About 11 am Sunday, a Dutch MP on a motorcycle came to warn us that 'Sunny Corner' was empty and suggesting that we should return to Dennenlust immediately. We needed no urging. In record time, the Hillman was loaded up with the dogs, cats, birds, ourselves and sundry articles of baggage and off we set for home, the faithful Amat following on his bicycle.
Our progress up the Dennenlust road was in the nature of a triumphal procession. The news had spread and all the folks in the houses on each side of the road smiling and waving to us, from their verandahs, as we came up the hill.
As soon as we had unloaded the car I set out to Dagoweg 31e again to fetch some remaining items. Coming down the Dagoweg not far from the Borromeus hospital a Dutch MP signaled to me to stop. When I did so, he informed me that all cars had to be surrendered immediately and that I must get out and leave the Hillman standing at the roadside.
"Have a heart," I said. "I've just got back my house after being evicted 6 days ago and am bringing my belongings back home," and suggested that he turn a blind eye to the telescope until I had made this one trip. He was a decent and reasonable chap and agreed, but I had to promise him that I would deliver the car to the Jap authorities at the Technical High School in the Dagoweg the grounds of which were being used as a collecting centre, as soon as I had made the trip.
I got back to Dennenlust in due course with the second load but just as I was leaving again to hand in the Hillman as promised a terrific rainstorm started which continued all afternoon until after dark. I had strapped my bicycle on to the car as I should have to cycle back, but in such a downpour with a very high wind, I would have been half drowned on the return journey. I decide, therefore, to deliver the car to the depot early next morning, but when I arrived no Japs were to be seen, although the grounds were full of cars of all description.
The European porter who was still on duty told me that I could put the car there if I liked but I agreed with him that it would be foolish to do so with nobody there to receive it. He informed me that he had heard that the Japs concerned were to be found in the Ursuline Convent up the road, so I decided to go there and hand over the car as arranged. But the convent was also void of Japs, so not knowing what to do about the matter and also considering it unwise to continue using the car, I eventually ran it into a garage behind Ena's mother's house and there it remained for some months until the Japanese discovered it in one of their periodical searches and took it away.
'Sunny Corner' was in a bit of a mess after having been occupied by 40 Japanese soldiers for almost a week, but not nearly so bad as might have been expected. Our carpets particularly had suffered as the Nips had walked over them with their muddy feet and a broad dirty track ran diagonally across the large Chinese carpets in the front room and dining room. All the furniture had been pushed into corners to achieve sleeping accommodation on the floor and remains of meals and dirty plates were everywhere. Our lovely little blue and white kitchen with its attractive 'Esse'-Fairy' cooker was a sorry sight. But actually there was nothing which could not be restored to its former state with time and a lot of elbow grease.
In every room we found bottles of wine and spirits, some empty, many a quarter to half full and a few still unopened. Outside, at the back, were cases of empty soda water bottles which appeared to have been bought from Penang. The Japs had certainly done themselves exceedingly well in the liquid refreshment line during their stay. In fact my first revulsion of feeling at everything Japanese I threw the whole lot out of the house and I am still glad that I did.
The verandah was littered with the remains of what I took to be Japanese emergency rations in the form of some dried and compressed cereals which, with the rain, had swelled into a porridgy unsavoury looking mess. In our bedroom, which seemed to have been occupied by the Jap officer I found that he had experimented with a few extra safety razors I had and had opened up quite a few packets of spare blades. We made a clean sweep of everything that had been used by the Japs.
In spite of their having been at pains to impress us that they had kept our belongings intact, it was quite evident that they had literally been through everything although no great damage had been done. An unused Kodasope 8mm film had been unwound and re-wound and put neatly back into its box, for instance, and traces of their monkey like activities came to light repeatedly during the next few weeks.
Things turned up in the most unexpected places. One of Ena's bras appeared from her sewing basket. In taking down a book from one of the bookshelves I got a toothbrush on my head. Small articles, relegated long ago to the lumber room, were found in cupboards and drawers in the bedroom. There was strong circumstantial evidence that my kilt and at least one of Ena's evening frocks had been tried on.
All our linen was missing and also one of the heavy curtains from the window in the sitting room, but apart from these items nothing seemed to have been taken.
We had found the Dutch Military Police guarding the house for us on our return and they were most helpful in assisting us to put the house to rights as far as moving back heavy furniture to former positions, etc was concerned and we were most grateful for their help.
***** to be continued