Batu Lintang camp

Batu Lintang camp

Infobox Military Structure
name=Batu Lintang camp
location=Kuching, Sarawak

caption=Aerial view of part of Batu Lintang camp, prior to its liberation, 29 August 1945. In the foreground is the Roman Catholic priests' compound. The central open area is one of the parade grounds; beyond that is the main enclosure containing the camps of the British other ranks, the Indonesian soldiers and the male civilian internees. The female civilian internees' camp is just visible at top right. Three panel signals to the liberating forces are visible on the roof of the long building parallel to the track on the left edge of the photograph
type=POW and civilian internee camp
built=early 1941 as military barracks; expanded significantly by the Japanese
used=March 1942 - September 1945
occupants=Allied POWs and civilian internees (mostly British, Australian and Dutch; a few Indonesian, American and Canadian)

Batu Lintang camp (also known as Lintang Barracks and Kuching POW camp) at Kuching, Sarawak on the island of Borneo was a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War. It was unusual in that it housed both Allied prisoners of war (POWs) and civilian internees. The camp, which operated from March 1942 until the liberation of the camp in September 1945, was housed in buildings that were originally British Indian Army barracks. The original area was extended by the Japanese, until it covered about 50 acres (20 ha). [Firkins 115] The camp population fluctuated, due to movement of prisoners between camps in Borneo, and as a result of the deaths of the prisoners. It had a maximum population of some 3,000 prisoners. [Keith 76]

Life in the camp was harsh, with POWs and internees alike forced to endure food shortages, disease and sickness for which scant medicine was made available, forced labour, brutal treatment, and lack of adequate clothing and living quarters. Of the 2,000-odd British POWs held there, over two thirds died during or as a result of their captivity. [Ooi 1998, 636] The construction and operation of a secret radio for over 2½ years, from February 1943 until the liberation of the camp, was a morale booster and allowed the prisoners to follow the progress of the war. Discovery would have resulted in certain death for those involved.

Following the unconditional surrender of Japan on 15 August 1945, the camp was liberated on 11 September 1945 by the Australian 9th Division. On liberation, the camp population was 2,024, of whom 1,392 were POWs, 395 were male civilian internees and 237 were civilian women and children. Amongst official Japanese papers found at the camp following its liberation were two "death orders". Both described the proposed method of execution of every POW and internee in the camp. The first order, scheduled for enactment on for 17 or 18 August, was not carried out; the second was scheduled to take place on 15 September. The timely liberation of the camp prevented the murder of over 2,000 men, women and children.

In July 1948 a teachers' training college moved to the site, where it continues to this day, the oldest such establishment in Malaysia.

Location and organisation

Kuching lies some 22 miles (35 km) up the Sarawak River from the sea; [Keith 75] the camp was situated some three miles to the southeast of Kuching. [Ooi 1998, 8]

The barracks were built by the Sarawak Government in early 1941, when Britain, in agreement with the Rajah of Sarawak, sent the 2nd Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment of the British Indian Army (2/15th Punjab Regiment) to defend Sarawak in case of attack by the Japanese. The camp was near completion for occupation by May 1941. [Kirby 1969, Appendix 30; Lim 1995, 19; Lim 2005, 34]

The Japanese first invaded the island of Borneo in mid December 1941, landing on the west coast near Miri; [Ooi 1998, 6-7] invasion was completed by 23 January 1942 when they landed at Balikpapan on the east coast. [Wigmore 179]

The first Allied prisoners held in the camp were about 340 British and Indian soldiers who were interned there in mid-March 1942. In time, it held both POWs and civilian internees. Civilian prisoners came almost exclusively from from different territories on Borneo: from North Borneo (now Sabah), from Brunei, from the Straits Settlements island of Labuan, and from Sarawak, all of which were under British control, and from Dutch Borneo (now Kalimantan). In contrast, the POWs were brought to Batu Lintang from places such as mainland Malaya and Java as well as from Borneo. Many spent time at transit or temporary camps prior to their transfer to Batu Lintang. [Ooi 1998, 286] The camp officially opened on 15 August 1942, at which time a commemoration stone was erected at the camp. [Keith 180; Australian War Memorial (AWM) photograph 120332]

