Java Camps

      George - 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.

      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.

      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.

      St Georges - Tandjoeng Priok Camp

      Sent in by George

      John - >George, I'll have to see whether Dad's mind was playing tricks! He too was transferred to Bicycle Camp where I understand the camp commandant was a real bastard called Lt Sonae or Sunny Boy who took great delaight in meting out instant punishment to all and sundry on the least pretext. From there, my father went to Boie Glodok camp which was a civil prison. You are right about the TP buildings - they were never used again for prisoners so it is all the more remarkable that the stained glass windows from the church survived.



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