Sketch by Jack Chalker

May 1942

Captivity:- May 1942


Friday 1st.

My clothes and boots now worn out – a ragman without soles to my boots, such is the care of the Japanese govt. for their prisoners. We had a concert tonight, band selections and singing, but programme spoiled by petty restrictions.


Saturday 2nd

Japs don’t allow community singing; must stop at 9, etc, etc. Similarly they don’t like seeing men playing cards – men must work. Rumour that Yanks are fighting at Medan in N. Sumatra.


Sunday 3rd.

Out working today – white slavery a very pleasant sight to the Japanese. It is now reported that we are not being removed to quarters in drome – if true, we really thank God. One seaman dies today of dysentry.


During the week Japs took everything they could lay their hands on and loaded it on several transports. Chink tried to hang himself.


Monday 4th.

Docks and warehouses on river bombed this morning by American bomber. At least we are within bombing range. Hope that soon we will be released from this life of slavery.


Tuesday 5th.

Japs conscripting the natives from the transports near at hand and if they refuse then village will get no rice. Helly (Kelly?) died today, an Edinburgh lad and survivor of the POW.


Wednesday 6th.

Half day off work today kindly given by the Japs. We are extending the civil aerodrome and here to dig away a small mountain. The sun at present is now at its hottest – but still the slaves work on.


Thursday 7th.

Japs looting all the Dutch houses of their furniture. Had a party of sick down at docks unloading our own ammunition. The Cerchin women and children treated worse than us.


Friday 8th.

The Jap doctor when examining some of our sick, asked if they work hard at the drome and when told so, stated with all sincerity, that he felt very sorry for them. Our rations are now reduced to one packet biscuits a day and two meals of rice.


Saturday 9th.

Heard today that we captured ?- - - -? and Madagascar from the French. The little news we get is, as a rule just rumour, but this seems pretty authentic. I shall live in hope to be free before Christmas.


Sunday 10th.

Had church service tonight at 9pm, after coming back from work. This was a gala day for us, easily the hottest and hardest day’s work yet. The Japs idea of a joke shook us all today. They erected on a stick, beside the cross marking the place of our dead soldiers, a skull with a helmet on top.


By nature, I’m patient and slow to wrath, but daily the thoughts of revenge grow more intense.


Monday 11th.

Half day today and had a sing-song at night to keep our spirits up to the highest level possible. Our work is slowly getting us down. The heat is intense and the Japs are driving us without mercy, but their turn is fast approaching, we hope.


Tuesday 12th.

The sides have parted with my boots and I am now forced to walk with my bare feet. The coolies are unable to shove or, dig without boots, while prisoners get all the hard work to do, much to the amusement of our Nippon masters.


Wednesday 13th.

Our meal rations reduced to a minimum; six lads working at the drome eat roots resembling spuds and within a short time were violently ill – all later rushed to hospital.


Thursday 14th.

Heard good news today, that Japs are being hit hard at sea in their invasion of Australia and Churchill’s speech, that war will soon finish. One coolie had his head cut off for attacking guard with chunkle, first being tied in sun for 6 hours.


Friday 15th.

Changed all my Singapore money at rate of $10 for 2 guilders. Japs keen to get all dollars to give in return their won worthless notes. Natives give us exchange rate of 2 for $10. Unfortunately potatoes and the common fruits such as apples, do not thrive in this climate and we lose thereby.


Saturday 16th.

Very warm today. Japanese giving us the minimum ration and expecting the maximum work. Number of our lads fell off a lorry tonight, much to Japs amusement – no serious injuries.


Sunday 17th.

Down at docks today. Terrible amount of our stuff captured there, but fortunately most of it was destroyed before falling into the enemy’s hands. 4 heavy guns and large number of ?- - - - -?


Food situation becoming serious – we are not receiving sufficient rations and forced to work from dawn to dusk. The climax is fast approaching – we are almost starving.



Three months captured today, seems like years, but time passes much quicker now that we are settled down to work in this climate. Food situation still serious, although slightly better ration today.


Tuesday 19th.

Wrote home on 17th. hope that my air mail will reach home as I know how much it will do to lessen undue worry and anxiety. I was fortunate enough to pick up a volume of Shakespeare’s works at the docks – thus now I have the best of literature to read.


Wednesday 20th.

It is surprising how clean and healthy our teeth keep on this diet. Probably the lack of sugar, sweets, etc, account for this. Excused working party for two days owing to slight fever.


Thursday 21st.

Rumour has it that we will be moving to atap huts near the airfield at end of week. What a life it will be there with no water, no lights, in fact nothing, but, mosquitoes and disease.


Friday 22nd.

The camp consists of huts, is not mosquito proof and out in the open so we are now at the               mercy of the elements. Canteen is closing down – 300 guilders not accounted for, on account of bad bookkeeping.


Saturday 23rd.

Had spoonful of sugar today and how I enjoyed it – never did honey taste more sweet. Already I have read Tempest, Caesar and Merchant of Venice and what delight I have derived therefrom, rather than staring in space.


Sunday 24th.

We had special Whit Sunday and Empire Day church service today with full orchestra – also an anthem sung by army corporal. We are definitely moving up to the new camp beside the airfield tomorrow.


How we shall survive up there with no water, no sanitary arrangements, no lighting, not even  mosquito proof, or healthy – I do not know. Little did I expect to suffer all this when I joined the navy, yet it is always darkest before the dawn.


Monday 25th.

Moved up today to our new camp (500 men) – well, honestly I fear the worst. Ants in their thousands molest us, snakes several feet long have already been killed, no water available today for even a wash – oh, woe is me.


Tuesday 26th.

Well, we are right in it now. Between ants and mosquitos, I was almost carried away during the night. No lights at all, so it is dark when we get up in the morning, dark when we come home at night.


Wednesday 27th.

The water question is the most serious, no water to wash with, or even drink. Our ration of rice       being cut down – so that we will not get away. Still they expect us to work.


Thursday 28th.

We are in a long atap hut about 50 feet long, housing in all 200 bodies. Sick today with temp of 101, fear malaria. Had about 2 spoonfuls of rice today for our ration – situation as regards food is grim.


Friday 29th.

Large snake killed outside hut – over 3 ft. Still stricken with fever, but feel much better, expect Japs will force us to work tomorrow. Our compound is a square of about 4 acres, no room for games, in fact scarcely any room to move in. We are hemmed in by a thickly barbed wire, which adds to the feeling of complete slavery to our minds.


Saturday 30th.

Received ration of 10 cigs. Out working removing the self same mountain. Weather hot, but not so hot as of late. Ringworm rife in the camp.


Sunday 31st.

So far I have escaped from this vile disease. The dampness in the air in the morning causing outbreak of severe colds, rheumatism, etc. Jap general visited the drome today – we were not honoured by his august presence.


June is now upon us, thus it is almost a year since I was home last and 2 years since I was called up. What an adventurous 2 years.


Next Month



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