Eric Diss's Diary Feb 1942-Dec 1944
Transcription of Eric's Diary: February 1942 to December 1944
Kept in secret at the Palembang, P.O.W. Camp Sumatra, consisting of torn sheets from an old faded Exercise Book, with pieces of cardboard backing.
9 th Feb
Miraculous escape from Jap "27" Magazine episode. Bomb 30 ft. from shop blows me head first into trench -- John has narrow escape. Shop declared unsafe for any further work.
10 th Feb
Our small C.D. detachment removed to empty Officers' quarters, already damaged by bombs. While collecting my kit, more bombs fall near, causing more damage (3 within 40 ft. radius) small pieces of shrapnel drill hole clean through my teacup.
11 th Feb
Widespread dive-bombing and machine gunning by Japs, still no sign of a single R.A.F. machine. Spent eerie night in new quarters -- small arms fire all round.
12 th Feb
Removed to F.P.R. War accommodation -- narrow escape from afternoon bombings -- trapped in hillside by fire. Camp is completely destroyed -- all my kit with it. 8 pm Ordered to proceed to Singapore. Ran into trench mortar fire -- took shelter in sewer. Spent night at Sea mans Mission to the music of heavy gunfire and whistling shells.
13 th Feb
Worked with Frank on Ack-Ack cables -- battery practically wiped out at 4 p.m. friend 'Nobby' Adamson killed instantly. 8 p.m. Ordered to fall in -- battle order All thought were destined for last stand in the trenches - but no. After marching a mile, turned sharply into blazing docks to board small naval auxiliary vessels. Sailed slowly through mine-field.
14 th Feb
Anchored near small Islands at dawn and pulled over camouflage net. Scores of bombers and seaplanes scoured the waters all day -- but no bombs were dropped on us. Weighed anchor at sundown -- sailed through night without incident.
15 th Feb
Continued during daylight -- more bombers passed over (thank God ) met up with three R.A.F. launches -- exchanged messages. Large Jap convoy sighted during afternoon going same direction -- changed course to avoid being spotted. Proceeded through Banka Straits at dusk -- spotted by Jap Cruiser and sunk by gunfire at midnight. (Pula Sugi 80 R.A.O.C. -- 8 crew -- survivors totalled :- R.A.O.C. 15 -- Crew 1 )
16 th Feb
After narrowly escaping being pulled under ship's propeller -- swam for 10 minutes and found a small raft with some of our men hanging on. Tried in vain to make land -- were beaten by strong cross-currents. At midday only four of us left on raft. 4 pm approx. picked up in heavy sea by captured R.A.F. launch taken into Muntook harbour. Taken up to Airfield -- worked until 2.30 p.m. slept on field.
17 th Feb
Worked all day on Airfield -- slept in prison at night.
18 th Feb
Reported sick with swollen foot.
20 th Feb
Night duty Orderly in Hospital wards. When fit enough crawl about.
22 nd Feb
Fall very sick with Dysentery. Losing weight rapidly.
4 th Mar
Volunteer for orderly duty on womens Isolation ward, have three patients to look after. One is a Malay-Eurasian, one a Russian Jewess who dies from lung congestion, and the other an English woman, Mrs. Watts-Carter.
22 nd Mar
Crossed to Palembang where I immediately fall sick with fever and renewed bowel trouble.
26 th Mar
Admitted to Dutch charities hospital in very weak condition. Receive excellent treatment from Dutch Sisters of Mercy, and make rapid recovery.
10 th Apr
Out with working party to Airport.
24 th May
500 of us moved to Airport Camp for three months hard work.
1 st Jun
Pay started 10 cents per day
30 th Aug
Airport party return to Palembang Camp -- due to outbreak of typhoid
31 st Aug
Parole Sheet crisis.
2 nd Sep
Parole Sheets signed. Food improves.
10 th Sep
Work restarted (15 cents per day)
12 th Sep
Collapsed with fever.
14 th Sep
Another session in Charities Hospital, which is now completely under Japanese control.
22 nd Sep
Return to camp.
24 th Sep
Leave Camp for driving job with Frank Joyes. We are quartered with the Japanese and enjoy their food which is good.
27 th Sep
'Dick' Thomas Waters joins us to make three drivers -- all get along well together. Food and "Presents" excellent.
1 st Oct
Getting nicely settled in new job. Called on to drive anything at any time. (B.S.A. M/Bike combination, Chevrolet, and Chrysler cars, two trucks and my special charge, a 38 Chevrolet, 30 cwt. civi Bus saloon.
