This is a copy of a report written soon after POWs had been recovered from Macassar (in the Celebes).
I have the honour to forward the attached letter of proceedings concerning naval prisoners of war ex H.M. Ships “EXETER”, “ENCOUNTER”, “STRONGHOLD”, “ANKING” and R.F.A. “FRANCOL” who were under my command between April, 1942 and September, 1945. This report was originally drafted at Batavia and sent onboard H.M.S. “CUMBERLAND” for retyping prior to forwarding to the Rear Admiral Commanding Fifth Cruiser Squadron. Before this was completed, I proceeded by air from Batavia to Macassar to investigate condition of prisoners of war in that area, intending to return on 24th September. By good fortune H.M.S. “MAIDSTONE” arrived in that day to evacuate all British prisoners of war and I went onboard her. In consequence of this unexpected change of programme, I never signed the letter of proceedings left onboard H.M.S. “CUMBERLAND”. On arrival at Fremantle, a copy of this report was urgently required to assist Interrogation Officers on the Staff of Vice Admiral (Administration). This has been received from H.M.S. “CUMBERLAND” and a copy forwarded to the Prisoner of War Co-ordinating Officer on the Vice Admiral (Administration)’s Staff at Melbourne.
I do not know whether any action was taken in forwarding this letter from H.M.S. “CUMBERLAND” but as I did not sign it and as the copy received had not been retyped, I am assuming that no further action has been taken. In consequence, I have the honour to transmit to you for onward transmission to Higher Authority,
I have the honour to be
(Sgd.) G.T. Cooper
The Commanding Officer,
I have the honour to forward the following report of proceedings concerning the survivors of H.M. Ships “EXETER”, “ENCOUNTER”, “STRONGHOLD”, “ANKING”, R.F.A. “FRANCOL”, together with certain English liaison personnel from Dutch Ships “DE RUYTER” and “JAVA”, who were Prisoners of War under the Japanese Naval Administration in the Celebes, and subsequently under the Japanese Army in Java. The above-named ships were sunk North or South of Java between 1st and 4th March, 1942 and the survivors were brought to Macassar, Celebes. By 18th March, 1942 all had been collected into one Camp from the U.S.N. Ships “PERCH” and “POPE”. On 2nd April, 1942 Captain C.L. GORDON, M.V.O., R.N., the Commanding Officer of the “EXETER” and 12 other British Naval Officers and 4 ratings were drafted to JAPAN, and I assumed command of all British personnel.
2. The Camp was a modern Dutch Military Barracks about two miles south of the town. The Japanese authorities had appointed Lieutenant Colonel L. GORTMANS, K.N.I.L., as Camp Commander. He was not in fact the Senior Dutch Officer in the camp; the Senior Dutch Officer was Colonel M. VOOREN, K.N.I.L. The Dutch numbered about 1800, Americans 167 and the British 945. The British including those drafted to Japan were composed as follows:-
UNIT OFFICERS RATINGS TOTAL
63 882 945
one Australian Air Force Officer joined the British Group a few weeks later.
3. The conditions prevailing when I assumed command were poor. For a month we had lived on the daily food issue composed solely of one bun, and an envelope of cooked rice with a little green water-cress and sometimes a little dried evil-smelling fish. Everyone had recently had the unpleasant experience of being sunk and had to endure the ignominy of capture. Many had been weakened by a long period in the water. As regards “EXETER’s”; personnel had completed 1 years war service, 8 months of which had been spent almost continuously in the Tropics. I mention this point here as it played an important part in future events.
The only clothes we had were those we were wearing on being sunk and we were devoid of any other possessions. Men were crowded into barracks, 4 sometimes 5 to a cubicle 8 foot by 6 with no bedding and no food utensils. Mosquitoes were very bad and bites incurred at night soon turned septic. The Dutch were, on the other hand, well equipped with uniform boots, utensils, mosquito nets, etc., and their health little affected by a short military skirmish. The morale of the men was low due to hunger, sickness and general conditions and poor prospects for the future. Discipline was poor and had been seriously undermined by mischief makers and certain others who ought to have known better, who had spread a doctrine, “We are all prisoners of war together and therefore no longer subject to Naval Discipline”. No greater mistake could possibly have been made. It was apparent to me that the restoration of discipline was of primary importance. One could not hope to raise morale and bring a large group of men through a long captivity without discipline. At the daily musters, I therefore fell “EXETER’s” men in by divisions under their divisional officers, destroyer ratings under their own officers and by this means regained control. Nevertheless it took many months to eradicate the evil effects of the “All Prisoners of War together” slogan, in fact it was never completely eradicated. In Java, the same thing occurred on a bigger scale and this shows how necessary it is for Officers and Petty Officers to impose a strict discipline on men demoralised by defeat in battle. We had no Naval Discipline Act to support us and discipline had to be maintained by character and personality. The alternative was to take men before the Japanese, an act I was loathe to do as it would have meant in the majority of cases a brutal and nauseating beating, but I was prepared to do this in extremis to protect the lives of the community. A few weeks later, I took the risk of asking for cell punishment for two ratings in order to enforce an order and succeeded in obtaining it without the attendance of corporal punishment. This had a most salutary effect, and I never had to make recourse to it again.
4. The guard for the Camp was provided from a platoon of the Japanese Naval Landing Force organisation, under an ex Warrant Officer, NAGATONO SHOI. The whole of the Celebes area was under Japanese Naval Administration with a Rear Admiral in charge, MORI SHOSHO. The Chief of Staff (or Staff Officer) who administered the Prisoner of War Camp, appeared to be OTA TAI (Lieutenant), an officer who spoke English and Dutch and had previously been Naval Attaché in Java. I had about three interviews and one interrogation with this officer from whom I tried to get our lot eased with no success. When questioned on the Geneva Convention his reply was brusque and emphatic; “
5. It would be useless to continue this report further before describing the part played by one of the guards, 1st Class Seaman YOSHIDA. The Japanese internal organisation is such that certain Petty Officers are appointed entirely for Administrative Duties, (Clerical and Victualling etc.). One man, usually a Petty Officer, but in this case only a 1st Class Seaman (equivalent to an Able Seaman) is appointed as disciplinary Petty Officer. He is responsible for all internal discipline and labour, in fact he combines the duties of Master-At-Arms and Chief Boatswain’s Mate.
