Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home 

Life in Imprisonment - Page 2
D/S Woolgar's Story
The purpose of these 2 pages is to describe the camps and the daily routines. I've chosen to omit descriptions of beatings and cruelty, as there are several accounts on the Internet about that side of life in the various camps (see the links listed on my Japanese POW Camps page, and also on my Merchant Marines/Ships/Navies Links page). Additionally, my text under Aramis also has details about Norwegian prisoners of the Japanese (scroll to "Prisoners of the Japanese").

On this page:
Woolgar's Fate | Andaman Islands | Changi Prison | Sime Road Camp

Life in Imprisonment - Page 1
On I-10, Life at Ofuna, Life at Omori, Madrono's Men.

 D/S Woolgar's Fate: 

Manager: Hans Borge, Tønsberg
Tonnage: 3060 gt, 1811 net, 5430 tdwt.
Call Sign: LDTD.
Captain: Marcus Iversen.

For information on her voyages prior to being sunk, please go to my page about D/S Woolgar.

Woolgar had been in Colombo for 3 weeks. On Febr. 23-1942 she departed Trincomalee (compare with this archive document) together with M/T Belita (and 1 other ship), initially bound for the straits of Makassar with a cargo of 4500 tons coal and 450 tons war materials (incl. ammunition and TNT), escorted by a corvette. She had a complement of 48, of whom 38 were Chinese. It appears that 3 days after departure Woolgar was ordered by radio to go to Tjilatjap. This was just before the defense of Java broke down, and in the chaos that followed Woolgar was not notified of the new situation. Consequently, she headed directly into danger.

In the morning of March 7, when about 150 miles southwest of Tjilatjap an aircraft was spotted overhead, circling above them several times before disappearing to the north. Woolgar turned around and headed south again, having decided to return to Ceylon, but a couple of hours later several Japanese aircraft (some say 5, others 8) came in from the port side and immediately attacked with bombs and machine guns. 1 bomb hit in No. 3 hold behind the bridge, while another hit in No. 2 hold in front of the bridge, and yet another in No. 2 hatch on the starboard side.

The Chinese crew had launched 2 lifeboats after the first of 3 bomb attacks, and eventually the Norwegian officers were also able to get into them. 2 British gunners, Harold Bird and Norman Pearcey (ref. external links below), both in their 20's, were killed when they stayed on board to continue shooting at the aircraft until the ship sank in spite of the order to get in the boats. Some Chinese crew members were killed when the aircraft returned and peppered the lifeboats with bullets. Those who could swim jumped overboard and kept themselves under water for as long as they could, but 3 Europeans were injured during that attack; the Estonian 3rd Engineer Rudolf Valb broke his hip due to an accident when the lifeboat was launched, and while in the boat he was hit by a bullet in the same leg. 1st Mate Birger Olsson was hit by a bullet in his arm, and the British gunner Denis Whitehouse was wounded in the head. 2nd Mate Roald O. Daler was in the water at the time, and escaped injuries. After they had gotten in the boats it looked like Woolgar received a bomb where the ammunition was stored, resulting in a tremendous explosion whereupon she sank by the bow in about 12 minutes.

7 Europeans and 17 Chinese were in the port lifeboat, under the command of Birger G. Olsson. Lifeboat No. 2 (starboard) was taken in tow with 17 Chinese on board. 2nd Mate Roald O. Daler took over command of this boat, and 1st Engineer Jaan Svads and Gunner Whitehouse were also transferred to No. 2 boat, making it 21 people in No. 1 boat and 20 in No. 2 boat. They searched for other survivors but none were to be seen.

According to Guri Hjeltnes' account of life in the two lifeboats there was tension from the start between the Chinese crew and the Norwegian officers, mostly due to the differing views on what had to be done with regard to the rationing of water etc. in order to survive. Food and water were frequently stolen, and when the officers confronted the thiefs threats with axes followed, along with demands for more food. This resulted in very little sleep, as no one felt safe enough to let their guard down.