10 th Oct
Have noticed with satisfaction that I am at last adding a little flesh to my skinny body. The food is definitely better than camp. Occasionally see some of the lads and exchange a few words while on my rounds.
21 st Oct
Speculation is rife. A very busy day driving my bus
28 th Oct
The monsoons have arrived. Terrific rains at night. Quiet driving period.
1 st Nov
Commence new month with everything running quite smoothly. The three of us find plenty to laugh at around here.
4 th Nov
News reaches us about the first arrival of comforts from the Red Cross. All bitterly disappointed -- there are no letters, but appreciate new clothing, food and cigarettes. It is wonderful to feel one is "on the map" again. (Comforts not yet received)
8 th Nov
Heavy rains last night again -- finish days.
13 th Nov
"Friday 13 th" again! A lucky day. Received Red Cross Comforts from main camp.
14 th Nov
Opened first tins of M & V. A great occasion indeed. We have bread to eat with it and silently thrill to the to the wonderful smell and taste of European food. Our tin of marmalade and condensed milk is the first taste for over nine months. Words fail me to describe how wonderful it is. Cigarettes also good, but won't last long.
16 th Nov
Captured exactly nine months ago to-day . Had inoculations against dysentery. Weight 67 kilos. Approx 11 stone (10 st 8 lbs) proof that I am regaining flesh. Must have been well below 10 stone three months ago.
23 rd Nov
Great excitement as Frank Joyes received a personal Red Cross parcel from his wife in South Africa. Only three such parcels have arrived for the Palembang Prison Camp. He is extremely relieved to know his wife is safe and sound in a friendly country. Dick and I are now more hopeful of having letters by Christmas.
27 th Nov
Received balance of comforts from Red Cross shipment (3 cartons of malt porridge, jar Marmite veg. paste, 5 tins Veg. carton cocoa, packet of dried fruit, between the three of us) Experiencing one or two rough periods with Ken who is very unreasonable, and P. Big gen with French beans.
1 st Dec
Christmas is coming!
2 nd Dec
5 th Dec
Start new routine with bus which appears to be running reasonably well now (touch wood). Sounds like old times - sirens screaming at any time of day and night - accompanied by realistic practices.
7 th Dec
First Anniversary of Anglo - American Japanese War. More or less 'in the dark' about exact happenings of last twelve months, Develop blinding cold.
8 th Dec
Our ' friends' celebrate the first Anniversary of their War with big eats. Each man (including ourselves) has a very liberal issue of the following :- Rice, meat and veg. soup, pickled veg. spiced fish, egg omelette, sweet beans, sauce and bean curd, fried chicken and veg. patties -- all constituting one meal!. Last night had a very trying time with my bus in the dark!
9 th Dec
Many Happy Returns Darling. You are 30 today. I'll be with you next Birthday.
12 th Dec
Delighted to have Prisoner of War postcard for personal message to wife. Hope it will be forwarded speedily.
15 th Dec
Called out in torrential rain last night when just asleep. Just one of those things. Made myself one- stringed guitar.
16 th Dec
Ten months a prisoner of war.
17 th Dec
Everything seems to be progressing favourably.
24 th Dec
Christmas Eve. Very lucky to wangle some Chinese wine (poor stuff) so drink toasts to our wives and dear ones.
25 th Dec
Christmas Day Busy driving in the morning. For dinner we had meat and veg., spiced fish and rice, sweet bean dumplings, and gula Java sauce, tinned peaches and condensed milk, coffee. An excellent meal! Better than I had a year ago in Singapore! In the evening we are given permission to visit B Camp to see the Christmas Concert. Thoroughly enjoy meeting the lads again, and the Concert is first rate -- a really wonderful effort. When we arrive back at Suki Tai we drink two or three more toasts, and retire into our nets feeling well satisfied, if not some-what bewildered by such an excellent celebration. Sadly our thoughts are directed homewards - we try hard to imagine what our wives and families are doing. We offer a prayer that next Yuletide will find us again with our loved ones.
26 th Dec
Boxing Day Passed uneventfully with usual runs and routine etc.
