn us that 'Sunny Corner' was empty and suggesting that we should return to Dennenlust immediately.  We needed no urging.  In record time, the Hillman was loaded up with the dogs, cats, birds, ourselves and sundry articles of baggage and off we set for home, the faithful Amat following on his bicycle.

Our progress up the  Dennenlust road was in the nature of a triumphal procession.  The news had spread and all the folks in the houses on each side of the road smiling and waving to us, from their verandahs, as we came up the hill.

As soon as we had unloaded the car I set out to Dagoweg 31e again to fetch some remaining items.  Coming down the Dagoweg not far from the imageBorromeus hospital a Dutch MP signaled to me to stop.  When I did so, he informed me that all cars had to be surrendered immediately and that I must get out and leave the Hillman standing at the roadside.

"Have a heart," I said.  "I've just got back my house after being evicted 6 days ago and am bringing my belongings back home," and suggested that he turn a blind eye to the telescope until I had made this one trip.  He was a decent and reasonable chap and agreed, but I had to promise him that I would deliver the car to the Jap authorities at the Technical High School in the Dagoweg the grounds of which were being used as a collecting centre, as soon as I had made the trip.

I got back to Dennenlust in due course with the second load but just as I was leaving again to hand in the Hillman as promised a terrific rainstorm started which continued all afternoon until after dark.  I had strapped my bicycle on to the car as I should have to cycle back, but in such a downpour with a very high wind, I would have been half drowned on the return journey.  I decide, therefore, to deliver the car to the depot early next morning, but when I arrived no Japs were to be seen, although the grounds were full of cars of all description.

The European porter who was still on duty told me that I could put the car there if I liked but I agreed with him that it would be foolish to do so with nobody there to receive it.  He informed me that he had heard that the Japs concerned were to be found in the Ursuline Convent up the road, so I decided to go there and hand over the car as arranged.  But the convent was also void of Japs, so not knowing what to do about the matter and also considering it unwise to continue using the car, I eventually ran it into a garage behind Ena's mother's house and there it remained for some months until the Japanese discovered it in one of their periodical searches and took it away.

'Sunny Corner' was in a bit of a mess after having been occupied by 40 Japanese soldiers for almost a week, but not nearly so bad as might have been expected.  Our carpets particularly had suffered as the Nips had walked over them with their muddy feet and a broad dirty track ran diagonally across the large Chinese carpets in the front room and dining room.  All the furniture had been pushed into corners to achieve sleeping accommodation on the floor and remains of meals and dirty plates were everywhere.  Our lovely little blue and white kitchen with its attractive 'Esse'-Fairy' cooker imagewas a sorry sight.  But actually there was nothing which could not be restored to its former state with time and a lot of elbow grease.

In every room we found bottles of wine and spirits, some empty, many a quarter to half full and a few still unopened.  Outside, at the back, were cases of empty soda water bottles which appeared to have been bought from Penang.  The Japs had certainly done themselves exceedingly well in the liquid refreshment line during their stay.  In fact my first revulsion of feeling at everything Japanese I threw the whole lot out of the house and I am still glad that I did.

The verandah was littered with the remains of what I took to be Japanese emergency rations in the form of some dried and compressed cereals which, with the rain, had swelled into a porridgy unsavoury looking mess.  In our bedroom, which seemed to have been occupied by the Jap officer I found that he had experimented with a few extra safety razors I had and had opened up quite a few packets of spare blades.  We made a clean sweep of everything that had been used by the Japs.

In spite of their having been at pains to impress us that they had kept our belongings intact, it was quite evident that they had literally been through everything although no great damage had been done.  An unused Kodasope 8mm film had been unwound and re-wound and put neatly back into its box, for instance, and traces of their monkey like activities came to light repeatedly during the next few weeks.

Things turned up in the most unexpected places.  One of Ena's bras appeared from her sewing basket.  In taking down a book from one of the bookshelves I got a toothbrush on my head.  Small articles, relegated long ago to the lumber room, were found in cupboards and drawers in the bedroom.  There was strong circumstantial evidence that my kilt and at least one of Ena's evening frocks had been tried on.

All our linen was missing and also one of the heavy curtains from the window in the sitting room, but apart from these items nothing seemed to have been taken.

We had found the Dutch Military Police guarding the house for us on our return and they were most helpful in assisting us to put the house to rights as far as moving back heavy furniture to former positions, etc was concerned and we were most grateful for their help.

***** to be continued

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Proper decorum

It is a regrettable fact that many girls and women seemed to regard the arrival of the Japs in Bandoeng as a signal to display more openly that they had ever seemed to do, their feminine charms, by lavish make up and by going about the streets in attire which left little or nothing to the imagination. All too brief shorts were unfortunately only too common, for instance, and it is bitter to have to record that the Japanese themselves put a stop to this immodest behaviour on the part of the European fair sex. It was made known through the medium of the press that the Japanese authorities did not favour and would not countenance any but the most proper and conventional female attire, nor would the use of lipstick or other 'come hither' cosmetics be tolerated. There are rumours of girls who had ignored this order being publicly humiliated, by punishment but I do not know if this definite occurred.

Many shopkeepers, particularly those stocking watches, cameras and spectacles had a difficult time because they were besieged by Jap soldiers who would pay, and in 'banana' money, only a fraction of the marked price of the articles. Protest in many instances was met by a slap in the face. It is true, however, that if the shopkeeper was fortunate to get hold of an officer the latter saw to it that the soldier paid in full price, but in Jap money, of course. Generally, however, barefaced robbery of this nature was the order of the day.

