Culture

Check out these photos of Batu Lintang Camp after liberation

Patricia Hului

Also known as Lintang Barracks and Kuching POW camp, the Batu Lintang camp was a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War (WWII).

Unlike other Japanese internment camps, the Lintang Barracks held both Prisoners of War (POWs) and civilian internees.

The camp was originally British Indian Army barracks. The Japanese took it over from March 1942 and extended the original area.

After the Japanese officially surrendered on Aug 15, 1945, the camp was liberated on Sept 11, 1945 by the Australian 9th division.

Check out these photos of Batu Lintang camp taken after the Japanese had surrendered:

Flying over the prisoner of war camp (POW) in Batu Lintang at a low height, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Beaufighter pilots reported sighting white POWs, clad in khaki shorts, who excitedly waved as the RAAF aircraft flew over to drop leaflets announcing Japan’s surrender.

One pilot also reported having seen white women who could have been either nurses or nuns.

Reportedly, there were 160 nuns interned in Batu Lintang camp in March 1944. Of these nuns, a large majority of them were Dutch Roman Catholic sisters with a few English sisters.

This image is believed to have been taken by the navigator of a Beaufighter aircraft possibly of 30 Squadron RAAF, whilst on operations to drop leaflets and to investigate the POW camp on Aug 22, 1945.

The RAAF planes were sent to drop these leaflets all over Sarawak’s First Division.

The leaflet was a foolscap size with a broad orange border.

Read the content of the leaflet here.

A photo taken on Sept 12, 1945. A Japanese guard delivering a fowl to Mrs Iva Penlington of Yorks, England who was interned at the camp, in payment for the two years use of her typewriter.
A photo taken on Sept 11, 1945. After the surrender ceremony at Kuching, 9th Australian Division, Kuching Force Commander Brigadier Sir Thomas Charles Eastick, accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel A.W. Walsh, 8th Australian Division ( a POW) and Lieut-Col Tatsuji Suga, Commandant of all POW camps in Borneo, visited Batu Lintang Camp.

A parade was held at which the prisoners were informed of their liberation.

In this photo, a section of the parade sitting in front of Eastick are listening to the address.

After the liberation, Eastick oversaw the liberation and repatriation of Allied POWs and internees in Sarawak.

Subsequently, he became the military governor of Sarawak from Sept 10, 1945 until December.

The last White Rajah of Sarawak Vyner Brooke awarded him The Most Excellent Order of the Star of Sarawak.

It was the highest order of chivalry within the Kingdom of Sarawak.

A group of POWs leaving their compound to board the hospital ship Wanganella. The hut named ‘Australia House’ is in the background.

The camp was divided into different compounds with each person was allotted a very small space within a barrack building.

These compounds included British officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), Australian officers and NCOs, Dutch officers and NCOs, other ranks of British soldiers, British Indian Army, Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, Roman Catholic priest and religious men, male as well as female civilian internees.

Agnes Newton Keith, one of many civilian internees

Agnes Newton Keith (left) speaking to Major T.T. Johnson (centre) and Eastick (right) after the surrender ceremony,

Keith was an American author and wife to Harry G. Keith.

She arrived in Sandakan in 1934 where her husband was working as the Conservator of Forests and Director of Agriculture under North Borneo Chartered Company.

When Sandakan was first captured by the Japanese on Jan 19, 1942, the Keiths were allowed to stay at their own home.

However on May 12, the couple were imprisoned on Berhala island. They spent eight months there before they were transported to Batu Lintang Camp.

Under the encouragement of her husband, Keith wrote three autobiographical accounts of her life in North Borneo.

Her book Three Came Home (1948) is based on her experience during WW2 and was made into a film of the same name in 1950.

A photo taken on Sept 15, 1945. Internee children being taken for a ride in an Australian field ambulance soon after their release from the Japanese by members of the Kuching Force.

There were 34 children interned at the camp and all of them survived the war.

The women of the camp often went without provision to ensure the children’s survival.

During their internment, the children were taught by the nuns.

A former Japanese guard from Batu Lintang Camp handcuffed on the front of a jeep.
About 8000 captured Japanese soldiers were then held at the camp after they had surrendered.

Life at Batu Lintang Camp

Private J. M. Curry who was cook for Australian officers at the POW camp.

Curry is wearing the chawat (loin cloth) issued to him by the Japanese, his only clothing in two years.

The oven was improvised from an officer’s trunk packed round with clay. All the kitchen gear had to be improvised as the Japanese only provided them with two 44 gallon drums.

A typical POW’s bed in the interior of ‘Australia House’.
Former POWs standing around the coffin that has been used in for a burial conducted by a former internee, Father Brown.

Due to shortage of materials, coffins were constructed with a collapsible bottom so that they could be used again.

At first, the dead were buried in coffins but soon the number of fatalities increased.

Toward the end of the war, the bodies were buried in shrouds made from rice sacks or blankets.

The daily ration of boiled rice for 1200 men in the camp only half filled this pig trough which they used for mixing with sweet potato.

In a war crime trial held against the Japanese soldiers in-charge of Batu Lintang camp, it is revealed that the only meat the prisoners was pig’s heads.

Reportedly, about 400 Allied POWs died of malnutrition in the last 12 months of the war.

The prosecuting officer of the case claimed that the diet fed to the camp’s pigs was more nutritious than the food given to the prisoners.

The frightfulness of the treatment handed out by the Japanese to their POWs is shown by the emaciated condition of two British soldiers who were evacuated from Batu Lintang camp.

Like many Japanese POW and internee camps, the life in Batu Lintang was harsh.

Both POWs and civilians were suffering from malnutrition, diseases such as beriberi, malaria, dengue and scabies.

The mortality rate among the British soldiers was extremely high with two third of the POW population in the camp.

A photo taken on Sept 18, 1945. All Japanese soldiers of Batu Lintang camp, were ordered from their quarters, searched and placed in the former British officers compound.
Private H. J.P. Riseley, a former POW, holding his chicken pet as he stands on the verandah of ‘Australia House’.

The graves of British, Dutch and Australian POWs at Batu Lintang Camp.

By July 1946, all the bodies had been exhumed and reburied in Labuan War Cemetery.

The Labuan cemetery is also the final resting place of soldiers who died during the Japanese invasion of Borneo, the Borneo Campaign 1945 and POWs who perished in the horrific Sandakan Death marches.

Photos by Australian War Memorial. Copyright expired – All Images are under Public Domain.

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