The camp commandant was Lieutenant-Colonel (Lt.-Col.) Tatsuji Suga. Suga was the commandant of all POW and internees’ camps in Borneo; there were others at Jesselton (later Kota Kinabalu), Sandakan and briefly on Labuan island, [Wigmore 595 note 9] and he was often absent from Batu Lintang as a result. His second-in-command was Lieutenant (later Captain) Nagata; some sources say Negata or Nekata). Most of the camp guards were Koreans, with a few Formosans (Taiwanese). [Ooi 1998, 286] There was a range of administrative buildings, quartermaster’s stores, guard houses, guards’ quarters and a camp hospital. Throughout its operation all the camps at Batu Lintang, including the internee ones, were conducted under prisoner-of-war rules. [Keith 83]

The entire camp was surrounded by a five mile (eight kilometre) perimeter barbed wire fence. The internees were segregated into categories and assigned separate compounds, each of which was also surrounded by barbed wire fencing. There were between eight and ten compounds, [Kirby 1969, Appendix 30] although their make-up varied through the period of operation of the camp. [At the beginning the British officers shared with the British other ranks, but were later separated into two compounds; at one point the Indonesian soldiers and the Dutch officers were sharing a compound, whilst at another they were in separate compounds; the Indian POWs were kept in different locations over the period of the operation of the camp. (Ooi 1998, 139, 317)] The make-up was determined by the arrival and departure of different groups of prisoners as Batu Lintang camp was also used as a transit camp: at one point some of the Australian and British soldiers who were later to die on the Sandakan Death Marches were held at the camp. [Ooi 1998, 320-1, 384-5; Wigmore 596]

The main groups of POWs were British officers, Australian officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) officers, British other ranks, British Indian Army (2nd/15th Punjab Regiment) personnel, Netherlands East Indies (Indonesian) KNIL soldiers. The British and Australian personnel had mostly been sent from Malaya and Singapore, after the Allied surrender there, whereas the KNIL soldiers and the Punjab Regiment had defended Borneo. The civilian internees were mostly Dutch Roman Catholic priests, British civilians (including children), and British and Dutch Catholic nuns.

Each compound had its own "camp master" (or "camp mistress", in the case of the women's camp). The camp master was responsible for liaising between the internees and the Japanese authorities. Each compound contained a number of long barrack buildings, usually between 80 and 100 feet long (24-30 metres), each of which housed between 30 and 100 people. A barrack master was appointed for each building. The camp and barrack masters were appointed by Colonel Suga.

In addition, the Dutch other ranks and about 50 British soldiers were stationed in a separate compound at the Kampong Batu Tujoh airfield (also known as Bukit Stabah), near Kuching. [Ooi 1998, 317, 399-400]

The camp included areas that had once been a rubber tree plantation, and some of the trees remained inside the compounds, providing a limited amount of shade.


Living conditions within the compounds were cramped. Each person was allotted a very small space within a barrack building within which to sleep, keep the few personal possessions they had with them, and also to eat, as there was no communal area within the barracks.

; British officers and NCOs : This was described as "perhaps the most commodious" compound, with a fair amount of workable land. [Ooi 1998, 317] At first the officers were with the British other ranks, but they were separated out into this compound on 5 February 1943. Including the three huts, the compound was 2½ acres (1 ha) in area with 1½ acres (0.6 hectares) of cultivable land. The Officer in Charge and overall British Military Authority was Lt.-Col. M. C. Russell, until his death on 5 June 1943; Lt.-Col T. C. Whimster took over the role thereafter. The camp held 134 men in September 1944. [Ooi 1998, 351]

; Australian officers and NCOs : On liberation, 178 Australian officers and NCOs were held at Batu Lintang, [Kirby 1969 Appendix 30; "pace" Wigmore (1957) 599 who gives the figure as 169 (149 officers and 20 other ranks)] in a compound which was without sufficient land for cultivation. The Officer in Charge was Lt.-Col. A. W. Walsh. [Ooi 1998, 317] The Australian other ranks were held in a camp at Sandakan.