Initially, course had been set for Colombo via Cocos Island rather than risking imprisonment if they headed for Java (which was much closer). After 12 days the Chinese refused to continue; they wanted to get to land, either Java or Sumatra. The situation became intolerable and eventually the Europeans had to assemble in one lifeboat, along with some Chinese who chose to stay with them, whereas No. 2 boat was given to the remaining 14, who staked out their own course. I've been unable to determine whether they reached land, or what later happened to them if they did. (According to Roald Daler's memoirs the boatswain had gone with them).

Lifeboat No. 1 sailed on. After a big storm they came off course and when it was discovered they were a couple of hundred n. miles closer to Australia than their intended destination they decided to head in that direction, a decision also based on the direction of the wind. The Chinese lost their will to go on, and one by one they died, only 2 were still alive after 59 days. (2nd Mate Roald Daler indicates in his memoirs that he believes one of the reasons the Chinese died so soon was their addiction to opium, saying 80% of the crew they had at the time were opium smokers. Once in the lifeboat they had no supply of the stimulant, and just withered away). By then the 3rd Engineer was also dying of his wound and complications with his hip, they lost him on the 70th day and buried him at sea. Shortly thereafter the last Chinese died, a young messboy.

A heavy rainfall provided them with extra drinking water, while seagulls supplemented their rations of food. These were cooked in coconut oil which they found in the boat. After 86 days they saw land. By then the wind conditions had forced them to change course again towards Ceylon, and thinking they were now approaching India their spirits rose. The disappointment when they landed and spotted a ship with a Japanese flag approaching them must have been indescribable. For 88 days they had fought for their lives in the lifeboat, only to end up in Japanese hands afterall. They had landed at Port Blair on the Andaman Islands off Burma (the islands had been taken by the Japanese while they had been in the boat), about 600 miles east of their intended landing point, the date was June 7 (statements at the maritime hearings say June 4).

The men in the lifeboat were (those not mentioned before are in bold text):
1st Mate Birger G. Olsson from Sem (nationality Swedish?, 43)
2nd Mate Roald O. Daler, Tønsberg (31)
3rd Mate Einar Eide, Ålesund (30, previously 2nd mate of Fingal)
1st Engineer Jaan Svads, Skien (37)
2nd Engineer Jens Limkjær, Larvik (52 years old, died of dysentery and exhaustion at Port Blair on June 17-1942, [Roald Daler says he died June 20] and was buried there),
and the British gunner Denis Whitehouse (21). Here's a Guestbook message from a relative.
After 3 months in a hospital they were moved to a labor camp, then 6 months later to Singapore where they were placed in separate camps(?), and were prisoners of the Japanese until Oct. 25-1945. (Scroll down for more on that - see also Merchant Marine Prisoners of War where I've started to assemble all the information I can find on Norwegian seamen in Japanese imprisonment). According to this Guestbook message, Denis Whitehouse did not go with the others to Singapore. David Miller, who posted that message, has since told me the following (his source is the report by the Naval Officer in Command of the Reoccupation which is held at the British National Archives):

I have made some progress on the story of Able-Seaman Dennis Werhouse(?). He died some years ago but I have located and corresponded with his partner, who is still alive although, I imagine, quite elderly. She has lent me two cassette tapes of an interview Dennis did with a friend of his at some time in the 1990s. It is all very amateur, with the noise of teacups being stirred, dog barking, etc, and the pace is very slow - I get the impression that the recorder was on the kitchen table! Nevertheless, it has the ring of truth and many of the events Dennis refers to check with evidence I have gathered from other sources. I have no means of making a duplicate recording - it took me long enough to find a cassette taperecorder just to play the tapes!!

