Camp Life-General

      Janet - >George, I was just thinking of you being from the Eastern States as I have just been reading a letter to my mother from her childhood friend, who by the date of the letter 13 Aug 45 was married to a GI and living at 17 So West Drive, New Haven, Conneticut, her name was Doris and ner husband was Wallace Moore ( thats what it looks like any way ) .

      I gather from the letter Wallace was still in Europe in Belgium, and she sends love to my Mother and brother and says she prays for them both every night and for my Father and hopes my mother will soon have news !

      I guess by the time the letter was written Doris knew that Japan had packed
      in and was trying to bolster my Mothers feelings against the most PROBABLE news that he had perished, my Mother didn't find out he was alive untill 19th September 45 from the Portugese Red Cross at Laurenco Marks, PEA and then quickly after that she got a letter from the War Office saying such, however he had been reported as J. F. Wadge, J. A. WADGE with the Royal Norfolk Regiment ( he was actually with the RASC ) and with ranks from Privates to Capt.'s, so she was reluctant to accept the news as correct and didn't tell my brother who was 3 and a half years old untill she got his first letter and she knew he was really alive and would be coming home.

      I know it's trivia but it's amazing how heartwarmimg it is for me to know that she was praying for them all.

      Also once again, many thanks for your help with the S S Widestone , in which my husbands uncle was lost, my Mother- in-Law was so delighted as they were just told he was lost and knew no more.

      George - >Janet, it is most interesting to note how differently the Japanese treated prisoners in respect to nationality and geographical locations.

      About a months after the Germans turned 72 British and American merchant seamen over to the Japanese at Batavia, the Americans were summoned to the camp guardhouse. There we were met by a young Japanese fellow dressed in a flowered shirt and fancy trousers. He explained he was born in Los Angeles and was caught in Japan when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was working for the Japanese propaganda office in Tokyo and had been dispatched to the East Indies to find American prisoners and allow them to write letters to their families. That was December 15, 1942. On the evening of April 23, 1943, more than thirty persons scattered all over the United States heard and copied my letter when it was broadcast by radio station JLG4 in Tokyo. Letters from seventeen other of my crew mates were also broadcast at that time!

      Meanwhile, the United States government had on November 5, 1942 declared us "missing following action" and on December 15, 1942 issued "presumptive death certificates" for all of us. This latter action caused any further payment of wages to cease and a $5,000 life insurance benefit to be paid.

      Of course, the April 23 broadcast changed everything. My mother had to return the $5,000, but "by law" because the ship had sunk, my wages therefore ceased, and what money the shipping company had been deducting from my wage account and sending to her also ceased.

      Meanwhile, back on Java, a group of Texas soldiers equipped with banjos, guitars, mandolins, and what have you, began making regular appearances on a local radio station, playing and singing cowboy songs. Between numbers, a young American naval officer read practically uncensored letters from us. I don't know the date my letter was broadcast, but it was heard by American forces, probably in Australia. I was able to relate how and when we were captured by the Germans, how long we had been at sea in the German ships, what the Japanese were feeding us, what we had to buy to supplement that food, and so on. A few individuals also heard this message and contacted my family. Beyond those messages, at least six postcards were received from me.

      All of this created a sensation in the 'States. Even the great "New York Times" carried the stories.

      And your mother didn't know, until the war had ended, of your father's
      survival.

      Strange, strange, strange.

      Janet - >George, what a fantastic story, I bet your folks were certainly beside themselves with delight to get that news eh !

      My Mother knew my father was alive at the time of the capitulation of the garrison at Singapore cos he was listed " Taken POW", she did also, over the 3.5 years did receive 4 cards from him but only one ever carried a date (Jan 44 ), and the first one arrived 18 months after Feb 42 , and the next 3 all within months of the end of the war, so although he was alive when he sent them , when was it, and was he alive now sorta thing ? Dad always said the Japanese used them as fans on humid days ( probably to taunt them or something ), but to give his card the best chance he always wrote that he was in the best of health, being treated well, not in hospital, and working for pay etc., it seems to have worked as most wives or mothers got one or none !

      Also, I am not suprised the USA treated things differently, your goverments made provision where possible to take their bodies home, whereas only this week, in ARAS another soldier has been found after lying in an unmarked grave since 1917 ! poor little devil only 20 years old , and more than likely no one even close enough left to really be interested in the proper burial even though it will be with full ilitary honours.

