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

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Next morning....

The next morning, when I went down to the office as usual, it was quite evident from the general atmosphere of tension in the town, that the seriousness of the situation was realised. We learned in the course of the day that the Japs had landed at three points on Java.

During the next few days, news was rather scrappy about the general progress of imageevents but there were strong rumours of a desperate struggle going on at the Tjiatar fortifications, on the ridge of the Tangkeoban Prahoe, a large volcano, which is roughly 30 kilometres from Bandoeng.

On Wednesday, to our great relief, Bill Leslie turned up. He told us how they had been ordered out of Soebang by the military and how they had had to make a wide detour through the plantation roads in order to reach Bandoeng. They had not seen a single Jap but had engaged in doing their bit towards the 'scorched earth' policy by destroying cars and trucks belonging to the P&T Plantations Ltd by driving them off the road into a deep ravine. They had had practically nothing to eat all the time and poor Bill's last meal, about 24 hours before, had been a quarter share of a small tin of liver paste.

The Japs, since they landed, had already sent bombers over a few times, but their attacks were confined to the flying field at Andir Airport which was the local airport to Bandoeng. Bill arrived just in time to experience with us the heaviest attack up to that time. We all adjourned as a matter of course to the shelter which I had had constructed on the garden slop and which was quite comfortable. I had installed three electric lights, a radio set and a bottle of whisky! We had more trouble on this occasion from the blast of the Beaufort ack ack gun which had been placed just across the small ravine to the west of the house than from the Jap bombs. The latter, as usual, fell on Andir Airport but the concussion from the Beaufort almost blew in the door off the shelter.

It is really amusing to recall the order of procedure for adjournment to the air raid shelter at 'Sunny Corner' (our house!) Each member of the household, which consisted of Ena and myself, Engkong the house boy, Amah the maid, Itjih the cook, and Amat the gardener, had his or her appointed task.

Our dogs, Lassie, dachshund Lassie and my mother and Gyppie, a Maltese terrier, Dad and Gyppie very quickly caught on to the idea and were the first to dash for the shelter as soon as the sirens started. Gyppie used to stand outside the shelter entrance barking vociferously until Itjih carried out her job, which was to carry Gyppie's six weeks old puppy, Sandy, to safety.

Incidentally, Sandy was and still is, an enigma. We bought Gyppie as a fully pedigreed Maltese and, therefore, pure white, in colour. A marriage was in due course arranged between Gyppie and another reputedly pure bred Maltese belonging to our friends. Gyppie produced on 21 January, 1942 at 3 am one solitary offspring, which was jet black! We blame the black out which was in force at the time.

Amah's job was to collect the two cats, Whitey Whitey and WhiskersWhiskers ; Engkong's to remove the canaries in their cages from the windows and to stow them under th table covered with a cloth. Amat had to put the parrot on its perch Parrot into one of the rear store rooms. While Ena, contrary to regulations but mindful of the bitter experiences of others who had suffered theft during alarms, closed all windows. I collected the first aid kit and gas masks. What a pity we couldn't have filmed the whole business, but it speaks for itself that each time this highly efficient routine came into operation, we were all thinking very much of the definite present and not of the problematic future.

***** to be continued

Friday, 17 October 2008

Is this the start of it?

Sunday, 1 March was a day of perfectly glorious weather. As was our usual custom at 'Sunny Corner', our house which was situated about 2.5 miles to the north of the town, we stayed at home enjoying the lovely view we had from the house and the restful peace of the surroundings.

This Sunday we had with us, as a guest for the day, three RAF lads with whom we had made acquaintance sometime during the previous week. I have forgotten the names of all but one, a Scot from Glasgow, Bill Wallace. We had arranged that they should spend a really lazy day with us and they had all managed to wangle 'off duty' time to this end.

Quite early in the morning I fetched them from their billet in town in the car and had them up for late breakfast. During the forenoon, we lazed about the lawn and managed to get rid of quite a surprising quantity of ice cold beer! For lunch we had an extensive 'rijstafel' (Indonesian rice dish with various side dishes literally translated 'rice table') which had the usual result of necessitating the partakers thereof to retire for 40 winks in the afternoon.

In due course, much refreshed, we re-assembled on the lawn for tea, feeling very much at peace with the whole world. It was indeed difficult to realise that anything untoward could be occurring in this fair island. Everything was so very peaceful and quiet.

About 5pm a car came up the hill towards the house and drove into the drive. To our amazement, out of the car stepped our old friend Lydia with her two children, her two sisters along with a native chauffeur and maidservant.

"The Japs are in Soebang", Lydia said simply.