Your interest lies in Norwegians and my interest is in other wartime events in the Andamans, but I thought that you might like to update your website info as follows:
1. Dennis had no idea the captain had survived - he assumed that he had been lost with the ship.
2. One day, while Dennis and the four Norwegian officers (one had died) were ashore in Port Blair, Dennis saw some Japanese beating up an Indian who could not get their car to start. Dennis went to the car and started it. The Japanese considered him a wonder man and for several years he was employed as a driver/mechanic.
3. When the Norwegians were sent to Singapore, Dennis was kept behind. I don't think he had any option - the Japanese just kept him. He was then the sole European and there was no way he could escape. He continued to be employed as a driver until some time in late 1944 when he was sent to Ross Island (offshore from Port Blair). He was employed there as a labourer/general dogsbody until the British arrived on 7 Ocbober 1945.
4. Dennis never left the Andamans between landing there on 7 June 1942 and the arrival of the British on 7 October 1945.

It is a very curious story. The Japanese on the Andamans were very brutal towards the Indians living there. There were frequent beheadings and beatings were a daily occurence. There were even some poison injections. Thus, they could have killed Dennis at any time, but he seems never to have felt under any direct threat. He cannot have been of any intelligence value to the Japanese: he was an anti-aircraft gunner, with no access to secret equipment or codebooks. They never sought to get any propaganda value out of him - for example, by parading him in front of newsreel cameras or newspaper reporters. When questioned on the subject after the war the Japanese admiral/governor could not offer any real explanation, other than that the Japanes sailors had regarded him as "some sort of pet." Also, there was no question of Dennis having helped (or even offered to help) the Japanese. So, it remains a very odd, one-off event.

 The captain's story: 

While the other officers were leaving the ship Marcus Iversen ran back to his cabin to see to his dog ("put him to sleep"), then jumped from the sinking ship into the sea. He had also spotted a Chinese crew member and took him along, but the 2 of them were too far behind the others to reach them. All they could do was watch as the lifeboats were fired upon by the aircraft. Just before dark an empty lifeboat drifted near, but the Chinese man disappeared while swimming towards it, so the captain continued alone, reaching land at Kota (Kotz?) Agoeng on southeast Sumatra after 18 days (March 25). He spent some time with a native family who owned a milk farm, but rumours of his presence reached the Japanese, and he was imprisoned until Sept. 20-1945. Burns on his legs bore witness of torture, and sometimes he had caught rats for food. He also learned the Malayan language well enough to be able to teach in the various camps he was in. After having been freed he was sent by plane to Singapore where he was admitted to the naval hospital, and on Oct. 8-1945 he was declared well enough to be released and go home. The others did not know he had survived until the war was over, and he did not know how the others had fared until after the war, though he had attempted to get information through the Red Cross and other authorities while in Singapore, and had also asked the Japanese military authorities to investigate on Sumatra. My Guestbook has a message from the captain's granddaughter, who's looking for more information.

Related external links:
Stavern Memorial commemoration - Name of the ship is spelt incorrectly. 2nd Engineer Jens Kristian Limkjær is commemorated. This website claims that 1st Engineer Jaan Svads was the Estonian who died in the lifeboat (incorrect).

The British Gunner Norman Pearcey is commemorated at Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent.
I also found a British Gunner Harold Bird commemorated at Portsmouth Naval Memorial in Hampshire (the date fits with that of the loss of Woolgar).

The Netherlands East-Indies 1941-1942 - includes articles on The conquest of Java Island, The Japanese Invasion of Lesser Sunda Islands, Sumatra Campaign, Battle for Palembang, Riouw Archipelago, the invasion of British North Borneo and much more.

 The Fate of Woolgar's Survivors: 

 6 months on Andaman Islands: 

A motorboat was sent out to tow the exhausted men to shore where a truck waited to take them to a large, heavily guarded bungalow, belonging to the Japanese commander. The survivors were so week they could barely stand up and with great difficulty they ascended the stairs to the 2nd floor where they were placed on the floor to be questioned with the help of an Indian interpreter. Their papers and money had to be handed over to be "taken care of" by their captors. The diary which had been kept during the 88 days in the lifeboat, with details on the voyage, their problems, who had died, number of seagulls captured for food etc. was also taken from them as was a stick the 2nd engineer had used to mark each day spent in the boat.

