Captivity:- January 1943
1943 is now begun - the year in which we hope the wars between the west and east will cease and peace reign among us once more. Hope to be free before the summer, about June, at least and then returning home to the best place on earth.
Japanese gave us a present of a tot of port wine for every man and a tin of pineapples – very acceptable and much appreciated. 10 men arrived from Muntok on Wed 30th. where they were working in the tin mines.
Apparently several more are still working there and according to reports many men there attempted to escape, many of whom were drowned and others captured and decapitated without mercy. They brought some news with them but, mostly all exaggerated and extravagant rumours, which I am afraid, I cannot digest.
The guard today extremely strict as regards saluting and bowing to all Japs. Many men beaten up for failing to do so. Two others were taken to H.Q. & confined to cells for giving the V for Victory sign to the natives.
Eggs have completely disappeared from the market, the reason being according to popular opinion, that the big shot Chinese dealer was arrested by the Japs and as a reprisal the other Chinese shopkeepers have cornered all the eggs and are keeping them off the market.
Chinese do all the business in the town and own all the big stores and shops and in short, almost run the business life of the town.
The British Malays were taken to H.Q. and asked to work for Nippon. In return they would receive their freedom and be taken back to Singapore. They all refused and let the Japs know that they desired English rule to that of Nippon.
In the course of our unpleasant occupation we are forced to go through the market place to the river to dump the excrement. Here the filth, squalor and smell exceeds the stench, even of our own load.
The romantic names of the glorious east like Singapore, Batavia, Surabaya, are soon brought down in one’s estimation by the sheer filth, stench and unwholesome climate of these places.
All the officers in “O” Camp were locked up in church for 24 hours without food or, water, or any conveniences as a reprisal for some person having hurled a brick during the darkness, at a Sikh guard. The officers cut the cards as to who was to take the blame for the this foul deed – a mere Japanese fabrication.
Two men were taken away to jail at H.Q. for making V sign. I think that the Japs have realised they have come in on the wrong side and alas, are now very shaky about the future.
They expect a native rising and think that the V sign and thumbs up, is some gigantic plan to capture the town and overthrow the Nippon terror. All concerts and singing have been stopped.
Had my hair cut off completely and sincerely hope by the time it has grown back to normal then our freedom will be very close at hand, if it has not already taken place. At present there are strong rumours around that there will shortly be an exchange of badly wounded and infirm prisoners of war.
We have several such at our camp who through wounds and ill health, a complete change of climate alone can save from death.
It will also be beneficial for us as they can report the existence of the long lost legion of Palembang. There is a large Chinese population in this town, like all the large towns in the east and they prove an interesting study to the foreigner.
I often heard of the Chinese women having small feet and indeed, on scrutinising the feet, especially of the older women, I was surprised to behold feet scarcely 2” long, which made them walk ungainly and seem top heavy.
The sign of nail pinched feet was very evident and no doubt an enormous amount of suffering must have been endured to halt the natural growth of the feet.
The Japs have now commenced a form of propaganda by learning the natives the more common words in Japanese. This is done by displaying posters with the drawing of an article and the Japs name of same below. This they call their “Nippon-go” lessons.
The Japs are now installing English-speaking natives among our lads on working parties to act as spies – to listen to and report all topics of interest discussed by the prisoners and to find out if any news or, plans is getting through to the prisoners of war.
Fortunately we got wind of this stratagem in time, before anything was given away.
Air R.P. exercises and army movements are being carried out during the next four days. Last night all the lights in Palembang were extinguished at 9 p.m. and nobody allowed outside. The familiar note of an air-raid siren seemed to strike a welcome note where before it conveyed one of fear.
All working parties are cancelled for the period during which the military will be carrying out their manoeuvres and strategy for the defence of the island when the time comes.
A.R.P. still the order of the day and strange to say for the whole exercises there was torrential rain which must have been very unpleasant to our masters, but of no interest to us as all working parties stopped.
All the camp today were inoculated against typhoid and each man received the first injection of 25%, the remaining 75% to be given next Sunday. Today a young Chinese was taken into custody by the guard for refusing to bow to a Sikh.
The Sikh struck him in the face and the Chink struck him an even harder blow in return – a general fight started in which the Sikh received many more blows.The Chink did not mind being bayoneted, but a slap on the face was not for him. (Stubbs out working today).
He was soon overpowered and removed to gaol, where he will probably be shot. Men attending the sick bay have been forced now to stick paper over their wounds and sores. No bandages are available and the Japs don’t seem to have much interest as to whether any will be available.
A queer instance of native stubbornness – they still keep the Dutch time which is 2 hrs behind Jap and we also as a rule reckon on Singapore time.
Singapore time exactly 7 ½ hrs ahead of time at home, thus midnight at home is the beginning of a new moon here, 7.30 a.m. - a new day with all the toils and worries ahead.
The average Malay is an extremely timid and polite being and if left alone is quite harmless but, once roused they are extremely dangerous and act swiftly in the most treacherous manner possible.
They as a rule are very lazy and must trust to the sun to supply all their many needs. Hygiene, etc, are practically unknown to them. They live in absolute filth and squalor and hire out their daughters to the numerous brothels and big shanties, which occupy every second house.
The morals of the east I am afraid are very loose even at times to appear non existent, but their outlook in this direction is complete reverse to ours. Received the second and final inoculation for typhoid today – a 75% dose.