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.

"Inggris?"

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

1 comment:

MagdaleneJewels said...

Wow, Pat what an amazing story. I was captivated from the second I started reading. Now I had to wait for the next segment. Is this all true? How did you manage to survive all of this? You have to tell us more.