On Saturday afternoon, Ena, who had more nerve and initiative than I have, suggested that we should cycle up to Dennenlust and see how 'Sunny Corner' as faring under Jap occupation. We set off and as we were pushing our cycles up the steep hill to the house, a truck loaded with Japs roared past us up the road. The Nips all grinned at us and some of them waved. I swore, thinking that they were jeering at the sight of the once proud Europeans reduced to trundling push bikes up a hill.

But I was wrong. When we reached 'Sunny Corner' we found that these were the very Nips occupying the house and that, having recognised us, they were merely giving us greeting. There must have been about forty of them altogether, and there seemed to be as many outside the house as inside. Their Lieutenant was not in evidence.

We were ushered into the house in the centre of this band which immediately surrounded. They were all very friendly, and one of them who knew about three words of English, was at great pains enthusiastically assisted by half a dozen others, to explain to us through the medium of his limited vocabulary and much sign language that they would be leaving the house the following Thursday. While this was going on, one Jap, stark naked walked quite unconcernedly through the room into the bedroom.

One of the Nips took me by the arm and indicated that I was to go with in the direction of the kitchen. I said quickly to Ena "Stick close to me, I don't want to leave you alone with these guys".

He led us straight to the bathroom, threw open the door and there was disclosed to our startled gaze another Japanese in the bath arrayed in his birthday suit.

Our guide kept jabbering a long story to us but of which we naturally could not understand one word. Despairing at last of this method of conveying his meaning to us, he grasped my hand and slipped it into the water in the bath. Then he took Ena's hand and repeated the action. The Jap in the bath calmly proceeded with his ablutions during this procedure, taking not the slightest notice of us.

At length it dawned on us what it was all about. Some months previously we had installed an 'Esse' cooker image (similar to an Aga) with complete hot water installation. The 'Esse' is a heat storage range which burns continuously day and night only requiring servicing twice a day, morning and evening, with a hopper full of charcoal. When we left the house I had been at pains to explain hastily as best as I could to the Lieutenant what he had to do to keep the stove going but he had quite obviously not got the idea. When the Japs arrived they had found hot water in the bathroom but they had let the fire go out and now the tap was running cold. This was what the Jap was now asking us to explain, but it just couldn't be done and eventually he and we had to give it up as a bad job.

Several Japs now took us on an inspection tour of the house and showed us how cupboards etc had been sealed by them with strips of paper and they were obviously anxious to impress the fact that, apart from shifting around the furniture to suit their convenience our belongings were intact and untouched. To this day we do not understand their solicitude in this connection as it is so at variance with all that we experience later.

When we left 'Sunny Corner' the whole crowd saw us off and, as far as we could make out, seemed to be inviting us to call again soon. Once down the hill and out of sight, Ena and I nearly fell off our bikes laughing at the memory the naked Japs in the bath!

**** to be continued

Monday, 27 October 2008

The Japanese propaganda machine at work

The Japs lost no time in setting their very efficient propaganda machine to imagework.  Above the Aloon-aloon,  the enlarged counterpart of our village green, rose a huge captive balloon on which was inscribed in Malay the equivalent of 'Long live great Asia'.  Posters appeared all over the town stating that the P1020377Dutch currency was not to be considered valid and bearing illustration of Jap bank notes which were coming into circulation, the so called 'banana' money with which the Japanese flooded all occupied territory.

The local newspaper quickly showed signs of Japanese supervision but surprisingly the local radio station was permitted to broadcast messages to and from 'displaced' persons seeking contact with relatives.  Rashly, the announcer persisted in closing down with the playing of the 'Wilhelmus', the Dutch national anthem.  He did it once too often and the Japs shot him.

Although business had come practically to a standstill we still went to the office each morning, just like a hen which keeps running on until it realised its head had been chopped off.  The banks had been closed immediately by the Japs and that in itself was sufficient to bring trade to a standstill.  Our office premises were more more like a boarding house as this time as the whole of the British male staff of the P&T (Anglo Dutch Plantations) had gratefully accepted our offer to take up temporary residence there until such time as they should succeed in finding more suitable accommodation.

The British women and children from the P&T Soebang had been evacuated from Tjilatjap at the end of February and it was actually more than three years later before anxious husbands and fathers learned that their ship had reached Australia safely.

During this week, all officers and men of the forces had been interned temporarily in schools and other buildings but daily contact was possible and as these camps were not by any means strongly guarded at first many adventurous souls made a habit of undertaking expeditions into the town under the cover of darkness returning before dawn laden with very welcome good things in the way of food and drinks.

One of the first things the Japs did was to put the clock back, literally, an hour and a half, thus affecting synchronisation with the Tokyo time.  Metaphorically, in due course they put it back 500 years.  This action caused quite a lot of confusion at first as for making appointments and so on, each of us had to find out from the other whether 'Java' time or 'Nippon' time was meant.  Many people refused to recognise Nippon time, not openly of course, but among themselves.

One of the first things I did this week was to replace the watches which the Jap shock troops had taken from us and I was fortunate in being still able to procure from a local Swiss watchmaker an even more up to date 'Mido' for myself and an 'Eterna' similar to the one Ena had lost.  We took good care not to wear them openly, however, as we went about town because it was already evident that the Jap soldiers were enthusiastic collectors of watches and cameras and we did not want to lose our watches a second time.  I myself did, not long afterwards, but more of this anon.

We did not use the Hillman as there was also great risk of losing that too, but went about on bicycles which I had bought about a month preciously when it seemed likely that in due course cars would be requisitioned by the Dutch authorities.  These bikes stood us in good stead now, and later.