      My Mother dad lost her beloved brother Billy on HMS Grampus in June 40 and I think she was reluctant to be optomistic as her parents and relatives were trying to prepare her for the worst scenario, she always told me ( although I was pretty young when she died so missed out alot on what she could have told me ) that when the letter came and she was SURE he ( my Dad ) had survived , that she was the only one NOT to cry, even the postman and the neighbours shed tears of emmotion and delight but she said " I was pleasantly numb, I was always confident he would make it, but I had cried all my tears for 3 odd years , I could just not cry any more " Bless her she was still only 24 years old, about the same age as I was when I decided I needed to invest in my first apartment, and no man even in the equasion, but she ( along with millions of others ) had had to endure this torture of uncertainty along with trying to keep body and soul together with the harsh conditions of rationing in the UK and a baby to look after, without the benefits of todays medicines etc. God these women were amazing, just as were there men.

      John - >George, I was speaking to my father, John Baxter, recently and he was in the same camp as you and the other men who arrived that day in Batavia and he recalls your arrival. Although he doesn't recall you by name what he did remember, and you might like to confirm it, was that one of your number had a saxaphone or some such instrument and gave a few impromptu concerts with it. When you left Batavia where did you eventually end up because I suspect that you must have left the camp around the time my father was near to death in the botany school "hospital" about which I've been trying to discover more information. When he returned to camp there were just a handful of the worst cases who were unable to be moved as they were so ill the Japs probably thought they'd die anyway.

      Janet - >George, You saying that your Mom had to pay back the death benefit she received for you and the ceasation of wages etc reminds me that my Mother was asked to pressume my father dead by the army and goverment, and was put under quite a bit of pressure to do so.

      She totally refused as she was confident he would make it but also as a wife of a serving soldier she got her army wives pay, which seeing as my father had made most of his wages over to her , were very generous indeed, ( Dad made his wages up by playing cards which, I have to say he was very good at, and made a fair bit of money before captivity.)

      Many years later my dad told me not only she refused in her heart to accept he was dead, but had she have done, she would have been reduced to a widow's pension which was far less in monitory terms ! This amazed me, as my Mother was the sort of lady who required little from life, enough to pay her rent and bills and enough for food and a meagre clothing allowance, I find it difficult to imagine she even considered the monitary aspect, but it also makes me chuckle too.

      As for John Baxter Snr. recalling you and your comrades arriving at Batavia , my goodness that is something else is it not ?

      Ron - > Janet , just a line about money being paid during the war. When my pop left for the Far East my parents were saving for a house and my older sister was six months old. My father was supposed dead and my mother had to use their saving to survive, when the savings had gone she went to the social who paid her some money. When pop got back and received his back pay of 72 the social took the money out of it they had loaned her.

      They never did save up for that house of their own.
      So much for the welfare state not bitter as they brought up us kids in a house full of love, worth much more then bricks and mortar.

      George - >John, when the Germans turned us over, and we arrived at the above camp, we had few possessions as we were all survivors of three sunken ships. We did not have cups, nor dishes, nor eating utensils. The Japs did come up with sufficient of the Dutch pots called "blicks" to hold our rice and stew, but we had to make chop sticks out of bamboo. As for a saxophone?

      No way anyone would have abandoned ship clutching a musical instrument.

      As for remembering our arrival? Probable. We did create quite a "stir" as the first reactions by the resident prisoners were that we had been involved in an invasion. Also, we were not released into the general camp population, but were placed in confinement in a small building in the center of the camp. We were like monkeys in a cage, and everyone came by to look at us. That condition remained for six days after which, according to my journal, "guard removed and outside conversation allowed". That was November 12, 1942.

      We remained in Tandjoeng Priok camp for a little over five months. During that period, thousands of prisoners arrived and departed, on their way north to Japan or east to the Moluccas. Finally, on April 15, 1943, we were told, again according to my journal, "entire camp is to be cleaned out by the 18th". On the 17th, I wrote, "All remaining fit men transferred to Bicycle Camp in Batavia" and on the 18th, "Remaining prisoners in Priok are shifted".

      To my knowledge, those buildings at Tandjoeng Priok were never again used to house prisoners.

      Janet - >Ron, I couldn't agree more, and especially in those days people who owned their own homes were in a great minority.

      We lived on a smashing council estate where we had relatives and extended family by way of friends and neighbours I still call Aunty & Uncle whoever ! much better than no love.

      My Mum & Dad were offered their pre-fab and they both thought it was the best thing since sliced bread, some one had refused it can you believe (brand new absloute luxury in 46 ) and my parents were given the keys to look at it. My dad told the lady at the council ,a Miss Freear, that they didn't want to view it they would take it, but she explained by law they had to view it or whatever, so in true Jack Wadge tradition he says "oh yes I understand ok", takes the keys, leaves the council office goes into the cafe next door and has a cup of tea and then walks back in to the council office and says " Thank you thats wonderfull, we'lle take it ", Miss Freear knowing something was not right says " you weren't long " type of thing and the old man said " I ran all the way there and all the way back ", she was in charge of housing at the council even when I was a kid and always was SO nice to my parents.

