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