His power is limitless and over-rules superiors in administrative posts. YOSHIDA assumed this duty in April, 1942. He was promoted to 3rd Class Petty Officer in May, 1943 and subsequently at yearly intervals to the higher classes. Aged about 32, medium height, fit, strongly built, with flashing gold teeth, he was a man of untiring energy, excellent power of command and outstanding efficiency. Super-imposed on these excellent qualities were an uncontrollable temper and all bad characteristics that can be imagined. He became to us the embodiment of everything that was evil and everything that we had been fighting against in this war – sadistic brutality, cruelty, dishonesty, untruthfulness, roguery and tyranny. It was not long before everything connected with the Camp revolved around this fiend and that despotic rule lasted right up to the end. Personally I believe he was an agent of the KEMPEI or Secret Military Police. His reputation for bestiality was wide-spread in the Celebes and he was universally feared. Officers from Headquarters appeared to have no control over him and he could do what he liked. From the Japanese point of view he was a great economic asset as he alone ran the Camp and Headquarters were never troubled by cases of indiscipline and embarrassing requests. He ran the Camp on a policy of fear with collective reprisals on the innocent and sick and he created in the Camp a nervous tension, the nature of which cannot exactly be described, with displays of terrifying anger and sadistic beatings and assaults to all and sundry whether innocent or guilty without any form of investigation or opportunity for the victims to state their defence. Efforts by Officers to mediate often resulted in increased fury and additional victims, including the mediators. At times he would vent his wrath on the officers acting as interpreters, our only means of intercommunication and thus by frightfulness tactics reduced their efficiency. To men always hungry, in most cases suffering from some form of sickness or ailment, ill-clothed and herded in quarters like animals, the addition of this nervous tension to the drabness and monotony of prison life, already devoid of all amenities of life to which the British are accustomed, had very exhausting effects upon the mental health. A lowering of mental health lowered physical health and so on in a vicious circle. The general deterioration of health in 1944 and 1945 was undoubtedly assisted by the mental strain of living under the control of this terrible person. I have been purposely somewhat full of describing the part played by this man as everything that occurred in this Camp can be traced to this, the most hateful human being that any of us have ever had the misfortune to encounter.
The British position was not improved by the fact that YOSHIDA had a personal dislike of me the Senior Officer of the Unit. This personal prejudice was engendered by the physical inferiority he felt in respect to stature – I was 6’3” to his 5’5” – to my inability to hide my disgust of his methods, in my facial expression and to my disinclination to treat him as a sycophantic and subservient manner. This reacted on my Officers and men, but they were prepared to accept it and preferred that this should be, than that I should act in a manner that was contrary to the traditions of our Service.
6. The Japanese method of maintaining discipline is by assault on the face with fists and the infliction of corporal punishment. This was usually done by a baseball bat, but also included such things as pick-axe handles, spades, bamboos or any other weapon which was handy. Later on special clubs were made. Punishment was usually inflicted on the backside but in bad beatings any part of the body was liable to be struck. Punishment was often accompanied by Ju-Jitsu throwing, and long periods in the “stoop-fall” position, before and/or after the beating. The number of strikes varied between 5 and 50 and depends on the state of rage of the Guard, the crime, and whether the victim was one of YOSHIDA’s likes or dislikes. Beatings were often done in the mass and in full view of the Camp. In a bad beating victims would be knocked down and kicked and stamped on whilst on the ground. One of my men had his wrist broken and was forced to do “press-ups” after the injury had been inflicted. Ear drums were often broken and other bodily harm inflicted.
Men down town working were often beaten up by the guards on the spot and reported to YOSHIDA on return to the Camp. They would then have to go through further punishment on a body already black and blue with bruises and stiff from blows. Other forms of punishment included long periods of standing the Tropical sun, doubling around the camp in wooden clogs up to any period of three hours. Reprisals on Officers and Petty Officers in charge of Barracks or working parties were frequent and such punishments inflicted in full view of the men. I myself was assaulted in one way or another over fifty times and beaten on two occasions, once with a club, and once with a spade. Examples of this type were innumerable.
7. Our relations with the Dutch played an important part in our life. In the beginning our reception was, to say the least of it, cool. They seemed to think that the loss of the Netherlands East Indies was due to our loss of Singapore and that their plight was our fault. We had no possessions of any kind and yet barely an article of clothing or eating utensil were given to us.
The Senior Officer Americans and I had a serious row in the early days with the Dutch over the uneven distribution of food to their own men at our expense, so we insisted and got our respective Chief Cooks to run the Galley. All the Dutch had money the Americans and British had nothing. We expected the Japanese to pay us but they never did so in the first eighteen months. We managed to borrow small sums from Dutch individuals but were unsuccessful in obtaining reasonable loans for the Unit. Through lack of money our men were unable to buy the simple necessities of life from the Canteen which came in one day per week; soap, tobacco, toothpaste, needle and thread etc. The officers only were allowed to buy a few bananas and a little palm sugar. A national dislike of borrowing money from anybody restrained our demands. The disinclination to loan money, we thought, was due to insufficiency. Fourteen months after capture when Dutch Money was exchanged for Japanese Military script the Dutch handed in 47,000 Guilders (over £6,000). Much was not handed-in but hidden and allowing for spending in that fourteen months I estimated that in the beginning of our prison life there was close on a quarter of a million Guilders in the camp (over £30,000). On hearing of the 47,000 Guilders the Senior Officer Americans and I made strong demands on the Dutch Senior Officer for a loan and I borrowed the sum of 5,334 Guilders from the Netherlands Indies Government and guaranteed that this would be prepaid in sterling after the war. (Financial Accounts will be found in Appendix III). This small sum was paid to the men at the rate of one or two Guilders a month and was a great boon.
