Sketch by Jack Chalker

Mail and Correspondence

PART ELEVEN

MAIL AND CORRESPONDENCE

We were allowed to write one postcard every six months, the first one being written in August 1942, but although we wrote, many were never sent. They were allowed to rot in a corner of some Nip shed.

Mail from home was first issued early in 1943, generally being a year old. Later it was issued more frequently, I received 27 letters. I know that on average my family wrote from home once per week, so that was 183 letters that were sent out to me, where did the remainder go to?

 

"DISGUST, SUSPENSE, RELIEF AND COMFORT"

 

For weeks, the old recce plane had been paying us a visit, generally on a Wednesday, for the purpose of dropping pamphlets onto the Thai villages situated around the Camp. By doing this, a large number of these pamphlets found their way into the Camp, watching the whereabouts of the Jap sentry, these pamphlets were immediately picked up, scrutinised, then with the help of a knife, split into two or three sheets, and used as cigarette papers.

Wednesday arrived, and all and sundry were patiently waiting for the noise of the plane, for the sounding of the Air Raid Siren which informed us that it was the right plane, for the warning voice which generally informed us that the pamphlets had been released and falling into the Camp, the voice generally used the words, "here they come, millions of them".

Unfortunately for us, there was to be 'No Plane", no siren and no warning voice - and no paper for making our cigarettes. Disappointed we started grumbling, whatever was the matter, should we ever know the reason. Several hours passed and then strange as it may seem, there spread through the huts, a rumour. Softly at first, but gradually increasing in volume, until everyone was talking about it. What was this rumour? Was it true, or as usual False? At last we got to know, "A small bomb has been dropped on a large Japanese city by the American's, creating terrible destruction and killing hundreds of thousands", and through this "Japan has Capitulated". What nonsense, what type of bomb would do this? But under conditions, which we had undergone for several years, you would believe any sort of rumour, and to substantiate this, there had been no plane.

Several days passed, and still no planes, was this rumour really true? Had something really happened? The suspense was terrible, but conditions were certainly much better, the Japanese guards were becoming more friendly, only essential working parties were required. Discipline became lax, and food, especially meat, was better and in quality. Yes, something had happened.

At about 11.00am, orders were received to the effect that "All Block and Hut Commanders were to report to the Japanese Headquarters at once". Whatever had happened? Was the news good or bad? Previously whenever this order was given, it was always for the worst. Tension reigned high throughout the entire Camp. Rumours became rife, what ever could be the result? We were soon to know, our seniors returned, smiling, more erect and with shining eyes. The news they had received was good news. They stated, "At last we are free, Japan has Capitulated".

Some laughed, some cried, others tried to cheer, others did not know what to do. Was it really true? Could we honestly believe it this time, or was it just another stunt to try to buck up our failing spirits? Could you imagine that after three and a half years of Hell, hunger, disease and tribulation, that Peace could come like this? It had and this day was the Fifteenth day of August 1945.

Flags of Great Britain, Australia, America and Holland were soon to be seen flying over the Huts. Where they had been unearthed from was only known by those concerned.

That night, nearly the entire Camp, irrespective of race or rank, fit or sick, congregated around the space in front of the Concert Stage, to hear Lieut. Col. A.C. Coates A.I.C., give out the good news officially. The night air must have been amplified with the response given after hearing these wonderful tidings. Cheer after Cheer swept through the Camp, songs of all types were sung, but, even through all this, deep down in our hearts there was still that tendency of disbelief.

It took some time before this gathering dispersed, but it was not to sleep, some were for going outside the Camp to see what the outside World looked like. Others just wanted to meditate with their thoughts of home, their loved ones, or about their pals whom they were leaving behind them and who would never hear the good news.

 

Next Chapter

Characters

 

 

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