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Old 15-08-20, 11:23
Hanno Spoelstra's Avatar
Hanno Spoelstra Hanno Spoelstra is offline
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Default VJ 75 - Lest We Forget

The 75th anniversary of the end of World War 2 triggers the recollection of my late father, Rob Spoelstra. He was born in the Netherlands East-Indies (now Indonesia) and lived there from 1931-1945.

During the war, the family was separated and sent to internment camps.His father was in a mens camp, his mother and sister in a women and children camp. At 12 years of age, he was taken away from his mother and put in a boys only camp. After V-J Day, he fled from the Japanese interment camp at Tjideng and went looking for his father, mother and sister.

When they hear the war is over, my father, as a 14 year old boy, and a friend decide to go and find their family. They had some letters via the Red Cross so they had a clue where they could be, not knowing if they were still alive. They traded some clothes for a couple of goose eggs, made a knapsack and crawled under the barbed wire and headed in the direction of their father's camp.
Out on the road they were stopped by a Japanese patrol (who were now tasked with protecting the Dutch against the Indonesians). They were about to be taken back to the camp, when a column of British-Indian Army trucks passed by. A British officer asked what was happening and after his explanation, my father and his friend were taken along by the British-Indian troops as they were heading in the direction of their father’s camp.
My father told me they “drove in trucks with peculiar back-slanted windows”, identifying them as Cab 13 CMP trucks. My father told me this story when I first showed him my Ford F15A CMP.

Luckily, my father was reunited with his father, mother and sister and they were repatriated to the Netherlands. First by trucks and a flight in a PBY Catalina, then back to the Netherlands by ship. All their belongings fitted in a single trunk. When they got back in The Netherlands they were given some clothes and some money. They had to move in with my great-grandmother and build up a new life.

My grandmother passed away some years after the war, she never fully recovered from the malnourishment and ailments contracted in the internment camp. The rest of the family went on to live a good life.

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Old 15-08-20, 15:39
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Richard Farrant Richard Farrant is offline
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Here is a link to the Commemoration ceremony today at the Australian War Memorial, the Master of Ceremony is my good friend Warren Brown.

https://www.facebook.com/7NewsAustra...6646634881364/
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Old 16-08-20, 04:31
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Default Repatriation

Hi Hanno

I remember some of these repatriated kids coming to my school when I was a kid living in Hillegome. There were also some kids of mixed marriages and that were also been sent to my school.

I worked with a lady in my office whose grandparents were repatriated to Lisse. They later immigrated to Australia. They endured a lot of hardship, cruelty and degradation.

There was a Dutch lady living here in Adelaide South Australia who was interviewed on the radio and had her story printed in the newspaper some years ago telling her story living as a16 year old girl in the Japanese Camp. She explained she was taken from her mother and used as a comfort girl for Japanese Soldiers until the end of the war.

There are so many stories of Japanese atrocities committed by the Japanese military on civilians and soldiers that would fill volumes. But that was 75 years ago, most people born after WW2 know very little about those times, apart from people of my age and older that can still remember.

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM - LEST WE FORGET.

Cheers

Tony
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Old 16-08-20, 04:39
Bruce Parker Bruce Parker is offline
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Thanks for that. I have a hard time blaming current generations for the sins of their ancestors. This goes from the recent WW2 horrors to those hundreds of years past.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Jo View Post
Hi Hanno

I remember some of these repatriated kids coming to my school when I was a kid living in Hillegome. There were also some kids of mixed marriages and that were also been sent to my school.

I worked with a lady in my office whose grandparents were repatriated to Lisse. They later immigrated to Australia. They endured a lot of hardship, cruelty and degradation.

There was a Dutch lady living here in Adelaide South Australia who was interviewed on the radio and had her story printed in the newspaper some years ago telling her story living as a16 year old girl in the Japanese Camp. She explained she was taken from her mother and used as a comfort girl for Japanese Soldiers until the end of the war.

There are so many stories of Japanese atrocities committed by the Japanese military on civilians and soldiers that would fill volumes. But that was 75 years ago, most people born after WW2 know very little about those times, apart from people of my age and older that can still remember.

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM - LEST WE FORGET.

Cheers

Tony
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Old 18-08-20, 11:43
Hanno Spoelstra's Avatar
Hanno Spoelstra Hanno Spoelstra is offline
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Default Lest we forget

Hi Tony, thanks for sharing that story.

WW2 - and other wars - are horrific and leaves deep scars in societies, both with those who serve in the forces, as well as civilians.