8. Owing to lack of money our men were forced to get it by other means and the main source of income was smuggling food into camp from working parties and selling it to the Dutch at a high price. This smuggling was also necessary in order to get capital to buy food outside and smuggle that in for use on rice. Rice is easy to eat provided there is something to go with it, with only salt it is desperately difficult. Sugar was essential to the health of the men in order to assist their eating the rice, the main part of the diet. This smuggling was a continual source of trouble and an endless source of worry and was the main cause of nauseating beatings. At times I forbade it altogether to protect the community but I let-up on it as much as possible and risked the beating of the few to help the many. One could not deprive the hungry of food nor hinder their consumption of rice. Soap etc., was also essential to health and I sympathised with men trying to get money somehow in order to maintain their lives. The methods and risks taken in smuggling were astonishing and showed a spirit of adventure and a standard of ingenuity of the highest measure, deserving of the greatest admiration.
9. Only about one hundred men per day were employed outside the camp during the first five months: from August 1942 onwards a great call was made on working parties. Two hundred and fifteen men and Officers left for Japan in October, 1942. Four hundred others were sent to an aerodrome about 15 miles away to extend the runways. This party suffered from Malaria, with a certain amount of Dysentery and Tropical Ulcers during the rainy season. As they went sick they came back to the Camp and were subsequently replaced by others. No Mosquito Nets, no cover at night, no shift of clothes, no boots and lack of soap made conditions very severe. Many protests, a heavy sick list and a death from Malaria in April 1943 at last forced the Japanese to make some provision of nets. By this time it was too late and more than 70 percent of the men were subject to recurrent Malaria and by 1945 this had increased to 96 percent. The weakening effect of this malady on men in bad conditions, and employed in coolie work in the tropics caused general undermining of health and was directly responsible for the heavy Mortality during the epidemics of 1945. The Japanese were quite aware of the cause and the effects of Malaria but made no attempt to prevent it. They also seriously restricted the supplies of Quinine. YOSHIDA could have rectified all this at any time but did not do so. Other men were employed in the town on a variety of jobs or inside the Camp. Throughout our policy was one of a “go slow” shoddy work and do as much damage as possible. The demand on working parties by the Japanese was so great that old and unfit men were forced to do work far in excess of their physical capabilities. The usual period of sickness for Malaria was 5 days. Foot trouble (septic ulcers) was general. Lack of a balanced diet weakened men and food was insufficient to build up convalescents. Wounds and ulcers took months to heal. Hours were long, days off few and far between. In January 1943, 29 Officers and 171 men were drafted to POMALAA on the East leg of the Celebes in a Mosquito infested swamp with no provisions against Malaria. This party stayed eight months there and lost sixteen men from sickness. A report on this party is in Appendix II. Why the Officers were sent I never discovered but I believe it was due to an arrangement between Headquarters and YOSHIDA to save working hands and also as a punishment for some essays we had previously written in which we reiterated, in no mean terms, our complete confidence in the ultimate victory of our armed force.
10. A large sick list existed from the start. At the time of the sinking men were tired by eight months war-service in the tropics and were in urgent need of rest. A long period in the water weakened many and the lack of food in the first six months and the difficulty of changing from a European diet to an Asiatic one affected the general health. Septic skin diseases, Malaria with a certain amount of Berri-Berri were the main complaints. The wounded and more serious cases were cared for in the Dutch Hospital Ship “OP TEN NOORT” till October, 1943. This ship did some splendid work for us. Inside the Camp each Unit looked after its own sick. We had one Surgeon Commander and three Surgeon Lieutenants for the English and American Group, stores were very short, often non existent, rags and paper having to be used for bandages. In October, 1942 a hospital was opened inside the Camp with a complete Dutch medical staff, and patients from the “OP TEN NOORT” were transferred there. We usually had about100 men in hospital. The Dutch patients always got preference. I had to make very strong protests from time to time to ensure proper attention for our men who were losing heart when sick through lack of confidence that they would get the required treatment. On occasion I found Captain J.R. BAKKER throwing pillows at some of my patients and refusing admission to the hospital of some of my men from the aerodrome who, very ill and dirty from seven weeks no soap and living in one coat and one pair of shorts, required immediate nursing. I report this incident as a singularly scandalous one and because I told Dr. Bakker that I would do so. I will say that despite these criticisms (which are not unique throughout the Netherlands East Indies) much excellent work was done for our sick by Dutch doctors. When the officers were sent to Java in October, 1943 two Dutch doctors were attached to the English and American Groups – O.V.G. 1st Class E.O.K. van Hasselt and A.J.P. van Borstlap – and their services have been much appreciated.
11. Food, or the lack of it, has dominated every second of Prison Life, I do not know what the Official Ration was but I am certain we never got it. The Guards stole much of the Prisoners’ Rations. The amount received by Prisoners was just sufficient for the majority to maintain life. The Japanese wished to get the maximum work out of us at the least cost. It did not particularly interest them if we died through lack of food. To give food to sick men they think foolish and uneconomic. They treat their own sick in the same way. Like animals, they discard the sick and weaklings.
Our food in 1942 was roughly as follows:-
Breakfast 4 oz. Dry Bread
Breakfast 6 oz Rice Porridge
Sometimes the meat varied with fish or an egg while the type and quantity of vegetables carried enormously. Later meat, fish and eggs went off altogether. It is true generally, to say that men have existed on a diet composed mainly of rice and greens, total weight of food varying between 1-1/2 and 2 pounds per day. The lack of vitamin and protein-bearing foods has lead to widespread malnutritional diseases. Food was available locally and the small amount of food provided was deliberate. They wished to make prisoners weak physically. Deaths from malnutrition and disease are attributable to malicious and pre-meditated neglect. Representations were continually being made to the Guards without avail. The Macassar Unit never received any Red Cross parcels, but the Java Units received ¾ of a monthly parcel in 3-1/2 years. The rest must have gone to the Japanese forces somewhere.
12. The general life in Camp was drab. No forms of recreation were possible, no singing or concerts permitted. No mails, news, or papers were received. One wireless message was allowed to be sent in November, 1942 – nothing since. A rush mat and a sleeping board were the only furniture provided. The Officers had some chairs and tables. Clothes were very scarce, only Dutch uniform; practically all clothing was covered in patches; no footwear except wooden clogs. Sometimes Religious Services were allowed, usually not. Lectures and school classes were considered conspiratorial assemblies. A good library of English books was the sole decent amenity of life. Everything else was shabby, cheap, stinted or restricted. Despite this, morale in 1943 was very good, men hopeful, confident and cheerful. The attitude of the Japanese was to humiliate the European in the eyes of the Asiatic, to lower the position of all ranks and ratings to one lower than the coolie. I am certain in my own mind that if their attack on Australia had succeeded, all Prisoners of War would have been transported for work in Jungles, mines and deserts where they would have been treated like slaves till death intervened. Subsequently they would have been replaced by more man-power from the occupied territories until such time as these Countries had been denuded and ready for Japanese Colonisation. That was their diabolic plan and it was not until their successful advance was stemmed that they started to take a little interest in registering and reporting prisoners. That they took any prisoners at all was only due to their desire for cheap man-power; that they kept them just alive only because it was fashionable to have prisoners.