**** to be continued

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Sunny Corner.... goodbye for the first time

Bill Leslie in the meantime had run down to Sparkes and borrowed his car and the whole Leslie family, with their meager belongings, were packed into that. Ena and myself with the parrot, two canaries in cages, three dogs and two cats, some boxes of provisions and a couple of suitcases squeezed into the Hillman. Our faithful Amat followed on his bicycle. And so we said "Goodbye" to 'Sunny Corner' for the first time.

The Leslie's went to friends in the vicinity of the Lembangweg while Ena and I descended with our menagerie on Ena's mother who was living in a small annexe on Dagoweg. She had already given refuge to a planter and his wife and two children who had had to flee from their Estate owing to the activities of the native 'rampokkers' or robbers. These robber bands which had sprung into existence like mushrooms all over the island coincidental with the landing of the Japs, and probably the result of carefully prepared fifth column work. In such a small house it was consequently a pretty tight squeeze but we got settled in somehow.

There would be no point in recording the events of this week in detail but I shall endeavour to give a brief description of this first period of Japanese occupation.

In the course of our first evening at Dagoweg 31e, the Japanese C in C spoke on the radio. He spoke, of course, in Japanese and this was afterwards translated into Dutch. He started off by reminding us that the Dutch East Indian Army no longer existed and, of course, had a lot to say regarding the blessings which the coming of the Sons of Heaven would bring to Java and the usual tosh about "a sphere of co-prosperity in South East Asia." Then he started a tirade against the Dutch for their having sent all Japanese who had elected to stay on in Java after the outbreak of hostilities to Australia.

There had indeed been about a thousand of such Japs who had submitted to internment in Java but it had been immediately realised that these had remained with a definite purpose and that Nippon was depending upon them for their knowledge of the country's affairs in many spheres if and when invasion and occupation should take place. No matter how much we had kidded ourselves as to the outcome of a Japanese attack on the island, the Japs themselves had had no doubts as to the outcome and had made their Trojan horse arrangement accordingly.

The Dutch authorities had, however, acutely and very secretly, sent all these Jap male internees off to Australia in good time before hand to an internment camp there, so that the Nips when they arrived in Java found themselves in a fearful muddle owing to their key personnel not being present to advise them. The C in C was terribly peeved about it and declared that the Japanese would be fully in their right if they were to transport all the Dutch in Java to the icy waters of Siberia. But as the Japanese were upright and humane people, they could not stoop to avenging the Dutch action in such a way.

He did not, of course, add that the upright and humane Japanese had even better ideas than this in regard to making the Dutch in Java pay for upsetting his applecart but then probably murder, torture and mass slow starvation were not looked upon by him in this light.

I saw the first Jap mechanised column enter Bandoeng from the West. image Tank after rumbling tank lumbered past our office each bearing the Japanese flag and with one or more of the tank drivers grinning toothily like jacks in the box from the turrets. Apart from small groups of Indonesians, here and there at street corners, who waved and cheered, little enthusiasm was shown by the native population at the sight of their 'liberators'. But there is no doubt that the display of force which the Japs were able to present in the air and on the land must have made a great impression on the simple native mind.

**** to be continued.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

A resumption of the story!

To resume my story. At a very early hour next morning, Tuesday, we were all up and about, none of us having slept particularly well, I imagine. As soon as I was dressed I walked down to the Sparkes' house to see how they had fared the night before.

To my amazement, and theirs, they had simply not been aware of anything untoward going on, had heard nothing and had not even seen a Jap. With the effects of last night's happenings still working on me, it seemed fantastic and incredible that the whole district should not have known about our ordeal. We had found our experiences bad enough, indeed, but we learned later that that of our neighbours Van den Bos and Van Beveren had been much more trying, their visitors being the worse for drink and inclined to violence. Van Beveren had been forced out of the room at the point of a bayonet.

The Japs had come up the main road to Dennenlust, completely ignoring the houses on either side and had commenced operations at the point where the road splits, towards the left, on Buitenweg West where our house was and the right, Buitenweg Oost in which the houses of Van der Bos and Van Beveren were situated. Many of the houses up the hill had been visited in the same unpleasant fashion, but even when leaving Dennenlust the Japs had again ignored the houses further down the main road so that the people living there were blissfully unconscious of what had been going on a few hundred yards away up the hill.

Compared with a lot of many other families in other parts of the town that night, and particularly in the Dagaweg, we were fortunate. Many people were simply thrown out of their houses without ceremony to provide billeting accommodation for the Jap troops. I have heard it said that this was primarily the fault of the municipal authorities who had been warned well in advance of the arrival of the shock troops and should have seen to it that suitable buildings were placed at the disposal of the Japs for billeting purposes. And, indeed, as far as I was aware, nothing at all was done in this connection.

As I walked down the hill towards Sparkes house, I saw our car standing abandoned in the middle of the road. It was not locked but the ignition key was missing. Coming back from Sparkes, to my dismay (to my horror, I might almost say) I found Ena sitting in the car trying to get it started by means of an assortment of Yale keys, even the key of her sewing machine! She though it the most natural thing in the world, the car standing there, to steal it back from the Japs and put it in our garage.

I persuaded her that this was not a wise thing to do and we walked back to 'Sunny Corner' together. We had not yet entered the house when a bunch of Nips drove up in a truck and took the Chrysler in tow. I shudder to think what might have happened had they found her in the car, caught in 'flagrante delicto'.

We were just sitting down to breakfast when we became aware of a commotion outside. Looking out, I saw a company of Japanese soldiers come to a halt on the road before the house, and as I watched, a smart looking officer entered the garden. I went to meet him.