; Dutch officers and NCOs : This was without sufficient land for cultivation. The Officer in Charge was Lt.-Col. Mars. [Ooi 1998, 317]

; British other ranks : British soldiers were "kept in grossly over-crowded barracks, with inadequate kitchen, lighting, water and sanitary services." They had no land for cultivation. [Lim 2005, 266-7] Initially the compound held 1,500 POWs, with additional soldiers arriving thereafter taking the total to around 2,000, but by the end of the war the figure had been reduced to about 750. The Officer in Charge was RSM (later 2nd Lt) S. T. Sunderland. [Ooi 1998, 317]

; British Indian Army other ranks : Soldiers from 2nd/15th Punjab Regiment were interned at Batu Lintang. The Indian POWs were housed in two huts, with no land for cultivation. [Ooi 1998, 317]

; KNIL soldiers : Indonesian soldiers were housed in a small compound close to the British other ranks' compound.

; Roman Catholic priests and religious men : The Catholic priests, brothers and religious men, mostly Dutch and Irish, lived in a separate compound, with a large plot of land to grow vegetables. They numbered 110, including 44 Capuchin friars, 5 Mountfort missionaries, 22 "Broeders van Huijbergen" (Brothers of Huijbergen) and 38 Mill Hill Missionaries. [Lim 2005, 251-2] [cite web
title =Netherlands Indies in WWII
publisher =Pim Ligtvoet
url =
accessdate = 2007-04-03
] At liberation there were 395 civilian men, which included the priests. [Kirby 1969, Appendix 30]

; Male civilian internees and some boys: In 1943, approximately 250 male civilian internees (excluding Roman Catholic Mission personnel) were held in this compound. [Ooi 1998, 317] From July 1942 until 14 November 1944 the camp master was C. D. Le Gros Clark (brother of Wilfrid Le Gros Clark), the former Chief Secretary, Sarawak Government; Lt.-Col. W. C. C. Adams (of the North Borneo Constabulary), who had been assistant camp master, then served in the role until liberation. [Ooi 1998, 554] Accounts mention a British civilian internee named Don Tuxford whose eight year old son was in the camp with him, while Tuxford's wife and daughter Julia were in the women's camp; [ Ooi 1998, 354 In this account the author L. E. Morris mistakenly states that Tuxford's wife was in the camp. She was a native woman and so was not interned. Julie was interned with Tuxford's mother and his sister (ie with her grandmother and aunt).] other sources state that Dutch boys over the age of ten were sent to the men's camp rather than being placed with the women, as the Japanese considered them men at that age. The total number of male children held in the men's camp is uncertain.

; Female civilian internees (including nuns) and children : This compound was located at the western part of the camp, slightly removed from the other compounds. The internees were mostly Dutch and British, with a few Eurasian and Chinese women, and four American women, including Agnes Newton Keith. Their quarters were described by an internee as "new and fair" and "they had a reason [able] area for cultivation." The camp mistress was initially Mother Bernardine, an English Roman Catholic nun, but when she became ill Mrs. Dorie Adams, wife of the master of the men’s camp, took over the role. [Keith 79-80] The women were housed in five very small barracks [Keith 76] and each person was allotted a space of 6 feet by 4 feet (1.8m by 1.2m) in which to live and store his or her possessions. [Ooi 1998, 321] A chapel was constructed at one end of one of the huts. [Ooi 1998, 327]

:In March 1944, the women’s camp comprised 280 people: 160 nuns, 85 secular women and 34 children. [Keith 76, 146] By September 1944 the population had declined to 271; [Ooi 1998, 327, 331] at liberation there were 237 women and children in the camp. [Long 563] Of the nuns, the large majority were Dutch Roman Catholic sisters, with a few English sisters. Initially there were 29 children in the camp, but by April 1943 there were 34. The oldest of these was seven when she entered the camp. [Keith 131] None of the children died in the camp; the women often went without provisions to ensure the children's survival. [Keith 76, 96, 130] A Roman Catholic priest from the nearby priests' compound came to the women's camp daily at 7am to say mass, and the children were taught by the nuns. [Keith 78-9]

