Sketch by Jack Chalker

Good News

Now after this bout of sickness and enjoyment combined, a sing-song began to commence all round the camp, groups had their own fires, coffee was brewing and a lot of visiting was done. To be clever, we walked past the Jap guard room now and again without bowing and there was nothing said. Isn't this lovely. Of course, there was very little sleep that night, many thoughts came into my head, how long before I get home to my wife and child was the most forward one. It could not come soon enough.

At last I got to sleep and about nine a.m. the next day, something very extraordinary happened. A B29 bomber circled the camp and dropped a small parachute into the centre of the camp. One of the guys picked this up and handed it to our camp cornmandant, the American one of course. On opening it up and reading the contents, the order was everybody on parade at once. Now what! has the war broken Out again? Surely not. Well, he read this message out and this is what it said:

      To All Prisoners of War - We proudly state that the

      Japanese Government has surrendered to the allies.

      You are now free men.  Please wait for further

      developments.

 

Did we go to town? Of course, when these Americans go for revenge, they certainly do it in a big way. They made a bee-line for the coalmine and brought the Jap civvies who were in charge of us back to camp. Us British Tommies could only stand and look on and enjoy it. I met up with the Jap who used his pick helve on my back, what I was going to do to him when I got free was nobody's business, but I was so pleased that I was free, that I forgot all about revenge, but of course, some of the Americans had received much more punishment than I did and they made sure that revenge was sweet and they really loved it.

One of their punishments was that they made the culprit walk between two ranks and they poured buckets of excreta and urine on top of him as he passed, when these were empty, they made him gather it up with his hands, put it in the buckets again and deliberately poured it back on him again. Mind you, every bit of this punishment was deservedly given, as these Jap civilians were just as cruel as the guards, if not worse. Now the guards must have had a premonition as to what was going to happen because when the guard room was approached it was found to be empty and all had gone, scott free, but I did learn that they were caught and suffered a worse fate.

So now we were free men, looking forward to going home. The Americans were going to town and raiding the shops etc., bringing food back to camp for the cookhouse to cook, at one time three bullocks were brought into camp and killed to get meat for the men, but it was stated by the doctors to steady one's eating because the sudden intake could kill by cramping the stomach and causing diahorria. Well, some of us took heed of this warning and others didn't. The smell that was coming out of the cookhouse was very tempting and don't forget, three and a half years is a long time to go without decent food. Now the time had come, when we could eat some lovely steaks and chips, etc., and to be restricted seemed ludicrous, but we knew that it was for our own good, so we took the doctors' advice and took it easy on the food, at least for the time being.

Unbelievably the frrst people who entered our camp after the war were Chinese guerillas. It was amazing to see them, they were so pleased to see us that they saluted us everywhere we went. They had a camp about one hundred yards down the road and when you visited them, no matter what your rank was, they would turn out their guard for you, and give you their royal salute. This we could not understand, but apparently they viewed us as being very superior to them.

We were now living it up, still taking care not to eat too much. Now, the only entertainment we had was singing 'Land of Hope and Glory', which we simply murdered, but we were enjoying every minute of it.

Then into the camp came an official war correspondent, he told us to be patient and that transport was being arranged to take us in stages to different parts of the country and eventually back home, but this would take a little time to organise.

Of course, some of the guys could not wait, especially with the Americans. Well I suppose they were nearest home and could not wait for organised parties. As a matter of fact, we thought the same 'Come on, let's get at it and be on the move,' but we took the correspondent's advice and settled down to wait for the transport.

There was nothing to do, but laze about and some of us would go to the beach, have a swim and before going back to camp, gather clams and take them back to the cookhouse to have them boiled. This made a change fmm meat, etc., and it was also a bit lighter on the stomach. Although after what we had been through, any sort of food was welcome. I vowed at one time of my life, I would never starve again and God willing, never go hungry again, no way! I say this through painful experience.

I repeat again, the things one had to do to live is inexplicable, to grovel, steal and do all sorts of weird things so that one could eat, but we did it and the extraordinary thing about it is that one never regretted doing such things, you had to if you wanted to see your family again, I never felt ashamed, however degrading it was. You only live once and to let a lot of barbaric people beat me, 'no way!' Although they very nearly did and at this particular moment I take very great pride in writing this book.

 

Next Chapter

Homeward Bound