31 st Dec
New Year's Eve The Japanese Captain makes us a present of a bottle of wine and three tins of pineapple between us. This is the Japanese equivalent of our Christmas, and we have issues of their traditional foods - including 'Muchie' which is compressed rice, and macaroni etc. Altogether, we do exceptionally well considering our position. We have increased pay ( now £2 per 10 days) and good tobacco is cheap. We have a nice collection of books left behind by the Dutch (English Books). I have made myself a one-stringed guitar which provides a little music at times. Tonight I feel particularly sad when my thoughts turn to Mary -- wondering what she is doing and thinking. How I yearn for her.
1 st Jan
We greet the New Year with renewed confidence, and increased hope of reunion with our wives and families before 1944. Shall we? Only time will tell.
2 nd Jan
The Nipps celebrate their New Year with 3 days holiday festivities. We do our usual fixed duties, though have a reasonably quiet time. Do well in 'eats' department. It will soon be a year since our capture and still no word from Mary. Will that message ever come?
8 th Jan
Life still continues in its narrow vein - uneventful, we try hard to keep each other's spirits up and are succeeding so far. We observe our comrades in Camp now have Indian guards -- men who fought side by side with them in Malaya! Queer, the twists of War.
9 th Jan
Last tin of M & V, much enjoyed. Heavy rains continue.
14 th Jan
Another great flutter of excitement ! Frank Joyes receives two letters from his wife in South Africa. Dick and I are both sick with disappointment that there are no letters for us. However, we take cheer in the knowledge that letters are allowed and we shall just have to wait a little longer for ours to come through. Hurry them on Dear God.
18 th Jan
My 3 rd Wedding Anniversary. Mary darling, my thoughts are continually with you today. Lets hope that next year at this time we are both together in the happiest circumstances. A depressing day -- exceptionally heavy rains -- everything wet or damp. Let me hear from you soon dear. I am more than impatient to have a message from you -- this everlasting silence is dreadful. God Bless you Mary.
22 nd Jan
Much water has passed under our table.
24 th Jan
Completed four months on the driving job, with no visible signs of discontinuing. I count myself exceptionally fortunate.
26 th Jan
Commence growing French beard!! Nothing unusual to relate.
3 rd Feb
A busy day -- but enjoyed it. Having a little trouble with the beard!!!
4 th Feb
Very busy doing other people's work. If only we could hear some music.
8 th Feb
More rains -- rather busy day.
10 th Feb
Bus-car -- International -- change -- Now International a huge 4 & 1/2 ton lorry which takes some handling.
13 th Feb
Very busy unpleasant period. Left Singapore exactly a year ago tonight . Still no word from England. It seems that I am one of many lost souls, victims of War.
16 th Feb
Rescued from a watery grave one year ago today. Driving job appears to be drawing rapidly to a close -- expect to be back in B. Camp any day now. Last three days have been extremely busy -- plenty of hard graft.
20 th Feb
Return to B.Camp with thanks and a nice present of food (15 tins milk) and cigs from Captain Suki. B Camp very crowded and bug ridden -- adapting myself with some difficulty to filthy new conditions. Good to see many old comrades again. Morale very high.
21 st Feb
Developed bad foot -- am glad to have attention from sick bay.
22 nd Feb
Foot worse -- can hardly bear to walk on it. Two great holes in my 2 nd toe left foot. Feeling more at home now again in camp.
24 th Feb
Foot still bad -- excused all duties. Once again enjoying camp atmosphere which is better than it has ever been. Plenty of food in canteen. Amused room mates with guitar.
25 th Feb
Foot very bad -- sent to A Camp. Long boring weeks, during which at times I go through agony. In the evenings endeavour to learn more Malay and German. Meet Monsieur Maugo.
13 th Apr
Now cannot walk -- so sent to Charities Hospital . Mosquitoes very active -- no sleep tonight.
18 th Apr
Weighed 10 stone.
28 th Apr
Return to B. Camp
1 st May
Commenced work on "Ramborah" -- foot still very unpleasant and stiff, but able to limp about all right.
7 th May
Day off. Spend the morning getting "Dhobe" straight etc. Had a pleasant hours chat with Roland Mauge over a real "French style" brew of coffee with milk and sugar. Made a very tasty fry-up for evening meal with bully and obies -- excellent!!
8 th May
Full day driving heavy loads of sand and bricks -- covered nearly 100 kilos. Foot still stiff and painful. Still no word from England -- will it ever come?
10 th May
Still driving "Smithies" truck ( he is down with fever). Everything running smoothly so far. The Camp has now quite a selection of animals:- Cats, Dogs, Chickens, Ducks, Monkeys, Rats, Mice, Lizards, Bugs, Fleas, Lice, Flies, -- yes -- we have them all. We are issued with a second Red Cross card to write to our next of Kin. No reply to my first one yet. Approx. 50% of Camp attending sick bay for some sort of treatment. Epidemic of Sepsis.