Daily life in the camp

Life in the camp is summed up by Keat Gin Ooi: "The trying conditions of life under internment at Batu Lintang camp tested to the limits of the human struggle for survival. Food shortages, diseases and sickness, death, forced labor, harsh treatment, and deplorable living quarters were daily occurrences in camp." [Ooi 1998, 287] The POWs were treated more harshly than the civilian internees. [Ooi 1998, 288]


The male civilian internees' regulations (prepared by the internees themselves) stated that "Any persons who are not performing some useful work in war-time are failing in their moral obligation. Internees should therefore do their best to do such work as ... agriculture, farming, and stock-breeding, in order to increase the supply of foodstuffs to the camp." [Ooi 1998, 309] Some male civilian internees chose to cultivate land around the camp in order to become self-supporting; however, the other work imposed on them meant that they never cultivated the land to its full effect. Some refused to carry out this work, even though it was for the common good. [Ooi 1998, 313] Work included wood-gathering parties, latrine duties, working as cookhouse staff and medical orderlies. [Ooi 1998, 349, 386] Sundays were a rest day, but these were later cut to one in every three weeks. [Ooi 1998, 373] POWs and male civilian internees were forced to work as stevedores and in timber yards at Kuching harbour on the Sarawak River [Kirby 1969, Appendix 30] and from October 1942, on the extension of the two runways at the Batu Tujoh landing ground to the south of Kuching. [Ooi 1998, 363, 403-5] Such work was prohibited by the 1907 Hague Convention, to which Japan was a signatory. Although it was against international law to force the prisoners to work on projects with a military objective, they were informed that refusal to work on these projects would result in their execution. [Ooi 1998, 288, 298, 312] Other forced labour included refuelling the Zero fighters that used the runways; however, this happened only once as the men sabotaged the operation by adding urine and water to the fuel. [Ooi 1998, 412-3]

The work party men were paid in what the prisoners called "camp dollars", the printed paper currency introduced by the Japanese administration. At one point the rate was 25 cents a day for officers and NCOs and 10 cents a day for other ranks. [Ooi 1998, 365] As time went on, the working parties became smaller, as there was a lack of available men due to sickness and death.

The women were at first allowed to undertake domestic tasks around their camp; later they were forced to undertake work for the Japanese such as mending uniforms, for which they were also paid in camp dollars. [Ooi 1998, 324] This currency was known colloquially in the women's camp as "banana currency" because of the banana trees pictured on the 10 dollar notes. [Keith 171] In the later part of the war, when the food shortages had become critical, all internees, male and female, were also used as agricultural labourers on the land around the camp, to produce food for their Japanese captors. [Evans 1999, 90; Ooi 1998, 288] The prisoners referred to themselves as "white coolies". [Ooi 1998, 368]

Only 30 men were fit enough to attend the final work parties in 1945; the rest were either too ill, or already dead. [Ooi 1998, 636]


Rations were always meagre but decreased in both quantity and quality as the war progressed. The women and children drew the same rations as the men. The Japanese controlled all food supplies, releasing only what was needed for the day. [Ooi 1998, 329, 359] At the beginning, the rations comprised rice and local vegetables (such as "kangkung"), with every ten days or so some pork (such as offal, or a head, or some poor-meat bearing part of the animal). The daily rice ration in late 1943 was 11 ounces (312 grams) a day; [Ooi 1998, 350] by the end of the war the rice ration was about 4 ounces (113 grams) per man daily. [Walker 648] In September 1944 children were recorded as receiving 1½ ounces (42.5 mls) of milk a day. [Ooi 1998, 327-8]

A black market emerged, in which the main merchants were a Dutch-Indonesian couple, who obtained goods from a Japanese guard and sold them for a profit to those with cash or tradable goods. [Firkins 118]

At the times of greatest hardship the internees were so hungry that they were reduced to eating snakes, rubber nuts (which were believed to be poisonous), snails and frogs, and rats, cats and dogs if they could be caught. [Ooi 1998, 352, 353, 408] On special occasions an extra ration would be introduced. In the British POW camps, 58 chickens were provided for 1,000 men for Christmas 1942; [Ooi 1998, 369] the next Christmas the women received a single turkey to share between 271 women and children. [Ooi 1998, 331] At Christmas 1944, their last in captivity, the internees received a single egg each. [Ooi 1998, 352]

Only one Red Cross supply of parcels was received by the prisoners between March 1942 and September 1945. This arrived in March 1944 and worked out at one sixth of a parcel per person: a single tin of food. [Keith 146-7] Prisoners occasionally were able to buy or barter chicks, which they raised on worms and beetles and rice sweepings from the quartermaster's store floor (other edible food scraps being too precious to use). [Ooi 1998, 388] If female, these provided much-needed eggs.


