Sketch by Jack Chalker

Poem

A Poem written on rice and vegetable paper whilst captive and during his voyage home.

It was used as a memory jogger whilst he was writing his memoirs.

 

 

Prisoner Under the Rising Sun

Prisoner Under the Rising Sun

1:

      In the northwest of Malaya, in November forty-one,

      we said two years will see us through, our tour will be done,

      but December dawned and on us came the trouble with the Japs

      Next moment we were running to some fresh parts on the maps.

       

2: Malaya -Singapore -Java

      First stop Kuala Lumpur, but again we had to go,

      down to Singapore we hurried, there to rendezvous

      with woe, they moved us off to Java, where we thought we'd have a rest,

      but they still pursued us and we came off second-best.

       

3:

      In the south-west of the island we found out to our cost

      that now we were just prisoners, and that our cause was lost.

      What lay ahead, we wondered, we argued and we cursed

      we'd been in tighter corners, but we didn't know the worst.

       

4:

      Some said with a conviction, three months would set us free,

      others more conservative said they'd add another three.

      Many said maybe it would be just a year or two

      we called them "Dismal Desmonds " for holding to that view.

       

5:

      So they split us up in parties and we scattered through the land,

      repairing 'dromes and damage, we were quite a happy band.

      The food was quite sufficient when added to our rations

      the guards seemed fairly decent, no great display of passions.

       

6: Surabaya

      Our job too soon completed and much to our dismay,

      we shifted further eastwards travelling all the day.

      And there we congregated in a camp, run by the Dutch

      We found the work was harder and the food not up to much.

       

7:

      The machai issued to us was made up in this way:

      boiled rice the daily breakfast, occasionally tea;

      the same again at tiffin; but at night we had a change,

      steamed rice, and veggy stew, such was the daily range.

       

8:

      A slight change for the better at the end of forty-two,

      the work was slightly easier, fruit in our diet too .

      And forty-three came on the scene, with more hard work again

      we thought we'd never see it through, G4 was on our brain.

       

9:

      We got lots of extras, double food for outside work

      And that you really needed, you weren't allowed to shirk.

      Light duty men 'came rope-makers, spinning all the day,

      nearly everyone was busy, and ten cents was the pay.

       

10: Sea Journey

      April came, no showers, but brought along the draughts,

      onto boats they moved us, any kind of crafts.

      Further east, we journeyed to where we did not know,

      the food and beds were mouldy - it was a rotten show.

       

11:

      The ships were packed with petrol, bombs and lots of tools,

      plus rice, Nippon foodstuffs, on top were perched we fools.

      Packed up like herrings, for just about a week

      and due to lack of water, our clothes began to reek.

       

12: Ambon & Seram

      After calling in at Ambon where we saw some Yankee kites

      we carried on to Seram and worked two days and nights:

      unloading bombs and petrol, lorries, rice and stores,

      then off upon another trip to Haruku's coral shores.

       

13: Arrival at Haruku

      We numbered now two thousand, but were a motley crew

      we had Englishmen and Dutchmen and other races too,

      It was dark and it was raining when we forsook our vessels

      we had to sleep upon the ground, there were no boards or trestles.

       

14:

      Morning came, we looked around and found to our dismay

      that things were far from rosy for the merry month of May.

      No water in the cookhouse, no food could be prepared

      but still we had to labour no matter how we fared.

       

15:

      We worked some days around the camp, putting things aright

      making drains and boulder beds from dawn until the night.

      We found out what our real task was, to make a landing ground,

      the site was very bumpy, much coral and trees around.

       

16:

      The job looked pretty hopeless, and then down came the rain,

      it brought all kinds of troubles, dysentery the main,

      The party working on the 'drome became a hundred head,

      the hospital increased in size, and soon were many dead.

       

17:

      And that toll kept on mounting, the food was not sufficient,

      no vitamins to build us up, supplies they were deficient.

      Thence Beriberi reared its head, and added to the strain

      no matter what the doctors did, it didn't seem to wane.

       

18:

      The months rolled on, September came, we got some extra aid,

      from Seram came the other draft, their aerodrome was made.

      They looked quite fit and strong, their food had been much better

      fresh fish and meat every day, no wonder they looked fitter.

       

19:

      And then at last the ship arrived to take away sick men,

      they were to go to Java, and there, so went the "gen."

      their troubles would be lessened with medicine, food and leisure,

      and having packed them on the boat we wished we had the pleasure !

       

20:

      No sooner had they gone away we got some Yankee action

      we lost one man, he died of wounds, but the native faction

      suffered losses more severe: their village was laid low

      so we started building shelters for the Nips, but for us, No !

       

21:

      On Christmas day we had our fill, lots of machai was produced

      but nineteen forty-four came in, our rations were reduced.

      Some other jobs had now begun, where we could cheri-cheri

      we found a few things, just as well, to keep off beriberi.

       

22:

      And so we laboured onwards, the Yanks were round at night

      some jobs were really useless, the food got very tight.

      Our numbers kept reducing, they shipped some day by day

      some only went to Ambon, but others Java way.