11 th May
Plenty of driving to do. Get very dirty and hot on the dusty roads.
13 th May
Do several longish trips to the more outlandish parts of Palembang -- always interesting to see new parts -- especially native settlements. Driving a 3 ton Ford V 8 truck. Free French friend Mauge has restarted work on the Farm Party. He finds it quite congenial.
14 th May
"Jeseme" Do my best to get my things clean for coming week. Very good to-day -- very good indeed!
15 th May
Rather an easier period -- time always drags somewhat.
20 th May
Gen. continues very good indeed. All pictures on the Camp walls have had to be taken down -- a Japanese Order -- also all steel helmets handed in. Darts and Netball still very enthusiastically followed in Camp. Still great shortage of water.
21 st May
Thank Heaven for another "Jeseme".
22 nd May
Easy day. Time passing slowly.
23 rd May
Much travelling under the scorching sun -- from 8.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. with loads of cut timber (old rubber trees). Foot getting very sore again -- same foot.
24 th May
XWP -- bad cold also -- very annoyed at prospects of having another spell off with bad foot.
25 th May
Still XWP though foot shows signs of improving.
26 th May
Foot much improved -- shall try work again tomorrow. Depressed to-day, don't know why.
27 th May
Out to work again driving when foot again becomes very painful. Doc.seems worried when he sees it, ordering more days in camp for me.
28 th May
In Camp. Very busy fighting dirt and bugs etc. in my kit --washing etc. Ted Apax turned very childish -- has sunk very low in my estimation. Enjoying a continuance of my friendship with Mauge. We delight in our conversations together over a cup (sorry can!).
29 th May
Still in Camp with bad feet.
30 th May
31 st May
Ditto XAD -- commence sketching again to take my mind off the pain.There are many cases of semi-blindness in Camp due to lack of essential vitamins. They receive treatment in pill form.
1 st Jun
2 nd Jun
Roland gives me first lessons at chess. A very absorbing game indeed. Foot much better. Concert to-night was excellent -- a really wonderful show. The Magic Lantern made out of odds and ends with the Doc's magnifying glass is a mighty achievement.
3 rd Jun
Foot further improved - though bodily I don't feel at all well, off my food.
4 th Jun
Still in Camp "Biaki"
6 th Jun
Now very keen on Chess -- though a lot to learn about this extremely skilful game. A short description of my present living conditions would be useful for records. My "Mess" is room 4 which is a corner downstairs room about 12 ft 6 ins by 18 ft 6 ins. Thirteen of us sleep and eat in this room. Some have rough wooden self-made beds with sack-cloth nailed across -- others sleep on the floor. The Urinal for the whole camp is only 20 ft away, and the open drain from this, passes right outside our windows -- imparting to the air we breathe that very obnoxious smell. (No disinfectants available) On extremely hot nights when there is no wind at all, the stink is almost unbearable. At nights we to close the door to keep the rats out . There is electric light, plenty of bugs, lice and mosquitoes. Although most of the room pulls together quite well, there are two men who really interest me viz. Harry Warburton and Ken Berry. The remainder are either dirty, childish, or just plain dull.
7 th Jun
In Camp. A busy day.
8 th Jun
In Camp. Earthquakes cause great excitement in Camp. Those living on the second floor feel their beds and chairs swaying. Coffee and cigarettes with Mauge. Always a pleasant occupation when we are in Camp together.
9 th Jun
In Camp. Another more severe earthquake at 6 o'clock this morning. Some chaps make ready to "bail out" into the open in case of building collapse. Lamp swings 8". More Chess -- delighted with progress.
10 th Jun
In Camp. -- More Chess
11 th Jun
12 th Jun
Restarted work on 'Rambara' though not at all confident that my foot will stand up to it.
13 th Jun
14 th Jun
Work -- as I thought -- foot again bad! Rice ration reduced to 400 grams per man per day ! (about 6 oz. )
15 th Jun
Work -- foot very painful.
16 th Jun
In Camp again.
17 th Jun
In Camp for medical treatment on foot. Three years ago to-day I joined the Army! What would have been my fate had I not volunteered when I did?
18 th Jun
19 th Jun
In Camp - still the same old monotonous life of waiting. No word from England yet -- seems it will never come.