13. The Majority of officers were drafted to Java in October, 1943. The Japanese selected one Lieutenant, one Midshipman, the Chaplain and six Warrant Officers to stay behind in Macassar (1 Lieutenant and 1 Midshipman unfit to travel were also left). The command of the men was therefore transferred to Lieutenant D.W.E. CHUBB, R.N., who kept it until 26th July, 1945. His report which continues the Macassar story is contained in Appendix I.
14. There is no doubt in my mind that this officer carried out an onerous duty under exceptional difficulties with great ability and attention to duty and I should like to bring his name especially to your notice.
15. On arrival in Java we went to the main transit camp in Batavia, which was under Japanese Army Administration. A few months later we joined with Lieutenant Commander N.V.J.T. THEW, R.N. late Commanding Officer of H.M.S. “JUPITER”, who was the Senior Naval Officer in Java. The conditions here were better on the whole but the underlying spirit very much the same. We stayed there a year in very crowded billets, food being very bad in the early part of 1944. We got some mails mostly 18 months old, sent a few cards and were paid monthly – 20 guilders per month for senior officers and 15 for juniors. Varying sums were charged for accommodation and the balance put into savings. Amounts up to 75 per cent of officers’ actually received pay were put into the camp funds to supplement the rations, and to assist other ranks and ratings who were sick and could not earn money. Men working were only paid 10 cents per day (less than 3d). All 1944 and 1945, prices rose steadily up to more than 10 times the normal. So the purchasing power of the man’s daily pay was about ¼d the officer’s about 2d. This camp was a collecting camp for outwards overseas drafts and for the sick coming in from the Pacific Islands. The condition of some of these men was pitiful. In October, 1944, all officers were transferred to Bandoeng, a hill city 2,000 feet up. In this camp, there was absolutely nothing except the walls and roofs – not an article of furniture, not a fitting of any sort in any room or barrack, few lights and 5 small taps for 1,500 officers. We lived there on the floor for 6 months. The camp was 200 yards by 100 yards.
16. In April, 1945, we were transferred to a nearby reformatory designed for 400 Javanese juvenile delinquents, and were joined there a few weeks later by other ranks from Batavia until we had 3,800 in the camp. The amount of space allowed per man was 6ft. long by 2ft. wide by 3ft. high on the floor and on 2 tiers of wood, bug-invested shelves. 260 British Officers were accommodated thus in a room 100ft. long by 20ft.wide. Washing and sanitary arrangements were primitive and insufficient. In July, most of the naval officers formed part of a draft sent to work in Batavia in motor transport factories. About half were employed thus but did more damage than repairs. The others were employed on menial jobs in place of men until the capitulation.
17. After capitulation, the Japanese provided ample medical stores, clothes, food and other amenities which they had withheld from us for years. Remaining back mail which had not been burned was distributed. They were ingratiating and conciliatory in their conduct. From our experiences they seem as yet unfit to wield power. They are a deceitful and ruthless people and all who have been prisoners of war under them have little wish to see or hear of them again.
18. This report has been compiled entirely from memory and may contain a few errors. All records had either been left at Macassar, confiscated in Japanese searches, or destroyed to prevent falling into their hands. It is fully realised that there are many more important problems to be considered in our service than the contents of this report. In apologising for any lack of brevity, I wish to state that I am forwarding it merely as a record of treatment meted out to a large group of Naval prisoners of war. It confirms the old saying of Admiral Blake that the English should only by punished by the English. Indignities and humiliation have been inflicted on His Majesty’s uniform, and upon His Majesty’s servants, without possibility of any retaliation. One of the results of this has been to make us all prouder of our nationality and of our service than ever before.
Nothing has impressed me more in the last 3½ years than the wonderful adaptability, cheerfulness and indefatigable spirit of the British Seaman in adversity. We all regret that we have been unable to assist the National effort during this period but I would like to state on behalf of all officers and men that we are once again ready for service.
I have the Honour to be,
(Lieutenant Commander Cooper’s report of proceedings of 16th September, 1945.)
I assumed command of the British Prisoners of War at Macassar when the officers left on 2nd October, 1943, there being then 12 officers and 650 men based on the camp.
2. The conditions in the camp remained much as before with, if anything, a slight general improvement. It was a well known fact that Yoshida disliked the officers as a whole, and with the majority leaving (particularly the redundant Dutch ones), the tension for a time was eased. This state lasted except for intermittent outbreaks until the Spring 1944 and as the wet season was less severe than usual, there occurred no epidemics and comparatively little sickness.
3. Salaries for the officers and payment for the men’s work were introduced in October and endeavours were made to resume a worthwhile canteen again (particularly as the one stopped some months previously was only of value to the Dutch who had all the money), but with the exception of cane tobacco and limited supplies of native sugar, little else of any value materialised, the men finding that boot laces without boots, pen-nobs without pens were of small use. The money was not allowed to be given to individuals and the entire amount was kept in the Camp Commander’s name at the TAI WAN BANK, payment for such articles as could be bought being done on paper. In connection with the introduction of pay, an order was issued that all money in any man’s possession must be turned in into a communal fund, and it was obviously hoped that the illicit trading with the natives, done on working parties, would cease; as might have been expected, this was not the case and a good deal of trouble was caused whenever a man was caught trading the whole party being badly beaten up, and I, with the other Camp Officers, endeavoured to discourage trading for this reason, but it was a difficult task.
4. In October Geneva Cards were made out and high hopes were raised that at last letters might be sent to Europe and vice versa. Up to now only letters to the Women’s’ Camp at Malino and to the relations and friends in Java, which involved the Dutch alone. However, by the time of the capitulation only two ratings had received a letter each. As time went by, though stoically understood by the men, it was disheartening and disappointing.
