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Japanese forces under British command in Java, late '45 (novel)

Discussion in '☆☆ New Recruits ☆☆' started by Rory Marron, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. Rory Marron

    Rory Marron New Member

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    Hello WWIIF Members

    I am the author of BLACK SUN, RED MOON: A NOVEL OF JAVA and (its second part) MERDEKA RISING. The story uses as its background the British (documented) use of surrendered Japanese troops alongside British and Indian units in defence of Western internees in parts of Java in the early days of the Indonesian revolution. The story has been reviewed (favorably) on Amazon and by ArRSe (British Army Rumour Service) website.

    I will be happy to answer questions about my research and/or background to my story, so I will check back regularly.
    Rory
     
  2. Dave55

    Dave55 Member

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    I heard of that in Indochina but didn't know it was done in Java too. I'll have to read it. Good luck.
     
  3. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Ditto, I saw pictures of Japanese helping the French in Indochina , but the Dutch Indies is a new one for me too
     
  4. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Well I did know that but before we examine why - reading the review of the book apparently one of the plots revolves around a Dutch lady who sells herself as an an officer's comfort woman in order to save her dying mother.

    You might prefer to read a real life story of a 17 year old Dutch Girl in Indonesia - the full story can be found on :

    http://www.japanfocus.org/-elizabeth_van-kampen/3002

    A nightmare
    When we came back from our work outside the prison, we saw some cars standing outside the prison, so we understood that we had important Japanese visitors. When we walked through the gate of our prison, we couldn't believe our eyes. Teenage-girls and young women stood in a queue, while Japanese officers were looking them over from top to toe.
    ….......
    On the 3rd of May 1945, 600 women and children from Ambarawa camp 9 arrived on foot, and on the 31st of May, 350 women and children came in from Solo. The next day, the 1st of June, 150 more women and children arrived from Solo. On the 4th of June, 21 women and children came in from Ambarawa camp 6 and, on the 3rd of July, 47 came in from West Java. Then, on the 3rd of August, 50 women left the prison and were transported to Ambarawa camp 9 and on the 8th of August, 2,094 women and children walked into our prison.

    It became extremely crowded. We numbered some 5,300 women and children trying to stay alive in this rank, filthy prison. It was really disgusting. I think that it was just to torment us. I was absolutely convinced that Japan was going to lose this war against the Allied Powers. Surely this couldn't go on forever?
    My mother and Henny looked ill. They had pellagra. Big red spots broke out, especially on their arms and legs, because of a vitamin deficiency. Jansje was completely apathetic, the poor girl just sat there in front of our cell, waiting until some food was brought to us. And I had beri-beri, also a vitamin deficiency disease. My face and belly were swollen, full of water, or at least that was how it felt. My mother was losing some of her teeth, which gave her lots of trouble, and there was nothing we could do to stop this.
    My poor sister Henny looked dangerously yellow from jaundice, and my poor mother was a bundle of nerves. I was quite worried about her. My mother just had to be better by the end of the war when my father would try to find us. We really had to fight to stay alive, day after day.............

    Elizabeth informs that all the young women and girls taken from the camps were sent to Semarang, a large port city on the north central coast of Java, from where they were dispatched to brothels for up to two months at a time. From her understanding, around 200 Dutch women and girls were forced to work as “comfort women,” alongside of course numerous Eurasians, Chinese and local women. One of the former Dutch “comfort women is an active member of the Foundation for Japanese Honorary Debt, as explained below.


    The Japanese Surrender
    Something strange was going on. We received a little more food than usual, and maybe it was just a tiny bit better in quality as well.
    …...
    At last we were told that the war was over. Japan had surrendered to the Allies on the 15th of August, nine days earlier. Nine long days the Japanese had kept this wonderful news to themselves. They knew that they had lost the war and that they should have given their Dutch prisoners their freedom, but they didn't.

    …....
    Yes, life was definitely better than before. The only trouble was that we were still living behind walls even though the war was over.
    I started helping to clean up the gudang (store) where the Japanese had dumped all sort of things. We found out that there were many boxes full with anti-malaria tablets, quinine, and several other medicines that could have saved the lives of the many who died in this prison.


    …......
    Again we are prisoners
    Not long after, we were ordered to stay inside the prison because groups of pemuda, or youth defending the newly proclaimed Indonesian Republic, were trying to kill Dutch prisoners, or so we were told. With Sukarno now the proclaimed President of the Republic, his supporters among the pemuda and others refused to accept Dutch rule. Again the gate of our prison was closed. We now had Japanese soldiers protecting us against angry young nationalists.