      Infact when they had to move cos I was born and needed a 3 bed house my Mum was peed off bigtime !- she loved her pre-fab.

      The money issue that is quite obviously why my Mum wouldn't sign their bit of paper to say she accepted he was dead, also someone from the army told her if she did how much better it would be for her, cos she could them LOOK for another husband, as she must be missing maritial relations, well she took such exception to this and really went into one, which had you have
      known my Mum you could just imagine ( a bit like the vicar and the Japanese in heaven episode ) and expalined that she took her vows in a church and however much the army thought they knew, that only God was the one to be answered to, and they could get knotted etc, I think after that they left her alone ! Ron she was a case, she was kind funny, lovely but Jesus if you upset her you would have thought another bomb had just gone off !

      I wondered where I got it from, what with Dad and Mum , I can't help myself it's not my fault !!!!!!

      Keith - My father was a single man when captured at Singapore, although at some time before that he had some sort of relationship that hurt him badly. I gather this from his inscription to his father on the back of a photo. He met my mother after the war when he returned home, married in 1947, and I arrived in 1949.

      He was still in the Army at that time, so approached the local council for housing, only to be told that did he not know there was a shortage of housing, there were more needy cases, and use his back pay to buy a house. He never asked the council for anything again.

      Ron - On of my pops work mates, John Green lost a leg in Italy (Coldstream Guards). He wrote out his story for me, the war took one A4 page.

      When it got to being refused a new pre-fab in his small village, as these were for outsiders moving in, he wrote four A4 pages, he got things in perspective, the pre-fab was more important to him and his wife, Zelia. He broke into the one he wanted and barricaded himself in until they agreed to let him have one.

      His story is worth a read, great chap, helped me alot with my pop.
      http://www.britain-at-war.org.uk/John_Green_MBE/index.htm
      He deserved his MBE for work on pensions since 1963, retired last year, all
      in his own time.
      When the children next door found out about his wooden leg he demonstrated to them how he held up his socks, with drawing pins.

      Keith - There has been much said on this issue, most of it to do with how our fathers were treated on arriving home, or is mistreated the word. But this would not happen today, would it?

      Some months ago, I watched a programme on BBC1 regarding the recovery of remains of airmen lost in action over Europe during W.W.2. This part of Europe was the Netherlands, and they had recovered remains of a bomber, and some human remains. I will not go into too much detail, other than to say there are 2000 Aircrew still missing in action in Europe. At the end of the programme the Dutch Colonel in charge of the recovery stated
      that a treaty had been signed by H.M.G. instructing that no effort in future was to be made to recover human remains at crash sites of military aircraft lost in W.W.2.

      The Americans go to great lengths to bring home the remains of Military personnel, and even to identify if enough evidence permits, the person in question.

      This was the case when the remains entombed in the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, a member of the air force lost over Vietnam, was identified by DNA testing. His remains were disinterred, and re buried in a named grave with full military honours.

      Another unknown was then buried in the tomb, again with full military honours.

      George Duffy will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe there is within the American Military an Honour Guard, who are dispatched to accompany the remains of military personnel on their journey back to the United States for burial. I have a full copy of the article from After the Battle Magazine if anyone is interested.

      Interesting, isn't it?

      Janet - >Ron, These stories are so inspiring but also so sad, and they make me very, very bloody angry, but it proves one thing...... NOT ALOT CHANGES IN THIS COUNTRY !

      A neighbour who I still refer to as Aunty Olive was married to a Scotsman who had been in Europe during the war, they were refused a pre-fab, so she occupied and squatted in the empty park keepers house in Southall Park a veritable mansion of a place that looks as though it had come out of the Hammer House of Horrors films, ( she was born and bred in Southall ), eventually they evicted her and she made the leader of the housing dept. push the pram with her daughter Tina in, complete with possesions on the top and underneath the pram and the baby's enamel potty tied with a piece of string to the pram handle which proceeded to clank all the way.

      She then camped on the steps of Southall Town Hall and had all the media coverage available in those days on the case, yes Ron , it worked OK, they got the pre-fab in the next parade to my Mum & Dad, and eventually in 1956 re housed on the same estate of houses as us in Hayes, but the injustice and unfairness makes me livid.

      I think the only reason my Mum & Dad got one in 46 was that my Mum and brother were living with her sister Janet in Southall but my dad could only manage to get digs at an old gentleman's who he had known before the war about 10 miles or so away. Anyway my Mum thought this prefab was FAB bless her.

