SEARCHES AND VALUABLES
Up to September 1943, searches were very infrequent, valuables of all types could be kept, they were too busy their interest being in completing the Railway or other work, too worry about searches and valuables and the P.O.W's were either too sick or too tired to worry about them either. But when the Railway was nearing completion, they started to worry. At first, they only worried about certain articles, such as pieces of wire, compasses, binoculars, etc., and then we were informed (not by the Nips), that a search was going to take place, with enough time to felt away these more important articles. Later searches became more frequent and they took everything, watches, rings, cigarette cases, pencils, paper, notebooks, diaries, etc., the only item that you were allowed to keep had to be stamped with a Nippon Stamp. Library books were handed in, if found to be unsuitable they were destroyed, others stamped and returned. Receipts were issued for watches, clocks, rings, cigarette cases, or any item of value, not notebooks or diaries, they were destroyed. If during a search, you were caught in possession of any of the above articles, you both got a beating and lost the article.
All parties entering or leaving Camps were thoroughly searched, so you did not stand much chance of keeping anything, even letters received from home, if they did not have on them the Nippon Stamp, they were taken away and destroyed. This did not stop men keeping them, pens, pencils, knives, razors, papers, diaries, etc., were buried, rings were coated with clay until they resembled a piece of mud and then placed under the bed boards. Watches were placed in tins and buried or like mine buried in the heel of boots.
I had in my possession, a gold presentation wristwatch, this I did not hand in to the Nips. I had lost everything else, this I intended to be kept. So for a period, I placed it in a tin, and buried it in the ground by the bed space. At this time, parties were constantly leaving the Camp, movement from hut to hut was taking place and the Nips threatened to dig up the floor of the huts. It became too dangerous to keep it any longer in the ground; I decided to find another hiding place. I decided that hiding it in the heel of my boot was the best bet, so that if I moved it would move with me. I therefore took off the first two layers of the heel, cut a hole the size of my watch in the lower layers, inserted my watch, wrapped in a piece of oiled cloth and replaced the top two layers. When the Nips Capitulated, six months later, I took out my watch, it still went, but unfortunately, I had nailed the watch case to my boot, this mark is still to be seen on the watch.
On Capitulation, some of the valuables were returned to the owners on handing in the receipt. [In my father’s case non were returned (M.E.N.)]