    ….....

    About two weeks later the Japanese soldiers left and Gurkha soldiers, serving in the British army, came to protect us.
     
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  5. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Good chapter on it with images in Purnells history of the second world war. Long time since I saw it...time to revisit
     
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 Member

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    You should speak to Tijgerb on WW2 Talk.com. He's doing masses of research on the area from 1945 to 1946.
     
  7. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Can you encourage Tijgerb to join our discussion - its a lot more free and easy here and (no disrespect to my Commonwealth, American, Finnish and of course Tamino) we certainly new "International" recruits to balance up the discussions.

    Unfortunately we seem to have lost a couple of regular Russian and Chinese contributors - and one Vietnamese - plus our German friends seem to have gone elsewhere.
     
  8. Rory Marron

    Rory Marron New Member

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    I'm pleased that quite a number of members have viewed this post (and a few have replied).

    My academic research was on Britain's responsibility for, and eventual repatriation of, surrendered Japanese in Southeast Asia, so I examined files relating to the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), French Indo-China (FIC), Thailand, Burma and Hong Kong. I covered a lot of ground, much of it political and diplomatic.
    The use by the British of Japanese in a security role in FIC as been documented (THE BRITISH IN VIETNAM by George Rosie being an early, if slanted, study. FIRST IN, LAST OUT by John Cross a first-hand account. British academics return to it from time to time but the most influential and respected work is probably by Stein Tonnesson.

    Events in the NEI were far more dramatic (and deadly). Britains first post-WW2 defeat took place at Surabaya in October 1945, when 49th Indian Infantry Brigade was almost annihilated. Over 430 men killed in three days including Brigadier Mallaby its commander. Only a truce brokered by Sukarno (president of the Indonesian republic) allowed 49 Brigade to withdraw (by sea to Semarang). This disaster resulted in the bombing and bombardment of Surabaya by the RAF and Royal Navy in November 1945 and a subsequent three-week fight to occupy what was Java's most pro-revolutionary city by 5 Indian Division. It is mainly events at Surabaya that have interested British researchers. Dutch scholars are generally critical of Britain's involvement in their empire.

    Rory
     
  9. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Thanks for returning to the forum Rory. My knowledge compared to yours is pretty thin, mainly gained from reading British occupation of Indonesia 45-46 and Empires at War (good on some countries but poor on Indonesia).

    I am going to refresh my memory first since it is some time since I read either but straight away I disagree with "Brigadier Mallaby" was Killed - he was assassinated.


    The Dutch had been working with the Americans since Indonesia formed part of MacArthur's Area of Operation (I believe that Mac had wanted to invade Indonesia along with Philippines but was vetoed by Truman.). With the invasion of Japan immanent, the area was passed over to the Mountbatten's South East Asia Command. This allowed the Americans to concentrate upon Japan. The British had assembled 700 ships and 250,000 men with a strong Paratroop force for Operation Zipper, to retake Malaya from the 100,000 Japanese Army there.

    On 1 August 1945, there was the notorious Imperial Edit to execute all Prisoners of the Japanese. This was rescinded under the Japanese Surrender terms on 15th August (amazingly 5 days later a further edict was sent out from Tokyo, permitting "all who considered the Allies might punish" to abscond from the Japanese Imperial Army and ordering destruction of any incriminating evidence).

    MacArthur had ordered that no surrender was to be taken until he had received the Formal Surrender of Japan (2th September). Thus for three weeks, these former areas of the the Japanese Empire were left at best to Japanese control but more often, anarchy.

    The Australians were given the task of taking surrender of Indonesian Borneo and Sarawak\North Borneo. Here the inhabitants were generally favourable to the Allies - having been badly treated by their new masters. The problems was the Japanese themselves who acting on the earlier Imperial Edict, were disposing of the evidence by beheading Allied Prisoners with the last Australian beheaded on 27th August while the Australian fleet bobbed at anchor waiting for the great man's signature in Tokyo Bay.

