Tag Archives: civilian internees

Liberation of camps in Dutch East Indies – Paula’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Java

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Paula Kogel a young German woman married to a Dutch man and interned with her two young sons in Tjideng, Batavia (now Jakarta)

From ‘The House at Ampasiet’ (British publication by Matador). Used with kind permission from Lore Ridings, Paula’s daughter.

August 1945: One day (no date given) at around ten in the morning we were summoned to roll call on the main square….A Japanese officer stood on a small stage so that he could oversee us all and we were forced to look at him…There was no longer an aura of power emanating from him, more loss of spirit,… finally he started to talk. It was clear he found it difficult.

“Ladies, we have to tell you that Nippon has been forced to capitulate. The capitulation came after a new type of bomb was dropped on my country which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of victims. You are now free.”

We stood there a crowd of shabby looking women and children…We stayed silent. Nobody cheered, nobody moved. The terrible second world war had ended – but nobody had a Dutch flag. And nobody celebrated the liberation.

Life slowly came towards us, to greet us with a smile.

Liberation of camps in Dutch East Indies – Ernest’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Java

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Ernest Hillen a young Dutch boy in Camp Makasar Java with his mother. His brother was in another camp with his father.

(Taken from: Ernest Hillen, The Way of a Boy: A Memoir of Java. Viking. 1994 )

Things were happening fast, the camp gate was wide open and left so. When a group of English officers first marched into Makasar some women bowed to them until they were told to stop. My father walked through the camp gate one afternoon. We had not seen him for three and a half years. He was not a big man… “Jongeetje, let your mother and me talk” he said in a low tone. But no-one called me Jongetje “little boy” any more; old little boy maybe.

Liberation of camps in Dutch East Indies – Jan’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Java

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Jan van Dulm was interned aged 8 initially in Bloemencamp, Tjihapit with mother, older sister and two younger brothers and later in Ambarrawa 7 Boys’ camp Indonesia. (Java)

(Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer)

At the end we had to stay in camp for weeks/months because I was not allowed to go to my mother. It was dangerous as there was rioting outside the camps and the Indonesians were stealing from the camps.

I think it was 14th September before he went to find his mother. On my first day back my brother got asthma and my mother sent me to find a woman to help, but I did not know which woman or where. I thought my brother was dying.

We were all looking forward to that day but when that day appeared it was disappointing.

Dik and Jan:

Don’t forget we had been away 9 months, a year and we were mature in our minds and we come home and mother and father treat us like babies. They treated us as they had left us a couple of years prior –That was the clash –the next day we had the mutual understanding and that was SILENCE.

Liberation of camps in Dutch East Indies – Connie’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Java

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Connie Suverkropp in camp at aged 11 years in several camps in Java with her two younger sisters.

Both her parents had died in different camps during the war. Her brothers were in the men’s camps and they survived.

(Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer)

It was difficult to adapt when we got back to Holland because I had no education for 2-3 years. I was 2 -3 years older than the other school mates but in thinking and feeling I was an old woman – looking like a girl but thinking like a woman. My classmates were 2-3 years younger in Holland and I thought them very childish.

Liberation of camps in Dutch East Indies – Bert’s story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Java

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Bert Singlelenberg. Dutch boy interned with his young brother at the age of 10 years in Boys camps Ambarawa 6 and 8 Java

(Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer)

After no contact with either of his parents who were in two different camps,

We only heard about the capitulation on 23rd August 1945 but in between things were happening. We got extra food and boys were coming to our camp from the ‘working camp’. The Japanese were nervous. Then the Japanese went away. We were ‘trading’ with the Indonesians – it was chaos. I managed to trade for a chicken and some eggs and wanted to take them to my mother. I knew the camp but not which barracks she was in. I found her. She was ill and my younger brother was ill in the camp hospital. He was 6-years-old and could not walk. I started from that time looking after my mother; working in the kitchen baking bread, washing clothes and I had to slaughter chickens – that is what we were doing all the time. I had also been dealing with the dead bodies in the boys and old men’s camp.