The bungalow was surrounded by a wide veranda with wide staircases leading up to it in the front and on each side, and this is where they slept that night after having been fed a clump of rice. Before long they all longed to be back in the lifeboat. They soon learned that at mealtime the officers ate first, then their Indian servants and if there was anything left over the shipwrecked men were fed, though they were often "forgotten". They noticed that the servants placed leftover food in some boxes in the evenings, so the Norwegians would sometimes help themselves to that whenever they were able to sneak by unnoticed at night.

They made the acquaintance of an Indian fellow whose job it was to find out as much as possible from them about the British ports they had visited. He told them he was an ex olympic medal winner in swimming in Berlin. He also wore a medal on his chest which he told them was awarded to him in recognition of his spying activities for the Japanese. (They met this man later on too, in jail at Port Blair, but this time minus the medal and flashy uniform. It turned out that the reason for his being there in the first place was the fact that he had fallen in love with an Indian actress who wanted nothing to do with him. One night, at a movie theater in Calcutta he had tried to shoot her but missed, with the result that the bullet had killed somebody else and as punishment he got jail for life and was sent to Port Blair, which had been Indian before the Japanese invasion. The Norwegians also later found out that his story about the olympic medal was in fact true).

One night, while still at the bungalow a Japanese naval officer came to visit them, having heard about their lifeboat voyage and wanting to know more. He later sent a car for them after having invited them to his house for dinner. Pictures were taken of them which they were told would go to a Japanese newspaper along with an article about them. They were extremely well fed that night but the 2nd Mate Roald O. Daler and 2nd Engineer Jens Limkjær came down with a viscous case of dysenteri, in fact the 2nd engineer died not long afterwards. About 2 weeks after having landed on the island all the survivors from Woolgar were sent to the hospital there, except for the British gunner Denis Whitehouse who several days earlier had been given the job as chauffeur for the Japanese officers. He often drove them to a club they had and while waiting for them in the kitchen he was able to get hold of some food, money and cigarettes which he shared with his shipmates.

At the hospital/jail they were sent to they had a whole block to themselves. It consisted of 3 floors with 35 cells on each floor (there were 5 identical blocks). This had previously been a British punishment colony, housing prisoners who had been convicted of murder in India and Burma. After a few months in jail those prisoners would often be used as workers on the various plantations belonging to the state, and were then also given houses to live in and could have their families with them. After about 20 years, when their time was served, they could start their own businesses. But following the Japanese occupation all the prisoners were freed regardless of how much time they had left to serve. The 2 dysentery patients were given a cell each, while the rest of the crew were placed in the hallway. Roald Daler says they were taken to this place on June 20, and that the 2nd engineer died right away, while other sources says he died on June 17. Daler adds that he thinks the Indian doctor and his assistant did everything in their power to save him but to no avail. Daler himself was only 45 kg at this time. All in all the doctor did what he could for them all with what he had available to him. Daler says it was the barley soup that got him through the crisis; it was the only nourishment he could keep in him and little by little he recovered.

At the jail were also a lot of female inmates. The Norwegians were warned against having anything to do with them, and to not accept food or cigarettes from them (reason given was venereal diseases), but no heed was paid to this warning and they gratefully accepted whatever the women, in spite of their own meager rations, smuggled over to them. The entire Indian population were helpful in that respect. Under pretense of needing a haircut the Norwgians asked for, and were given permission to go into town and on these trips they were invited in and fed by the locals, but these escapades came to an abrupt halt one day when the bungalow chief happened by in his truck and caught them, immediately hauling them back to where they belonged.