    The delay had fatal results in other areas. The Dutch assured the Mountbatten that they would be welcomed by Indonesians. The British had no intelligence on the situation and the Dutch were unhappy that the Americans were not taking the Japanese surrender (and I bet the British would be as well!). As a previous Governor of the Dutch East Indies was on record as saying "we governed for 300 years with the whip and we will govern for another 300 years with the whip". The Dutch rule had parallels with Boer Apartheid of South Africa. So despite reassurances, the welcome for returning Dutch was not likely to be friendly.

    However, ignoring MacArthur's instruction the Dutch had landed troops on Aceh in August to be met by violent resistance. Learning of killings of Dutch and Eurasians, the Dutch had approached Mountbatten and on 1st September, he had ordered the Japanese army in Indonesia to defended Dutch citizens from the increasing belligerent Indonesian Independence Forces.

    Mountbatten's instructions to his troops were "we are neutral in any dispute between the Dutch and Indonesians" - easier said than done.

    Unlike other parts, the Japanese Army in Indonesia made things infinitely more difficult by granting Independence in the dying days of its rule and handed over its weapons including heavy calibre items (or sold them or were stolen by) to Indonesian Nationalists.

    Thus when British Indian Army Paras dropped into Java in September they did not realise the hornet's nest that they were falling into was well armed and vastly outnumbered them.
     
  10. Rory Marron

    Rory Marron New Member

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    Scipio, I'm pleased there is serious interest. I’ve posted on two other forums but this one is the only one to ‘bite’ as yet.) I’m in a bit of a dilemma since I have posted wearing two ‘heads’: academic and novelist. I hope this will not cause too much of a problem. Hmm...

    ‘The British Occupation of Indonesia’ (by McMillan) is a very good study—of events in Surabaya after the British arrival. It does not examine why Surabaya was so ‘hot’ or well armed, or why the Brits got a passive, uncooperative reception from locals in Jakarta (Batavia) but open hostility in Surabaya, and Semarang. (Or why there was a high level of co-operation by the Japanese army in Jakarta, Bandung and Semarang but non-cooperation from the Japanese navy. I think ‘occupation’ is a misnomer. Allied forces only had two safe ‘bridgeheads’ on Java: a small area of Jakarta and the port area of Semarang. Bandung had was abandoned by Dec 1946 and Surabaya was abandoned very soon after it was captured by 5 Indian Div after a major operation, which raises questions in itself. Most of the 50 million population of Java never even saw a British (ie, Indian) soldier.)

    Here we go… A key reason for the violence in Surabaya was the ‘mistake’ made by the Dutch Navy liaison captain sent to Surabaya before the arrival of 49 Brigade. This officer, who had lived in Surabaya before the war, was sent by Admiral Patterson with strict written orders only to scout Surabaya. I won’t name him here but you can find him on the net. This man was either manipulated, deluded, encouraged or tricked by Admiral Shibata into accepting the surrender of the Japanese (and their arsenals) in the city. The captain had two just two junior officers with him. As soon as the surrender took place the revolutionary council and police in Surabaya placed him under arrest and emptied the arsenals (allowing the Japanese to intern themselves). It is controversial to this day. (In my novel I go for a combination of Dutch arrogance and Japanese manipulation. I don’t think I am too far off.) When the Dutch officer was freed from solitary by 5th Indian Div he had to be escorted back to Allied Forces NEI HQ disguised for his own safety as an Indian private to avoid reprisals from British and Indian soldiers out for his blood. Patterson wanted him court-martialled. London allowed the Dutch to spirit him out of Java. The Dutch held an enquiry about the ‘surrender’ in Surabaya in the late 1950s. No British input or representative was invited. The enquiry exonerated the Dutch captain and concluded that British errors were responsible for the disaster. I don’t think people realise how bad British-Dutch relations were in Java over so many things, not just lack of ‘intelligence’ but also policy and Mallaby [below]. The Dutch also wanted Britain to commit three divisions to invade Java and retake it for the Dutch crown as our ‘duty’ as Allies…)

    Mallaby’s death was indeed tragic. It was an opportunistic murder. The first academic study about his death (‘Who killed Mallaby’ by Parrot) came out in 1978 or so. Interestingly, very soon afterwards the official files were reclassified.) Mallaby’s death raised the stakes (and got the first headlines in British newspapers about Java…). He, very bravely, put himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. (This is my take in my novel.) There are photos of him perched on the front of the car holding a flag of truce amidst the mob. I corresponded not long ago with Major Derek Lane, who was Mallaby’s No. 2. He was supposed to be going to negotiate with the Indonesians but Mallaby decided to go instead. It was Derek who passed the two lieutenants with Mallaby the grenade (‘just in case’) with which they threw to make their escape.