He saluted. "This is British house?" he asked in English.

"Yes," I replied.

"Japanese soldiers take this house, very sorry," and turning, gave apparently the order for the troops to come in and make themselves at home.

"When do we have to leave the house?" I asked.

"Oh, you go now," he said in a quite matter of fact tone. Then, as if wishing to atone for the shock his words occasioned us, he added, "I stay perhaps one month. Japanese soldiers go - you come back your house."

I asked him if we could take anything with us, food, clothing and so on.

"You take," he replied magnanimously.

While soldiers swarmed all over the house putting things to wrongs, we hastily gathered clothing and provisions together. I still had my Hillman Minx which was standing at the side of the house under a tarpaulin. I had taken over the Chrysler some weeks before from our Soekabremi office in exchange for the Hillman, the intention being to convert the latter into a small delivery wagon for the firm. But owing to the local coach builders being at the time choked up with Army orders, the plan could not be carried out and the Minx had been just set aside for the time being.

I asked the officer if I could take the car.

"You take," he said again.

He was a good looking, pleasant and polite chap and it is difficult to realise, in the light of later experience, that he was really a Jap.

**** to be continued

Friday, 24 October 2008

A little more about the Dutch capitulation in Java

I pause for a moment in my narrative to interpolate a word or two about the Dutch capitulation in Java.

For some reason or other it seemed to be generally expected that when the Jap chose to tackle Java, he would find himself up against a tough opposition. I cannot recall that there was the slightest concrete foundation for this idea, but can merely record that their view was the accepted one.

As I have already mentioned the abrupt and mysterious departure of Wavell and his staff caused many to wonder uneasily if Java was really such a touch nut to crack as had been imagined.

The Dutch Navy and Air Force did brilliant work out of all proportion to their actual strength and literally gave their all. There was not a ship and hardly a plane left when the Jap invasion occurred. Practically all planes had been at the behest of the Allied Command used in Malaya to bolster up the sadly deficient air strength there in a vain effort to patch up the swiftly crumbling defences of the Peninsula and very few, if any, returned from these operations.

Navy and Air Forces went out in a blaze of glory, one may say. The so far inexplicable and unexplained collapse of the Army is still shrouded in mystery. The Dutch Parliamentary Commission Van Poll, which visited Java in March this year (1946) states that an investigation in this connection is urgently desirable and as it is evident from this that even official circles are still in the dark as to the reasons for the ignominiously defeat of the Military Forces it would be ridiculous for me to even try to give an explanation.

One thing must be considered, in my opinion, to have vitally weakened the Army as a fighting force and that was the tragic death of General Berenschot, the Commander in Chief who lost his life in a plane crash in Batavia. image Berenschot was recognised as a brilliant soldier and as C in C very popular with the troops. At the time of the crash it was broadly hinted in many quarters that there had been foul play, that the plane had been tampered with by enemy agents, but this can have been more rumour on the part of sensation loving news mongers.

Berenschot's successor was the former Chief of Staff, General Poorten. image I know nothing of his military qualification, but the man in the street, like myself, can only naturally assume that the failure of the Army, when put to the test, was his responsibility in the first instance and that the collapse was due to his lack of vision and judgement.

The strength of the Army, numerically was I believe, somewhere in the region of 80,000 including native troops, but of this number only about half were professional soldiers. The number of Europeans was about 20,000, I understand. This means that 50% of the Army was made up of untrained men, those who had hastily mobilised from all peaceful walks of life at the outbreak of hostilities.

The Dutch had always had the conscript system which meant that at a certain age, those males who were deemed fit for military duty were called up and put through a course of training lasting, I understand, about 9 months and were then relegated to the Reserves and liable, like our Territorial Force, to be called up at once in the event of war. On reaching the age of 40, such men became automatically transferred to the Landstorm, which may be translated as Home Guard.

But when the Dutchmen in Java were called up, the great majority of them had this period of military training anything from 10 to 20 years behind them, and were probably not even capable of forming fours smartly let alone be expected to take any efficient part in modern methods of warfare. True, they were called up in rotation for shooting practice at the range for one day, and on that day expended 5 rounds of ammunition each at the butts, receiving their soldier's pay of about 20 cents for their trouble.

But even these facts, which could very reasonably be put forward as an explanation of the Army not having fought well, does not explain the complete and utter breakdown of every form of organised resistance.

There are tales of officers who just disappeared and of the failure of the Air Support Command to deliver supplies to the troops abandoned to their fate in Tjiater and elsewhere, but as this is all hearsay it is better not to enlarge on these matters. One instance I can mention from personal observation. It was on, I believe, the fourth day of the invasion that Ena and I were driving down the Lembangweg to town in pouring rain when we overtook four young lads, weary, bedraggled and mud stained. Their uniforms were sodden and they were actually walking barefoot. They had walked all the way from Tjiater some thirty kilometres distant and had been on the road for two days.

Their story was the same as that of one of the employees which I have already mentioned. No food, and nobody in authority to tell them what they were to do.

We crowded them all into the car and brought them in turn to their respective homes.

Granted, as the events would seem to indicate, that the Allied High Command had decreed that the defence of Java was impossible, it is still clear that a token resistance was imperative in the interests of future Dutch prestige and it is unthinkable that it could have been suggested that the Army should have laid down its arms with hardly a blow being struck in self defence, even if it should necessarily have resulted in severe losses. The Navy and Air Force did not hesitate to make their sacrifices and there seems no reason, looking at the matter quite dispassionately why the Army should have done less. An investigation in due course is definitely necessary and no one will welcome light on this obscure subject more than the Dutch in Java themselves.