5. Also in October lists had to be made giving all men’s’ previous occupations and technical ability. In both cases where there were men who might conceivably be used for Japanese war ends if they stated the truth, fictitious trades were made up. It was known that workshops were being set up locally and as there was no indication of war work going to be done and as it gave certain men a chance of light work and to keep their hand in at their trades, I placed no obstructions in the way of men who wished to state their ability. As it turned out it was an excellent way for these men to pass their time; they were employed on lathe work, carpentering, bricklaying, and saw-mills. Work for the Japanese was done as slovenly as possible and later when they made the men produce such things as hand-grenade shells, spears, swords and daggers etc., the articles would in many instances have proved more embarrassing to the Japanese than the Allies (one Japanese was reported to have been killed when testing a P.O.W. hand grenade.)
6. Work proceeded with the construction of a new camp of which the ground clearing was done by the Prisoners of War and the constructions work by a native contractor. The removal to the new camp took place on the 5th June 1944 with comparative Japanese calm and the Prisoners of War, particularly the British, quickly settled in. The camp was situated in a cleared coconut grove and swamp land, and was nearly rectangular in shape three hundred yards by two hundred yards. It was divided into quarters, the Southern half containing the men’s’ barracks, pig sties and stables, the North West quarter the Hospital and the North-East quarter workshops and gardens. The barracks were built of bamboo with a palm leaf thatch and were satisfactory, judged from a Japanese point of view. The one real deficiency was the latrines which were sufficient in number but extremely primitive in design and difficult to keep clean. The cess pits were bricked inside and consequently never drained away, use having to be made of a bailer. In the wet weather they were constantly full and this fact coupled with the poor latrines were certainly a cause of the subsequent dysentery epidemic and which the Japanese refused to allow to be altered in any way.
7. Work after the shift to the new camp was divided between the town and the camp, where air-raid ditches were constructed, gardens, both flower and vegetable inside and outside the camp, were made and a general tidying-up of the area done. This state lasted until the 250 British at the Maros Aerodrome returned on the 12th July, no reason for their return being given though the work in the main was completed, and it is thought that the large increase in Malaria and stomach complaints, together with the arrival after the working party had left, of two squadrons of bombers, was the cause – most probably because of the latter fact.
8. The tempo of the work now increased and the British, due to the fact that they were the largest contingent provided 4/9ths of the men. There were some light cleaning jobs but these were mainly taken up by the Dutch who could speak good Malay. There were also the technical jobs already mentioned in paragraph 5, camp work (carpentering, leather making, tailoring etc.,) but as the most of the British had no experience in this type of work and also the majority showed a preference for taking what they could get (in all senses) in the town, we did not have as high a proportion of this type of work as the other contingents. This, from August onwards, unfortunately was a disadvantage as the work increased, the British providing by far the greatest proportion of the labourers for such work as air-raid shelters making etc. Sometimes the work was reasonable and even profitable but as a whole became very heavy and at times was nothing less than slavery. Representations were made but this either led to no notice being taken or to further brutalities. Any attempts to lower the figure due to sickness only led to the light duty workers in the camp and sometimes actually the hospital patients and sick-in-barracks being forced to work. This form of blackmail which, since the early days of the Old Camp, was one of the worst evils that Yoshida introduced and only by careful arranging of the working parties, by not increasing the availability figures when men became fit but rather keeping spare hands, could an answer to this form of tyranny be made.
9. In January 1945, the camp work numbers increased and the working numbers for the town decreased. I favoured this greatly as it gave protection from the weather (the men having to work in all weathers) as well as lighter jobs and I tried to get men to take on this semi-skilled work, irrespective of any previous experience or not, but still the Dutch got more men on this work than was their share, and I protested often and had to keep my eyes wide open to get fair play.
10. In September, 1944, the camp was given no more meat, only offal and bones which came in about every other day. The food, from being average Prison Camp fare, now deteriorated considerably as, in addition the lack of meat, dehydrated vegetables were substituted for fresh ones. The rice ration remained satisfactory at about 420 grams per man. The food during the winter months was the same except that swamp weed, lotus tops and such like cheap vegetables had superseded the dehydrated variety. A slight improvement came with the spring but never did the Japanese produce anything like what they might have done, such protein food as beans etc., being unobtainable, so they said, yet they themselves had more than they could consume. A map was drawn for them showing where they could obtain these vegetables but with no result.
11. A dysentery epidemic broke out in January, 1945, and the men’s health was so lowered by the hard work and poor food over a period, that wholesale deaths resulted. From March 1942 until December 1944, 39 men (including 16 at Pomala) had died and the following figures show the deaths subsequently:-
12. Mention must be made of the brutality in this camp of the Japanese guards. The main difference in the form of punishment as against before the officers left was the introduction of the mass beating and the fact that the whole unit would suffer for the faults of one man. The climax was reached in February 1945 when after a sudden search for eggs, illicit sugar, etc. in the barracks, over 120 men were heavily beaten and the entire camp made to witness the procedure which lasted for more than two hours. The brutality displayed on all these occasions was disgusting as apart from the beating (which was done with specially constructed clubs 3 feet long) which averaged 30 strokes and once went as high as 200 on one man, Judo was used in addition to punching, kicking and beating over the head. The result was a permanent feeling of insecurity from which no one was exempt, and the nerves of many, already reduced by the work and poor food, broke under the strain. Often a man’s health would collapse after a beating and though up to then he had withstood dysentery, for instance, it seemed as if the bearing lowered his resistance and he became susceptible to sickness. The camp commandant had no control over the guards, so it seemed, and one actually took part in the orgies. The principal villain was always Yoshida but none of the senior guards can be excused. Headquarters must have known the form of punishment meted out and the senior officers must be considered primarily responsible.
13. In June and July the war crept appreciably nearer Macassar and on the 26th July the majority of officers and 350 half sick men were trans-shipped to Java. Prior to this shift the British contingent consisted of 12 officers and 490 men, after this move the Chaplain, 6 Warrant Officers and 451 men remained (Mr. White, Gunner R.N. was left in charge). From this it became evident that the camp was going to be moved inland, and that they wished to remove the ones (apart from the actual sick) who could not walk. It was extremely lucky for the camp that it was not shifted as without a doubt the result would have been a considerable number of deaths. I with 5 other officers and 39 men, representing the British contingent in the abovementioned draft arrived at Surabaya, Java on the 29th July, and entered No. 1 Prisoner of War Camp, Batavia on 8th August.