A camp hospital was set up and run by a Japanese medical officer, Dr. Yamamoto, but it was believed by the prisoners that his policy was "live and let die", [Ooi 1998, 366] and the hospital became "a filthy germ-ridden death hole". [Ooi 1998, 317] Lionel E. Morris, a sapper with the British Army Royal Engineers wrote that Yamamoto "never attended to ... sick or diseased men". [Ooi 1998, 380] Yamamoto issued an order than no rations were to be issued to men in the hospital. However, as the prisoners pooled their food, the sick were provided for even though it meant all others went short. [Ooi 1998, 441] Care of all prisoners was left to the camp doctors, such as Colonel King and Captain Bailey in the main camp and Dr. Gibson in the women’s camp. [Ooi 1998, 380]

In January 1943 the hospital comprised three huts, and housed both POWs and civilians. The standard of accommodation was very low and crowded, and facilities were virtually non-existent. Later a hut was built for tuberculosis patients. [Walker 646-7] In early September 1945 the camp hospital comprised about 30 beds, under the care of Lt.-Col. E. M. Sheppard. [Long 563]

Little medicine was available to the internees from the Japanese: they provided small amounts of quinine and aspirins. Morris recounts how Yamamoto would quite often beat sick men until they fell down, especially if they approached him for drugs. [ Ooi 1998, 380] Few Red Cross supplies were available and most medication was bought or bartered from the outside world or from the guards themselves. No anaesthesia was available for operations. [Ooi 1998, 390] In early 1943 the main source of medical supplies was a pro-Allied ethnic Chinese family who lived nearby and were assisting in the provision of materials for the construction of a radio. [Ooi 1998, 462-465]


The mortality rate amongst the British soldiers was extremely high: two-thirds of the population of POWs died in the camp. [Ooi 1998, 636] It was suggested that this high rate was because most had come direct from Europe and were not acclimatised and had no idea about the importance of tropical hygiene. Tropical ulcers — which are often diphtheria appearing as a secondary infection of a skin disease — were a common medical complaint, along with dysentery, malaria, beri-beri, dengue, scabies, and septic bites and sores. In January 1943 600 men out of 1000 were unfit for work owing to beri beri and skin conditions. [Walker 646] Deaths from dysentery increased towards the end of the period of captivity. A British NCO, E. R. Pepler, commented that " [m] en wasted away from their normal weight of over ten stone [140 "lb"/64 "kg"] to three or four stones [42-56 "lb"/19-25 "kg"] ... As the time passed on to 1945, the deaths in our camp [from dysentery] were taking place at two or three every day". [Ooi 1998, 389]


Malnutrition caused most of the invalidity and was a major factor in the high mortality rate in the camp, ascribed as the chief cause of death in 600 deaths in the camp. The basic diet only contained 1.5 ounces (44 grams) of protein and had a calorific value of 1600. [Walker 646, 648] J. L. Noakes, a male civilian internee wrote:

"In common with many others I experienced the pain of food deficiency disease and by May 1944 it was difficult to work and nights were a torture. My eyes failed rapidly and it became impossible to read or to distinguish objects clearly. The death rate for the whole camp jumped at an alarming rate and we began to realise that we must now begin a real fight for existence." [Ooi 1998, 318]

By November 1944 the suffering caused by malnutrition was profound, as recorded by Hilda E. Bates, a female civilian internee who was a nurse based in Jesselton prior to the war:

"We are having a particularly hungry period and [I] can quite truthfully say that our mouths water, and that we 'slaver' as dogs do before meals. Some of us find it advisable to rise slowly after lying down, as due to malnutrition, any rapid movement is apt to cause dizziness or even a black-out ... one morning recently I awoke and discovered to my horror that my sight had become very dim. Later I realised this was due to vitamin deficiency in our poor diet." [Ooi 1998, 332]