After they had been "released" from the jail the Norwegians were sent to work at a car workshop, though none of them really knew anything about cars. The Japanese cars usually had bad batteries, so the private cars more often than not had to be push started. Not so the trucks, which were needed to take the soldiers to the anti aircraft installations. These trucks were parked in front of the bungalow, always ready for action, while the drivers themselves lived at the bungalow so that they could dash out to the trucks as soon as the alarm went and pick up the soldiers. These trucks were kept in top shape at all times. The sailors' car mechanic carreer didn't last long; after about a week in the trade they were set to rake the bungalow courtyard and keep it free of leaves from a large tree on the corner.

Behind the workshop there was a civilian hospital consisting of several barracks. In one of the barracks there was a Catholic deacon who treated all manner of sores. Patients had to bring their own sheets, and often their family members had to act as the doctor's assistants as there was a shortage of everything, including equipment and medicines. This deacon saw to it that the hospital's barber provided his services to the Norwegians when necessary, free of charge, with the understanding they would recommend him to the British once the war had been won. The hospital also had a pathological institute which had previously been run by an English doctor but which was now run by his assistant ("former murderer").

There were about 70 Japanese living in the same house as the Norwegians. The Japanese had a strict ritual to follow. Their day would always start with exercises in the coartyard and facing Tokyo they would honour the Emperor by bowing in that direction. Every day 10 of them would get leave and at 4 in the afternoon they would line up for inspection. 2 wooden sticks would be handed to them, 1 would entitle them to a bottle of beer at the club, while the other would provide them with a woman (I get the understanding prostitutes had been imported from Formosa for the purpose).

4-5 oil barrels had been placed in the courtyard; 1 of them had been rigged up in such a way that a fire could be lit underneath it. The prisoners' job was to fill all the barrels with water and keep an eye on the fire that kept the water in one of the barrels warm. The bathing took place according to rank, officers first, then the soldiers and then the Norwegians. By that time it was late at night and needless to say the Norwegians were not in the least tempted to get into the smelly bathwater.

One day 2 of the Norwegians were called the bungalow where a large piece of paper and pencils were handed to them. They were asked to draw the harbour at Colombo, paying particular attention to marking the British gun positions, barracks etc. The Norwegians did draw the harbour as they remembered it from visits there with Woolgar, but didn't know much about barracks and gun installations and such, nor were they pressured further on the subject. They were given food and cigarettes for the drawings.

All in all, I get the impression the prisoners were treated fairly well while at Port Blair. Roald Daler says that after 6 months, in Dec.-1942 they were told they were to be moved to Singapore (Dec. 2?). The ship that was to take them there was full of people, mostly Japanese and Koreans, but to their surprise there was also an English family; they had previously gotten the understanding that all the British families had been evacuated before the Japanese came. The Deakes family consisted of a little boy, his 70 year old father and his 23 years younger mother, and was the only family who had still owned their own coconut plantation as Mr. Deakes had refused to leave*. They had apparently not been treated very well; Mrs Deakes had a bad back from having been hit. She had been a correspondent for the paper "The Statesman" in Calcutta. The first stop the ship made was at Penang, then Sabang on the south point of Sumatra, arriving there on Dec. 8, then reached Singapore late in the afternoon, possibly Dec. 11 or 12. After having been examined by a doctor, the Europeans were taken by boat to shore, then by bus to Changi Prison.

* My Guestbook has a message from their grandson, Brandon Deakes. He sent me his grandmother's account, which can be found by clicking on the following:
Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6

 The Singapore camps: 

The best known camps in Singapore were Changi POW Camp, Changi Prison, and Sime Road Camp. The Changi camp was established after Singapore's fall on Febr. 15-1942, and was the main camp for the captured British forces. Located in the northwest of Singapore Island near the village of Changi it was the former British military station Changi Barracks, built by the British and therefore had the characteristic appearance of a British outpost in The Far East, with barracks and warehouses. This camp became the largest multinational POW camp, and a sort of a "distribution central" for all the prisoners in southeast Asia. At first there were 50 000 British and other Empire troops there, but very quickly work forces of several thousand men were recruited from Changi and sent to various projects on Sumatra, Burma, and Thailand (the Burma-Siam railway for instance) and other Japanese occupied territories. Due to the huge amount of prisoners the Japanese gave responsibility for the administration and daily running of the camp to prisoners. The guards were mostly Indians from the Indian National Army. The camp was in existence until May 31-1944, when the military prisoners were transferred to Changi Prison, located 4 kilometers further south (along the coast towards Singapore). This prison was built for the British by American engineers in the 1930's, using Sing-Sing as a model. The civilians were moved to Sime Road Camp.

