Thursday, 6 November 2008

More activity

That afternoon we were unpleasantly surprised to observe a long procession of Japanese army trucks entering Houtmanstraat from the south. We quickly closed up the front of the house and remained doggo while the trucks were parked along the open ground opposite. When night came we showed no light and although there was a lot of commotion and shouting until a late hour, we were left undisturbed. The next morning when I left for the office, I found that the row of parked trucks already extended to almost opposite the house and many Japs were in evidence. About a couple of hours later I had a guarded telephone call from Ena.

"Can you come immediately?" she said. "We have visitors".

I knew what that meant. When I arrived I found a Jap sprawling in a chair on the verandah. Elly and Ena informed me hurriedly that they had had three Nips wandering through the house until about 10 minutes before but that the other two had left, leaving the sprawler behind. I went out to the verandah and sat down opposite him. There was nothing we could say to each other so we just sat in silence, smoking. I just decided that I had to sit him out if possible, or at any rate to wait long enough to try and discover what he was after. About an hour later, he managed to convey by signs that he wanted paper and a red pencil. On the paper he scrawled some weird looking Japanese characters and leaving the verandah affixed the paper to a wooden post on the edge of the field opposite the house. He did not return.

In a short time it became evident that this sign was an indication for parking more trucks which again started to arrive in large numbers so that in due course the line had extended some hundred yards past the house to the north. We were now under Japanese surveillance with a vengeance. By lying doggo again we escaped attention that evening, but many neighbours had unpleasant experiences of Jap visitors who made themselves objectionable in ways which we ourselves knew only too well.

The next day the three of us held a council of war. Elly was all for joining her mother in Tjitaroemstraat and was kind enough to suggest that Ena and I could also be accommodated there if we wished.

So the upshot was that we decided to move the next day. Again I rang up the piano people, who must have been getting fed up with me by this time, and the piano came to rest for the second time in his warehouse. Incidentally, we never saw it again.

The following day, Saturday, found us installed in Mrs Kruseman's annex at Tjiarroemstraat 14. We had the, by this time, usual difficulties in obtaining transport but with the aid of some coolies and a hand drawn cart, and a few journeys backwards and forwards by 'sad' (dog cart) we managed to send the frigidaire back to the Dagoweg and to bring our stuff and Elly's to our new santuary.

On the Thursday of this week a notice had appeared in the newspaper ordering all British subjects to report at the Police Headquarters for registration and this Ena and I had done. On Saturday, therefore, I notified them of my change of address so that it was certainly not my fault that they had so much trouble finding me on the night of the 14th.

At the beginning of this week, too, Sparkes and his wife had both collapsed from nervous strain and had taken up their abode in a joint room at the Borromeus Hospital. I still suspect that in some way or other (perhaps from his neighbour, Mrs Graven) he had had advance information of the registration, and, suspecting (as I did) that it was the preliminary move towards internment had thought to dodge the issue by being classed as a hospital case. If that was really his idea, he miscalculated by only one day.

I recall that I visited him in Borromeus on Saturday and referring half jokingly, to the registration, said, "Thursday, we register - Friday they prepare their lists - Saturday is a half holiday and Sunday a free day, so they'll intern us on Monday".

Sparkes left hospital on Monday and was picked up the following night, the fatal 14th April.

For the past ten days or so previous to our coming to rest at Tjitaroemstraat, there had been many rumours flying around about sudden raids being held by the Japanese usually at night. Today one would hear of a complex of houses on the Dagoweg having been entered and the men taken away and tomorrow another story of the same nature would be told concerning a street in another part of the town. Already the headquarters of the Kempetai (Japanese Gestapo) in the Neetjanweg had acquired a sinister reputation and whispers were heard of the tortures which the Japanese Gestapo resorted to in order to extract confessions, real or imaginary, from their victims. Any scepticism as to the truth of such seemingly incredible tales was due, alas, to fade away in the light of subsequent events.

On the morning of the 14th, Mrs Van Ginkel rang up. She said to Ena, "Bill is probably going on a journey, but you yourself not yet." This we interpreted as a hint that she had information to the effect that my internment was imminent, but as we had by now become somewhat fatalistic in our attitude towards this possibility, I am afraid we did not react in any particular way.

And so I arrive back at the moment when the stillness of the night of 14/15 April, 1942 was shattered by the peremptory ringing of the door bell at Tjiroemstraat 14.


