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

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