Related external link:
The Fall of Malaya and Singapore

 Life at Changi Prison: 

Roald Daler
was placed on the 1st floor of Block B of the prison. There were 35 cells on each side of an aisle, each cell measuring 2 x 2.5 meters with room for 3 people. However, the Norwegians were placed on the floor in the aisle and had 1 x 2.5 meters at their disposal, an arrangement which allowed space for 70 prisoners in this area. Within this small space each prisoner had his earthly possessions, which of course in the case of the shipwrecked Norwegians were not numerous so lack of space was not a big problem in that respect. The "ceiling" above them, in other words the floor of the level above, was made of finely meshed netting, so it wasn't rare to get grass and other items sprinkling down on them. In the floor below them there had previously been "work halls" but now all machinery had been removed to make room for the prisoners who were scattered all over the floor. Later, in Jan.-1943 when more Norwegians arrived from a ship that had been captured by a German raider the basement beneath the eating area was expanded, and Woolgar's men were moved to this area and could thereby enjoy the company of their own countrymen. The eating area was at a right angle to the B-block and from an opening in the brick wall they could see the courtyard. There were 60 people in this basement; in addition to the 13 Norwegians there were some Dutch mining (tin) engineers and the rest English. Within each group a leader was chosen, each block in turn had a top leader who would be responsible for taking any given dispute or issue to the top spokesperson for the jail who lived in the same building as the Japanese.

On the right side along block B an overhang had been built under which showers were installed, but I get the understanding they weren't used very much, though they could often hear the showers being used in the women's department on the other side of the wall. The jail was surrounded by walls and next to the inner wall there was a deep ditch for the rain water to go. Straight across from this ditch there were toilets with space for about 50 and a "floodgate" had been built to collect water. When this floodgate was opened the water would effectively rinse away the contents of the ditch. In addition to the 2 walls mentioned there was also an outer wall, 8-10 meters high with a watch tower in each of the corners and one on each side. There was a tall bell tower at the entrance where the "reception" was located as well as day rooms for the guards.

At the jail there was a group they called the "Privileged Class", high ranking, rich Englishmen from Singapore and Malaysia, one of whom was Governor Sir Shenton Thomas and wife. He was later interned in Japan but his wife remained at Changi Prison. This privileged group never ate rice, their meals were cooked for them by Eurasians. Ingredients for these were partly purchased outside the jail, partly from the jail's cantina, where they had canned foods which anyone with cash could buy. The "under privileged" group could buy things on credit here, provided they could get someone from the privileged group to guarantee on behalf of the English state that the money would be repaid after the war. The Norwegians were able to buy tobacco in this manner. While they were there they got Red Cross packages 3 times. These packages came in 3 forms, English ones, American ones and Canadian ones, with the American ones being the best. In order to get a taste of each kind 3 prisoners would get together and share the contents of their packages, an arrangement which in everyone's opinion was the most democratic way of handling it.

Time was spent in various ways. Poker seems to have been a popular passtime, as was bridge. Some would read (the camp had a large library of books), others would write books; an English missionary, who spoke fluent Chinese even worked on a new edition of a Chinese/English dictionary. There was also a big piano which was used by amateurs and professionals alike. In the courtyard plays were performed, using men dressed as women where the part would necessitate it. This was very popular entertainment. They also had a choir, others played instruments, some were good soloists, there was even a band. The courtyard was also used for football matches, and the various teams were given names of English football clubs. The library was also very popular, having books within all kinds of subjects. All who could work had positions according to their abilities and according to what positions they had held "outside", for instance firemen, teachers, health services, judicial system etc. Although this was not by any means a situation the Norwegians would have picked for themselves had they been able to choose, and the commander of the camp was an evil man who hated everything British (according to Roald Daler, it was believed he had suffered at the hands of the British in China), those who had come from Port Blair had a fairly tolerable time of it at Changi in the beginning (as long as no rules were broken, that is, and apart from the general conditions and lack of food), but that would soon change.

