Captivity:- November 1942
The Dutch have also received a portion, which has upset most people as our allies are far from popular with us who, when the tables were turned refused even to say a kindly word for us.
I doubt not, but that a letter, or even one postcard from home would have been more welcome than food. At least this has decreased our anxiety concerning our safety since the Red Cross must now know we are existing in Palembang.
This is Health Week in the camp when a special effort is being made to tidy up the camp and ameliorate our health by general cleanliness, etc, etc.
Issued with boots, clothing and cigarettes from Red Cross and what a change to feel properly attired. It is really surprising how much our spirits have increased with the knowledge that we are in touch with the Red Cross. Cigs issued, V for Victory.
The Japs have now started a few emergency signals such as air-raid, fire, emergency, etc, which are pointers and signs of the times that all is not well with Nippon in these islands.
We have so far had a limited issue of Red Cross food i.e. 4 men to 1 tin of Bully Beef and I can assure you we devoured our small portion with great gusto and relish like ravenous beasts.
In fact it is the first taste of beef since I was taken prisoner. The only drawback however, is the rice, rice, rice for every meal.
It is estimated that during the time we have been in Palembang, we have devoured about 7 and ¾ sack of rice per head, at an approx. cost of about 5/- to Nippon. How much our health has suffered, I will not venture to say, or estimate.
Today we were searched thoroughly by our masters, all our belongings and rooms, for firearms and propaganda. Fortunately no one was picked up. The search I fear is on account of the friendly attitude of the natives who openly show their desire for the white man with thumbs up and V for Victory.
They no doubt thought the Japs couldn’t be any worse than the Dutch, but they have now learned a lesson.
The Japanese attitude has also undergone a change during the last few days and are treating us much better, possibly with an ulterior motive in view, especially since the Solomon Island battle had gone so much against them and altered the balance in our favour.
In addition they are now fitting up beds in the camp, not feather beds, but planks, which although not much of an improvement, will keep us from sleeping on the stone floor and having rats running over us during the night.
I wonder how the people at home passed this Day of Remembrance – I know it would not be a very pleasant, or happy one, but rather one of grave anxiety.
We are now feeding to a certain extent on the Red Cross stores of Bully Beef and M&V’s, etc and what a pleasant change it is to have a European diet. However, at first we find our appetite greatly lessened and we are unable to devour ¼ of a tin without feeling full and overloaded.
The very thought of this day – Friday 13th, of 9 months ago, was the fateful day we left Singapore before it’s infamous downfall. However, at present things are looking much better than of late.
A large Japanese Red Cross ship arrived in harbour with Red Cross material for the Japanese Army - I expect they shall require same in the near future, if our friends continue to advance in our direction.
Today we held a special Armistice service for the men and friends who have fallen in this war. The two minutes silence was observed, the stillness only broken by the noisy changing over of the Jap guard. The last post was sounded on the bugle and appropriate hymns sung during the service.
The second issue of M&V’s and corned beef was issued along with some cigarettes.
The Japanese are rushing on with various improvements and constructions they have undertaken with all speed. At present they are widening the road from the ferry to the airfield, cutting it in a straight line, demolishing houses if in the way.
Improvements to the docks are well in hand, the airfield is extended, thus already during their short occupation they have done much more than the Dutch, who “take out” rather than “put in.”
Exactly 9 months captured today. We have started dancing classes every night now and it is nothing new to hear the “hooching” of Eightsome Reels, etc, sounding the still night. One would scarcely think it was a prisoner of war camp.
The lads are in the best of spirits and bearing up magnificently despite the grimness of our surroundings. General Fukeri, a general in charge of Malayan prisoners of war, visited the camp today.
The usual nonsense and palavers were made to receive him – a parade outside H.Q. of all prisoners and the camp thoroughly cleaned for his visit, giving an extremely false impression of the actual filthy conditions we are forced to live under.
Last night a violent thunderstorm overtook us. It soon could be heard rumbling in the distance as if it had passed, when suddenly in the still of the night, without any warning an extremely loud noise was heard like the bursting of a shell – it seemed to rock the whole building with its shattering noise – it was either a violent thunderclap, or a thunderbolt, nevertheless it was certainly a terrifying experience.
A large number of Japanese civilians have left the district so surely something must be taking place in the south. They were mainly officers wives, civilians and prostitutes who amuse the troops.
9 parcels arrived in the camp today for prisoners, they apparently had been sent on spec by friends of the addressees when they were posted missing. It is indeed a bright outlook for us to think that in the near future we might receive mail from home.
The address of the parcel for Comdr. was “Comdr Reid, R.N. Posted missing after hostilities in Singapore, C/o South African Red Cross, Johannesburg.” Another for an officer “Last heard of wounded in Singkep Island.”
This is the island where we lay marooned for 4 days, thus some of the survivors there must have escaped. In addition these parcels must have been posted in September, thus probably we would be posted as missing then, rather than lost.
It is my earnest hope that the people at Argyll House were informed that I was missing and now a prisoner of war. I know only too well how anxious they must be on my behalf.
Several Dutchmen were severely beaten up by the Jap guard, the reason being they were caught pilfering goods from the docks. The ingenious method used to conceal the stolen goods apparently infuriated the Japs the more.
The offenders used their water bottles with a false bottom, or hole in the side as the receptacle for the stolen gear, which was probably beer and other liquor, As a result they were all severely manhandled at the docks and later sentenced to 30 days severe imprisonment and as administered by our Nippon masters, they may expect a rough time.
Another issue of Red Cross stores was made today, Bully, M&V’s, milk, cocoa, etc. In addition, I was extremely fortunate in procuring two large pumpkins and several pineapples while out with the “Benjo cart,” the polite name for the shit cart. Very heavy rain and thunder at night.
3 new prisoners arrived in camp yesterday, an army officer and 2 corporals. They were captured in the West Coast of Sumatra after being alone at sea in an open boat 30 foot long for 126 days. Marine Davies died of dysentery today.