And so, my friends, we come to the conclusion of the first chapter of my Dad's manuscript. I hope you have enjoyed and learnt from this 'taster'. In the new year I hope to be able to transcribe the rest of the manuscript into book form which will be available for purchase. This will take a little while since there will be a lot of typing! The remainder of the manuscript includes a short daily, if somewhat brief, account of life in Sukamiskin Prison whilst at the same time my father describes in detail, moments of his life. There will be a wonderful insight into life in Scotland during the early 1920s; life as a youngster at school and beyond. This proved to be a clever way for my Dad to keep his mind exercised during very long boring hours whilst cooped up in a cell. Each word was written in pencil and as time went on and paper became scarce the writing became smaller and smaller. I still have some of the writings and even the stub of the last pencil used. For me, it has been an inspiration and has allowed me to 'rediscover' my father as a very keen, sensitive person who lived through troubled times but someone who still managed to keep his sense of humour and above all, his sense of worth.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The next few days....

During the next two days Ena and I cast around for other accommodation.  Not only was everybody very cramped at Dagoweg as a result of our arrival, but quite frankly, with the threat of internment hanging over us, we did not wish to be found in the same place where we had stored the belongings we had salvaged.

On the second day, our search found us cycling along the Houtmanstraat (road)nearby where we were hailed by some people sitting on the verandah of this particular house.  These proved to be friends of ours, Mrs Kruseman with her daughter and son in law, Elly and Leo Reindees .  The latter had been, as all other reservists, called up months before and was in the uniform of a captain.  A motor car accident a few weeks earlier had resulted in minor injury to his leg, and as he had been on the sick list when the Japs arrived, they had so far excused him from internment, but he expected to be rounded up any day now.

We learned that they had taken over this house, furnished, from a woman who had gone to Batavia to be with her husband who had been posted on duty there. The Reindees themselves had come from Batavia as Leo's duties necessitated his staying in Bandoeng.  In passing, I many mention that this shifting about of men from one part of Java to another was one of the shafts of criticism levelled at the methods of the military authorities, but I am naturally not capable of judging whether or not such criticism was justified.

As soon as Elly and Leo heard of our predicament, they immediately suggested that Ena and I share the house with them as there was any amount of room.  Their 18 year old son, Robbie, had already been interned and Mrs Kruseman, who had been staying with them for a few days, was returning to her own home on the morrow.  Consequently, they would only be too glad to have our company.

It was really a fine large house and excellently furnished and with such congenial companions we did not hesitate in deciding to take up our abode there.  So the next day, Monday, 6 April we moved in, not without having experienced no little difficulty in finding transport for the frigidaire which we had brought with us.  And, as we had an impression of permanency about this place, I had the piano also brought from the shop and installed in the front room.

The Houtmanstraat was, and still is, built along one side only affording a fine open view of level fields and the foothills some miles away, with the mountains in the background.  This street forms actually the eastern boundary of Bandoeng, and though it was rather far from the office and town generally, the quietness and lovely view more than compensated for this disadvantage.

On Tuesday evening, while I was giving a cinema show with my Kodascope,  imagethe 'phone rang.  It was a message for Leo to the effect that he had to report for internment at 9 am next morning.  It was on this evening, too, that we had listened to the BBC announcer glibly telling the world that the Dutch were still holding out in various parts of Java and that fighting was in progress in the hills around Bandoeng.  The world was apparently as sadly misinformed about the course of events in Java as it had been since the capitulation of the Japs in August, 1945 up to the date of writing.  Next morning Reindees left.  There were now only the three of us and we could not help feeling that a net was closing around us.

In the course of the day Ena and I went for the second time to Dennenlust in an attempt to contact Mrs Graven with a view to gaining possession of the trunks we have left behind.  I have forgotten to mention that we had gone to Dennenlust on the previous Sunday for this purpose but had not found Mrs Graven at home.  On that occasion we had the unique experience of burgling our own house.  Not being able to contact anyone we proceeded to 'Sunny Corner' just to see how it looked.  As the house appeared unoccupied we had wandered round to the rear premises where we found native 'djaga"' (watchman) on duty.  On enquiry we learned that two Jap officers had indeed already taken up residence but that they were usually absent from early morning until late afternoon.

When I asked the 'djaga' if he had a key to the house, he replied that he had, and when I told him to unlock the door he did.  So Ena just went in and grabbed as much as we could carry away on our bikes.  Music, gramophone records, ornaments and goodness knows what else of which we made two huge bundles and which we deposited in the house of a friend, a little way down the hill, to be called for later.  We just said "Terimah kasih" to the 'djaga' and gave him a tip of 25 cents.