      >Keith, My Dad was really peculiar about any sort of state handouts, he just would not collect them even if he was entitled, I have never really understood the reasons why.

      He also never collected his medals untill I did it for him about 10 years ago, his reason was " Bloody good men never got back to wear theirs, and other useless ******* ********* have got them all over their chest, in that case B*ll*cks I don't need or want them",but I persuaded him to claim them as I thought they were valuable sentimantal things that MY children or neices and nephews should be privvy too, he them agreed.

      Colin - Just reading the messages about wages etc, I work for one of the government departments and see first hand how pensioner are treated like sh*t when they come to get government help. If they have savings over 8 grand i think it is they get no help at all. If they then spend that money to bring there savings down they still get f*ck all because the money has been seen as squandered. The saddest thing i heard from a WW2 serviceman was " why did i bother risking my life for this crap", I replied to him because a lot of people are thankfull you did as we would not be here now.

      P.S Dont hold my job against me because i hate it but i have to pay the mortgage some how.

      Janet - >Colin, we all need a job, and we all need civil servants too,( except those chaps from the inland revenue ) it's very nice to think that at least some
      one cares.

      The little experience I have gained in these sort of matters, makes me feel that I have half a mind to blow any money I've got on a dammed good time and think about "whatever" later, but being a COFEPOW, and it's 47 years of conditioning , I just couldn't do it. I'm one of these totally unrealistic old biddies who expects a 3 piece suite to last for at least 30 years and carpet never to wear out !

      3 years ago my cooker went west, I got 3 different quotes to fix it and they were all within about 10 and the cost of the job was 150 !. I was told it wasn't really viable to repair as it was obsolete BUT Colin it was only 14 years old !

      The repair man said " How long do you expect them to last" and I replied " Longer than bloody 14 years", and then of course I went into one telling him that my Mums cooker was the one she had when she left the pre-fab and if it
      hadn't been for natural gas being introduced it would still be going strong today ! well to cut a long story short, I bought a reconditioned 2 year old cooker from this guy for 140, all bottle green and brass and a HOTPOINT too and it's really OK, but about a month later I saw my old cooker, which he gave me 15 for , in his window for 125, he had done it all up, but it looked like new when he got it, let alone now, all cream and brown, gleaming chrome etc etc.

      WAS I PEED OFF OR WOT ?

      So my dear there you are, relatively young people still being affected by the Japanese, and even younger people ( like my kids - having to put up with all my idio's ).

      John - >Ron, I don't know whether others had the same experience as my father but you may know that on arrival in Java, there was an horrendous train crash that killed a number of Brits in the 77th HAA I believe. There were a number of officers among them and, as a result, my father, along with a number of others were raised a rank. However, this fact never got back to the Ministry of Defence and, of course, paperwork connected with this was lost when they were captured. When Dad returnedand was given his back pay, it was at his previous rank and the MoD refused to recognise that he had been raised a rank despite representations. I beleive that this happened to a number of his colleagues. The money wasn't a great deal but the principle was important. I wonder what the money itself, if invested since 1945 would have been worth today - take that away from the 10,000 received recently and Dad might have thought that this was what he was due from the government anyway!

      Tony - Sorry to be entering this thread a little late (just got back from Singapore last night), but two things I'd like to add.

      Firstly, my father was kind enough to video the show about the Dutch recovering a Lancaster and send it over to me. I lived in Holland for five years, and wasn't surprised to see how upset the Dutch airforce guy was when he said that the British Government wouldn't allow further recoveries. The Dutch have never forgotten what it was all about, unlike - sad to say - so many in the UK.

      Secondly, I was born in 1959 in a prefab which we finally left in 1969. By that time we had plants of all types growing up through the lino floor, and the whole thing had generally decayed around our ears. Not bad though, considering those places had a design life of just five years!

      Janet - >Tony, How absolutely remarkable, the exhibition was called "Behind Bamboo" and I took my Dad, to see it !

      Yes, I think perhaps you are right over different pr-fabs, ours was the bees knees with a pitched roof, infact there are still two being used in my own village but now as garages,and in the next village "Parson Drove", there's a pre-fab thats been done up and is in about an acre of garden, I wouldn't mind it one bit !!

      Tony - >Janet, Bingo! How strange! Do you remember the rather atmospheric photo of the wooden trestles supporting a bend in the railway, with the river in the foreground? I took that from the train itself while an elderly lady from the Commonwealth (visiting graves, I imagine) held on to me.

