Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jungle Journal

A Jungle Journal page
Jungle Journal: Prisoners of the Japanese in Java 1942-1945 is a true account of the alternate horror and banality of daily life, and the humor that helped British POWs of Japan on Java survive the beatings, deprivation, and death of comrades.

Told through the diary and papers of Lt Ronald Williams, an officer in the 77th Heavy Anti Aircraft Royal Artillery and others, Jungle Journal includes many cartoons and poems produced by the prisoners, as well as extracts from the original Jungle Journal, a newspaper created in the first months of captivity by the men under the noses of their guards.

Williams was the "editor" of this potentially fatal "publication" produced at the Tanjong Priok POW Camp just north of Batavia (Jakarta). Over 6,000 POWs of all nationalities were kept there. Americans were survivors from the USS Houston and the Texas Lost Battalion.

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At the end of the war Williams kept as many of the newspapers as he could and stored the collection in a trunk in the attic of his home in Powys, Mid Wales.
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The first issue carried the message:
If this production can make one gunner forget for five minutes the disappointments and discomforts of his present position, then our editorial efforts will not be in vain.
The book was compiled and edited by Williams' son, Frank, and published in June. In an interview with The Daily Mail, Frank Williams observed "You can see hatred all the way through. They detested their captors but the men kept a level of humanity which I think is incredible really."

The Imperial War Museum has a good collection of artifacts, diaries, and oral histories from Commonwealth POWs held on Java. The BBC's "People's War" features a number of oral histories from POWs on Java. See Tommy Scott who was in the same regiment as Lt. Williams.

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