We were stunned. Soebang was only a short 40 miles away on the other side of the Tangkoeban Prahoe mountain to the north.

"Where's Bill?" I asked.

"I don't know" Lydia replied wearily. "They were still fighting when we left".

Bill, Lydia's husband, who also hails from Aberdeen, was a member of the British unity on the local Home Guard in Soebang. Soebang itself a small town, the headquarters of the huge British concession in Java known as the P & T but more familiar in the UK as the Anglo Dutch Plantations of Java Ltd.

Our RAF friends immediately decided that the situation called for their presence at their HQ and while I drove them back to town Ena did all she could to make the refugees comfortable. We never saw the RAF lads again, and have often wondered since what became of them.

When I got back, Lydia and her sisters described to us how the Home Guard had been called out suddenly at 10pm the night before and how they themselves had been roused before dawn this morning, packed into cars and rushed off to a point somewhere to the south east, preparatory to necessary reconnaissance to the safety of the road to Bandoeng. They could only take with them what they could hastily pack and carry. Hand baggage was taken in the cars in which they travelled, but heavier suitcases had been put in a truck which unfortunately, as later transpired, was unable to get through.

They had been almost 12 hours on the road and were all dead tired so we got them all off to bed at an early hour. Fortunately, with, it seems, prescience of such a situation, I had some weeks previously, bought 6 camp beds so that we were able to make all reasonably comfortable.

**** to be continued

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Let's go back a little in order to understand....

The Japanese landed on Java on 1 March, 1942.  Singapore had fallen two weeks before, those British troops which had succeeded in getting away in time landing at various points along the coast of Sumatra and at Batavia (the old name for Java).image

Eventually all, I believe, arrived in Java.

I may mention that I had, and still have, no information as to the exact course of the events at that time apart from what one could read in the newspapers and observe personally.  And as it is already four and a half years since these events occurred I must rely on a very faulty memory to describe the happenings of this particular period which, by its very nature, was one of great confusion.  Consequently I will doubtless be guilty of many inaccuracies of detail on various points.

Ena and I were in the Elita Cinema image at the second performance on the night proceeding the fatal day.  About half way through the main feature (what the picture was, I cannot recollect) there was some commotion behind us at the door leading to the stalls where we were sitting and, suddenly, a stentorian voice shatters the comparative stillness.  "Mannen van de -------, onmiddelijk inrukken!" (Men of the -------, fall in immediately)

There is a stir and a welling up of excited subdued talk in the hall, but remarkably enough, nobody moves. One gets the impression of a sort of impatient resentment at the interruption.  Quite probably it occurs at a tense moment in the film.

The call is repeated and now various figures are seen moving towards the exit, and there is a lot of loud talk in the foyer outside.  Somehow everybody seems to be intuitively aware that this is no more precautionary or practice measure, but the real thing at last.

Ever since Holland's declaration of war on Japan immediately after the Pearl Harbour disaster, intensive ARP (Air Raid Precaution) exercises had been the rule and everybody had been kept busy building air raid shelters and reacting at all hours to the  day and night to the wail of the very efficient siren systems which had been installed throughout Bandoeng.  It is possible that many of the alarms, particularly after the fall of Singapore, were real ones but actually we did not see any Jap planes or hear bombs fall until after the landings on Java.  And even in the ensuing week, which terminated in the capitulation, we were not to experience very much in the way of aerial warfare.

During this eventful week, Bandoeng became the scene of almost indescribable confusion and feverish activity.  The town was suddenly full of British troops and mechanised equipment.  Dutch Government departments and many Dutch and British business houses and banks had also transferred their seats from Batavia to Bandoeng.  Almost overnight, it seemed that the comparatively small town of Bandoeng had undergone a metamorphosis and become a fully fledged metropolis.

This, for Bandoeng, unusual activity had actually begun on a small scale imagesometime in January, if I recollect aright, with the arrival of General Wavell and his staff,  who set up their headquarters at Lembang, a small place some 16 kilometres to the north of the town. Wavell's main task was to organise the British forces in the region so that British territory was protected against a Japanese attack.  At this time, we fully expected that Java was to be the centre of resistance to the Japanese advance and were consequently extremely optimistic as to the future.  Wavell's silent and sudden departure shortly before the fall of Singapore struck an ominous note, however, and left us with the uneasy feeling that the outlook was not so rosy as we had been leading ourselves to believe.

In this connection, it is interesting to record that almost three years later I met an old friend in the Baros camp who was still feeling very aggrieved and resentful at Wavell's having 'folded his tent like the Arab, and silently stolen away'.  This chap held at the time a very responsible position in the Dutch Government radio telephone department and had been put in charge of the linking up of the British Headquarters with the world generally, I presume.