The "privileged" group had been able to get a hold of some radioes on their shopping excursions in Singapore. These were smuggled into the camp and provided the prisoners with a chance to keep up with what was going on in the world. This activity went unnoticed for quite a long time, but some journalists started to write down the news for distribution to as many prisoners as possible. After a while, since they were never caught, this distribution became too careless and open and was inevitably discovered. On Oct. 10-1943 a great number of prisoners were taken away, while the rest were made to stand on the parade ground all day long, to wait while a group of soldiers were searching through their belongings, looking for radio transmitters and receivers. Kempei-tai (Japan's counterpart to Gestapo) had been notified and several prisoners tortured to death; 1 was publicly executed, he was the driver of the cars that went between Singapore and the jail daily; he had many connections outside and was one of the ones who owned a radio. From then on things changed for the worse at Changi, and the rules became considerably stricter.

 Life at Sime Road Camp: 

On May 1-1944 all the civilian prisoners, about 3500, were moved to Sime Road Camp in Singapore. I get the understanding that this camp had up until then housed over 10 000 British soldiers, who were now moved to Changi Prison. Before long a society was established at Sime Road which resembled the running of any society "outside", with fire services, a judicial system, etc. etc. with "employees" who had had similar jobs before they were imprisoned. Working hours were from 09:00 until 17:00 with a break from noon until 14:00. Each man was given a 1 m piece of "land" to cultivate, some growing spinach, others tomatoes, papaya, pumpkins or whatever was found to be growing well. They had a "nursery" where they could get all the tools and seeds needed. They also cultivated other areas, but any harvest from those had to be handed in. The golf course was also used to plant various vegetables, this area had very good soil which they heard had been brought in from Australia earlier.

The camp had large rats which became a big problem for the prisoners. The rats had typhus lice and if someone was bitten they would develop a high fever and other bothersome symptoms for a couple of weeks. There were many deaths among the elder prisoners because of this, while the younger prisoners seemed to recover more easily. The problem was eventually combatted with the acquisition of traps, and the rats caught in them were taken to a special place and drowned in a disinfected bath before they were burnt. They also managed to remove the tall, stiff grass where the rats had their homes, and after other items had been planted instead the rat and typhus problem disappeared, though was soon replaced by another more frightening decease. An Australian sailor died of dysentery, the kind transmitted by amoebas. It was believed he had contracted it from a boiled egg he had eaten outside the camp (the prisoners sometimes performed tasks in town). The egg may have had a crack in it, some of the white had escaped the shell and a fly may have landed in it. He also had a malaria attack and could not be saved. His friend who took care of him at the hospital also came down with the decease and died. There was a vaccine for this dangerous type of dysentery and those who worked in the kitchens were vaccinated, while at the same time several other precautions were taken by the team of doctors in the camp. The prisoners were so nervous they gladly followed all these new orders and there were no more cases of the decease.

The camp had more than 200 doctors interned, specialists in many fields. The system worked like it does in any regular society; a doctor would have to be seen first and if necessary he would then refer the patient to a specialist if need be. There was a lack of medicines at the hospital, as well as qualified nurses, so sometimes trained nurses from the camp's women's hospital would come over during the day to help out. Several areas of the camp had a type of clay which seemed to have a healing effect. Those who had sore feet would get better when they waded in this mud, and consequently the prisoners would never wear shoes when they were assigned to dig in areas that had this clay. It was even mixed with water for dysentery patients to drink.