After enduring the hardships in the Japanese camps, my Father's family returned to Holland wih very little posessions. They were given some clothes suitable for the Dutch weather, and then had to make ends meet themsleves. My Grandfather got a government job to go into Germany and find back and reclaim Dutch assets (the Germans had robbed the country clean), like factory equipment but also an elephant which had been stolen from a zoo.

Everyone tried to pick up their lives, there was very little compassion as everyone had endured hardships and lost relatives and friends. If it wasn't fighting as a soldier or in the resistance, it were the German and Japanese concentration camps. Or the hunger winter in Holland. Or forced labour on the Burma railroad, in German factories being bombed by the Allies - and the list goes on.

Both my parent's families survived the war relatively unscathed, albeit with some losses. My Father's family was lucky in that they all survived the Japanese camps, although my grandmother came out very weakened - she never fully recovered and passed away a few years after the war. My father could talk about his experiences and did not hold a grudge against the Japanese. Though when we went to see the movie "Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence" in 1983, it did bring back some bad memories. So there was more than he told us. Despite his experiences, my Father never felt a real hate towards his former oppressor. But never wanting it to happen again, he always emphasized the importance of international peace and stability.

Like Bruce said, we should not blame current generations for the sins of their ancestors. AND we should never wipe out history as we can learn so much from it. Even more, we must learn from the bloodshed of our ancestors and do better ourselves - we owe it to them, otherwise their sacrifices would have been in vain.
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Old 18-08-20, 19:47
Preston Isaac Preston Isaac is offline
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Default Three veterans attend commemoration

Three Burma Veterans attended the Covid reduced annual Cobbaton Combat Collection VJ event. Here they are here still full of life, with our local Burma Veterans Standard Bearer, and the local RBL representive.
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Last edited by Preston Isaac; 19-08-20 at 14:50.
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Old 18-08-20, 19:55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Preston Isaac View Post
Three Burma Veterans attended the Covid reduced annual Cobbaton Combat Collection VJ event. Here they are here still full of life, with our local Burma Veterans Standard Bearer, and the local RBL representive.
Hi Preston,
Good to hear you were able to run the VJ event.

regards,
Richard
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Old 18-08-20, 20:23
Mike Cecil Mike Cecil is offline
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Default Civilian Detainees

Hanno's posts reminded me of some research I did several years ago concerning diplomatic and civilian detainees and the one exchange conducted between the Empire of Japan and the British Empire in 1942. The research was published in the Great Circle journal in 2014.

Readers may be interested to learn something of this little-known undertaking, so I have inserted the article text below. I don't know why, but the article has lost its footnote reference positions in the text, but you'll get the drift.

Mike

Trading Lives

The Civilian and Diplomatic Exchange at Lourenco Marques in September 1942.


By Michael K. Cecil
Colbert, WA, USA


The exchange of allied and Japanese civilian detainees at the neutral port of Lourenco Marques in 1942 is a little-known aspect of the Second World War. This short article examines that exchange – the only one to occur between the British Commonwealth and the Empire of Japan during the war – with emphasis on the Australian perspective.

In the early hours of 17 August 1942, the passenger ship City of Canterbury slowly moved clear of a Melbourne wharf, and proceeded down the main shipping channel of Port Phillip Bay. It was warm for a mid-August night, but there was still a hint of the few drops of rain that had fallen earlier in the day. Clearing the heads before dawn, the ship turned to starboard into the choppy seas of Bass Strait and set a westerly course for Fremantle. Putting into Fremantle briefly to replenish bunkers, the City of Canterbury then set sail across the Indian Ocean for the neutral port of Lourenco Marques in Portuguese East Africa. Although a rough and unhappy passage, with many of the passengers laid low by seasickness for much of the voyage, the ship arriving safely on 9 September.

The ship had seen more than its share of wartime voyages already, having been requisitioned as a troopship by the British Ministry of War Transport early in the war. Most recently, the ship, camouflaged and sailing without lights, was one of a large convoy carrying AIF troops and equipment back to Australia from the Middle East.

But this trip was different. Rather than running with the ship blacked out, the City of Canterbury had all its steaming lights blazing, and additional flood lighting to illuminate a large British flag and the word ‘Diplomat’ painted boldly on each side . This was, indeed, a special mission.