Anyhow, he described to me how he had got everything fixed up, all connections made, etc with the only finishing touches to be put to the Lembang end ( a couple of hours drive from Bandoeng).  I can sympathise with his feelings of intense annoyance when he discovered that the whole outfit had disappeared overnight, not a soul being left behind to put into use all the very intricate and complicated apparatus which he had had to put together.

All the same, if it was, as I have long suspected, part of the Allied high strategy to give every semblance of permanence to Wavell's presence in Java and thus draw a red herring across the path of the Japanese line of advance, then this seemingly very rude behaviour was fully justified as it seems quite evident that the plan succeeded brilliantly.  In the light of subsequent events it would indeed appear that the Allied Command had resolved on the undoubtedly tragic but necessary and unavoidable course of sacrificing Java in the interests of the future plan of campaign.

The impression that Java was used a bait to catch a big fish is strengthened by the fact that the Japs landed something like 200,000 men on Java, when, in fact 20,000 would no doubt have sufficed to do all they had to do .

******* to be continued

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Pick Up

Outside on the road a dark saloon car is standing, a native chauffeur at the wheel and another native on the footboard. We get in. I am at the back between the two soldiers. The officer and the policeman sit in front with the driver. The native remains hanging on outside as we drive off.

I have been picked up at the rear annexe of the house at Tjiroemstraat 14 where we had found sanctuary with Mrs Kruseman and her married daughter, Elly Reindus. I realise all at once that the sounds we had heard earlier must have been a similar, perhaps the same, party, collecting Howes, another Britisher staying in the main house.

Fortunately, I reflect, Mrs Kruseman and Elly have not appeared and I am thankful that they have thus avoided possible eventual unpleasantness. They will have realised what is going on and have very sensibly lain doggo.

The car turns surprisingly to the left, down towards Tjibeuning - Plantsoen (local Public Gardens), and stops some moments later in a street corner. In the dim light of the street lamps, I can distinguish three Europeans and a few native policemen. When I see the Europeans I think at once "The bastards are helping the Nips!" I am quite wrong, however, as I am soon to discover.

After some rapid conversation between our policemen and the others on the street, we drive off again and I discover that we are in the Houtmanstraat, along which we proceed until we reach the house in which we have lodged with Mrs Reindus until two days before.

I realise then that the native on the running board of the car is the 'toekang kabon' (gardener) left behind by Mrs Reindus to act as watchman of the house in Houtmanstraat which we had vacated owing to the too close proximity of a Japanese transport column which has encamped itself along the open ground opposite the house and from whom we had already had several unpleasant visits.

Although I had notified the Police Officer of my change of address in accordance with the requirements of the Jap authorities in regard to British subjects, it is obvious that my escort has first sought for me at Houtsmanstraat and, failing to find me, has taken the 'toekang kebon' (gardener) along with them to show them where I am to be found.

The 'toekang kebon' is dismissed, the car turned round and some minutes later we are again at the corner where the group of Europeans and native policemen are still standing. The Europeans are squeezed into the car with some difficulty as they are all handcuffed together. They are unknown to me, but I learn later that they are Donald Gow, Stevenson and Maddock of the Goodyear plant at Buitenzorg (meaning literally, Beyond Cares).

The Jap officer remains with us inside, the soldiers and policeman festoon the running boards and off we go again. We drive for about 10 minutes and it becomes evident from the excited jabbering which goes on between the Nips and the natives that the driver is very uncertain as to the whereabouts of our intended destination. All was soon to be revealed.

At length we find ourselves on the Dagoweg image(inset is a photograph of this road in slightly more modern times) and as we proceed down this thoroughfare I guess, correctly, that we are being taken to the headquarters of the Kempei-Tai (Japanese Gestapo). This organisation, which from hearsay and rumour we have already learned to dread, has established itself in the Roman Catholic school of the St Aloysius Brothers.

There is a great activity here. The building is ablaze with lights, cars and motor-lorries are arriving loaded with Europeans, all men, and dashing off as soon as unloaded, presumably to fetch another load.

We are ushered into the entrance hall which seems to be packed with men. I see a number of well known faces among the prospective internees. To right and left along the walls are tables with Japs and natives engaged in what seems to be a preliminary registration or check of the haul. My turn comes and I fill in some form or other which demands only simple particulars of name, nationality, date of birth, etc.

Soldiers with rifles and fixed bayonets bark and grunt at us as we leave the tables and indicate that we are to proceed up the broad stairway which leads from the entrance hall. On arriving at the landing of the first storey my suitcase is searched by a soldier. He apparently finds nothing incriminating but succeeds very well in messing up the contents, so expertly packed by Ena.