By the end of their third year of internment, most women suffered from amenorrhoea due to malnutrition. [Keith 83] In May 1945 Hilda Bates met some of the male civilian internees at the funeral of a friend:

"I was horrified to see their condition. Some had formerly been strong men of twelve to fourteen stone " [168-196 lb/76-89 kg] " in weight, but were now reduced to mere shadows of themselves, and weighed less than eight stone " [112 lb/51 kg] ". .. [In] the soldiers camp ... many of the men were just skeletons, — crawling about, as few were able to stand upright. Even our toddlers received the same rations as these poor [souls] , and the children are still hungry, so what must have been the suffering of those men, many of whom are hardly more than boys?" [Ooi 1998, 337]

On 30 August 1945, after Suga had officially informed the prisoners of the Japanese surrender but before the liberation of the camp, Hilda Bates visited the sick POWs:

"I was horrified to see the condition of some of the men. I was pretty well hardened to sickness, dirt and disease, but never had I seen anything like this in all my years of nursing. Pictures of hospitals during the Crimean War showed terrible conditions, but even those could not compare with the dreadful sights I met on this visit. Shells of men lay on the floor sunken-eyed and helpless; some were swollen with hunger, oedema and ber-beri, others in the last stages of dysentery, lay unconscious and dying. They had no pillows or clothes, few cups, fewer bowls, or even medical supplies. [...] There were three hundred desperately sick men, many unable to help themselves, or to carry food to their mouths. Throughout our internment, we women had begged to be allowed to nurse the soldiers, but the Japanese refused our offer, saying this would be indecent". [Ooi 1998, 625]

On his release, L. E. Morris, who was one of the "healthy" prisoners, weighed five stone, three pounds (73 lb/33 kg). [Ooi 1998, 636]


Brutality by the guards was another factor that adversely affected the health of many of the prisoners. Hilda Bates described the guards' treatment of the male prisoners: "Their favourite methods of punishment are either kicking below the waist with their heavy army boots, face slapping or striking the head with a rifle butt". [Ooi 1998, 337] Failure to bow properly to a guard was a common cause of a beating. Hilda Bates wrote of "One male internee [who] was paralysed for a week following Japanese brutality, simply because he had not made his bow in what the Japs considered a proper manner". [Ooi 1998, 338] E. R. Pepler recorded that "a favourite punishment was to make the offender stand in the blazing sun with his arms above his head holding a log of wood. If the prisoner or his arms sagged, he was punched or kicked. This treatment usually lasted until the prisoner completely collapsed". [Ooi 1998, 391]

Prisoners suspected of more serious misdemeanours were taken by the Japanese secret military police, the Kempeitai, for interrogation at the former Sarawak Police headquarters in Kuching. Torture was a common method of extracting information. [Ooi 1998, 422-437, 452]

After the Japanese defeat, an Australian war crimes investigation team worked in Kuching from the liberation until January 1946. Of around 120 guards, more than 70 had a crime or crimes ascribed to them. [Ooi 1998, 667]


Clothing wore out quickly: the tropical climate meant that clothes had to be washed every day, and the rigours of labouring in them meant that they soon became torn, worn and threadbare. An enterprising male internee, J. R. Baxter, entered the camp with two pairs of shorts; as they wore out he constructed a new pair from them by glueing together the constituent parts with latex from the rubber trees growing in the camp. [Evans 1999, 90] The Japanese did not provide replacement clothing for the prisoners when their clothes wore out. [Ooi 1998, 393-4] After a period male internees and POWs were issued with a loincloth and perishable rubber shoes, which soon degraded and meant in effect that most prisoners went barefoot. [Ooi 1998, 376] The women fared a little better, often bartering possessions for material: clothes were fashioned out of whatever material was to hand, such as sheets and breakfast cloths. [Ooi 1998, 328] Many of the women kept their best clothes unworn in readiness for their expected eventual liberation, while their other clothes became more and more shabby.