**** to be continued

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Our second house invasion!

About half an hour later we had a second invasion. Another bunch of eight burst into the house without warning. They went all through the house but apparently found nothing which took their fancy. I had some weeks previously brought a small safe from our firm's stock to the house and had placed it in a room which the Leslie's were now occupying. This was spotted during their search and I had to open it. To their disgust it contained nothing but business papers and documents and sundry articles of silverware of no great value and certainly of too bulky a nature to slip easily into the pocket. We got the impression that these shock troops, for such they were, had had orders not to loot hence their interest only in small articles which they would find easy to conceal.

This second party stayed in the house for over an hour making themselves generally objectionable, demanding drink and lounging about, sprawling in chairs round the dining room table. I remember one of them pointing to the light suspended above the dining room table and ejaculating "Denki!" We thought then that he was referring to the lampshade but learned later that this was the Japanese word for electricity.

After what seemed to us like ages, they left.

Fortunately, neither of the parties had thought about exploring the store rooms at the rear of the house and for this I was very thankful because in one of them I had my "wine cellar", about 50 or 60 bottles of assorted wines and spirits. If they had discovered these that night and started drinking then I should probably have had another tale to tell, and not such a comparatively harmless one either.

As soon as they had gone, Bill and I decided that we had better do something, and that quickly, about the liquor in case it should be discovered by eventual further visitors. First of all, we put out all the lights in the house. Lydia took up her position behind the curtains of the window in the front room so as to be able to give timely warning of approach. Ena stood at the rear in such a position as to have contact between Lydia, Bill and myself who hastily removed the bottles into the back garden where in the course of the next hour we succeeded in burying them along the hedge at the foot of the slope.

It had started to drizzle and burying all these bottles in the dark, groping and grubbing in the soft earth, was a messy and tiring job. The proceedings were rendered more difficult by the fact that just across the ravine, about 150 yards away, a crowd of Nips had taken possession of and encamped in a house on the Lembangweg and were plainly visible to us from where we crouched behind the hedge. From the noise they made shouting and singing it was evident that there at any rate their search for strong drink had been more successful.

But at last the job was done and after Bill and I had taken a very necessary bath, we all retired uneasily for the night wondering what the morrow would bring forth. Admittedly our experiences of this, the first, evening of Japanese occupation did not augur too well for the future.

**** to be continued

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Our first invasion of our house and home

During the afternoon, from 'Sunny Corner', we watched the melancholy of Dutch troops and equipment passing down the Lembangweg, part of which was invisible across the ravine. Each vehicle carried a white flag while the troops themselves wore a white handkerchief or other piece of white material around the neck. Incidentally, we had noticed that all public buildings in the town flew white flags from the masts on which the red, white and blue of Holland had waved so long and so proudly.

In the afternoon a second, to us, melancholy procession came down the Lembangweg from the North, that of the victorious Japanese singing and shouting their triumphant into our beautiful Bandoeng. These also carried white flags, but the white smeared the bloody sun of Japan.

It was just at sunset that, happening to look out at the front window, I saw a bunch of Jap soldiers enter the houses of two neighbours, some 100 yards across the way from 'Sunny Corner'. I called to Ena and Bill Leslie to come and watch what was going on. Lydia was with the kiddies in the spare room preparing them for bed and we did not disturb her.

As we watched, we saw the cars of my neighbours being driven out on to the road by the Japs and driven down the hill. Guessing that private cars were already being commandeered, I saw to it that I had the keys of our Chrysler Plymouth in my pocket so as to be ready when our turn came.


It was about dark when I noticed a solitary Jap making his way towards our house. Somehow or other the idea of waiting until I was summoned by his knock went against the grain with me, so that while he was still some yards from the house, I opened the door and went to meet him. He, however, pushed past me into the front room, where Ena and Bill were standing.

He was probably an NCO of some sort and he was just as dirty as his superiors whom I had seen earlier in the day. Not only that, but at this close range, he actually stand, an oily, sweaty odour which we were to learn to associate with all of his tribe.

He strutted into the room and stood, feet widespread and arm akimbo, looking about him with studied superciliousness for some moments. We also stood, silent, waiting to see what would happen.

With insolent leisure, he then removed the dirty woollen white gloves which covered his even dirtier hands, tossed the gloves on to a nearby occasional table, took a packet of cigarettes from his breast pocket, lit one, threw the match on the carpet and stood puffing in a lordly fashion.

All at once he shot out a finger at me.

"Inggris?" (English) he asked.

I didn't see the sense of trying to drum into his thick skull that I was no Sassenach, so I replied "Ja".

He tapped himself impressively on the chest and said "Nippon!", and gravely shook hands with me.

Then his finger shot out in Bill's direction.


Bill also said "Yes" to avoid argument.

Again the Nip tapped himself importantly on the chest and said "Nippon!" Then he shook hands with Bill.

He stood for a few minutes more puffing his cigarette. Then suddenly he turned on his heel and walked out, slamming the door behind him.

We three sat down and looked at each other, wondering what this meant. Did it mean that the fact of our being British gave us a certain standing in Japanese eyes? It certainly did, but not in the way we then thought, as we were soon to learn. And how did the Jap know that we were British? That was fairly easy to answer. Spies, no doubt, had had us all taped long before. I myself had patronised the Japanese hairdressing salonm, Kawata, opposite our office for year and Kawata himself, who had been in business in Bandoeng for something like 20 years, had evacuated, together with all Bandoeng Japanese residents, to Japan on the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific. Doubtless these sons of Nippon had been able to supply the Japanese Intelligence with highly detailed information regarding Bandoeng's citizenry. It had been generally accepted for a long time that all Japs in Java, as indeed elsewhere in the Pacific, were there as spies and that their various avocations were merely a cloak for their espionage activities.