On this second occasion, after a lot of running from one place to another, we succeeded in meeting Mrs Graven who assisted us in securing the trunks and in bringing them to Houtmanstraat in her car, Niekerk at the wheel as usual.

**** to be continued

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Good Friday?

For some time past no bread had been procurable and I had taken it upon myself the task of providing ourselves with this commodity, calling upon the lore of my planting days when I used to watch my cook making bread in my bungalow up on the estate.

On this Good Friday at 11 am I was busily engaged in kneading dough in the kitchen when that bird of ill omen, Mrs Graven, came for a second time, accompanied by her shadow, the traitor Niekerk.

This time the sword definitely fell.  There was no respite possible.  We had to be out of the house by 2 pm as two Japanese officers were moving in.  We could take clothes with us and other personal belonging but the house furnishing must remain as they were.

This was my first meeting with Mrs Graven.  She was rather tall and solidly built for a Japanese woman with typically Nip features and not a bit attractive.  Her age, I guessed, would have been about 40.  She stayed for some time and I must admit that she was by no means unpleasant in her manner but gave the impression that she was just carrying out an order which she found neither pleasant or unpleasant.

In the course of our conversation I asked her, on my part jokingly, if we could take our Beckman baby grand piano with us.  To my surprise she replied "Boleh" (You may), perfectly seriously.  A little later, going through the house, she passed the large GE frigidaire which stood in the lobby outside the kitchen.  "You can take this too," she said.  "Those who are coming in need not know that there was ever a frigidaire here".

This was very gratifying but we could not but wonder how we were to get it away, as we had no means of transport.

She also agreed that we could leave a couple of trunks in one of the small store rooms to be called for some days later.  When we wished to fetch them, we must call at her (Sparkes) house for the key.

On this occasion too, I had some conversation with Niekerk who acted as a sort of Dutch echo to Mrs Graven's Malay and he then volunteered the facts about himself which I have already set down.  He also told me that he had known Mrs Graven for about 30 years and according to him, had helped her in her private affairs for a long time and as now merely standing by her in her present job.  I can hazard a shrewd guess as to the nature of the link between them both before and after the Japanese invasion.

As soon as our visitors had gone, I dashed to the telephone breathing a silent prayer that it would function.  It did.  I just got on to the firm from whom we had bought our piano and asked the owner, whom I knew very well, if he could store the Beckman for us and, if so, to send coolies immediately to take it away.  He agreed and within an hour we had the satisfaction of seeing the instrument being carried down the hill, safely out of Japanese clutches, at any rate for the time being.

My second call was to our good friend, Lt Kagee of the Dutch Military Police.  As soon as  I told him about what was happening, he said "We'll be right along".  And they were - six of them within 10 minutes of bringing with them a 15 cwt truck and a passenger car.  We shall always feel a debt of gratitude to these grand chaps who just came in and said, "Now show us what you want us to do."  And the whole bunch set to work helping us pack our belongings into trunks, suitcases and baskets.  The faithful Amat took upon himself the task of packing our dinner service.  We decided that, in Mrs Graven's own words, "as those that were coming in need not know it was here", and what Mrs Graven herself did not know of, we should take with us, and thanks to our friends, the MPs, we were able to take away with us much that would otherwise had had to be left behind and irretrievably lost.  And thanks to Ena's mother to whose house the stuff was brought, we recovered practically everything after the liberation.

The frigidaire was man handled on to the truck, which was then loaded up with other things, as was also the car, and while Ena and I and two of the chaps carried on feverishly with the good work of packing, the first load was rushed down to Dagoweg 31e, quickly unloaded, and truck and car brought back to Dennenlust again for the second load.

One of the articles taken in the car on its first trip was a Firefoam extinguisher which I had presented to the MPs as they seemed keen on having it and I did not consider it worth while salvaging.  The chap who was driving had put the extinguisher on the seat beside him and coming back from Dagoweg, turning a sharp corner, the things fell of the seat on to the floor of the car.  It fell unfortunately on the knob which has to be pressed to set it working and the result can be better imagined than described.  The inside of the car was a mess of spattered soap suds.   The poor chap had had to drive most of the way back with his thumb on the valve to keep the thing from completely emptying itself.  When he drove in, he called to us in his predicament and we went to his aid, all of us doubled up with laughter.  And just to finish a fitting climax to this amusing contretemps, just as he was easing himself out of the car, his thumb slipped off the valve and all of us got a generous share of the suds.  It was just like an old fashioned slapstick comedy film and had the same salutary effort on our somewhat dampened spirits.

