The same day planes came over with pamphlets, which were to inform the Japs that their Government had capitulated. Although we knew this the Japs were still armed, and we could not let them know that we knew the war was over. It was not until 24th August that Co. Suga, the Camp Commandant, ordered everyone to parade on the Square, and, in a speech, said that freedom was near. Then on 25th August we were issued new clothes, and extra rations of rice were sent into camp, and on 26th August Col. Suga assembled the camp on the Square and announced that the war was over, and that our troops would be coming.
Although we were overjoyed at this, my leg was too bad to allow me to get about very much, and I didn’t even hear the speeches by Col. Suga.On the 29th August a plane came over the camp very low and dropped a package with streamers attached. This was another message to the Japs, and as a result they placed a certain sign on the ground for the planes to see, thereby signifying that food supplies would be accepted. These followed the next day when two Dakota planes came over and dropped containers of food, which even included fresh bread, the first for three years. There were not sufficient individual parcels for each to have one the first day, and one was shared between three men, and each received a quarter tin of tobacco and paper, five Capstan, one Slice Bread, two spoons Butter, a third Xmas pudding, one spoon of salted peanuts, three sweets, one portion sliced peach, a third tin boneless rabbit, a third tin cheese and accessories.
The planes brought rations every other day, and with the rice increasing we were being well fed. Then on 5th September a Catalina flying boat brought an envoy to Kuching and on the following day Col. Suga was taken to Labuan, where he later committed suicide. I was very sorry about this because I think, if he could have had his way, we would have been treated better than we were. He was under Officers in Kuching, and it was when he was away that we were treated really badly and you were liable to get a beating up for looking the wrong way. He was seen in the camp after he had surrendered his sword and I was told he looked a very dejected figure.
The Australian envoy visited the camp on 8th September and addressed a gathering on the Square, saying that troops would arrive in a few days, but the Japs were still on guard, although there was a lot of contact with the natives, and things were a little easier, but it was not safe to be offensive to the Japs because they were still armed.
On the 11th September we were issued with paper and I was able to write my first letter home.
Then on 12th September there was great air activity and that evening the first Australian troops drove into the camp. I remember struggling out to see them, everyone was overjoyed, but still we looked over our shoulders for a Jap, but they were now disarmed and were only on stick guard at the entrance, saluting all those passing in and out. On the following day Wilf and Walt left the camp with most of the others and were taken to Labuan on the ship which had brought troops. I was unfortunate and spent another night in camp, then on 14th September 1945 I finally left the camp, after having spent 2 years 11 months there, in the trailer of a jeep, and was taken to Kuching Hospital.
As we left the camp one of the chaps had a boiled egg which he threw at the Japs in the Guardroom, but unfortunately he missed and only hit the side of the hut. At Kuching we were looked after by Australian male nurses, and had the best of attention. There was no more boiled rice, but we were not allowed very much food for a few days, but what we did get was very good stuff such as tinned rabbit and dehydrated vegetables. On 19th September we were taken to the Docks on Lorries and I waved goodbye to Kuching, the scene of many grim memories. We boarded a naval cutter early in the morning and were taken downstream to American transport which had brought more troops.
On the way down a few of us had a good fill of fresh bread, butter and jam, which tasted better than strawberries and cream. I didn’t like the Yanks on board the transport, they didn’t mix with us and were very distant, but we only had one night with them and arrived at Labuan on the 20th. Here we were all amazed to see the modern equipment such as L.S.T.’s nosed up on the beach, and the D.U.K.W.’s which came out to take us ashore. They lined up in the water like a regiment of soldiers, drew in to take on a load, and then away. As each D.U.K.W. reached the beach it drew alongside a large canteen where Australian women served us with a cold drink, cigarettes etc, and then we were taken on to our Hospital Wards.
These Hospitals were under canvas, with Australian Doctors and Nurses, but they had iron framed spring beds with overlays, sheets and blankets, and even a refrigerator to every two wards. When I arrived my weight was 9 stone, and I had been on plenty of food for three weeks. When we left Labuan on the 12th October , 22 days later my weight was 10 stone 10 lbs, that was a gain of 24 lbs, so it is reasonable to estimate my weight during August at under 8 stone, while my normal weight is about 13 stone. At Labuan we received excellent attention from the Australians.
Walt was in a camp some distance away from me, his ulcers were getting better and he was able to get around. He came to look for me, and also found that Wilf was in a tuberculosis ward quite near. I was not able to walk very far due to a venous thrombosis in my left leg. I used to watch the Aussies cutting wood and wonder at their strength because I was still weak myself. I was able to visit Wilf but had to put a face mask on to go into the ward.
We received pay from the Aussies, I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was more then we needed, and most of the chaps only drew part of it, but again in luck I drew the lot. Those who left it in their credit were unlucky because we did not have much notice of departure and they were unable to draw their credits up to use on the way home. After we embarked for home the British Authorities paid us the large amount of £5.0.0 during the whole journey, we were ashore at Bombay for six days, so the little extra I had from the Aussies came in handy, but with that it was not possible to buy many presents to bring home.