       

23:

      Action came more often, we began to watch the skies

      we thought that soon we might be free, our hopes began to rise.

      But suddenly they moved us, to various spots we split,

      Liang, Lahar* and Ambon, both the sick and fit.

       

24:

      We left behind four hundred, may they rest in peace,

      we, just hoping vainly that our work would cease.

      Instead we got it harder, the labour and the weather

      and lots of air activity , they worked us hell for leather .

      * I can not find this (Lahar) on the maps - maybe it is Kawa or Haya, both on Seram. Liang is on the island of Ambon. Liang Camp for Pows.

       

25:

      The camps that we were placed in, were definitely bad;

      and the food to be quite honest was the worst that we’d ever had.

      We had to scour the jungle to get our greens each day,

      "twas just as well that boats came in and took some men away.

       

26:

      At last amid much bombing, the last two drafts set sail

      And left some more behind us who lived not to tell the tale.

      Four twenty odd the number shipped in two small craft

      if we were sunk it was too bad no life-belts or a raft.

       

27:

      The first boat was very fortunate, it didn't meet a thing

      but sailed serenely onward like a bird upon the wing.

      The second a liberator found, four bombs was all she can"ied

      Two North Americans gave us a strife, my how they tarried.

       

28: Muna

      On the isle of Muna, we once more found our forces,

      a place of beauty we were told, with immeasurable resources.

      Supplying veg. for miles around and lots of fish as well

      It looked as if we'd be alright but you can never tell.

       

29:

      Malaria raised its ugly head, the camp was very small

      Two hundred in one bamboo sick bay, there was no room at all

      But this was just a resting place, to Makassar we were bound.

      Two ships put in and off they went, but Lightnings were around.

       

30:

      The aircraft found the boats, the action soon was finished

      twenty-seven was the score by which we were diminished.

      And so our tragedy kept on, our suffering got worse

      Beriberi took its toll, malaria became a curse.

       

31:

      Of our original four-fifty, two-twenty now assembled,

      and we were split in parties, while moving we all trembled.

      So on the thirteenth day of April we once again set sail

      only fifty of us this time to blaze that Java trail.

       

32:

      We were packed for room as usual, the food for once alright

      we lay-to all the day time and journeyed through the night.

      And by the nineteenth of the month, our weary little band

      had reached another stepping stone towards the promised land.

       

33: Makassar

      And there outside, Makassar, in a navy camp we found,

      that food was here much better, with enough to go around.

      They kept us separated in a special little pen

      but working on the land we soon got all the gen:

       

34:

      Our job in market gardens, pioneers we were

      Clearing up waste places and planting food stuffs there.

      The hours were long, but still it was not hard

      excepting when two gardeners got on an easy card.

       

35:

      The fourteen weeks we jogged along, the Yanks came day and night

      then we were told of another move, we didn't think it right.

      But once more to the jetty with packs we went our way

      And there we found a tanker, but we didn't sail that day.

       

36:

      For us it was comfort-travel to sleep on ship decks

      We totalled just two hundred plus, some who were just wrecks

      It looked more like a sick boat as we sailed along

      We also had an escort of naval power, a matter of two strong.

       

37:

      We boys expected trouble every minute of the day

      and we didn't fancy chances if the Yanks came up our way

      But much to our astonishment we didn't see a kite

      And when we sighted Java it was a heavenly sight.

       

38: Surabaya, Java

      At Surabaya we landed, the place we knew so well

      They dumped us in a native camp where time went by the bell.

      The food was very little and we didn't want to stay

      But light days soon passed over and again we went our way.

       

39: Railway Journey to Batavia

      This time it was railway travel, a pleasant change we found

      to sitting gazing at the sea which stretched for miles around.

      We studied agriculture, it was our daily bread

      For we watched it rather slowly, rations were our dread

       

40: First couplet in Batavia, then off to England and quarantine

      We found we need not worry for three times in the day

      there was good light refreshment to help us on our way.

      So at last we reached Britannia and hoped at last that we

      would now receive some pleasant things, old friends as well to see.

       

41:

      Ten days have flown since we arrived "so far, so good" we say.

      A really vast improvement can be noticed every day.

      At least that's in the fifty, fortunes favourite few

      But what ever fortune gives them, it's really overdue.

       

42:

      Looking backward o'er our travels we can truly say

      that for quality of rations, these are the best to come our way.

      The news from home has cheered us, how pleasant is a letter

      Good news, good food, good barracks, we couldn't want for better.

       

43:

      And yet we haven't finished adding to our joys

      We're still in isolation, we've still to meet the boys.

      To draw full daily rations to visit the canteen

      these may be any day now, our appetites are keen.

 

[Prisoner Under the Rising Sun] [Singapore to Java] [Airfield at Yogyakarta] [Arrival at Surabaya] [We Go To College] [Surabaya to Seram - Via Ambon] [The Island of Haruku] [Ambon Again] [Camp on Moena] [Once More in Batavia] [By Dakota To Singapore] [Prologue]

 

 

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