It had all started with the entry of Japan into the war the previous December. Within days, both sides of the conflict began rounding up enemy aliens and placing them in confinement. Although many nationals from Allied nations had left Japan and Japanese occupied areas prior to the outbreak of hostilities, there were still many more, including diplomatic officials, who now found themselves confined to their homes or removed to detention centres. And the number of civilian internees steadily grew as the Japanese quickly advanced across South East Asia. More than 1,500 Australian civilians were eventually captured and interned by the Japanese. Many, including those that went down with the Montivedeo Maru, would never see Australia again.

Similarly, at the outbreak of war, the various nations opposing Japan began gathering people of Japanese and, after January 1942, Thai descent into detention centres. By July, 1942, 4,170 Japanese and Thai enemy aliens were in detention in Australia, many of these having been transferred there from such far flung places such as the Netherlands East Indies, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and Noumea. They were detained in centres established at Loveday in South Australia, Hay in New South Wales and Tatura in Victoria. In addition, the Japanese Legation staff, including Minister Tatsuo Kawai, was confined to the residence ‘Carn Brea’, in Harcourt Street, Auburn, in Melbourne’s inner east.

Within days of the outbreak of hostilities, negotiations began between the Japanese government and the governments of the allied nations to exchange diplomatic staff and civilian internees. By February 1942, the port of Lourenco Marques was proposed as a suitable neutral location for such an exchange. Both sides agreed, and negotiations about the details slowly progressed. Although there were contentious points, an agreement was eventually reached in July. In the first exchange agreed to by the British Empire and Japanese governments, some 3,668 people - 1,834 from each side, both official and non-official - were to be exchanged in early September. Specially marked ships were to transport the nominated detainees to the neutral port under ‘safe conduct’. On the British Empire side, the El Nil proceeded from the United Kingdom with only a small number of detainees aboard, while the City of Paris carried over 900 detainees from India. The City of Canterbury traveled from Australia with 871 detainees, 34 of whom were Japanese officials. Also aboard the City of Canterbury were the cremated remains of the four Japanese submariners who had been recovered from Sydney Harbour following the midget submarine raid on the night of 31 May 1942, and a 77 man Australian guard unit. In addition, the British ships carried thousands of tonnes of relief supplies, including food, medicines and clothing, for trans-shipment into the Japanese vessels. The supplies were intended for British and Commonwealth prisoners of war being held by the Japanese, though where the supplies ended up is open to conjecture – they certainly don’t appear to have ever been issued to their intended recipients.

The Japanese used the passenger ships Tatuta Maru to carry 928 detainees, including the Australian legation from Tokyo, while the Kamakura Maru boarded 906 detainees, including several Australian non-officials, in Tokyo and other ports en route.

The transfer at Lourenco Marques went smoothly, and the majority of the now-liberated allied nationals, which included several other nationalities in addition to those from British Empire countries, boarded the ships for transit to Durban, South Africa, as the first leg of their journey home. Several of the Australian officials crossed into South Africa by train, while the remainder of the 112 civilians that were ultimately bound for Australia and New Zealand traveled aboard the City of Paris, disembarking at Durban on 13 September. Of those bound for Australia, only 30 were actually Australians, the remainder were a mixture of New Zealanders, British, Dutch, Norwegians, Poles, a Belgian and an American.

With most passenger space already committed, it was some time before berths to Australia could be allocated. Keith Officer, one of the Australian officials, managed to travel to Australia in late September, but the remainder had to wait in Durban until embarked on the Nestor on 28 October. Nestor berthed in Melbourne on 16 November, before ending her voyage in Sydney a few days later.

Although the Australian Government registered their disquiet over the small number of Australians actually released, in the end they had to be satisfied with the British explanation that only those that satisfied a rigid set of criteria which favoured families of officials, children and the infirm, could be included.

Despite the small number released, several certainly left their mark both during the war and in later life. Of the official diplomatic staff from the Australian Legation in Tokyo, Patrick Shaw and Frank Keith Officer went on to serve long and distinguished careers in foreign affairs. Both served overseas during the remainder of the war - Shaw in New Zealand and Officer in the USSR and later in China. Officer’s energetic and sympathetic efforts on behalf of Australian detainees released from Japanese detention at the cessation of hostilities was doubtless motivated, at least in part, by his own experiences of detention and repatriation. Three others –Bernard Kuskie, Thomas Eckersley and Montague Ellerton – all volunteered for service with the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve, serving as Paymaster-Lieutenants until after the end of the war.

