Friday, 21 January 2011

6: Batavia, Bouie Glodok Prison

We were put into some sort of order and marched off feeling better for the food and rest, but awfully tired as it was our fourth night without proper sleep. I've no idea how long we marched, time didn't count anymore, someone else has control of us, so, we just did or acted as instructed. It began to sink into my brain that I had to think for myself, survival was to be the aim and how to achieve it. I had no knowledge of what to expect or what lay ahead ad wondered, can I stand what was to come with no control over my future.

Eventually we halted outside a large building, double doors were opened into what appear to be the entrance to a railway station booking office with a window and a door at each side. There were also double doors with guards at the other end of the room. A Japanese officer was counting us into groups of twenty, bringing his sword down between each group. We were then roughly searched and moved on through the far end double doors into a yard. We now realised this was a prison. We stood waiting until a large number of us had assembled and were then marched to the cells. I was put in a cell which had a cement floor and walls, one of which had iron bars from half way up the wall to the ceiling, together with another seventy nine men. The cell measured twenty feet by twenty feed and had a large bar door which was slammed shut. There were two small light bulbs which didn't shed much light, with wooden tables set up closely together in rows which some of us had to sleep on. Others slept on the floor beneath them with one blanket for each man. A hole in the corner was the toilet, two barrels of water was our supply for drinking, washing and flushing the toilet.

After spending nights sleeping rough on cement roads I thought wood wouldn't feel as hard, but dead tired as we were we had an awful night. The joins in the tables were full of bugs that bit us all over.

Daylight came and we had a chat to decide how we should use our water supply. It was agreed that drinking water was a priority, so decided one barrel was to be kept solely for that purpose, the other to be used for washing, the toilet to be flushed with dirty water only We washed with friends, sharing a bowl of water between four.

Breakfast came, a shallow aluminium bowl measuring approximately six inches across with an inch of rice in the bottom, pressed down by being stacked on one another. They were brought by Javanese convicts who seemed to be in charge of the cooking and distribution. We were also given small pudding shaped basins, the contents of which looked like cooked privet hedge clippings. Most of us sampled it but found we were not yet hungry enough to eat much of it, thinking the next meal must be better. The morning was spent talking amongst ourselves and wondering what was going to happen to us next, we felt we couldn't live under the present conditions for long. We busied ourselves trying to rid the tables of bugs. It was impossible for all of us to stand and move about at the same time, our space was limited and understandably no one wanted to be near the toilet.

Lunch came. It was a repeat of our breakfast menu but, as I was beginning to feel very hungry and this seemed likely to be our diet, my thoughts were that I had better get used to it, so down it went. We passed the afternoon just chatting until dinner was served that night, our usual rice and hedgerow greens plus the luxury of small tins or corned beef, which was shared on tin between seven men which we mixed in with our rice, it seemed quite a feast.

The next morning after breakfast we were driven out of our cells and gathered together in the yard, the guards acting as was to become their standard behaviour, jabbing with their bayonets and rifle butts to move things along.

An address from the Japanese Commandant was read out by his interpreter informing us that anyone attempting or being caught escaping would be shot and that we were to be put to whatever work they desired. We were then each handed a paper stating that we agree to that work and told to sign on the bottom. It did not specify what type of work we would be put to. Our senior officer, a Group Captain then told us not to sign as it was against Geneva Convention for P.O.W.'s  to be put to work on military installations, which he thought was probably the work we were intended for. We could do any other task that did not help the enemy forces. We then returned to the cells.

The following day the guards arrived, hurled the door open, charged in and herded us out into the yard. Our Group Captain then told us he had been informed that twelve airmen and twelve soldiers had been taken from their cells and were facing execution within hours if we didn't sign the papers given to us. If we still didn't comply when the executions had been carried out, another twenty four men would be shot and so on until the papers had been signed. He then said he could not gamble with the men's lives and would take responsibility for our signing under duress. We duly signed and handed the papers to the guards.

We were informed we would be put to work the following day and each handed a piece of cloth which had a number printed thereon, mine being 132, and told to sew it to the back of our shirts. On our brief outings into the yard we could see that the prison was divided into two parts, all RAF personnel were in cells and the army prisoners were kept in barracks. The cells were situated round the large yard and backing onto a twenty feet high concrete wall with gun posts at every corner. The cells were of varying sizes and together held about four hundred airmen. Our food, on arrival, was pushed one bowl at a time under the barred door. Overlooking the yard was a large building which housed the Japanese. Situated in the centre of the building were the double doors where we passed through when going to work and returning. We later discovered the prison was called Bouie Glodok which was a criminal gaol for murderers and desperate criminals.

Early next morning the cell door opened and a Japanese officer with guards in attendance entered, we lined up for roll call and had to number off. This we did but were told that in future we would have to reply with Japanese numerals. This roll call was to be a regular order first thing in the morning and last thing at night, which was an obvious check to see that no man went missing.

The learning of Japanese numerals was a rather painful process, the officer would call ICHI, NEI, SAN (one, two, three) etc as he went along the line and each prisoner repeated whatever number he happened to be at. After about a week, we were expected to call our number in Japanese without any prompting, which caused an awful panic some mornings when some of the men only feeling confident with one number such as six or twelve, would try to get six or twelfth in line, any mistakes were rewarded with a lump round the face. Needless to say we learned very quickly. After roll call came our usual breakfast and then half an hour later we had to be ready to march to work. Whenever we were required outside the cell, the door would open and guards would rush in and drive us all out like cattle with rifle butts and bayonets.

No comments:

Post a Comment