20 th Jun
25 th Jun
Great wave of optimism in Camp. (The highest point reached on the optimistic chart up to present ). Feeling very fit now and hope to remain so. Started to regrow beard!
1 st Jul
Bad cold -- Everything still the same -- Res Non Verba (Deeds not Words)
2 nd Jul
"Jeseme". Enjoyable day in Camp with interesting chess games, and a few fried spuds.
9 th Jul
"Jeseme" Another good day in Camp. Feet very painful -- septic spots -- but can manage to keep earning my 20 cents. per day. Interesting International Basket Ball matches. English team very good. Issued two pairs of cotton shorts.
12 th Jul
Unexpected half-day's "Jeseme". Also to-morrow off ? Both feet very sore again -- covered with septic spots.
13 th Jul
Camp hears that no working parties will leave camp for another ten days.
14 th Jul
Very ill with fever.
15 th Jul
Making a double-deck bed in order to get above the dirt on the floor. Can hardly walk for bad feet. Certain men of Journalistic and Musical professions have been interviewed at H.Q.? Another victory over Mauge at Chess!
17 th Jul
Admitted to sick bay with chronic diarrhoea.
18 th Jul
Sent to A Camp - along with Toecock RAF Corporal -- Some very rough days.
20 th Jul
Inoculation against Typhoid etc. rough.
26 th Jul
Inoculation against Pneumonic Plague.
1 st Aug
Return to B Camp. Still no working parties. (Stoppage now 3 weeks ago).Camp is startled, shocked, amused, revolted, demoralised, and astonished at the news that a puppy had been strangled and eaten by three RAF chaps. Marcus D. Waters etc. Japanese rations to Camp still quite reasonable. No justification for this dog eating. Doc awards me 7 days XWP.
3 rd Aug
Working parties restart. Rice only. 70 men.
4 th Aug
150 rice. No 3 "Rambara" and farm party out today.
8 th Aug
Still in camp with bad feet . Ice Cream would be nice but it's finished now! First products of duck farm arrive for camp soup. 30 ducks.
9 th Aug
First duck soup. Delicious.
10 th Aug
Another Camp Concert -- very good indeed. Bodiescope show a real achievement.
12 th Aug
Sent to A. Camp Hospital for foot treatment! See a lot of Peter Morris -- have many interesting games of chess. Do a couple of repairs for the Officers' Camp, but they seem very long-winded at paying! Sent 'Tokei' 50 cents.
29 th Aug
Return to B.Camp.
3 rd Sep
4 th Anniversary of Declaration of War on Germany. Nippons Syenon Sinbun newspaper in English discloses a grave emergency in Italy, and the resignation of Mussolini on June 27 th last. Also the capture of Sicily by the Anglo-Americans. Feet not yet fit enough for work.
5 th Sep
Attended Special Church Service on the 4 th Anniversary of War. We remember our comrades in Arms, and those who have already made the supreme sacrifice. We pray for the speedy end of misery and privation for all people involved in this War horror. Peace soon, Oh. Lord we pray thee.
6 th Sep
Start a Chess game with Ken Berry at 3 p.m.
7 th Sep
Finish Marathon Chess game at 11.30 a.m. Ken wins. Score now 6-3 in Ken's favour.
13 th Sep
Charities Hospital Military patients removed to A. Camp. Patients from A. Camp to B.Camp. Still not out to work though feet are practically healed.
14 th Sep
Out on 'Rambara' again.
17 th Sep
"Jeseme". No money or tobacco left. Very grim situation! Ken v self Chess score now 8-5.
19 th Sep
First case of P.O.W. hitting back. What will happen now?
30 th Sep
1 st Oct
Discover that Dave Day (Sgt.) was in Worksop Hospital the same time I was there. He remembers me, and my wife coming in. I remember him by his greatcoat.
2 nd Oct Anti-bomb blast walls being erected in Camp.
10 th Oct
First 'Jeseme' for 16 days. Very tired and glad of an easy day inside.
14 th Oct
In Camp with 'Squits' and bad cold.
15 th Oct
16 th Oct
Out to work. On return am shocked to hear my friend planter Richardson had passed away. Very sad indeed - he was a nice chap and very well liked.
17 th Oct
Unexpected 'Jeseme'. Had a good rest.
21 st Oct
In sick bay again with fever and rheumatism.
28 th Oct
Leave sick bay.
