Tag Archives: Java

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.

Extracts from the diary notes of Captain A.A. Duncan A&SH: Miyata coalmining camp, Kyushu Japan, August 1945

By Meg Parkes
Captain Duncan, Motoyama POW camp, Japan, January 1943 (courtesy M. Parkes)

This is the first of two posts taken from the diaries of my father, Captain Andrew Atholl Duncan, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. He kept a diary throughout captivity in Java and Japan, written in pen in nine notebooks: pocketbooks, school exercise books and homemade notebooks bound with mosquito netting glued in place with tapioca paste. It started with him documenting his short lived and unsuccessful bid to escape from Java and continued throughout the next three years in prisoner of war camps.

We pick up the diary at the end of January 1945 while he was still at Zentsuji officers’ propaganda camp on the Island of Shikoku, Japan:

Jan 21st – 30th 1945

“Very little real news over this period except that an oven has been erected in the galley, grindstones put up in the canteen, so our long hoped-for bread looks like becoming a reality. The only snag is that officers have to grind the grain and I am hoping that this will not be the thin end of the wedge for getting us to work. Picture of the week – A very senior member of H.M. Navy seated by the window whipping “cream” in a cup with a look of rapt concentration on his face!!!!  Most of us have a very healthy crop of chilblains on our hands and feet – I am no exception – and it is positive agony to wash clothes these days in the icy water at the washracks, with a northwest wind straight off the frozen wastes of Siberia whistling about ones ears. As a result of this, I have taken to shaving indoors but even then, with no hot water available, it is still a highly unpleasant and painful procedure. Ye Gods, but we do miss the simple comforts of life.

The siren has still been sounding both night and day, the latest drill for us when it sounds off in the evening being “Go to bed.”

Fig.1 Benjo hut (or latrines) with washracks to the left, sketched by Capt. Duncan, Zentsuji Officers’ POW Camp, Shikoku Island Japan, 1944 (courtesy M. Parkes)

That entry on 30th January 1945 was to be his last in the diary he had kept since the 8 March 1942. (Coincidentally, although he did not know it at the time, he would marry his beloved Elizabeth exactly one year later to the day). The sketch (Fig.1) was one of three that he did while at Zentsuji, where at times the regime was not too strict, and he was permitted to study. He used this as a cover for writing the diary and documenting the camp in sketches and detailed camp plans. The sketch was one of over a hundred pieces of artwork featured in the “Secret Art of Survival” exhibition in Liverpool (www.captivememories.org.uk) .

His reason for not writing in the diary again is explained in the notes he subsequently made at his third and final camp in Japan, Miyata, on the island of Kyushu. Here the regime was brutal and dangerous and there was no possibility of writing or sketching anything. The following passage comes at the start of 10 pages of handwritten notes, started on 15th August during his final few weeks in Japan:

“The following paragraphs were added to the diary after I had been released, to bridge the gap between the date I had to cease entries and the cessation of hostilities on August 15th, 1945.

The reason for this gap was that the Japs tightened up their supervision of us and as diaries were strictly forbidden and confiscated if found, I had to conceal the manuscripts by sewing them into the lining of clothes, under false bottoms in my packs etc.

The officers’ propaganda camp at Zentsuji was disbanded in June [1945] the various nationalities represented in the camp being sent to different areas in Japan.  The Australians were sent in two groups to the north of Tokyo, the Americans to the Osaka area, the Dutch to Nagoya, while the British were divided into two parties – one to the west coast of Honshu Island administered from Tokyo, the other party which I was in, going to Kyushu Island under the Fukuoka administration, to Miyata Camp.

Miyata Coalmining camp, Kyushu

The extract continues:

“Our new camp at Miyata was termed a work camp – and was very aptly named – for the other ranks were required to work down coalmines, while the officers were forced to work on agricultural projects ranging from clearing land and constructing padi fields to planting rice and vegetables.