      I'm afraid I've forgotten the names of the veterans who aided my sister in the project, though one was a Canon, and another built the replica bamboo hut in the exhibition.

      Keith - >Tony, if the trestles supporting a bend in the Railway are the one(s) I think they are, even if Janet does not remember the photograph, I think it is the viaduct at Wampo, and her father helped build it. I have a similar photo in the Kinvig book.

      If I am wrong, I have the sauce bottle ready to spread over a good portion of it over humble pie!

      Janet - >Keith, you are quite right my dear ,( I am constantly amazed at your memory ) the old chap worked on the scaffolding at Wampo, that is where they had to carry back the dying Jap from and also that is where he established his working relationship with the young Jap engineer who was seconded to the army to go road, rail and bridge building.

      This Jap was not happy out there either and wanted to go home too and one day he dropped his hammer into the river , Dad always said tools were inferior quality and in short supply ( that amazes me ) , fortunately dad had the presence of mind to make a note of which teak support they were working against and scaled down the structure and as luck was very much on his side the hammer had fallen onto the soft ground beside the river and not the rocks so it had not bounced off anywhere, he retrieved it and got back up somehow ( all that tree climbing and scrumping as a kid I guess ), so everything was hunky dory !

      It appears that the construction around the sheer face was being tackled from both ends much like the railway itself and their party had finished it's allotted part beofre the ones coming towards them ( how the hell they got round the other side I dont know, boat probably ), so the Jap found a place you couldn't be seen from either end and rested them up for about 3 days (?), and my dad always respected him cos he had a job to do but was not cruel or wicked and actually did his best to look after them., from then the old man was with this guy practically all the time( not sure what he exactly meant by that ) and he was still with him at the camp on 16 Aug 45.

      They showed each other photos of their family and my Mum was a gorgeous looking woman with natural blonde hair, when this guy saw the photo he said " OOH, Fill-em St-aar", and my dad could still mimick the way he said it. This was the same bloke who came scrounging food after the capitulation when the Japs retreated to one end of the camp and the NCO's took over command of the allies, my Dad had a job in the cookhouse and gave him some, he got alot of stick from the boys , and he told me he gave him food cos he had been hungry and knew what it was like and cos he wasn't a bad bloke , but his official reason was at this time the Jap was infact a like POW himself of the allies and that he needed to be fed.

      John - >Janet, the bit about your father giving food to the Jap guard brought to mind my father's experience. He was in an electrical workshop alongside the two nearby mines and his part of the war effort was to surreptitiously sabotage machine windings with hacksaw blades etc. His two civilian guards in the workshop had both been invalided out of the army. One with shell shock was a pathetic individual after capitulation but was prone to outbursts of anger as a result of his injuries. The other, Hirano, was a much kinder individual and he would allow som workers to have a rest if they were not feeling up to a full day's work. At the end of the war he invited my father and two others back to his house where he provided them with tea and a satsuma (there wasn't much else about). Some of the supplies dropped by the Yanks were passed to Japanese in the local hospital who were themselves very short of food whilst some was passed to Hirano's family. A note was also left with Hirano telling any allies not to harm him as he had, unlike some of the Jap squaddies, been kind to those in his charge. When my father met Hirano again after 50 years, he still had that piece of paper and a picture given to him by one Hugh Williams who had accompanied my father to the tea ceremony. My father was now able to give Hirano a letter from Hugh along with a picture of him and his wife in retirement.

      There were thus some POWs who did take pity on their captors whilst some hated them that much that they set fire to their homes or exacted revenge in other ways. Certainly, the camp of Chinese prisoners found not too far from Iatsuki by my father and others showed no mercy at all as they had been brutally treated since the start of the Sino-Japanese war and they killed many Japanese civilians - it did not pay to be wearing Japanese army uniform in their company and they hunted down those who tried to hide within the civilian population.

      Some would say that my father should never have forgiven his captors or even attempted to meet up with one of them after so long but my father saw too many of his mates succumb to that inner hatred after the war and he was determined not to let the Japanese have the last word by gnawing at a mans innards so much that death was inevitable. He is still here though to tell the horror tales and to put things into some sort of perspective but he still appreciates that some of his POW friends will never ever forgive them for what they did to so many colleagues who deserved a more dignified death.

      His stance as a Christian has been to forgive but never, ever forget. His philosophy on life has also been a simple one - nothing in life could ever have been as bad as that time so why unduly worry about what life has thrown at him since. He now corresponds regularly with Hirano as they both live out their final years and I still vividly remember Hirano with genuine tears of sadness as we left his home for the final time. Not all Japs were bastards - unfortunately those who were more than made up for the majority who were not.

       

 

 

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