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


Brenda said...

What a terrific blog/story. Thanks. I'm following for further updates, etc.

maryeb said...

An amazing story. I look forward to reading more.