It was about 10 minutes later when we heard the sound of many feet on the road outside. Divining what this portended, I again opened the door in order to meet our visitors before they should have the opportunity of summoning us to open up, or, what was more likely, of forcing their way in without ceremony.

The door opened outwards and my hand was still on the knob when I was seized by the wrist and a Jap soldier started tugging at the wristwatch I was wearing. At the same time seven others jostled past me into the front room. All were armed with rifle and bayonet.

Growling throatily what I presume were sundry Japanese bloodthirsty threats, the Jap kept twisting my wrist and plucking at the watch until I had no option but to undo the clasp and let him have it. Thus released I turned back into the room to discover that Ena and Bill had already been forced to surrender their watches.

No more watches being available, they then turned their attention to the rings on our fingers. One Jap took Ena's engagement ring, attracted no doubt, just like a monkey, by the gleam of the solitaire diamond, but ignored her wedding ring. Another Jap helped himself to my wedding ring. While these two were thus for the time being engaged, the others dispersed themselves throughout the house. Two of them barged into the room where Lydia was with the children and it must have given her a great shock, particularly in her condition, as up to that moment she had had no idea of what was going on.

Suddenly, one of the gang seized me by the arm and hustled me outside into the night. I wondered if I was going to be bumped off. But I was relieved to discover that he wanted the car out of the garage. His desire was conveyed to me in unmistakable sign language.

I backed the car out of the garage on to the road. The gear lever on the steering wheel had him puzzled and I had to explain and demonstrate to him as best I could how it worked. He grunted what I understood to be his comprehension, in due course, and left the engine running while he took over and glided off down the hill. I found myself then free to return to the house.

Incidentally, I may mention that the next morning we found the car abandoned just about 60 yards down the road and of this more anon.

While I had been out of the hose, the Japs had poked about all over the house, opening drawers and cupboards in the search presumably of portable loot in the way of jewellery perhaps, but I don't think they took anything of importance. They pinched about half a dozen bottles of beer of the frigidaire, though. Fortunately the whisky bottle on the sideboard was empty.

They were just preparing to leave when I got back. One of them as he passed me patted me over as if searching for a weapon. His hand encountered the outline of my automatic cigarette lighter which I was carrying in my trouser pocket. He made me produce it and when I did so I had to show him what it was and how it worked. When it lit up, his face lit up even more. I had to let him see the wheels go round again. He made a grab at it and snatched it from me with one hand while with the other he pushed something into my hand. My wedding ring! I slipped it quickly into my pocket reflecting that this was much more than a fair exchange for a pocket lighter which had cost me only f2.50

With their departure, the house was suddenly quiet although we could hear them shouting hoarsely to each other, in the distance. We were all naturally somewhat upset by this experience and were glad to sit down quietly, congratulating ourselves that it had not been worse.

But our troubles for the evening were not over yet!

****** to be continued

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

And so during the afternoon....

During the afternoon in ever increasing numbers, Dutch troops could be seen wandering aimlessly about the street outside. The all looked lost, like sheep without a shepherd. This simile is very accurate. Some of them wandered into the lane at the side of our office premises, having vainly sought food at the Indian restaurant next door. We were fortunately able to provide them with a rough meal, thanks to the provisions we had brought with us, and while they sat on the pavement eating ravenously they told us how they had been somewhere imageup north of Lembang for the past three days and that there were no officers anywhere to give them orders. They had received no food supplies and at length bewildered and famished, they had made their way back to Bandoeng.

About 5 pm we decided to go along to the Concordia Club image for a cup of tea although the lounge and terrace were full of khaki or field green clad, mostly weary, figures, there were no 'boys' (waiters) to be seen nor did anything seem to be being served. We all went prospecting in the service regions and eventually found an assistant chef, who informed us the Club was completely sold out of everything eatable and that even hot water was not available owing to the furnaces being blacked out as a result of the mass desertion of all the native staff.

It was the same story at all restaurants and cafes and we had perforce to return eventually to the office without having partaken of the cup which at that moment would have cheered more than usual. By this time it was getting dark and as there was nothing to be gained by sitting about in the mosquito invested discomfort of the office, we had a quick scratch meal and for the second night, retired at a ridiculously early hour.

Next morning, Sunday, we discussed the situation once more and finally decided to be fatalistic about the whole business and to return to Dennenlust. We felt we had had enough of discomfort and it was particularly hard on the kiddies and also on Lydia who was expecting her third baby. The Sparkes contingent, when they heard our intention, decided to do likewise, and within a very short time we were again installed in our homes, and revelling once more in the ease of domestic comforts.

But we were not destined to have peace of mind for long. At 11 am General Poorten, Commander in Chief of the Army, broadcast the tragic announcement that capitulation had taken place, and the "the Royal Dutch Indian Army had ceased to exist."

Our feelings on hearing this message can better be imagined than described. We just looked at each other in stunned silence. The rest of the day passed quietly except for the occasional loud hum of the flight of seven silver coloured Jap bombers, their wings prominently displaying the blood red sun symbol of Nippon which circled at intervals above the town. When night fell it was as if the silence of the grave itself had descended on Bandoeng. Inevitably we talked a lot and discussed the situation in an effort to cheer each other up, but all of us, I think, with the exception of the children went to bed with heavy hearts.

Over the radio, during the evening, we had been informed that the Japanese command desired the presence of the municipal authorities, bankers and business men to be held in the Town Hall the following morning at 9 am. Sparkes and I decided we had better attend.