In September 1946 my father came to Ambarawa. It was difficult to start again; I was a boy when my father left so I was still in his eyes a small boy. But of course, in the first year after liberation we had to stay in the camp because of the Indonesian uprising and we had to help defend the camp against them – so we were ‘militarized’. And then when my father came I did not know him. He recognized me. Then he started up a cigarette and I asked ‘can I have one’. And he said “you are smoking that is not good…..”and when we were a family again he tried to tell me what to do.”

And well I had been looking after my mother and my younger brothers and tried to survive all these years  – this before he was moved to the boys camp – and then there was somebody who was going to tell me what I should do – that was so difficult for him and me.

When we got back to Holland we were separated again because my father did not have a house. So my brother and I went to an aunt and my parents and two younger brothers went to my grandfather’s house. That went on for almost a year. And I had missed three years of school so one had to work hard to get back to normal life. But my parents never talked about camp and never asked how it was for me and what I did in the Boys’ camp.

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – Naomi’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Naomi Walton Smith – Young single woman in Stanley Camp. H.K.

(Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer)

On August 14th the Japanese told us to assemble. The commandant of the camp then came down from his headquarters and announced that the Japanese had surrendered.

Delight was an understatement.

We were allowed to move freely around the camp for the next few weeks and rations increased enormously. There was a general display of Chinese colours and even a Union Jack and the American Flag. The Japanese took exception to this premature display as the British Navy still had not arrived to release us. Those few weeks were the longest of my life. We were told not to go to town because there was a lot of rioting and looting. We could not believe it would take the British so long to reach H.K.

When the British did finally come into camp the National Anthem was played.

On 30th August the British Navy anchored in H.K. Harbour.

I remember being told that it was my turn next to be taken back to H.K. I was billeted at the Gloucestershire Hotel and was allotted a room which I shared with someone who had also been interned in Stanley.

 “I have no bitter feelings towards the Japanese and I have been back since to visit. I lived in such terrible uncertainty that I just never knew what was going to happen to me. We all had such an uncertain life. One lived from day to day… All I want to do now is to forget everything to do with it”.

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – Marjory’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Marjory Fortescue – a young married woman in Stanley Camp H.K.

(Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer.)

There was a lull for several days and then suddenly planes came over – not Japanese planes – all the Japanese had left the camp. Next thing we know planes coming over and dropping crates of food – not all that carefully but as carefully as they could! All the children were terrified because they had been bombed before by the Americans (accidentally) and so they were frightened. Luckily the crates fell open and there was food inside… but still nobody came.

We were not allowed out of the camp as the Colonial Secretary (Franklin Gimson) did not want to have responsibility of women milling around H.K. not knowing quite what was going to happen. So, I went straight from Stanley onto this minesweeper and then onto a boat and onto this aircraft carrier and straight to Ceylon, so I never went to H.K. proper immediately after the war till I went back a year later.

We stopped on the way home in south Jordon and were given clothes. When we landed in England we went by a train from Southampton to London and Adrian (her 4-year-old son) saw a swan and said “is that a cow?” … not any cows in H.K. too dry!!

We were home (her mother’s home in Cambridge) for Christmas.

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – Hilary’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Hilary Hamson, aged 8 in Stanley Camp Hong Kong.

(Correspondence with Dr. Bernice Archer)

I can’t remember being told the war was over. My recollection is that everything went quiet, bonfires around the Japanese quarters. maybe as they destroyed files? I was kicking my heels one day and I saw this ship coming into Tai Tam Bay. I raced back and found my dad. He went around the barbed wire to Stanley village and asked someone to take us out to the ship. We were the first on board HMAS Freemantle and were welcomed aboard by the captain. (HMAS Freemantle was a minesweeper ahead of the British fleet coming into H.K) The captain took us down to his cabin and I remember the taste of soft white bread and also trying to eat an orange, peel and all! I was given a present (a pennant) from the ship which I still have.

The pennant Hilary was given by the Captain of the HMAS Freemantle

At some point supplies were dropped by parachute. My brother ran down to the green thinking he could catch this ‘little box’ but soon realized that the box would squash him if he didn’t get indoors…. Later the good looking, healthy Australians arrived.