29 th Oct
Very ill again -- can't understand what is wrong. Doc says it is Malaria. Four years ago today I placed a diamond ring on your finger, Mary. Today I am very near you dear, and living once again that very happy day. This life -- this miserable existence seems never ending, dear, but freedom and happiness must someday be ours again. Let it be soon. I cannot wait much longer. (Captain Cook died within a week of 'Richie' recently At Camp A Hospital.)
1 st Nov
Feeling much better again now. What new surprises does this new month hold in store? Recently met Tim Heeley who hails from Dewsbury. He knows all the main people that I know. John Walker Don Tattersfield, etc. P.O.W. 21 months before we found this out.
4 th Nov
Restarted work on 'Rambara'.
9 th Nov
Many Dutch and English prisoners arrive, and are sent to a new Camp 50 kilos out.
10 th Nov
Very rough day on 'Rambara'. Having many curious dreams - shows the state of my nerves leaves a lot to be desired.
11 th Nov
Hell on 'Rambara'. Still no word from home. Nearly 2 years now.
19 th Nov
'Jeseme' again -- and mighty glad of it. Many chaps seem to be having nightly curiously confused dreams similar to my own. There must be some explanation.
28 th Nov
Our boss of 'Rambara' is changed. Everyone very relieved.
3 rd Dec
'Jeseme' Everything costing a great deal more than last year at this time. Still dreaming continually of wife and home. Mauge still at A Camp Hospital, though I hear he is almost normal again. Soon be Christmas -- hope it's the last under these conditions.
4 th Dec
Must have something wrong. This time exceptionally sore mouth. Can hardly eat or speak. Just have to grin and bear it -- no cure. Doc. says condition is due to lack of vitamins. Received $1.50 c from Finley and 50 cents from Dutch Officer. Quite a windfall and so unexpected! Wonder if next year at this time I shall be free to spend a real Old Fashioned Christmas at home with wife and family?
9 th Dec
Many Happy Returns of your birthday, Darling. Hope I shall be with you for the next.
10 th Dec
'Jeseme' To celebrate your birthday of yesterday, Mary, I have a little party of Coffee, Biscuits, and cigarettes. Beat Jack Clarke and Ken Berry at Chess. ( Ken 8 Self 2 ) Still suffering from sore mouth -- though somewhat improved.
16 th Dec
Unofficial 'Jeseme' Get my Christmas 'Dhobi' done etc.
17 th Dec
'Jeseme'. Very enjoyable day. Cannot get rid of my sore mouth.
22 nd Dec
Filled in another Red Cross post card to Mary. But when am I going to hear from her? Nearly two years now.
24 th Dec
Ram. 2. Official 'Jeseme' as usual. Get everything straight and ready for the great day tomorrow.
25 th Dec
Christmas Day in Chung Wha. In the morning Ken and I throw a party with decorations on our table. A great success and a very friendly gathering . In the afternoon, all the lads and Officers pay us a visit from A.camp. In the afternoon, the star Basket -Ball players gave a fine performance. Boxing followed -- then the biggest star concert of the year. Pork Soup tiffin. Duck soup supper. Considering the circumstances, had a very pleasant day. Thoughts drifted frequently homewards as we discussed what our various families and wives would be doing. Everyone agrees we shall not be here next year at this time. Time will tell. ( Tim Heeley owes me £5 - witness Norman Russell, should Red Cross Supplies arrive before 31 st August next, 1944). Same man has also the audacity to prophesy April 21 st next as end of War.
Ha! Ha !
31 st Dec
Our Official 'Jeseme' day, but we are out to work and late back in Camp. My God! Let us be out of this infernal existence before next New Year's Eve. What an unbearable thought -- that we should be still prisoners this time next year. A hard filthy days work. Feeling worn out and blue when my thoughts drift homewards. What are you doing, Mary, and what about Father, Mother, and sisters? Nearly two years prisoner, and still no word from home. It is truly remarkable how cheerful we manage to keep in spite of all.
1 st Jan
A Happier New Year, Mary, and folks, and may we all be together for the next New Year. Work proceeding satisfactorily, and my luck seems to have all changed round. Everything seems excellent.
13 th Jan
Hello! Here we are again, another spot of bother. Collapsed with fever and gastric trouble -- sick bay.
20 th Jan
Still in sick bay alongside my 'townie' Tim Heeley.
23 rd Jan
First batch of mail arrives in Camp. Great excitement. "Warbie' gets 34 letters. I am told there are about 20 for me. These should arrive from Jap H.Q. in a few days time. Two years I have waited -- two long years. Still -- better late than never. I suppose. Wonder what news they contain? I'm Hellish impatient now!
