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CAPTURED JAPANESE: TOUR OF N.Z.’s CAMP

P.O.W,

Included among the P ri |9”® rs “protected personnel —medical corps mainly. Under the Geneva Convention, these men must receive the full pay of the equivalent rank in the armj oFthe detaining Power They are forced to save one-eighthof their money, but are free to spend the rest. They are the money barons of the compounds and, surprisingly enough, they spend their money for the good of all Japanese-English dictionaries and other text books are bought. The dictionaries are published in Denver, Colorado, and cost about 30s each. Discipline Each compound has its No. 1, who in turn has assistants Nos. 2, 3, and 4. These leaders supply all fatigues, working parties, and special trade personnel for any specified job. They see to the prisoners’ cleanliness and the order of the huts and grounds. When the camp commanding officer makes his morning inspection tour they relay any complaints or comments. Monument and Gardens Outside one of the main huts in one compound is a memorial, inscribed in Japanese. “To the faithful dead. _ It is a really fine piece of work, in a reddish stone. Several small replicas about the camp bear the same inscription. The work of the large monument exhibits Japanese patience. Small stones, carefully selected, chipped and cemented in place, make up the base, while the tablet itself is a rough oblong of red rock with a frontal panel smoothed. This panel bears the inscription. This work was allowed to be done by a group of the prisoners in their spare time. Japanese patience is also illustrated in .the little gardens that front the individual huts and in the small kitchen gardens, with their crops of silver beet, cabbages, and other vegetables. It is said that every Japanese is born a gardener. Certainly the prisoners have been able to coax the unfriendly ground of Featherston to bear chrysanthemums, border plants, and many varieties of flowers. A carefully printed little board, on a low sod fence in one comer of a compound. reads: “Here it is a seed bed No, 2.” Even on a very bleak day there seemed to be health and strength in the orderly rows of shoots. Some tennis fans among the prisoners levelled off a piece of bare ground, wove nets from odds and ends of rope and string, fashioned bats, and now get their exercise in a lobbing game of tennis. Mah-jongg sets, carved out of spare pieces of wood, are varnished and the inscriptions carefully painted in various colours. • They play mahjongg at great speed, gesticulating wildly and sometimes shouting with excitement as the pieces are uncovered. Domestic The prisoners live in small Army huts, eight men to a hut. The bunks are supplied and that is all. Yet some of these huts have become quite snug. No boots or'wooden sandals are worn inside and a special little fender has been built inside the doorway in which boots are left. This fender also prevents a lot of ground dust from whirling into the huts on windy days. Some of the men have made curtains to hang along the lower bunks; others have built little lockers to hold their few possessions. It is somehow amusing to find the pin-up girl in evidence. Betty Grable, Alice Faye, and the child actress, Virginia Weidler, are among the many honoured on the hut walls/ The prisoners see selected film material about once a fortnight, and they sometimes ask for "kiss, kiss features—meaning the typical Hollywood romance. The Japanese occasionally .get up costume plays in their recreation huts, and some of the. traditionally-signifl-cant costumes they have fashioned out of scrap material are really remarkable. Japanese cleanliness, almost proverbial, is often only superficial cleanliness. While, as one guard said, “They have always got their heads in a bucket of water,” it would not matter much if the water was dirty. The point seems to be that they have had some rules of cleanliness drilled into them, but without understanding the principles of hygiene behind the rules.

(Specially Written for “.The Press. 1 ') [By F. HANNON.]

Once better instructed, however, they make a fetish of cleanliness. Certainly no army fatigues were ever done with greater thoroughness than at Featherston. The mess room and kitchens are spotless. A completely equipped hospital has been established in the camp, complete with laboratory, therapy department, X-ray room, and kitchen. Japanese patients are like most patients. If they are in pain, they yell. But they are fatalistic, and had rather wait for nature to heal than help themselves. They love massage treatment and would prolong it if they could; doing , therapeutic exercises themselves is a different matter. Many have been cjtured of recurrent malaria since being in the camp. There are two main wards in the hospital: one for the prisoners; the other for .New Zealand personnel, the only noticeable difference being that the New Zealand ward has bed quilts. The Japanese are keen to salvage the tops of army stockings. This they unravel for the wool, and when they have accumulated sufficient they knit extra garments for themselves. One man has almost finished a pair of long underpants, worked to no conventional pattern but promising to serve the conventional purpose, scratchily. Some of the men wounded id the “riot” are still bed patients. One with a serious leg wound, complicated by an atrophied ulcer, steadfastly refuses amputation, although it is essential if he is ever to walk. He was sitting up in bed playing mah-jongg with three ambulance patients, apparently quite content. Another was laboriously writing in a corner bed—not letters; just transcribing something from a book that had taken his fancy. Remodelled Uniforms The Japanese officers wear New Zealand battledress dyed navy blue. Their hats are the conventional Kiwi hat, dyed blue, and pushed into a shape resembling the broad-brimmed, sombrero-like headgear that Oriental' civilians seem to prefer.. The other ranks wear the Great War New Zealand uniform —which was worn by the Ist and 2nd Echelons of the 2nd ; N.Z.E.F.—dyed navy blue, and with a khaki diamond patch sewn on the back of the jacket and on the back and front of the right thigh. Their hats are simi- ' lar to the officers’, although some of. them have fashioned little high-backed, visored caps for themselves out of scrap material. They are quite-satis-fied with the clothuig, and their New Zealand boots. As an article is worn out,, a new one is issued at the quartermaster’s store in time-honoured army fashion. ' There may be some big men among the Japanese; there is none at Featherston. Ninety per cent of them would not make five feet five inches; one or two are about five feet nine inches. One of the New Zealand officers who has lived in Japan said that in travelling through Shikoku, Honshu, and Kyushu he did not see enough sixfooters to make one battalion, let alone ■ the “picked divisions” that have been given some publicity. _ They are small men and look small, with their habit of • • walking loosely, heads bent and arms slack. 'A first impression is that they are very much alike; but it is false. Strong differences appear. Skin ranges from tan to light yellow. All have black hair; but some have slanting eyes, others have not. The fixed smile is typical, but it marks features and expressions as diverse as in any part.of the world. . , . . Several Japanese, including six out of the nine officers, have become Christians since they were brought to the Dominion. They were formerly Buddhists. In some of the huts, religious texts hang on the walls. lie sincerity of this change in belief can be questioned; but there was.no obvious reason to doubt it. „ , That is Prisoner of War Camp No, 1 (Japanese) after two and a half years. The turning of the Pacific tide has given these men- nothing to look forward to—except their eventual free- ■ - dom and the journey back to Japan, . when their once proud and once vietorious armies are finally beaten. What .: will they go back to? To their own people they are dead men. . (Concluded.) ' ,

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP19450705.2.48

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CAPTURED JAPANESE: TOUR OF N.Z.’s CAMP, Press, Volume LXXXI, Issue 24610, 5 July 1945

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CAPTURED JAPANESE: TOUR OF N.Z.’s CAMP Press, Volume LXXXI, Issue 24610, 5 July 1945

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