My next memory is a party on HMS Swiftsure. We were loaded on buses and taken down via Happy Valley to the harbour. We saw Mickey Mouse cartoons, ate jelly and ice cream, sat on huge gun barrels and were generally made a great fuss of.

I don’t remember much about the journey to the U.K on the Empress of Australia. I know the crew fixed up a canvas swimming pool. The men had to sleep on deck – fine when the weather was warm but cold as we arrived in Liverpool in November. I don’t know how my father coped. Somewhere along the way we were kitted out with clothes. I think we were lucky to have that six – week recovery time.

I remember two things on the journey home from Liverpool – cows from the train windows and traffic lights in the fog of November evening in Exeter.

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – John’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

John Barton (Brother of Rosemary Murray) in Stanley Camp H.K. aged 12 at beginning of internment.

(Written by John Barton and copy given to Dr. Bernice Archer)

Rumours were rife…we lived in constant hope. On 15th August a Formosan guard told a group of us ‘war over’. We looked at him incredulously. The next day the colonial Secretary set up a table and stood on it and informed the internees that Japan had unconditionally surrendered to the Allies. Frenzied ecstasy is the only way I can describe the days that followed. Rations improved, the Japanese gave us buffalo meat and butter and chocolate, it was wonderful to have good nourishment again. Days later the American planes began dropping food.

On the horizon we could see signalling lights of the Royal Navy as they swept the approaches to H.K. (Hong Kong) for mines. One morning three weeks later HMAS Freemantle glided into the bay at Stanley and anchored some 500 yards away. I ran to the beach and was joined by a 12 year – old girl. Chinese sampan sculled us to the Freemantle where we were treated like royalty. We finally left the mine sweeper loaded with fruit and tinned food.

A few days later the British soldiers arrived in camp. We were impressed by their healthy-looking bodies, they in turn were amazed at the emaciated internees in their bedraggled shorts and no shoes or shirts.

In mid-September we were ferried to the SS Empress of Australia. Women and children were quartered in cabins, men and boys on the troop desks. When we arrived in Manila British POWs were mustered and ready to embark. We looked over and there was Bernie (Bernard their older brother was a member of the H.K. Volunteer Defence Corps) waiting to board. He had survived!! We were all overjoyed.

I had entered the camp aged 12 and left aged 16 and at that age it seemed like a lifetime.

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – Rosemary’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Liberation of Stanley Camp H.K.

The actual surrender ceremony in Hong Kong was delayed from day to day and it was not until everything was ready on 16th September that the British authorities officially fired a twenty-one-gun salute from the war ships. Later that evening the British fleet performed a searchlight and firework display.

Rosemary Murray (nee Barton) aged 11 years when interned with her family in Stanley Camp Hong Kong remembers:

(Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer)

On August 15th 1945 I was playing schools. I had just expelled Roger (her brother) from my class. Before long he returned he said ‘The war is over – it’s true the gates are open’ within minutes everyone appeared to have heard the news and were running around jubilantly calling out ‘The War is over’.

We were compelled to carry on living normally until our repatriation could be arranged. My birthday on 29th August is probably my most memorable birthday. I was eleven years old on that day. Coloured mushrooms fell from the sky, as relief goods were parachuted into the camp. Once they had fallen we ran to retrieve the coloured silks….

Peacetime brought with it all the responsibilities of normal life. My father was called upon to re-establish the Treasury in Hong Kong, my mother and all but three of us sailed back to England on the SS Empress of Australia, a new life in a new community had just begun.

It was not easy fitting back into the normal swing of life. The children at school used to stare at us thinking we were some primitive creatures from China, because we came from China we must be Chinese – that was their logic.

After spending one year in Baginton Fields Hostel, a refugee camp in Coventry, we returned to Hong Kong to resume the colonial way of life.

In 1947 Jacqueline (her sister) and I went to boarding school…I felt more a prisoner there than at any time in Stanley. The rules, silence, discipline and censorship soon changed my personality. From a spirited youngster I became a withdrawn adolescent, frightened, lonely and always pining for home.