    As for the NEI, the Dutch had been hoping for an American occupation of their islands because this would have been short-term. (The Americans being expected to go on soon afterwards to invade Japan.) The Netherlands was very wary of allowing the British a foothold into their wealthy colonies. Until Potsdam the NEI had been split between SEAC (Mountbatten) and SWPA (MacArthur). Sumatra was SEAC area, the rest of the NEI was SWPA. At Potsdam or just after MacArthur insisted upon SEAC taking over responsibility for the entire NEI. London had agreed but, crucially, had anticipated a least six-to-12 months to prepare. The sudden Japanese capitulation preparation threw all plans awry. Mountbatten protested against this decision very strongly. (Some of this is in his published diary.)

    Yes, the delay in taking the surrender of Japanese in the field was dreadful. In that three weeks there was also a severe ten-day storm that damaged ships and affected troops on board. But by then the fleet was not as big as you suggest. Mountbatten had wanted his ‘Asian D-Day’ for a year but Washington had stymied him all the way (by denying SEAC the shipping in the Allied Pool). After the surrender of Japan, the size of the Zipper fleet was immediately slashed. The landing itself was a disaster. (Beaches, un-surveyed, were too soft, and tanks and non-swimming Gurkhas cast off in too-deep water. The landing was unopposed but some hundreds of men drowned and tons of kit was lost. It was kept very quiet. (The RN report is still classified or was last time I asked for it.) And this was an unopposed landing! The Japanese who would have manned the extensive defences at Morab were lined up at Port Swettenham waiting to receive Mountbatten. (They could not believe the British had gone ahead with a hazardous beach landing.)

    There were other anomalies. Although the Japanese had surrendered militarily they considered that their jurisdiction over occupied territory in Southeast Asia still applied. Japanese military law was in force. French civilians ‘convicted’ of spying and other ‘crimes’ were executed in early September 1945 as were Japanese soldiers accused of 'anti-imperial sentiment'. (Cedille, the French official, who parachuted into Saigon in late August 1945 was arrested and kept in solitary for two weeks and was himself nearly shot.) The RAPWI (Release of Allied Prisoner of War and Internee) teams did go in to POW camps though, from about 22 August (in Java) and saved many lives. (On Sumatra there was a team in from end of July 1945). They did not attempt to take any surrenders, merely to secure aid for the prisoners.

    The political chronology of Indonesian independence is an interesting one. Too long for a post. Independence had been promised by the Japanese long before 1945. And the Japanese had since 1943 been training the PETA militia (66 battalions by 1945), equipping them with captured Dutch and British weapons. (So when the British ordered the Japanese not to hand over weapons there were already armed Indonesian forces who would not give up weapons.)

    The first Brits into Java were the crew of HMS Cumberland, who did tremendous aid work for prisoners and internees around Batavia from late August on. 1st Battalion Seaforth highlanders followed to Batavia in late September 1945. 4/10 Gurkha arrived in Semarang only in late October. Some British paras arrived in January 1946, I believe, going to Semarang. (Several dozen of them were later arrested for mutiny…)

    I hope this fuels the fire!
    Sorry I can only check back once a week. If this post is too long let me know.
     
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  11. scipio

    scipio Member

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    No fire - just thanks. Fascinating read

    I had thought that the "fire" had gone cold!
     
  12. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    As one of the "viewers" of this thread, I can say that I find it interesting mainly because of my significant ignorance of this aspect of WWII. Your contributions here are very much appreciated, Rory.
     
  13. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Great and fascinating information, on an aspect of WW2 I never knew. Good stuff!
     
  14. Marjorie

    Marjorie New Member

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    Rory, I'm looking forward to reading your book! I'm working on a novel myself but this one is set in Singapore both immediately before the occupation and the early years. I find your research fascinating in both breadth and depth. I'm still wrapped in the research myself and need to remind myself that eventually I have to finish actually writing the darn book.

    I'd love to contribute more to the conversation but I'll do that when I've finished reading the book!

    Cheers,
    Marjorie
     
  15. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I just read this thread. Fascinating stuff. Rory, I hope you'll continue to contribute your knowledge. These threads show me just how much I don't know. I'm destined to never catch up. :(
     
  16. Rory Marron

    Rory Marron New Member

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    I'm happy to contribute. In fact I'm delighted there is interest in the aftermath of the war. (Truth, in so many cases, is stranger than [my] fiction.)