A number of the non-official civilian repatriates also volunteered for service with Australian Forces. One in particular stands out. Indeed, the Japanese may have been disinclined to release the Shanghai Municipal Council’s 50 year old spectacled electrical engineer had they been more aware of Gother Mann’s previous record and special talents. Mann was born in Sydney in 1892. He volunteered for service with the First AIF, and saw action at Gallipoli and in France. Wounded in action, he was Mentioned in Dispatches in June 1918 and awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and leadership during the attack on Peronne in September 1918. By the early 1920s, he was working in Yokohama, only to lose everything during the devastating earthquake of September 1923. After a brief stay in Australia, he returned to the Orient, this time working for the Public Works Department of the Shanghai Municipal Council, where he remained until interned by the Japanese in late 1941. Soon after his repatriation, he volunteered for service with the RAAF. His special talents – he could read, write and speak Japanese fluently – were put to good use, and he was posted to the RAAF Element of the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) at GHQ, South West Pacific Area. Regarded as an outstanding officer, by the time of his retirement from the RAAF in late 1945, Mann had served in New Guinea in command of the advanced element of ATIS. The functions of the Section and Mann’s efforts were considered so important from an intelligence perspective that he was awarded an MID for his ‘important contribution to the success of the campaign’.

As for the fate of the ships involved in the repatriation of the Australians, this, in some ways, reflected the fate of their nations. The City of Canterbury, City of Paris and the Nestor all survived the war and were eventually returned to the control of their civilian owners. Nestor was the first to cease operations and head to the breakers yard in 1950, followed by City of Canterbury in late 1953. In 1956, the City of Paris ended its trading career, and followed the others to the breakers yard.

The Japanese ships, however, were both sunk within months of the exchange. The USS Tarpon was conducting an offensive patrol off the Japanese home islands when, on 8 February 1943, the Tatuta Maru was detected on radar. Closing to within range, the Tarpon fired a spread of torpedoes and registered a number of hits. The Tatuta Maru, fully laden with more then 1,400 Imperial Japanese troops headed for the major base at Truk Lagoon, went down quickly. There were no survivors. The Kamakura Maru suffered a similar fate soon after. On 28 April 1943, while on an un-escorted voyage from Manila to Singapore with 2,500 military and civilian passengers aboard, the Kamakura Maru was torpedoed by the USS Gudgeon. Struck by three torpedoes, the ship went down stern first ‘like a rock’. Only 465 survived.

The exchange of civilian detainees at Lourenco Marques was a small episode in a world war that engulfed the lives of millions. But to those involved it was a relief from the privations of detention in the hands of their enemies. Despite on-going negotiations, there were no further exchanges between the Empire of Japan and the British Commonwealth. There were just too many points of disagreement, and as the war’s progress moved in favour of the allies, the Japanese Government became less and less responsive to the overtures. Those Australian men, women and children not fortunate enough to be included in the exchange at Laurenco Marques in September 1942 remained scattered through internment camps in such far flung places as Singapore, China, the Philippines and the Japanese home islands, while over 3,200 Japanese civilians remained incarcerated in internment camps in Australia. All were doomed to suffer confinement for the duration of the war.

End Notes:
Now Maputo, in Mozambique.
Voyage Report: HMT City of Canterbury. Melbourne to Laurenco Marques. NAA file A989 1943/460/10/1 Part 4. The Master, Capt R Hetherington, stated that the bad weather encountered was due to unsuitable routing instructions.
Plowman, Peter, Across the Sea to War. Rosenberg, Dural, 2003, pages 360 & 363.
Specifications and work carried out to prepare the ship for the voyage is covered in detail in NAA file MP150/1, 674/202/1743 City of Canterbury – Painting as Diplomatic Ship. The work was carried out in Melbourne by United Ship Services Pty Ltd.
Formerly the Tatsuta Maru, and sometimes referred to as such in Second World War documents. The name was changed in 1938. Jordan, Roger, The Worlds Merchant Fleets, 1939. Chatham Publishing, London, 1999, page 258.
Details of both diplomats’ careers from the Australian Dictionary of Biography at http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography.
Details of Mann’s military service are contained in NAA files B2455, Mann GH and A9300, Mann, GH.
www.miramarshipindex.org.nz reference number 1135456. Broken up 11 August 1950.
www.miramarshipindex.org.nz reference number 1146325. Broken up 31 May 1953.
www.miramarshipindex.org.nz reference number 1146256. Broken up 24 February 1956.
Blair, Clay Jr, Silent Victory. Bantam Books, New York, 1976, page 406.
Blair, Clay Jr, Silent Victory, Bantam Books, New York, 1976, page 393-394.
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