Sketch by Jack Chalker

Sumatra

Sumatra

In stifling humid heat, the “IPOH” eventually negotiated the Moesi River and finally made it to a wooden jetty, the troops disembarking at a small village and then marching a short way to Pladjoe, near an oil installation depot. The men were at a loss as what to do next and were wandering about the area when a group of Dutch authorities stopped them for questioning. Identifying themselves as Royal Artillery without guns, the Dutch provided them with a Bofor gun which was gratefully accepted.

Fourteen miles north was an aerodrome, codenamed P1, and another, P2, forty miles S.W. of Palembang. This one had had been covertly built by the Dutch for such an occasion, and could not be spotted from the air unless the pilot knew its location.

Sam Barker and his crew were ordered aboard trucks and to set off to defend the secret aerodrome P2. Sam told me that they were to man the only gun site at the P2 airstrip.

This ‘airstrip’ being no more than cleared field.

Dennis recalled an incident when the local Commissioner of Palembang in Sumatra drove up alongside a group of army officers. He had requested the services of a driver as he had dismissed his native chauffeur. Permission was granted and he drove over to the group of soldiers Dennis was with. Stepping from his immaculate Cadillac, he told the men that he needed a driver. A soldier, who had been talking to the gun crew, stepped forward and secured the cushy job of chauffeuring the diplomat around the area. Dennis would not see them again for a few weeks and when he did, it would be nearly four hundred miles further south.

Later in the afternoon, Dennis and a couple of mates met a Dutch resident. He kindly offered to run them a bath, but his offer had to be turned down as orders reached them that they were to return to the “IPOH” and spend the night aboard.

The next morning the men had to parade, and Dennis together with a couple of more unfortunates, were afflicted with a mild attack of malaria. They were put to bed in a building and receiving no treatment, sweated it out for a week.

He recovered from his attack and joined his mates as they wandered around Pladjoe. Everyone was just seemed to be sightseeing as no one knew what was happening next. The lads sampled coffee in a café before strolling down the road again. Dennis couldn’t believe his eyes when they came across an open air cinema. A roof and one wall with the screen on, was all the building consisted of. It was nothing like the Beeston cinema back home, but they sat down to watch the film. He couldn’t believe he was in a war zone as the picture flickered on the screen.      

 

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Action Stations

 

 

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[Life of Riley] [Early Days] [Royal Artillery] [Empress of Japan] [SS Narkunda] [Chaos] [Escape] [Sumatra] [Action Stations] [Pladjoe] [Palembang] [Leaving Oesthaven] [Java] [Japanese at Batavia] [Tanjong Priok Camp] [Back to Singapore] [Batu-Lintang Camp] [Glimmer of Hope] [Liberation September 1945] [Going Home] [Back in England] [Mystery Picture] [National Memorial Arboretum]

 

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