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

1 comment:

kim* said...

wow to not letting anyone see your watch. something simple as a watch.