The truck and car were loaded up for the second time, including ourselves and all the livestock and, with our military escort, said goodbye again to 'Sunny Corner' and descended once more on poor old Ma, who in spite of all the difficulties attendant on our unexpected arrival, was delighted to have us back with her.

Wherever those good chaps may be now, Ena and I say bless them for what they did for us on Good Friday, 1942.

***** to be continued

Monday, 3 November 2008

Continuation of events

But to continue the sequence of events as from the visit of Mrs Graven to 'Sunny Corner'.  The day after she had turned up, Saturday, I felt it better to stay about the house in view of her warning as to an internment and in case other Japs should present themselves with an eviction notice.  Our telephone had become very unreliable in the past two week and I could not get contact with the office to inform them that I was not coming into town.  Not that it mattered in the slightest because there was really nothing to do.

We had,however, succeeded at an early hour in getting through to Mrs Van Ginkels, a good friend of ours, and had asked them if they could take some of our books in safe custody in anticipation of our having perhaps to leave the house at short notice.  Mrs Ginkels, accompanied by a mutual friend Bert Krevels, arrived at the house about 8 am in Krevel's car which bore a Batavia licence number.

After we had told them all about Mrs Graven and our uncertain immediate future over a cup of coffee, the books, etc were loaded into the car and our friends took their leave.

Sometime during the afternoon, the 'phone rang.  It proved to be some branch of the Dutch Military Police inquiring as to my whereabouts.  I could not understand this interest and asked what it was all about.  The MP explained that they had had a message from Sparkes to the effect that I was missing.  This puzzled me considerably.  About half an hour after the 'phone call, a motorcycle roared up the hill bringing a Police Inspector who was out in search of me, the local police also having been informed by Sparkes that something had happened to me.  This only served to intensify our mystification.

Later on, Sparkes himself turned up and the mystery was cleared up.  About 8 am he had driven up to the house intending  to offer me a lift down town.  Seeing a car with a Batavia licence plate standing outside the house, he had come to the conclusion, how, heaven only knows, that Japs were in the house and instead of ascertaining if this was actually the case, he had stepped on the gas and carried on into town.  When I did not turn up at the office in due course, his too lively imagination had suggested that I had been taken away and he had immediately started telephoning right and left setting all authorities both civil and military, by the ears.  That was the explanation of the whole business and it is a typical instance of the reactions of many people to the state of tension in which we lived during this period.

We were left in peace at 'Sunny Corner' until 3 April.  Good Friday!  As far as we were concerned this was a definite misnomer.  It was the worst Friday of our lives!

****** to be continued

Sunday, 2 November 2008

A rather unpleasant experience

I find that I have omitted from its chronological place in this record a rather unpleasant experience which occurred on, I think the Monday before Mrs Graven's visit.  I left the house a little before 8 am on my cycle to go to the office.  When I reached the Lembangweg, just about half a kilometre from 'Sunny Corner', a Japanese soldier with rifle and bayonet indicated that I could not go down the Lembangweg to town, but must turn down another road.  I thought nothing much about this as we had more or less become used to finding one or another road temporarily closed off, and was merely mildly annoyed at having to make a rather wide detour to reach town.  When I reached the road junction about a hundred yards further on, however, I found more Japanese soldiers and a small group of people.  No one seemed to know what it was all about but it soon became evident that the purpose of this action was to collect all Europeans passing in or out of Bandoeng by way of this road.

About half an hour after I had been caught, Sparkes with his daughter and Percy Eyre, one of the Soebang refugees, were also caught in the trap.  They were in Sparkes' car which he had so far been fortunately able to retain.  I took advantage of the presence of their native chauffeur to send him with my cycle back to 'Sunny Corner' with a message to Ena that we were held up but that I would go with Sparkes in the car when we were free to go.

As the hour dragged past the group swelled until there must have been well over 100 people standing on the road, mostly Europeans but also a number of Indo-Europeans as well.  Of the latter I noticed two unpleasant looking individuals in khaki shirt and shorts displaying a badge with the inscription 'NSB Ngawi' through which ran a jagged lighting symbol.  These must have been a couple of the Dutch Nazis interned by the Dutch at Ngawi in East Java, and released by their friends, the Japanese.  This friendship was, however, apparently at a discount on this occasion.

