Tag Archives: Dutch East Indies

Stitched Up… A Little Piece of History

Marking the 79th anniversary of the Fall of the Netherlands East Indies, Meg Parkes shares what her father called “his little piece of history”
Fig.1 first of five typed pages setting out the Dutch capitulation ©M.Parkes
All five pages of the original Dutch notice of surrender are reproduced in Meg’s book, “Notify Alec Rattray…”, the first part of her father’s diaries.

In the early 1990s while I was transcribing his diaries, my dad told me the story behind this  document and its important place in Second World War history. It is the first of five pages of the official order to surrender the Dutch East Indies. The order was issued on 8 March 1942 by General Ter Poorten Commander-in-Chief of Dutch Forces. It is believed to be the only copy in existence, thanks to the squirreling tendencies of my father Captain Andrew Atholl Duncan A&SH.

Dad served briefly as senior cipher officer in British Headquarters in Java. On 15 January 1942 General Wavell moved GHQ from Singapore (where Dad had been one of four cipher officers) to the village of Lembang just north of the regional city of Bandoeng in the Central Highlands, to bolster Dutch defences against the imminent Japanese invasion.

On 25 February, Wavell was recalled to India taking with him two of HQ’s senior cipher officers. Left behind to serve the newly appointed commander, Major General H. D. W. Sitwell, were Lieutenants Duncan and Campion[i]. Dad was then promoted to captain by Sitwell

On Sunday 1 March the Japanese assault on Java began. At 4a.m. on 7 March the British secretly abandoned HQ, omitting to inform the Dutch Liaison Officer Capt. Barron Mackay. He turned up for duty next morning to find British HQ in disarray and no sign of where the staff had gone[ii]. The British trekked into the mountains to the south eventually assembling at the Santosa tea plantation. Dad briefly acted as A.D.C to Sitwell at talks with Ter Poorten’s HQ regarding Sitwell’s plan to wage guerrilla warfare against the Japanese. However, the Dutch would not countenance the plan.

During the early hours of the next day, Dad was on duty when the order to surrender came from General Ter Poorten. A long message set out the terms of surrender the Dutch had accepted from the Japanese. What must it have felt like for him to write the words, “Raise white flag as sign of surrender”? Once decoded, the handwritten copy was passed to the stenographer for typing, Dad instructing him to “shove in a carbon”. The typescript filled five RAF message forms which were taken to the general who was sleeping. Sitwell, having read the message, responded with, “No reply, Duncan”.

Amid the chaos and confusion that followed the surrender Dad had the forethought to keep the carbon copies of the surrender document and at some point prior to captivity they were neatly folded and stitched into the lining of Dad’s glengarry. There they stayed undetected during the next eight months in Java and for the subsequent years in Japan.

Capt Duncan’s glengarry

Keeping hold of this important historic record had mattered greatly to Dad and I came to believe it was talismanic. Dad and these records were intrinsically linked; each helped the other to survive and much later to tell their Far Eastern Second World War stories.

[i] Diary of Lt Desmond Campion, private collection

[ii] Report by Dutch Liaison Officer Capt R.A. Baron Mackay KNIL, IWM Documents https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030008098

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 camps in Dutch East Indies – Derk’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Java

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

From Derk HilleRisLambers a Dutch boy interned with his mother and three sisters in Java.

My mother, botanist Dr Willemina Maria (Willy) HilleRisLambers – Coelingh, 40 yrs old, has managed to keep herself, her three daughters, and one son (me) alive from 5 June 1943, while confined in internment camps Wijkkamp in Malang, Karang Panas in Semarang, and Lampersari, also in Semarang.

My father Marius, botanist as well, survived in camps Marinekamp in Malang, 4th and 9th Bat. in Tjimahi, Baros 9 also in Tjimahi, “Mater Dolorosa” in Batavia, now Jakarta, and the Tjikini hospital also in Batavia.

My mother kept a war diary, and in her entry for 15 August 1945 she marks the Japanese capitulation. This is remarkable, because in many internment camps this news was shared only after several days’ delay.

15 August 1945

Today just 175 grams of rice, again 5 grams less! But I don’t get too much worked up because, if rumours turn out true we’ll get 500 grams rice + 1 tin + a handful of peppers, promised us by Van Mook.1 Word of mouth has it that yesterday at 4 o’clock the capitulation has taken place! I can’t believe it. Imagine, never again having to use an electric iron to cook your bits of sajur and sambal dishes, with children on the lookout, who shout “fritters” when there is danger! Never again fumbling in pitch darkness with pans with vegetables for others, that sometimes fall over because they can’t be set straight, or they cook dry because in my drowsiness in the middle of the night I don’t manage to turn the dial, or turn it too far!

No more remorse, and disgust for myself when my terrible hunger makes me lose control so much that I eat food that really should go to the children, or when I catch myself hoping that Heleen won’t be able to finish her plate. And the despair when my two youngest are still so terribly hungry after eating a small pancake of barely 40 grams of “Asia Flour” (the ration for 1 meal, for those who can’t digest cassava porridge).2

1 H.J. van Mook was acting Governor-general, he operated from Brisbane, Australia
2 Asia flour: 50% tapioca, 40% maize, 10% soya

Wil writes later, 15 August 1985 about this:

“Finally, the moment apparently had arrived. Someone still had a flag. The whole house stood around it and sang the Wilhelmus [national anthem] with voices quivering from emotion and weakness.

Derk sent additional piece from a later letter given to him by his mother:

And thus we approached the end of the war – and of our strength! At last the moment apparently had arrived. Someone still had a flag, the whole house stood gathered around it and sang the Wilhelmus with voices quivering from weakness and emotion.

On 15 August 1945 not much had changed, we were given more rice, still very white and polished, and large packages of curry powder. On one occasion a cow was shared, I got a leg with skin and hoofs and very little meat. I didn’t have any usable knife, the blades had been broken from cutting wood – I forgot how I managed.

Then some men arrived who hoped to find their families here. But no sign of Marius. (her husband)

Finally Rev. Van den Blink arrived, who said Marius was in “de Goede Herder”, in Meester Cornelis, a Batavia suburb. I put my children in the care of Truus Arends and could travel by a Red Cross train from Semarang to Batavia. We were packed three layers thick! I managed to arrive at “De Goede Herder” and … no Marius, though there were other tattered looking men. Finally an inspector of the Forest Service whom I knew said “Your husband is in Tjikini” (the big mission hospital).

A Dutch physician on his way to Carolus (The Roman Catholic hospital) took me along in his jeep, through a very turbulent and dangerous city. In Tjikini hospital I found Marius, very skinny but alive.

I was staying in Hotel Tjikini and stayed there for a week, until father’s birthday. In the hotel we were sleeping three abreast, all strangers, across double beds that had just a mattress and a mosquito net. “How much do I pay?” I asked. “Just what you care to give, between 0 and 5 guilders a day” said the owner. He had no food, but I got that in the hospital.

On the 21st of September a naval officer’s wife, with whom I shared a bed, went to Tandjong Priok: her husband was on the Cornelis Evertsen, the first Dutch warship to call in at Java. She brought me back a slice of white bread with jam (or cheese?), which became Father’s birthday present!

Back to Semarang on the train, loaded down with at least 25 notes to be delivered in Semarang, in camp Halmaheira (women), Bangkong (boys and men), also in the kampong Tjina. I borrowed a bicycle from an Indo Dutch family outside the camp; when I had delivered all letters and had returned the bicycle, we were suddenly prohibited from leaving the camp: too dangerous, and the Japs had to defend us against the Javanese! The children didn’t understand this one bit, and neither did I.