14. In completing this report special mention must be made of two points.
(b) That the spirit of the British, as a whole, at Macassar during the time of their captivity was high. However bad were the conditions, the heaviness of the work or the harshness of the guards, and even during those dreadful months from February 1945 till May when at nearly every muster I had to announce the death of another of our contingent, the great majority of the men’s’ spirit and morale remained astonishing high, and those who cracked under the strain were always assisted along by the others. Perhaps one of the largest factors in keeping everyone so buoyed up was the pretty constant circulation of news, which was obtained from smuggled-in local Malay newspapers and occasional Japanese ones. From these a surprisingly accurate record of the wars progress could be obtained and although peculiar rumours were often heard, the main truth generally came out. This kept men going and even men who were seriously ill and unlikely to live long maintained a pathetic but courageous hope that they could hold on till the Allies came.
15. It is absurd to say that any one who was in Macassar, particularly during the last two years could possibly forget it but at least it can be hoped that not too many will carry the scars and effects throughout their life. Those who had the luck to come through in a fit state are now eager to get back to their life in the Service and continue from where they left off.
COMPOSITION. 29 officers, 171 Ratings under command of Captain J.H. McCahon, R.M., two doctors included in the party. Large number already had malaria. About 50 had ulcers and septic wounds. All passed fit for draft by visual inspection of Japanese doctor without reference to past history.
LOCATION. 1 Mile south of Pomalaa on West of Eastern leg of Celebes. Camp situated on edge of jungle in mosquito swamp area.
ACCOMMODATION. Rough wooden huts covered with palm leaves. Bed boards secured to a raised framework gave two foot six inches per man. Sanitary and Hygiene arrangements primitive and insufficient. Camp rat infested.
FOOD. About 1.33 lbs. Rice about 2 ounces poor quality vegetables. ¾ oz. of sugar, 2 ozs. Coffee per day. Erratic supply of fresh and salt fish occasionally. A few salt eggs from time to time. Some buffalo meat after strong protest.
WORK. Coolie work reclaiming a salt marsh, and digging a dam in slime and mud. Hours 0700 to 1700 with 2 hours off for dinner.
PERIOD. Left Macassar 17th January 1943, returned 16th September 1943.
RESPONSIBILITIES. Naval guards from Kendari aerodrome responsible for discipline, custody and work. Local Japanese civilians responsible for accommodation, feeding, welfare, medical supplies and direction of work.
MEDICAL. Shortly after arrival, malaria cases began in large numbers, followed by dysentery. Medical supplies ridiculously inadequate, especially quinine. Papaya leaves sometimes provided for malaria but also often refused. End of March 1943 deficiency diseases started – Beriberi, Pellagra, Blindness, general debility, gastric enteritis, skin diseases, also ulcers, scabies, prickly heat, septic bed sores, heat stroke, exhaustion, Dengue, in addition to malaria and dysentery. No quinine from the 27th July to 31st August, was followed by 8 deaths in September. By end of August, only 19 men fit for work. State of party on completion, 15th September 1943:-
Out of 184 survivors, 167 had had malaria and 86 had had dysentery.
Representations and protests made continually to Naval and Civilian authorities without success, till end of August when camp inspected by a Japanese Officer. This resulted in a supply of food and quinine and early removal to Macassar.
RECOMMENDATIONS. The death roll and sickness would have been undoubtedly greater except for the untiring energy and devotion to duty of SURGEON-LIEUTENANT D.N. RYALLS, R.N.V.R. OF “EXETER” and CHIEF PETTY OFFICER W.H. ROACH of “ENCOUNTER”.
No officers were paid by the Japanese until the end of October, 1943. Officers contributed the great portion of the pay received to camp funds, to funds for Naval ratings, to Naval ratings in hospital etc., in order to supplement the insufficient diet provided by the Japanese and to provide a few cents for purchase of necessities of life by ratings unable, owing to ill health, to earn money by working. Savings were paid out to us after capitulation but were collected by camp administration. A receipt for these sums were given to S.N.O. in Java, Lieutenant Commander N.V.G.T. THEW, R.N.
LOANS FROM THE DUTCH. In May 1943 I borrowed 5,334 Guilders on behalf of the British Government from Colonel M. VOOREN, acting for the Netherlands East Indies Government, for the benefit of the British Officers and men in Macassar camp. I guaranteed to repay this at 7.5 Guilders to the £Sterling. A number of private and public loans amounted to 3,100 Guilders (£415 approx:) were contracted at various times by Naval and R.F.A. Officers in Macassar camp. The total of private and public loans contracted with the Dutch is about £1,100. We are most desirous that these be paid in full. The whereabouts of some of the officers is not known and some have died. Records were kept of all men who received 10 Guilders of the public loan but many of these have died. As this sum was essential to the men’s welfare and for purchasing such things as spectacles, it is requested that this public loan be treated as a public commitment and repaid without any individual deduction from pay balances.
EXAMPLES OF LOW MENTALITY DISPLAYED BY JAPANESE PRISONERS OF WAR GUARDS
1. A native, not a prisoner of war, was punished in our camp for stealing by being beaten almost insensible. The guards then set fire to the hair on various parts of his body and bound him to the railings for the night. Next morning, the guards sent for iodine, ostensibly to tend his wounds. This iodine was 7½% concentrate compared to the normal British 2½%, they poured up his nose. He was then locked up for a month.
2. A sow which escaped from its sty was given corporal punishment and put on three days low diet for disobeying Japanese orders.
3. A monkey who made rude gestures at the camp commander had its swing taken away.
4. Seeds sewn in a “Grow more Castor Oil” campaign had to have the sprouting tips pointing towards Tokyo, to ensure good results.
5. One guard disappointed with the speed of hatching of eggs in the incubator, insisted on increasing the heat and spoilt the lot.
6. A common saying amongst the guards at Macassar was:-
7. After the death of a prisoner from Anthrax, anti-Anthrax serum was sent to the camp for the pigs and horses but none for the prisoners.
