Sketch by Jack Chalker

Singapore to Java

Prisoner Of The Rising Sun

Singapore to Java

 

The commotion began in Singapore when the Japanese descended upon us from the north, through Malaya.

Malay-FishingVillage-Late1930s-2tn

Atapi Huts in Malay Fishing Village

We escaped, mercifully I thought, to Batavia (Java), and there, my section, accounts, were active issuing salary to all R.A.F. personnel. A Dutch hospital ship came into the docks. I was detailed to accompany a flight lieutenant with a large quantity of currency for that ship and when we had accomplished the task the lieutenant told me to remain on board and await further orders. It was filled with, what appeared to me, perfectly fit civilians. I met a Squadron Leader who needed assistance and accompanied him back to my place of work. When once more with my comrades, I discovered that we would all be taken by train to ships that were bound for Australia and India. At the station we found that our train was already full - packed with Dutch officials and their wives. We later found out that the train did in fact reach its' destination and that most of the Dutch ended up in Australia. If only we had been with them! We were told that we would have to wait, but not to worry as a couple of coaches had been commandeered and would later take us by road. Eventually, by road and rail, we arrived at Tasikmalaya where we joined another two hundred R.A.F. colleagues. There, the news broke that the Dutch had surrendered and that we were technically now prisoners. We waited for the Japanese to arrive, there was nothing else that could be done: our stores depleted, virtually weaponless, and only a modicum of local cash. Very soon the enemy arrived in force and after a brief dialogue between the senior officers of the Imperial Japanese Army and the British Royal Air Force, armed Japanese soldiers, relieved us of what few guns and ammunition we had left, herded us together and then marched us through the native village and on by train to Yogyakarta. Here was an aerodrome which had formerly been used by the Americans. As soon as the American planes had taken off, the Dutch had sabotaged the airfield by exploding remaining American bombs on the runways and taxiways. The "lame ducks" had been set alight and still the stench of burning rubber lingered. We were told that we could have a hanger as our quarters, so we busied ourselves taking off all the doors in the other buildings to make platforms to keep us off the damp concrete floor. It was here that we commenced our life of slavery .The rules were simple and in flagrant contravention of the Geneva Convention: no one must try to escape and if anyone did actually escape a hundred others would be shot.

 

Next Chapter

The Airfield at Yogyakarta

 

 

 

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