As mentioned, the camp had a separate department for females. Indian sikhs kept watch at the "border" between the male and female sections. Women and children were allowed visits with their men every Sunday, and would meet in "The Orchard"; a garden that had many trees and also a playground for the children. It was heavily guarded, and no-one could get in without a special pass, though the males could visit the area on weekdays too, because it was on their side of the camp. But many a young lovesick youth would crawl underneath the fence to meet his sweetheart, pass or no pass. Those women who were able to get a hold of flour, sugar or other necessary ingredients would sometimes send over baked goods to their men and friends. The men in turn would chop wood for their stoves to enable them to use them. The men would also be sent over to help the women with some of the heaviest work, like digging and/or building cabins. Naturally, volunteers for this job were plentiful, among the married men who had their wives there, as well as among those who were looking for female companions. Once the war was over the restrictions eased and the men and women could freely visit eachother. A Mrs. Jølle is mentioned. She had 2 children with her, age 3 and 5 when the war ended, the youngest having been born in imprisonment. Her husband had died Nov. 6-1943 (according to "Ingen nåde"), he's listed on my POWs page 3.

 Free at last! 

About a week after the Japanese surrender a group of British soldiers were dropped in parchutes, mainly to inspect Changi Prison (which housed military prisoners at the time) to determine what was needed in the way of food and clothing. They also came by Sime Road, but that camp was the last to receive extra supplies. The situation at Sime Road was quite frightening at times and they were told to keep from provoking the Japanese, now more than ever. The relief was immense when the first British warship, Sussex arrived Singapore and all the Japanese were disarmed and interned. Some of the ex prisoners were invited on board Sussex the next day, where they learnt about the development of the radar and other modern equipment, as well as the atombomb. Other warships arrived, and when Lord Mountbatten came to the camp he gave a speech followed by personal hand shakes.

On Sept. 14-1945 they departed Singapore on board the Dutch troop transport Tegelberg. They had been given some clothes before departure, and at a stop in Colombo they went by Echtelon Barrac where they also got some clothes. At the British Seamen's Union's office they could help themselves to more things, including shoes. At Suez each and every one of them were given a suit, shirt, tie and a winter coat. On arrival Liverpool on Oct. 10 a crowd had gathered to welcome them, mainly the ex prisoners from Liverpool of course, but the Norwegians were also warmly greeted. The Norwegians were taken by bus to a former Catholic girls' school for the night. They were also examined by doctors. The next day they were placed in private homes. They had been given plenty of ration cards as well as "Board & Trade" coupons so they could buy clothes for themselves as well as for their families in Norway. (There was still a shortage of all manner of items in Norway).

The maritime hearings were held in Liverpool on Oct. 18-1945 with 1st Mate Birger Olsson, 2nd Mate Roald Daler and 3rd Mate Einar Eide appearing. Finally on Oct. 27 they departed for Norway (possibly on Fred. Olsen's Olsen's Bretagne), with arrival Oslo on the 29th. Hearings were also held in Sandefjord on Dec. 6-1945, and this time Captain Iversen was present, as were 1st Engineer Jaan Svads and the 1st mate.

Roald A. Daler's memoirs found in various issues "Krigsseileren".
Handelsflåten i krig, book 4, 1997, Guri Hjeltnes.

"Ingen nåde", Kristian Ottosen.
"Fjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume II, The Norwegian Maritime Museum.

Life in Imprisonment - Page 1
The fate of survivors from Alcides and others
On I-10, Life at Ofuna, Life at Omori, Madrono's Men.

Some external links related to the text on this page:
Changi Museum - Database for civilian internees inerned in Singapore.
Civilian Internees of the Japanese in Singapore during WWII

For more links to websites on prison camps and WW II in general, go to my Merchant Marines/Ships/Navies Links page.

Other pages on this website that deal with Merchant Marine POW's:
Camps in N. Africa | Rudzin's Diary | Captain Messel's Diary | Odd's letters | Kvarstad Ships & Men POW's | Santo Tomas Documents | Merchant Marine Prisoners of War | Japanese POW Camps

 Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home