Closing my suitcase with difficulty, I and the others in my particular batch, are ordered into a large square room, the floor of which is covered with a sort of thin blanket cloth.

The room is already half filled with men sitting on the floor. The early arrivals are the fortunate ones. They are sitting against the walls and have rest for their backs. No one speaks.

The soldiers shout at us unintelligibly, gesticulating towards our feet.

"Take off your shoes", calls someone softly from the already seated group. We do so and take our places on the floor in the middle of the room. I sit down, leaning on my suitcase and look around me.

I see many friends and acquaintances, both British and Dutch but the majority are unknown to me. Some lean against the walls or sit uncomfortably with closed eyes. Others, like myself, more wakeful, look around and we greet each other with a slight nod or faint smile. We are all feeling a bit dazed, I think.

After a while, I take 'Fate cannot harm me' from my pocket and try to read but I am afraid that nothing registers.

The sentries with rifles and fixed bayonets remain continually in the room, glaring at us balefully through narrowed eyes. These sentries are relieved by others about every 15 minutes, rather ceremoniously. They crash their rifle butts on the floor, bow to each other, utter hoarse shouts, present arms, bark again, crash butts, more bows, and the relief is accomplished. There may be only four different sentries altogether or maybe forty - I don't know. They all look the same to me.

Every ten minutes or so, fresh batches of internees arrive and take their places on the floor. Some, like myself, are fully dressed and carry suitcases. Others have nothing but the clothes they stand in, for the most part an open shirt and shorts.

One man is assisted into the room and is made to sit on a table just inside the door. He has a nasty, jagged wound on his right leg and from which the blood flows freely. I imagine, dramatically, that he has had a jab from a bayonet, but learn, a long time afterwards that his injury has been caused by his falling through a rotten plank on the floor of the truck in which he has been transported. A Jap doctor comes on the scene and renders first aid. The injured man then takes his place on the floor. He is Jack McConnell of the Hong Kong Bank and whom it is in due course to be my privilege to call a friend.

From time to time, a nasty little Jap NCO who is eventually to learn for himself among us the appreciative title of 'Basil the Bastard', checks up on those present by calling out names from lists apparently prepared in the reception hall below.

His weird pronunciation of the British and Dutch names makes it extremely difficult to understand who is referred to. Seeing the difficulty, one helpful member of a newly arrived batch steps to the side of the Jap, looks at the list, and suggest to Basil the B a more understandable pronunciation of the name to which there has been no response.

Basil takes a step backwards, glares at the helpful individual with mad fury in his eyes. Suddenly his hand comes up like a flash. The slap on the face resounds through the room, like a pistol shot.

This first experience of uncalled for and unreasonable Japanese violence, mild though it can be considered perhaps, shocks me to the core and I can't help beginning to feel some apprehension as to the treatment in store for us as internees of Dai Nippon.

The face slapping episode repeats itself a number of times during the long night, sometimes for the same reason as the first when some other helpful individual in a fresh batch makes the fatal mistake of daring to correct Basil's pronunciation, sometimes for other reasons which are clear to nobody but the Japs themselves, and perhaps not even to them.

About 5.00 am a Jap civilian and an officer come in and calls out a list of 30 names. Those called have to line up two deep, with their belongings, at the far end of the room. A few more faces are slapped, and at length the batch is marched out of the room.

This is repeated from time to time and as we hear the sound of motor trucks revving up and driving off outside we gather that we are being moved elsewhere.

In due course, my name is called and I am greatly relieved that I have succeeded in recognising it. I take my place in the row. We are ordered to number off. At the fifth time we do so, the Jap is apparently satisfied. I say apparently expressly because the Japs can't count for nuts!

We go downstairs An open truck has been backed up against the steps of the front entrance. We clamber aboard. We are so jammed that there is no room to turn or to draw a deep breath.

It is still dark. The stars shine above us; cold, beautiful and aloof. A faint paling in the eastern sky indicates that it will soon be dawn. It is chilly.

At an open window to the left of the entrance a Dutch policeman is standing. The Japs are forcing the Dutch police to assist them in the round up. This is Dicky van Ravenswaag Klaassen, an old acquaintance. I wink at him surreptitiously. Dicky, with a perfectly expressionless face, rubs his face meditatively with the widespread first and second finders of this right hand, the 'V' sign.

After some minutes of hoarse shouting and yelling, we drive off. As we turn into the street, I notice two women, Europeans, standing to attention on the pavement surrounded by Jap soldiers. What became of them, I wonder?