1 st Feb
Out to work again
8 th Feb
Two inoculations (Fever plague and dysentery). Sick with fever again. My letters are not yet to hand -- but expected any day now. We have to wait a long time for things in this life.
12 th Feb
First mail arrived last night -- 15 beautiful letters for me! My delight at the sight of Mary's hand-writing, and the old post-mark is beyond description. Imagine two years almost to the day since the great tragedy, during which time my imagination was left playing, at times, very peculiar and unpleasant tricks. Now I have beautifully true words written by the hand of my dearest comrade and loved one. The mental excitement is terrific I hardly dare start the perusal. The dates of the letters start in September 1942 to January 1943, and no word has yet been received to confirm my safety. So you got your own way after all Mary, you naughty little devil! You are seeing the wide open spaces, oh? Well I guess your outlook on foreign service during a bloody war will have sobered a little by the time we reunite. You will soon get bored to tears with life in a smelly, sweaty, disease ridden land of strange people, and you'll soon long for your sweet smelling homeland - England. However, dear, I admire your pluck and action (which at first rather frightened me when I first read about it) makes me only realize, more then ever, what a millionaire I am to have as my wife, such a courageous woman, devoted to me and her country. Darling, your letters are better than a tonic -- and couldn't have arrived at a more opportune time. I have been rather under the weather lately, and finding it difficult to 'keep my head above water' so to speak. Fever is a deadly plague when it is continually attacking.
Letters received dated:- 19.9.42 - 26.9.42 - 2.10.42 - 9.10.42 - 17.10.42 - 23.10.42 - 31.10.42 - 5.11.42 - 21.11.42 - 28.11.42 - 3.12.42 - 11.12.42 - 11.1.43 - 12.1.43 - 25.1.43 -.
11 th Feb
Two more inoculations today. (Tab and Cholera ). Reported that more mail has arrived at H.Q. (False Alarm). Have been thinking continuously of Mary since receiving her letter from North Africa. Would give a lot to know just where she is, and how she is faring.
17 th Feb
Doing a lot of writing of whole camps' stories for Japanese, tedious work, but pleasant change to be writing again.
23 rd Feb
Out to work again. A long day. Vaccination in Camp at night. Felt very 'blue' tonight, so turn in early.
26 th Feb
'Jeseme' Damn it! I believed my vaccination has taken! What next? (A Camp complete with Hospital move in. A batch leaves here for new camp.) Mauge not looking too well.
4 th Mar
'Jeseme' front teeth giving trouble.
6 th Mar
Still jogging along fairly well, and frequently dreaming of happy days.
14 th Mar
My 30 th Birthday, and I'm in Camp again sick, and unable to celebrate. Cannot eat and have the 'runs'. My thoughts concentrate on the possibility of being free for my 31 st ? I wonder? Just 26 when I joined the Army and now turned 30! What a world.
18 th Mar
Moved to new camp on second draft of 130 men. A lot of work to be done here, but whole outfit will be much healthier than B Camp. Large huts, unfortunately with leaky roofs and many mosquitoes, but plenty of fresh air. Very soon to be separated from Ken, but hope he will join me shortly.
20 th Mar
Damp, but reasonably comfortable. Still TAD with bad stomach but on the improve. The galley are making a wonderful success of meals, giving variety, and the men pay 30% for extra messing. A great success.
22 nd Mar
Settling slowly into new Camp Life. Rain every night so far, with water pouring into bedding, and little or no light. Start light duty work tomorrow at own request. Time rolls along, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to keep spirits up.When will it all end ?
25 th Mar
Managing all right on light duty, work till 1. p.m. 'tis as much as I can manage. Very stormy weather, and much rain through the roof.
28 th Mar
Still carrying on with light duty work -- though very tired when finished. Food still well cooked and flavoured.
3 rd Apr
Started Q.M. job pro-tem., but don't care for it very much.
9 th Apr Easter Sunday
Still doing Q.M. Remainder of B. Camp coming up tomorrow with 3 huts still not complete. Feeling very weak.
21 st Apr
Still Q.M. though may have to return to Ram. Party. Camp not very happy, everyone had quite enough.
29 th Apr 'Jeseme'
We expect a little pork in the soup tonight. Paying 50% extra messing . Have noticed quite a few men are getting dull witted -- little wonder in this life.
