Captivity:- October 1942
And so begins another month of imprisonment with little promise of freedom for a while yet, as little or no activity is taking part in this theatre of war.
We still have a large number of sick men in the camp. We appear to be incurable on account of the deficiencies of our diet. We are advised by the doctor to keep all eggshells, clean them and crush them up in order to substitute for the lack of calcium in our diet.
Up to the present we have survived without any dental treatment whatsoever and there is so far little hope of receiving any in the immediate future. In addition all the operations in Charitas (Dutch Charities) Hospital are done under a local and not with chloroform.
Such operations as appendix, etc, must be somewhat of an ordeal with only a local to tide the patient over. The hospital is run by a group of Roman Catholic priests and sisters who are honestly doing our lads very well on the miserable liberties and freedom allowed them by Nippon.
Told first hand today of the Dutch betrayal of our forces in Java. They did not fight at all and left at the approach of the Japs, leaving our lads to hold the line alone. This is a typical action of our Dutch allies – low, scheming swine.
Even the Japs were astonished at the number of British prisoners and very few Dutch taken in the capture of Java. Orton out working today.
The Japanese have now started a market gardening scheme for the benefit of the camp in general.
They have taken over a large area of ground, which is cultivated by several of our lads and the produce thereof going to supplement our own supplies of veg. in addition to providing healthy employment for several men not fit enough for working parties.
Heard genuinely good news of war in this area today which raised our flagging spirits to new hopes for the future. Considerable amount of Jap troop movements seen here during the week – mostly all troops going south.
We now have a canteen in the camp run by ourselves from purchases from the Japs. We are to have no luxuries e.g. tinned foodstuffs, only fruit, bananas, pineapples, eggs, etc, which although not much is a step in the right direction.
Apparently the Japs are negotiating for the exchange of women civilians. Already some Jap women have arrived here from Australia where they were extremely well treated and our women internees are soon being sent to Australia, or India.
We are trying to get our names through to our next of kin through these women and are writing our names and particulars in cigarette papers.
I sincerely hope that we will be successful and manage to get them through so that they may be notified at home that all is well and remove a tremendous anxiety from their mind.
Already the Jap women prisoners are complaining about the rough treatment from their own troops. Our civilians were thrown into one of the Palembang jails and there remain with the minimum of comfort and food, with absolutely no freedom.
Our masters have reduced our pay for working parties from 15 cents per day for privates, 25 for NCOs to, 10 and 15 respectively, to take effect from tomorrow. This is a sore blow to the NCOs especially, but not so severe on us.
The officers are apparently being paid by the government. They receive about 1/3rd of their pay, another 1/3rd goes for accommodation, the remaining 1/3rd goes into the pockets of the Jap officers in charge.
The accommodation is nil, so our officers lose deal heavily. Had medical exam today, sound in mind and limb – a grade A - weight 11st, height 5’ 11¼ inches. An appalling number in the camp were grade C and little wonder with the medical attention meted out to them.
A “brown out” similar to the one at Singapore has been ordered by the Japs, for Palembang, to begin at 9.30 p.m. till dawn. It is a favourable sign of the times to us.
Eight months captured today. Read “No Mean City” and “John McNab”- two books about Scotland and enjoyed same.
The large Chinese population in Palembang are its most useful and industrial inhabitants. The shoemakers especially are extremely skilful at their trade and supply their own shoes hand made and finely finished, like machine manufacture despite their primitive looking tools.
We have procured a bottle of coconut oil for 35 cents so now we are able to get an odd fried egg. To taste one now after 7 months, any outsider cannot realise the monotony of rice, rice, rice every day is not a diet to tickle one’s palate.
A new guard has taken over duties at the camp, armed with our rifles and clothing. We are now forced to bow to every rascally knave wearing the Japanese uniform. In the future we are to treat our masters as superior beings and not like black people – what an insult to a Malay.
Almost all our officers left today for their new quarters in villas beside “A” Camp. They are now receiving pay from the British Government while we survive on air.
Actually they receive 90 guilders/month - Matsudeira keeps 60 for board and lodgings and gives them 30 as their portion. The dooker (Guillemot) season will be in full swing and some of these fine birds will supplement the rations.
Since we arrived at Palembang 12 men have died in hospital, some from wounds and others from sheer lack of medical attention. The number who died in Banka I fear to say, but of all truths hundreds must have perished there as a result of action, wounds and disease.
A Jap Lt. General was supposed to visit the camp today, but like all other visits by Jap authorities, it was postponed at the last minute. They all seem to be a bit shy of inspecting P.O.W. camps because well they know the foul conditions the prisoners live in.
On looking back, I find that so far I have “crossed the line” 5 times. Twice en route out to Singapore, twice on that fatal journey when we were sunk, once escaping from Singapore to Batavia. How many more times, if any, I will cross the line remains hidden in the future.
We now have a small library of English books, some of which are good and the rest indifferent, mostly novels of the western and gunman type. Nevertheless, at present in my possession “The Works of Voltaire” and also, “Robinson Crusoe.” Two fine books which make excellent and delightful reading.
In addition to my own complete Shakespeare, I am well equipped with good reading material – all that is lacking at present is a variation of lighter material.
The medical exam of a fortnight ago revealed that only 10 men out of 700 odd, in the camp are 100% fit, grade A. I was happy to say one of the 10.
It is clear that our diet – a purely Asiatic one, is not adequate for us to live comfortably on. This is seen in the boys, all of whom have deteriorated in health beyond belief as the diet is lacking the vital vitamins required for body building.
Large supply of foodstuffs and clothing arrived at camp from Red Cross, for British and Dominion prisoners of war. What a godsend this will be – medical supplies and a good supply of European food.
These timely and welcome supplies were sent from S. Africa via the Portuguese port of Lorenca Marques for “British and Dominion Prisoners in the Far East.” Never were supplies more needful and welcome to man suffering all the indignities of slavery under a hateful bondage.