Still nobody knew what it all meant but everybody was very uneasy and I am sure that I was not alone in thinking, whenever a truck with Japs hove in sight, that we were going to be packed into it and spirited away to regions unknown.

About half past eleven a Jap officer turned up a real nasty looking bit of work, with mad baleful eyes gleaming through large horn rimmed glasses.  Leaning on his Samurai sword, he stood in the middle of the road issuing his orders through the medium of an interpreter he had brought with him.

After a lot of the usual misunderstanding and confusion, we understood that we were to form two queues, those going to Bandoeng to his right and those coming from Bandoeng to his left.  We were also informed that we had to produce some evidence of identity, driving licence, post office legitimation card or other document of this nature.

Since putting away the car I had given up carrying in my pocket the special folder in which I kept my driving licence and other things, but I did have my passport with me.  Sparkes and I were rather far along in the queue and while we moved up slowly, I showed him my passport and remarked that I hoped the Jap would not cut off my head when he saw it.

In course of time our turn came.  Sparkes' daughter, Eyre and Sparkes himself were given a clean bill and were told to proceed immediately to the Concordia Club where a department had been set up for issuing permits to travel between Bandoeng and outlying districts such as Dennenlust.  They got into the car and waited in anticipation of my joining them.

But it was not to be.  Thinking that I might get the Jap into a good humour by showing him some of his own weird looking Japanese characters, I had opened my passport at the page visa-ed by the Japanese Consule in London in 1938.  As soon as his eyes fell on this he gave an angry grunt and glared as me as if he wanted to bump me off right away.  He jabbered to the interpreter turning over the leaves of the leaves of the passport the while.

"Inggris?" he spat, and I am sure he said this through his clenched teeth.

I admitted the accusation.  He stood glaring at me for some moments as though he was considering letting me have it.  Then with an angry ejaculation and gesture, he mentioned that I was to stand aside to be dealt with later.

I called to Sparkes, "Tell Ena I am held", and he drove off while I stood behind the Jap feeling very lonely and wondering what my fate was to be.

It was more than half an hour later that the queues came to an end.  In the meantime another unfortunate had joined me but who he was I never discovered.  As the last few in the queues were being dealt with, a car came off the main road.  The Jap turned towards us, yelled something, and motioned towards the car which had stopped close by.

With the other man, I started forward, thinking "So this is it!" and was half way towards the car when a yell from the Jap stopped me.  I was not to go.  The other chap was hustled into the car which drove away quickly.

I returned to my old place and stood for about another 10 minutes while the Jap conferred with the interpreter.  At last he turned and barked at me again.  I came forward and had to hand over my passport again.  Again it was meticulously examined and the Jap barked once more.

"Poelang!" (Go home) said the interpreter.

I bowed (we knew we had to bow by this time) said, "Terimah kasih" (Thank you) and turned to go back the way I had come some four and a half hours before.

Another yell brought me up short in my tracks.  I was not allowed to go that way but had to take another road which paralleled the Dennenlust road, but entailed my having to cross the wide and deep ravine between.  However, I was so relieved at getting off thus lightly that I did not mind the fairly long walk back to 'Sunny Corner'

At last I reached the house, only to find that my troubles for this day were not yet over.  Ena was missing.  Amat could only tell me that she had driven away with Sparkes hours before.  I learned later that for some unfathomable reason, but probably owing to his nervousness while in the queue, he had gone to 'Sunny Corner' and told Ena that I had been held by the Japs because I did not have my passport with me and Ena had ransacked the house looking for what was actually the reason for my being held at all.

I walked down to the Sparkes house, only to find this also empty of everybody, except for the native boy, who told me that the whole family had left a long time before.  So there was I at 'Sunny Corner' unable to get into town because of the pickets and worrying about what had happened to Ena and knowing that she would be even more worried wondering what had happened to me.

After some anxious hours, Ena turned up safely and with the news that the pickets had been withdrawn.  As I had thought she had been dreadfully worried as by the time she had, with Sparkes, reached the spot where I had been held there was nothing more to be seen and had naturally assumed that I had been picked up owing to my not having identity papers.  They had all gone to the Concordia Club image to procure the necessary passes in the hope that with one for myself they would be able to secure my release from wherever I had been taken to, but as they had no means of discovering where this might be, had returned to Dennenlust in the hope of learning something there.  Our mutual relief at finding each other safe and sound can be appreciated.

***** to be continued