9 th May
Still Q.M.!! Food shortage is making this existence very unpleasant. I am steadily losing weight again, and apathetic -- can't be bothered to do anything -- horrible helpless, lost feeling, just drifting from day to day. Had all my hair off yesterday -- now look like a wizened old convict - also shaved beard off. And so we go on -- hoping and wondering and hoping -- when will we be free again.
12 th Jun
Still Q.M. Weighed today 55 kilos (approx 8 st. 10 lbs). Only 3 stone under weight.
17 th Jun
4 Years in the Army.
20 th Jun
Another death in the Camp. There seems no end to this hideous existence.
1 st Jul
Another month. - renewed hope. Continuing as Q.M. and health slowly improving. Camp strength now over 1,000. Water situation critical -- no rain for 4 weeks.
6 th Jul
Loss of another comrade Sgt. Danny Crooks - Argyles - died this afternoon at 4 o'clock. Four deaths since we came to this ill-fated Camp.
24 th Jul
The drought continues - no rain for 67 days. Water situation critical. More mail has arrived, and I am among the lucky ones again -- get mine in a few days time - though Ken received his today. Two more comrades died this month, making the total 6.
29 th Jul
Peter Morris dies from Dysentery - poor chap - he was only sick a fortnight - death no. 7
31 st Jul
Overjoyed to receive 13 more letters -- 11 from Mary -- 2 from Father. They know I am a prisoner of war, have received my first Red Cross post card. Drought still continues.
7 th Aug
Two more deaths -- total 9. Drought still continues, everyone very thirsty and dirty. Still Q.M. (Had the job over 4 months now.)
9 th Aug
Another death -- total 10
21 st Aug
Three inoculations TAB, dysentery, and cholera -- laid out flat. Ken in dysentery ward -- what a bright life this is. Deaths in this Camp now total 19.
28 th Aug
Two more inoculations, TAB and cholera -- very rough for 24 hours. Deaths now total 23. Drought continues..
5 th Sep
Another inoculation for dysentery -- deaths now total 26
12 th Sep
Small quantity of Red Cross stores issued -- very welcome -- though small. Deaths 32.
4 th Oct
Six bags of mail at H.Q. Deaths 34.
20 th Oct
Weighed today 56 kilos (8 st. 11 lbs.)
2 nd Nov
Started on Rambara. Deaths now 42.
20 th Dec
Weighed 55 kilos (8 st 9 lbs) Deaths 54.
End of Diary
It would appear from the above that May 9 th 1944 was the turning point lethargy was beginning to take over. After May 9 th the diary becomes spasmodic eventually ceasing on Dec 22 -- when in previous years he would be looking forward to Christmas. No doubt the increasing death roll played its part.
Harry Warburton who lived in Brierfield near Colne, Mary's home town, was in the Record Office at Palembang and he it was who sent all the papers from Palembang on to Singapore, whence they were eventually sent on to the families. Harry met both Eric's Mother and Father and his In-Laws shortly after arriving back in England.
From information given by Eric's great friend Harry Warburton, who was in the Camp's Record Office, Palembang, Sumatra.
Things took a serious turn in May this year ( After Germany's Surrender). The Japs took 400 of the strongest men from the Camp to Singapore. Soon after they left an order came through cancelling all entertainment and sports in the Camp, and the rations were cut by half -- approx. 6 oz. of rice, per man, per day. Our boys knew that it was to be a fight for their existence, and as the doctors had practically no medicine or drugs left, the death rate in the Camp went up rapidly. Our boys were kept informed of the war news by the use of a secret radio, and Eric lived to know of the Jap surrender and the use of the Atomic Bombs.
Eric was in Hospital again, appeared to be making good recovery from another attack of dysentery. The Hospital was a bamboo shack, and the beds made with bamboo strips -- the bedding and covering were rice sacks. It appeared that Eric had improved to the extent of having been moved into the convalescent hut.
On the night of Aug 19 th, Eric's friend (Harry ? ) was beside his bed -- they had a cigarette and coffee together, and he was shocked when he heard that Eric had passed away in the early hours the next day. Eric was then less than 7 st. (Original weight 12 st.10 lbs.) and his hair was almost white.
ERIC DIED 20 th AUGUST 1945 (AGE 31)
FIVE DAYS AFTER THE SURRENDER, AND ONLY THREE DAYS BEFORE THE AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE FLEW SUPPLIES IN.
"The Story of Eric and Mary"