When we arrived at the Town Hall we found that there were already quite a number of Japanese soldiers to be seen there. True to the 'showing off' propensities of the Nip and which we were to observe repeatedly through the next three and a half years various groups were engaged in a sort of spectacular sword play in the grounds of the great delectation of the natives who had collected in hundreds to enjoy this free show. The 'swords' were more like wooden staves with which they made passes at each other each attempting to avoid the onslaught of his opponent by very quick and agile jumps and springs. The whole to an accompaniment of blood curdling yells. The whole business was, of course, just a small instance of the initial workings of the Japanese propaganda machine and expressly designed to impress the native population.

We were about 100 all told at this meeting which took place in the Council Chamber which was a fairly large room fitted out with a raised dias along one side, from which I presume in normal times, the Mayor used to preside over the deliberations of the city fathers. A few of the municipal functionaries appear to be in charge of the preliminaries and we were directed by these gentlemen to chairs set in rows facing the diaz, at the same time being nervously instructed to stand to attention when the Japanese General and his staff arrived.

We had a long time to wait, about an hour and a half, if I remember aright, but sufficiently long to let the feeling of humiliation at this treatment be felt by all present, a feeling which was intensified to the Nth degree when the conquerors at long last deigned to appear.

A more ruffian like, slovenly and barbaric looking bunch of unshaven travesties of the genus homo I had never seen nor hope to see again.

The General himself was the typical Jap of caricature, all teeth and opaque slitty eyes glaring through thick lensed spectacles. There were about then Nips altogether and, with one exception, the others were, in various ways, as repulsive looking as the General. The exception was one who, from the wings on his breast, was evidently the representative of the Air Force. He looked almost clean and almost human.

In spite of the stark tragedy of the situation, I could not help feeling at the time, in a detached sort of way, that this was an historic occasion and that I was privileged to be present on such a momentous occasion.

The proceedings were fairly brief and amounted in effect to the signing of the declaration by the Mayor in which he undertook the responsibility for the general good conduct of the citizenry of Bandoeng while other authorities and business men were instructed to carry on with their duties and businesses as usual in order to ensure normal conditions being maintained in the town.

The General gave his orders in a series of animal like mutters and grunts which were translated and communicated to us in Malay, just the pleasant little way of the Japanese of giving the knife a twist in the wound. We all stood at attention as the General and his staff quitted the Chamber.

The civil authorities broadcast during the morning a request that everyone stay indoors that day as from noon, as the Jap occupational force was expected on the early afternoon.

**** to be continued

Monday, 20 October 2008

Down at the office

In the late afternoon of this Friday, Sparkes, Sparkes my business partner who also lived Good sunny cornerat Dennenlust some 100 yards down the hill from 'Sunny Corner', rang me up.

"Smith", he said, "I have just got a tip that there may be a retreat from Tjiater in this direction and we may find ourselves soon in the line of fire. I have also some Soebang people with me here and we have decided to camp out in the office. I don't know what you want to do because I know you have a lot of folks there with you, but I think you ought to move. We shall be a lot safer in the middle of the town than out here in things get hectic."

Bill Leslie and I hastily discussed matters and decided to move, like the Sparkes family, to the office. DKS No sooner said than done. Camp beds and provisions were piled into the two cars and off we went. We dropped Paula and Marie Dirks at the house of a friend of theirs and the remaining six of us proceeded to the office where we turned the book keeping department into a bedroom for the Leslie family while Ena and I took up our quarters in my own room/office. The Sparkes family and their refugees were accommodated in Sparkes' room, and in the surface shelter which we had had erected at the side of our office building. Mosquitoes and weariness drove us under our mosquito nets at a comparatively early hour and in spite of the strangeness of our surroundings I think that everybody slept well.

The following morning, Saturday, the Jap bombers were over early and were overhead or in the near vicinity all day. I had a small radio in my office and there was also one in the shelter and we heard the announcement that the sirens would no longer be used but that we had now to consider the situation as one of continuous alarm. The staff had all turned up but little or no work could be done as we spent most of the forenoon in the shelter, driven to cover by the sound of exploding bombs and occasional serial machine gun fire.

On one of the periodical rushes to the shelter, Sparkes reached there carrying a cup of tea which apparently had just been served to him. Mrs Sparkes was immediately ahead of him and as they crossed the threshold a particularly loud bang caused Sparkes' had to jerk so that half of the scalding tea disappeared down the back of his wife's neck! Mrs Sparkes was so peeved that I don't believer she would have noticed a near miss. Sparkes himself would probably have welcomed one in preference to the telling off he got.

Sometime during the morning Ena decided that she wanted to run up to 'Sunny Corner' to fetch something or other which had been forgotten. For some reason which I forget, I was unable to leave the office at that particular moment so Bill Leslie went with her as escort.

They were just leaving the house on the return journey when a low flying Jap Navy-O reared over the treetops and let off a burst of machine gun fire. The bullets spattered along the road a few feet from the car, but fortunately they were not hit. It says a lot for Ena's coolness and driving ability that she did not lose control of the car but, on the contrary, stepped hard down on the gas and went licketty spit down the hill.

Ena and Bill had just arrived back at the office when some bombs fell about a hundred yards away. Ena and I were in my office when the crash came. As plaster fell from the ceiling, we both made a dive under the desk. Unfortunately, we went at it enthusiastically, but from opposites sides so that our heads came together with a resounding crack.

We both fell back on our haunches and laughed uproariously.

A further crash close at hand put an abrupt end to our amusement and we made record time to the shelter.

