Batavia Hospital

Batavia "Hospital"

      John Baxter - My father, John Baxter, was captured in Java. Whilst there he became desperately ill and was carted off to what was euphemistically called a hospital. In fact it was a botanical school and the only "doctor" there was a Dutch doctor of botany. Not many people, as I understand it, emerged from this place alive as it was used by the Japs for those who were near to death. Despite this, my father did survive and was nursed with herbs etc by this doctor back to some semblance of "health". Once back in his camp, he was put back to work in the local docks, then moved to Changi and on to mainland Japan to the mines at Inatsuki in Kyushu. There he had the enduring memory of seeing the Nagasaki bomb go off in the far distance.

      My father has been trying to find out where on Batavia this botanical school was sited and the name of this man who saved his life. All enquiries so far have drawn a blank. He would very much like to find out whether the man is still alive (unlikely) or whether he has any family still living in Holland to whom he could write to say thank you. His book "Not Much of a Picnic" describes the incident in detail but this is one piece of the jigsaw that remains missing. Thanks in anticipation. John Baxter (jnr)

      Capt. George W. Duffy - There was a bona fide Dutch doctor in the prison camps whose specialty was curing by means of jungle plants and herbs. I met him at a reunion of the USS HOUSTON / U.S.A. 131st Field Artillery Battalion in Texas in the late 60s. His name was Henri Hekking.

      Dr. Hekking was, literally, a miracle worker according to a group of Americans who were on the Burma railway. He knew how to concoct life saving medicines out of common jungle growths.

      He passed away in 1994 at the age of 91. He left a daughter, Loukie Belinfante, Banka Straat 108, Den Haag, Nederland.

      Possibly, this is the person who saved your father's life on Java. It is simply a question of matching Hekking's itinerary against your father's.

      Keith - I recognise the good doctors name, he was with the Dutch Forces pre war, and took the time to learn about medicines made from local plant life. John, try to get hold of a book via the library service titled Prisoners of War of the Japanese by Gavin Dawes. This tells of the doctors exploits amongst other things, so impressed were the American POWs that I believe they made him an honour y American.

      Brian - Some further notes on 'Doc' Hekking which might be of interest.
      He was born in Java of third generation Dutch settlers. He caught malaria when he was four and was sent to live with his grandmother in a small village where she was the local 'doctor'. She treated Henri with native medicine derived from local plants and seeing the great benefit she was able to give to her community he resolved to be a doctor when he grew up.

      In due course the Netherlands government offered him a degree course in Holland providing he would afterwards return to the Dutch East Indies for a minimum of ten years with the Dutch Army. He got his medical degree and was sent to Celebes where he practised tropical medicine for four years. In 1941 he was working on Timor with the rank of Captain. He had married May and they had a son and daughter and enjoyed a fairly prosperous life style.

      When the Japanese came they took May and the children away and shipped Henri to Java. He became acquainted with the USS Houston survivors and the men of the Texas 131st Field Artillery Regt at the Batavia POW camp known as the Bicycle Camp. With them, he was shipped to Changi (Singapore) in October 1942 and then on to the Burma-Siam Railway.

      His wife May, his son Fred and his daughter Loukie were happily reunited after the war.

      He was a qualified medical doctor but what set him apart from other MOs was his prior experience of tropical diseases but particularly his conviction adopted from his grandmother that if the disease originated in a particular area, so did the plant that could cure it. Therefore he was able to forage for plants under the noses of his captors and provide medication to his fellow prisoners at a time when the Japanese were unwilling or unable to supply regular medicines.

      A remarkable man.

      John Baxter - Many thanks George and all - I'll pass this on to my father to see if this does match in any way.

      John Baxter - Thanks for the info about Batavia "hospital". My father is not convonced that it was the "doctor" suggested and I'll put into tht next e-mail a few more details. I think the first port of call is discovering the precise location of this walled area because no-one seems to know where it is or was. The description may provide some clues.



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