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

1 comment:

flick3 said...

I wonder if you would get in touch with me? I'm Flick Baker, fellow artist (but not in wax!) and my father in law was a POW in Java, no doubt in some of the same camps as your father. He wrote a book (unpublished) which collects dust in the Imperial War Museum which has a lot of interesting content but is extremely dull in style - unlike yours and your father's! Dad was in Soerabaia, but had strong Bandoeng connections as his father in law (Dutch wife-they also married in Bandoeng) was the director of the PTT or post office and telecomunications. I hope you'll continue your blog as it's brilliant and ties up a lot with a book by Daphne Jackson "Java Nightmare" which mentions Lydia Leslie, who I believe had her twins shortly before internment. Daphne Jackson and Lydia Leslie were both in some of the same prisons as my mother in law and her three children. I am very eager to get in touch with any surviving POWs/ and their children as I am trying to write my In-laws' stories! I do hope you'll contact me through Facebook: profile name is Flick Baker and I am in the UK - in Dorset. My private email: flick3@talktalk.net
I also intend to copy this to your other blog page if I can!
Regards

Flick