We drive east and in a short time, I find myself again in the Houtmanstraat and passing the house where we discharged the 'toekang kebon' (gardener) some 5 hours earlier.

Donald Gow is standing next to me. He says, "They are probably taking us up to Onrust". Onrust is an island off Batavia where the Dutch interned enemy aliens after the invasion of Holland in May, 1940.

I disagree. We are going East, I know, which is the opposite direction to Batavia. My idea is Garoet.

For some reason or other, ever since the possibility of internment has occurred to me, I have always had Garoet in my mind and my imagination has provided me with a picture of myself washing a shirt in a bucket of water in a sort of compound with an open barbed wire fence between me and open country beyond, with the hills in the distance, and behind me a sort of army hut but with vague figures moving in and out. Where this vision springs from, I haven't the slightest idea, but it is definitely not prophetic.

Eventually, we strike the main arterial road, image built with the blood and sweat of thousands of natives by Governor Daandels over 120 years ago. We continue east and my belief in Garoet as the ultimate destination is strengthened.

It is rapidly growing lighter and when we have proceeded about 5 kilometres it is full day and the plateau of Bandoeng with its surrounding mountains is revealed in all its early morning beauty. Miles and miles of fresh green rice fields on either side, the nearby hills showing only their tops above the slowly rising early morning mists, in the far distance the mountains, a hazy blue, their lines sharply silhouetted against a clear sky.

We pass through a small village. A few natives on the road gaze wonderingly at the unusual sight of so many 'tuans' (white gentlemen) travelling in such unorthodox and undignified fashion.image

We breast the hill this side of Soekmaniskin. Soekmaniskin! Surely not! The prison comes into sight and my sinking heart drops with a thud into my boots as the truck slackens speed just before the road which strikes off to the left, leading to the main gate.

Yes, there is no doubt about it now. Soekamiskin Penitentiary is our destination. We leave the main road and drive down the slight incline to the grim and forbidding looking building. The truck backs up against the massive doors of the main, the only, entrance.

A small observation window set in one of the doors opens and a confabulation takes place between those inside and our escort of Japs and policemen. The window closes and we stand in the truck waiting, a long time, some 15 minutes.

The doors swing open inwards and we clamber off the truck and pass within. We find ourselves in a sort of hallway about 30 feet long by perhaps 15 wide. At the far end the heavy doors now between us and the outside world are duplicated. To the left, a number of doors leading presumably to offices; to the right more doors and a stone staircase leading upwards to regions unknown.

After a lot of shouting and misunderstanding due to misinterpretation presumably of the Japanese orders, transmitted to us through the native police, we are lined up on each side of the hall with our belongings opened up for inspection on the floor before us.

We are ordered to put all sharp objects, such as razors, scissors, nail files and the like into big envelopes which are handed to us. All luggage is at the same time submitted to close search by the soldiers. As is to be expected by this time, a few faces are slapped.

Then money is to be handed over. For this operation we are taken upstairs into a small room where we sit on benches in a group. At a table just behind the door, the European governor of the prison is sitting on his chair with one leg drawn up under him, like a Budha. I understand this peculiar attitude some 3 years later when, to my great satisfaction, I see the same man sitting on a stool with both legs in the same position in the internment camp at Baros and am told that he is indeed a Bhuddist.

This man is Baudisch, an Austrian, I believe, and who, I am given to understand, had prior to Holland's entry into the war displayed Nazi tendencies. For reasons best known to the Dutch authorities themselves he has been retained in Government service as prison governor. His attitude now and later makes it clear that , in his opinion, his day has come.

Our names are called in turn and we step forward to the table and hand over the money we have on us. The amounts are noted in a book and the money placed in envelopes. I find that I have with me thirty guilders and nineteen cents.

The operation completed, we go downstairs again. We pick up our luggage, that is to say, those of us who are fortunate enough to have any, the heavy doors leading to the interior of the prison swing open. Two by two, like the animals going into the Ark, we pass through, cross an open space and enter then the main building of the prison.

We find ourselves in a long, echoing, stone paved corridor about 20 feet wide. A narrow gallery runs along each side. On right and left nothing but doors, both with the upper storey and on the level. Some of these doors stand open. I am not very bright this morning. As we march along , I think "What a lot of of lavatories."

Bang! Bang from ahead of me. I can't see what is going on exactly. We are being escorted by Jap soldiers and European individuals clad in a sort of blue uniform. One yells instructions in German. I think, "Michty me, they have handed us over to the Nazis."

Bang! The man ahead of me disappears.

Bang! I find myself in one of the 'lavatories'

This is to be my abode for 22 months.

******* to be continued