8. A complaint made about unnecessary beatings of a working party resulted in a whole party of thirty being fallen in and accused of making arrogant assertions concerning the future successes of the Allied forces. Those guilty were ordered to step forward. As the charges were false none did so. They were then threatened with digging their own graves and mass execution at dawn, The Chaplain being sent for and ordered to read them the last rites. They were then locked up in a cell for the night. Next morning they were released and sent out to work, and nothing else happened.
9. It was almost impossible to explain to guards that a man with an internal complaint such as a weak heart or rupture was unfit for work. Tuberculosis and appendicitis were the only internal complaints understood. Visual evidence of a complaint or wound was essential. It was often necessary to put a bandage on the leg of a man with a weak heart to safe guard him from work.
10. On demand for officers and men who were acquainted with repairs to machinery, aircraft or ships, no British came forward. 35 senior British officers were then sent for and 27 publicly hit under the jaw individually by he Japanese Sergeant Major. At one time there were five officers of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or its equivalent on the ground. Several were knocked out, the camp commander had a bone in his jaw broken, another officer suffered concussion and a third a badly bruised foot.
11. A demand to build latrines over the sea to prevent dysentery in one of the pacific island camps was refused as they said that the sea and fish would become infected.
These examples are attached here in an attempt to explain the difficulties in dealing with our guards. Most of the officers were not interested in representations, and those that gave the appearance of doing so did nothing. The Sergeants and other ranks ran the camps and most of them are covered by the above examples.
FOR PERIOD 1ST AUGUST TO 31ST OCTOBER, 1945
FROM: THE CAPTAIN, EIGHTH SUBMARINE FLOTILLA, H.M.S. “MAIDSTONE”.
DATE: 1st November, 1945 No. 6226/73.
TO: ADMIRAL (SUBMARINES).
The Following Report of Proceedings of H.M.S. “MAIDSTONE” and Eighth Submarine Flotilla for the period 1st August to 31st October, 1945 which is forwarded in continuation of Monthly General Letter for July (No. 5245/73 dated 5th August, 1945) covers the final period in the South West Pacific Area. It has not been possible to compile the usual comprehensive report, owing to pressure of other commitments, departure of officers without relief, etc., but it is hoped that the narrative will provide sufficient to complete a record of the service of the Ship and Flotilla in Eastern Waters.
2. DIARY OF EVENTS
August 1st – At the beginning of the month only two submarines of the Flotilla, “SUPREME” and “SEASCOUT” were in harbour at SUBIC. “SELENE” was engaged in operations with “X.E. 5” off HONG KONG to cut the HONG KONG – SINGAPORE cable. “STYGIAN”, “SPARK” and “SPEARHEAD” were detached for “X.E.” craft operations under the orders of Captain 14th Submarine Flotilla, H>M>S> ‘BONA VENTURE” at BRUNEI Bay, the first two carrying out towage for the attack on JAPANESE cruisers in JOHORE STRAIT and “SPEARHEAD” for the craft attacking the SINGAPORE-SAIGON-HONG KONG cable off SAIGON. Full reports having been forwarded on these operations they are not referred to in any detail.
August 3rd – “SIDON” arrived, having rescued a United States Army Air Force aviator who had been in the water for five days, during which period he had drifted 300 miles from the ditching position.
August 6th – “SELENE” arrived back with “X.E.5” from their operations off HONG KONG, which had reluctantly been abandoned as unsuccessful due to deep mud. (After arrival at HONG KONG it was ascertained that the cable was put out of action about the date of the attempt, so it is probable they succeeded in damaging it though they were unaware of it.)
August 8th – Commander Miers left for WEST AUSTRALIA by Sky Train from MANILA for consultations with Captain, Fourth Submarine Flotilla about future movements. He had recently been on the sick list for some time with acute skin trouble which has not responded to treatment in a tropical climate.
August 9th - Arrangements were made for carrying out further cutting operations on the HONG KONG cable by “SELENE”.
August 10th – The signal reporting the Japanese surrender offer was received about 2130 local time, and such news as was available was broadcast to the ship during the cinema performance.
August 11th – Visited Commodore Commanding Australian Squadron (Commodore J.A. Collins, C.B., R.A.N.) in H.M.A.S. “SHROPSHIRE” for discussions in view of possibility of British Naval Forces being required to proceed to British ports in JAPANESE occupation.
August 14th – Received signal about possibility of “MAIDSTONE” and Submarines and “H.M.H.S. OXFORDSHIRE” (also at SUBIC) forming part of a force for occupation of HONG KONG. Made preparations accordingly.
August 15th – Received news of cessation of hostilities, but submarines were told to maintain their patrols for the present but to take no offensive action.
August 17th – “SCOTSMAN” arrived. Visited Commodore Commanding Australian Squadron, having received signal about consulting with him to prepare plans for occupation of HONG KONG. Proceeded with him P.M. to MANILA in “H.M.A.S. BATAAN” to visit Commander 7th Fleet, soon after our arrival Commodore Commanding Australian Squadron intimation from AUSTRALIAN COMMONWEALTH NAVAL BOARD that he would be required to go to TOKIO with his Squadron and would not go to HONG KONG, but that eighth R.A.N. minesweepers who had been ordered from the MOLUCCAS area to SUBIC would be lent to the BRITISH PACIFIC FLEET for use of HONG KONG force.
August 18th – Visited GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, SOUTH WEST PACIFIC AREA and saw Lieutenant General GAIRDNER and Vice Admiral MOODY, the latter having arrived that morning with a mission from SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, SOUTH EAST ASIA TO General MacARTHUR. Spent the night at the Consulate General to await developments, as the JAPANESE delegates were due next day and there was a strong but unconfirmed rumour that COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, BRITISH PACIFIC FLEET was expected to arrive as well.
August 19th – No further news of COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, BRITISH PACIFIC FLEET being obtainable, returned to SUBIC by road, to find that Captain, Fourteenth Submarine Flotilla had arrived in H.M.S. “BONA VENTURE” and was under orders to proceed to SYDNEY will all despatch. Various signals had also been received from which it became clear that we formed part of a Task Group under Rear Admiral HARCOURT Commander Task Group 111.2 who had sailed from SYDNEY on August 15th to reach HONG KONG about August 24th. The Flotilla was released from Commander 7th Fleet and placed under the orders of C.T.G. 111.7 from August 18th.