It may sound irreverent but it tickled us to death when we arrived there to find Sparkes sitting in his armchair at the far end, eyes screwed up tight, hand clasped before him, singing softly and quaveringly, "Nearer, my God, to Thee."

Apart from a burst or two of machine gun fire from the Jap fighter planes on the Chinese quarter a little earlier, these bombs were the only ones which fell within the town itself and were, I imagine, in the nature of a warning by the Japs as to what they could do if they wanted to. By this time, except from anti aircraft fire from the few Beauforts brought by the British, there was no opposition and they could have blown Bandoeng off the map if they had so wished.

How many bombs were actually dropped I do not know exactly, but it could not have been more than three or four and not very heavy ones at that. They fell all in the vicinity of the junction of Groote Postweg with Bantjeis and imageRegentsweg. The Post Office was slightly damaged and a number of cars parked there set on fire. The rear of the image Escompto Bank building got one bomb and another damaged the Mosque. About 40 people mostly natives, were killed or injured.

Sometime during the forenoon our friend, Sam Bor, called up for the militia like most Dutchman of military age some months previously, dropped into the office.

He brought the cheering news that the Japs had been held and thrown back at Tjiater. "Deze keer komen ze niet door!" he said decidedly. (This time they won't get through). Poor Sam! Like the majority of us he was living in a fool's paradise of wishful thinking and highly receptive of every optimistic rumour. I can still recall the sort of glow which possessed me on hearing his words.

**** to be continued

Sunday, 19 October 2008

How we all react differently....

On Thursday one of our employees, a young Dutchman who had been called up, with thousands of others, some months before, came into my office, showing signs of great exhaustion. His uniform and rifle were caked with mud. He had just arrived back from Tjiater, how I don't know.

"Mr Smith," he said, " I have been lying for four days in the mud of the rice fields, bombed and machine gunned from the air practically all the time. I haven't fired a shot and I haven't seen a single Jap".

I understand that this was more or less the general experience of Tjiater. Jap planes bombed and machine gunned their positions until the troops had to retire. Japanese infantry thinly spread out in long lines advanced slowly until they received a message from the planes that a position had been abandoned. The infantry then all converged on the position, as along the ribs of a fan and thus, within a very short time, had occupied the point in force. These tactics repeated, I believe, until the Dutch were driven back from their outposts to the Tjiater fortifications where a bitter struggle was reported to be now taking place.

Bandoeng was becoming every day more crowded, people seeming to flock into the town from all directions. All hotels, boarding houses, etc were by now full up and restaurants and cafes were unable to cope with the rush. Over the radio, contrary to the anti hoarding policy strictly enforced hitherto, came the advice to all citizens of Bandoeng, to stock up with as much food stuffs as they could procure. Ena and I went on the scrounge and in one way or another collected about £100 worth of tinned and bottled foods which were to stand us in good stead in the days to come, even after our liberation from internment three and half years later, but of this more anon.

Friday morning while I was still in my dressing gown, drinking my coffee and listening to the early news, the sirens started their wailing. Almost simultaneously, the roar of low flying aircraft directly overhead, immediately followed by the rattle of bursts of machine gun fire. "Action stations" was the word with a vengeance. I yelled for the house boy, Engkong, to get a move on but got no reply. Running to the rear premises to find out what he and Amah, his wife, were doing; I discovered they were nowhere to be found and we never saw them again.

This desertion was a great disappointment to us, as Engkong and Amah had been with us for seven years; ever since we were married and had been always very well paid and treated. Up to the time of our removing to 'Sunny Corner' some 15 months before, they had always lived in the servants' quarters with which most European houses are provided and we had come to regard them as permanent fixtures as the house furniture itself. They had proved themselves honest as the day, had shared to a great extent in our joys and sorrows, so to speak, and we had been convinced of their loyalty. But this desertion by house servants proved to be almost the general rule during this period and by the time the Japs arrived in Bandoeng, very few Europeans could boast of still possessing domestic help. However, we must not judge these people too harshly and I, for one, would immediately re-engage Engkong and Amah again if they should turn up again one of these days.

Later in the day, when the excitement of the raid had subsided, we walked to the kampong further afield where we had rented a house for them and where they had lived very comfortably ever since we occupied 'Sunny Corner', only to find the house shut up. On enquiring we learned that they had merely been there long enough to pack some belongings and had then set out, presumably on foot, for another village where Engkong, thanks to our financial assistance in previous years, had acquired some acres of sawahs (rice or paddy fields) sufficient to meet their simple needs should he eventually choose to retire.

Poor people! At the moment of writing Dajeuhkelet, the kampong (village) where they lived, is in the front line of the battle going on between Dutch troops and Indonesian extremists and the village itself exists only in name, mainly as the result of the exploding of a large ammunition dump there about six weeks ago, which flattened everything within a large radius. The chances of their having survived in the turmoil in that district during the past few months are just fifty fifty.

One shining exception to the general desertion of house servants is to be found in our 'toekang kabon' or gardener, Amat, a Javanese, who stuck to his Tuan and Njonja (master and mistress) through thick and thin until Ena herself was interned in October 1942 and even after that, stayed on in the service of Ena's mother until November, 1944. When one realises the intense anti European propaganda of the Japanese and the actual threats of punishment which were made to all natives who were guilty of lending any form of assistance to Europeans, one can regards Amat's action with only admiration and gratitude. It is such as he who restores one's sadly shaken faith in any good whatever to be found in Indonesians generally and I can only pray that he is still alive and that I one day shall have the privilege of shaking him by the hand. And, so far as lies in my power, he shall be suitably rewarded for all that he did for us.

***** to be continued