    Rory
     
  17. scipio

    scipio Member

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    )

    This is interesting Rory but of course refers to Japanese Surrender,Penang, Malaya. Still as you say I can find no mention of it.

    No one was taking chances in Malaya, the Japanese Commander (Itaguchi I believe) had not accepted the Surrender and Tokyo had to send another General to order him to lay down his arms. With 100,000 troops at his disposal it would have been no walk over especially as their fanaticism as in no doubt – 300 Japanese Officers committed ritual suicide in one act in Singapore.

    The British in Burma lacked basic equipment and had very little experience of Landings and I can think of only one where the conditions were similar to the sand and coral beaches of the Pacific.
    The Arakan, Burma is tidal Chaungs and Mangrove Swamp.

    [​IMG]

    This is typical of the Burmese experience. Landing by Higgins Boat (DUKWs hopeless)and trudging through mud up to the waist.

    This one at Mebon by RM Commandos, had been surveyed by SBS (surprised that Penang was not!) but was the best of a poor selection. Luckily it surprised the Japanese who were only able to bring artillery to bear and then the shells sunk in the mud causing little damage. They were able later to get tanks ashore by blasting rocks and dumping the stuff into the mud.
     
  18. Rory Marron

    Rory Marron New Member

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    I think it is very odd that, even now, there is so little information on Operation Zipper. It was, after all, to have been the third largest landing of the war so far (after Normandy and Anzio). Scipio has metioned 700 ships -- but this was Zipper 'on paper' and would have required many vessels involved in other Theatres of War being assigned to SEAC. This was always going to problematic with the Americans. Of course the British were taking no chances with the Japanese. (I understand that in Hong Kong a couple of suspected suicide boats were not given the benefit of the doubt by the first RN ships at Hong Kong -- going in asap to prevent Chiang Kai Shek taking the Japanese surrender. But Zipper was mid-September, after the surrender in Tokyo Bay, and General Browning had already met with General Numata (who was effective if not titular control after Terauchi's stroke) at Rangoon (24/25 August?). And small RAPWI teams were already negotiating with Japanese on the ground. I think one reason for the lack of info is that the Press were probably not interested in the landing, they were already in Singapore and Tokyo. I think that although censorship rules had been relaxed the Admiralty could still suppress 'bad news'. Some time ago I had a letter from a former medical orderly on HMS Bulolu, which had been designated a hospital ship for Zipper. I paraphrase as I do not have the letter to hand but I remember it distincly. It reads 'about four hours after zero hour the first load of bodies [drowned Gurkhas] were lifted aboard. It was grim'. I had put Zipper on the back burner, as my research did not require me to pursue it. I wonder if all the files will ever be released?
     
  19. Richall

    Richall New Member

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    Rory:
    my father was the RAPWI doctor under Tull for the Ambarawa / Magalang area. Tull's memoirs are in the Liddel Hart military archives part of the London U on the Strand (I think). I have done a lot of amateur research, contacting many camp survivors in Holland and overseas, and I have a small photo album from my dad also. I will try and get hold of your book...I have always thought this would be a great movie.
    Regards
    Richall
     
  20. Mark Howson

    Mark Howson New Member

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    Hi Rory, I wonder if you could be so kind in helping me or directing me in the right direction. I have recently discovered through family members and researching on forces war records that my great uncle Norman was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. His full name was Norman Robinson he was born on 24th June 1920 in Rochdale Lancashire. Written in his file its says he was captured on 7th march 1942 but doesn't say where he was captured and the date of liberation was either on 9th September 1945 or 2nd September 1945 but yet again doesn't say where or who liberated the camp. He was in the RAF assigned to the Radio Installation Maintenance Unit of the rank of Leading Aircraftman, his service number was 1006980. It states in his file he was imprisoned on the island Java as well as a secondary POW camp in Wakayama Ikuno osaka 9b. I was told by a family member that they where all order to surrender at Singapore but not to sure how true that was. I wonder if you could help me find the information on the History of his travel to Singapore, what happened to him after the fall of Singapore, What POW camp was he in and possible some of his experiences during his time in these camps, where he was captured and where and who liberated the POW camp. I would be very grateful if you could reply to my post hopefully with the relevant information or an idea of where i could find it. Many thanks Mark Howson.
     

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