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.


Plaidfuzz said...

That's amazing. What a gift from your father.

kim* said...

super amazing!

On a Whimsey said...

Thanks guys for all your support!

I will be posting here regularly with memories of stuff I have done whilst I get the manuscript typed up!