Map of Fukuoka district POW camps in northern Kyushu. Miyata is ringed (courtesy Mansell.com)

“We left camp at 6.30 a.m. and did not return till 6p.m. and although we received a slightly increased ration of rice to that which was issued to us at Zentsuji, we were far worse off due to the heavy manual labour. The rules and regulations at this camp were very strict and woe betide anyone who stepped out of line, for savage beatings and torture were applied on the slightest provocation. Daily, we saw Allied aircraft passing overhead and on one occasion two Mustang fighters hedge-hopped over us about 50 feet up while the bombers that they were escorting sailed overhead completely unmolested.

On August 9th, while out working we heard the sirens sounding and not long after heard a long, drawn-out rumble. We looked at each other and smiled discreetly thinking that some nearby target had caught a packet. It had! However, it was not nearby, but about 60 miles away as the crow flies, for that rumble was the death knell of Nagasaki – the explosion of the 2nd Atomic bomb.

That evening, the Japs were obviously very perturbed about something and, to ease their pent-up feelings, decided to take it out of the British officers. We were lined up on the parade ground after evening roll call in two files, given a haranguing by the Jap duty N.C.O. – a sadistic swine by the name of Kurihara – who ended up by telling us about the British misdeeds in India and that he was going to show us what a Jap N.C.O. could do to British officers.

For the next forty minutes we had to stand at attention with our arms stretched above our heads while guards, armed with 2” x 4” timbers prowled up and down the files, viciously beating anyone who moved.

At the end of that time, we were ordered to assume the prone position and the real beating commenced. Every prisoner present was savagely beaten by 2” x 4” timbers, swung as hard as the guards could do it, the end of the spine and the kidney region being the favourite target areas. If anyone passed out a bucket of water was thrown over him to bring him round and the beating restarted.

Due to malnutrition, all of us had hardly any covering over our bones, so that it was small wonder that it was days before we could bear to touch the afflicted regions.”

Among the British officers who were also present that night were Flight/Lieutenant John Fletcher-Cooke RAFVR and army padre Captain Rupert Godfrey. Both described this incident in their respective memoirs: Fletcher-Cooke’s The Emperor’s Guest (1971) and Godfrey’s The Years the Locusts Have Eaten (2003).

His notes continue, describing the tense days leading up to 15th August and then the long wait for liberation from the camp five weeks later. During this time, he and his friend Lt Bill Balfour RE a fellow Scot, from Perth, made excursions to neighbouring camps, the village and the town of Fukuoka. In the photograph below they are seen with the Korean dentist and his family in the village of Miyata. By this time my father’s weight, regularly and meticulously recorded in one of the notebooks, had dropped to a little over six and a half stone. He looks gaunt and hollow-eyed but poised, with just the slightest hint of a smile.

Capt. Duncan seated on the left, Lt Bill Balfour right, with the Korean dentist and his family standing behind, Miyata September 1945 (courtesy M. Parkes)


On 20 September, the occupants of Miyata POW camp left by train for Nagasaki.


The feature film “Unbroken”, about US airman Louis Zamperini’s life and Far East POW experiences, is the only film that I’ve seen to come close to portraying what my father documented so vividly in his diaries, namely the appalling conditions and harsh winters in camps in Japan. It is an area of Far East captivity that is still little-known. In addition to Fletcher-Cooke and Padre Godfrey’s memoirs, Keith Mitchell’s book, Forty-two Months in Durance Vile, also depicts the harsh conditions endured by some of the several thousand British FEPOW sent to camps in Japan. Medical Officer, Major Frank Murray RAMC was one of those featured in Mitchell’s book and a new website shares Major Murray’s story: https://www.thebelfastdoctor.info/

Thanks to Mansell.com for the enormous amount of information that is available to anyone researching FEPOW history, and in particular the camps in Japan.

In my second blog post I share more of his notes, his long journey home and how he settled back into civilian life. I self-published his diaries in two parts: “Notify Alec Rattray…” in 2002 and “…A.A. Duncan is OK” 2003. Writing the books kindled a need to understand, and to research further the history of Far East prisoner of war captivity. That need continues.

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.