August 20th – ONA VENTURE” sailed for MANUS and SYDNEY.
August 21st – Admiral Fife came aboard to say goodbye and addressed the ships company and submarine crews. His flag was broken when he arrived onboard and hauled.
August 24th – “STYGIAN” and “SPARK” sailed for United Kingdom.
August 25th – Submarines and Minesweepers sailed and “MAIDSTONE” got under way at 0930 but orders are cancelled and submarines and minesweepers recalled. “MAIDSTONE” shifted berth to vicinity of H.M.S. “INDOMITABLE”, off OLANGAPO.
August 26th – Conference of Commanding Officers was held on board H.M.S. “INDOMITABLE”.
August 27th – “MAIDSTONE” (Senior Officer), “PRINCE ROBERT”, Submarines and Minesweepers sailed in company for HONG KONG at 0700, speed 12 knots, the remainder of the Task Group following at 1600.
August 28th – Remainder of Task Group in sight astern at intervals carrying out flying operations. Completed arrangements for sweeping in approaches to HONG KONG commencing at daylight next day.
August 29th – Sighted TANKAM island, about 15 miles S.S.E. from HONG KONG Island, at daylight and commenced Sweeping Oropesa, “MAIDSTONE”, “PRINCE ROBERT” and Submarines following in swept water.
August 30th - a perfect day.
September 8th –Left dockyard and, after refuelling berthed at KOWLOON to disembark about one hundred torpedoes and warheads into KOWLOON Torpedo Depot. Submarines were berthed the opposite side of the pier, except those on patrol and those supplying current via the Dockyard Power Station, other power stations having had to shut down for lack of fuel.
September 11th – “SELENE”, “SUPREME” and “SEASCOUT” sailed for CEYLON and United Kingdom, Commander-in-Chief, HONG KONG having stated that he required only three submarines for power and patrol duties.
September 12th – After completing land of torpedoes “MAIDSTONE” shifted to berth off WEST POINT. “SOLENT” and “SLEUTH” sailed for CEYLON and United Kingdom, leaving “SIDON”, “SCOTMAN” and “SPEARHEAD” for duties at HONG KONG pending arrival of Fourth Flotilla Submarine.
September 14th – Commander-in-Chief, British Pacific Fleet arrived in H.M.S. “DUKE OF YORK” from TOKYO BAY. Arrangements were made for the crews of the three submarines remaining in HONG KONG, together with Commander COLLETT as Staff Officer, Submarines HONG KONG (temporarily) and Spare Crew to be accommodated in AORANGI. Needless to say they were made extremely welcome by Commander COLLIER and all onboard.
September 16th – The Commander-in-Chief came onboard and addressed the Ship’s Company and said goodbye to officers and men of the Ship and Flotilla, it having been arranged that “MAIDSTONE” should sail for FREMANTLE the following day.
September 17th – “MAIDSTONE” sailed from HONG KONG at 1000, without regret as it had been a very hectic period under trying climatic conditions, but with a sense of great satisfaction at having finished up in HONG KONG dockyard in the Submarine Depot Ship’s berth and at having performed useful service whilst there.
September 19th – Called at SUBIC in very heavy rain storms to collect any mails and correspondence from B.N.L.O., supplied R.A.N. ships and M.F.V., 280 with beer.
September 22nd – Crossed Equator, on the Equinox, thus passing from Northern Summer to Southern Summer in one act.
September 23rd – P.M. received instructions to proceed to vicinity of MAKASSAR to contact H.M.A. Ships “INVERELL” and “BARCOO” there, and embark 450 P.O.Ws, mostly ex H.M.S. “EXETER” and destroyers sunk in JAVA SEA area in March, 1942.
September 24th – Anchored in about 25 fathoms at 0130 about 15 miles of MAKASSAR, H.M.A.S. “INVERELL” made contact with us soon after we got under way again at daylight, and led us into an anchor berth as near as was deemed safe, in view of aircraft mining, about ten miles from MAKASSAR.
September 25th – Passed through LOMBOK Strait in very heavy tide rips. We were able to appreciate the difficulties and hazards that the submarines had had to contend with in making their way through.
September 30th – Persistent head winds having been encountered, did not arrive FREMANTLE until 1300, about 3 hours late, and proceeded to berth at NORTH WHARF astern of “ADAMANT”. The crowd and reception that greeted us can only described as stupendous, accentuated by it being a Sunday afternoon, the first warm fine day after several weeks rain and the first occasion the Wharf had been opened to the public.
October 1st – One watch, mainly consisting of these ratings who owing to short length of foreign service and high Age & Service Groups were due to transfer to “ADAMANT”, proceeded on a weeks leave.
October 10th – Exchanged part crews with “ADAMANT” – Second watch went on leave.
October 13th – “ADAMANT” proceeded to GAGE ROADS, sailing for HONG KONG the following morning.
October 22nd – First draft of ex Prisoners of War rejoined “MAIDSTONE” from “LEEUWIN”.
October 23rd – Balance of Prisoners of War embarked.
October 25th – “MAIDSTONE” sailed from FREMANTLE at 1015 for SIMONSTOWN.
October 31st – The ship has settled down for the long 17 day passage to SIMONSTOWN, a satisfactory speed of advance of just over 12 knots having so far been maintained, in some part due to having filled up with Persian Oil instead of the rather dirty U.S. Navy Californian which we have been using in the past few months.
C A P T A I N
A neighbour, Lady Jean Pole (then Jean E Stone), was a member of the Women’s Royal Australian Navy (WRAN) in 1945 and was posted to HMAS Leeuwin Depot. She remembers the arrival of the survivors of the HMS Exeter. She also recalls issuing them with new clothing and other necessities, such as, tooth brushes and soap. They were at Leeuwin for 2 or 3 weeks. One point vivid in her memory was the preference of the survivors to be dealt with by the service women rather than the men (should anyone be surprised).
Picture of the crowd on North Wharf, Fremantle and ambulances lined up to transport sick: DOWNLOAD
Fred Davis story: DOWNLOAD