Prior to their liberation, supplies were dropped by the Australians. Hilda Bates recorded: "The soldiers received shorts, shoes, and blankets with instructions not to appear naked in future!". [Ooi 1998, 624]

Purchasing, bartering and smuggling

Prisoners were able to buy a small range of provisions from their captors at Japanese prices, which escalated as the war went on. [Ooi 1998, 315] Black marketeering was sometimes tolerated by the guards, as they themselves were involved in the buying or exchanging of goods, and at other times punished severely. Although contact with the outside world was forbidden, there were plenty of opportunities to communicate with the locals. Firewood-gathering gangs in the jungle were able to make contact and arrange purchases when the guards were not paying attention; [Ooi 1998, 314] at other times these transactions were permitted with the permission of and in the presence of a lenient Japanese guard. [Ooi 1998, 360, 392] Gold, in the form of rings and jewellery, and British pounds were in demand by the Japanese guards. Such was the desperation of the prisoners towards the end of their internment that two soldiers disinterred a recently-buried body in order to retrieve the dead man's wedding ring. [Ooi 1998, 522-524]

Smuggling became an integral part of camp life, and despite frequent searches, foodstuffs in particular were smuggled into the camp (for example, dried fish was nailed to the underside of wooden bins, and the inside of a hat was a favourite hiding place). [Ooi 1998, 395] Occasional dangerous night-time forays to outside the camp netted foodstuffs such as a chicken or eggs or fruit. [Ooi 1998, 357]

The Japanese currency (the "camp dollars") was used by the prisoners illicitly to purchase supplies from the locals. [Ooi 1998, 392]

ocial life

Le Gros Clark, as men's camp master, issued regular official bulletins to his camp, regarding meetings with Suga and other Japanese officers. [Firkins 119] However, communication between the various compounds, as well as with the outside world was forbidden. For instance, the married male internees were refused permission to see their wives and children on Christmas Day, 1943. [Firkins 119] However, occasional, irregular meetings were allowed between married couples.

Pre-printed postcards to be sent home with stock phrases such as "I am well" and "We have plenty of food" were issued occasionally; [Ooi 1998, 418] Agnes Keith records that these were issued three times a year but in May 1945 it was decided that a certain percentage of the camp had to include a propaganda sentence in addition to the 25 permitted words of free text. She wrote:

"I decided that [the sentences] were all so obvious that my people would know they were propaganda. I sent the following card:"

"Seven communications sent. Seven received. Health moderate. George" [Keith's son] "well, energetic, roughneck, reminds me my brother. Fed-up with war. Hopes deferred. Borneo is a beautiful place for living, a dreamland where the scenery is beautiful, little birds sing, very delicious fruits grow, we are very happy here. Agnes, Harry," [Keith's husband] "George"

"My aunt told me later that she had never felt as downhearted about my fate as when she received that card. She said that obviously I had lost my mind."

On liberation sacks of undelivered mail both to and from the prisoners were discovered in the camp. [Keith 175-6]

At Christmas time, working bees were held to make gifts for the children: worn-out clothing was cut up, and sleeves, collars and hems were cut from clothing still in use, to provide materials for soft toys. [Firkins 118-119] More robust toys, such as scooters, carts, swords, guns were made from materials such as barbed wire and the wood of rubber trees, in and around the camps. The nuns provided food and gifts for each child. The Japanese officers also gave sweets and biscuits to the children at Christmas. A concert was organised for Christmas 1942, as well as inter-compound games; [Ooi 1998, 315] another less lavish Christmas concert took place in 1943, and a concert party was briefly established before disbanding due to the illness and death of its members. [Ooi 1998, 373, 393]

Lt. Frank "Tinker" Bell was largely responsible for conceiving and organising what became known by the prisoners as the "Kuching University". This operated in the British officers' camp. Under Japanese regulations prisoners were forbidden to teach, to learn, to compile or possess notes on any subject whatever, or to meet in groups for discussion. The penalty for disobedience was imprisonment or death. Despite this, the university, led by Bell, established classes in seven modern languages, as well as subjects as diverse as history, public speaking, navigation, pig-farming, civics and poultry keeping, amongst others. Bell and his fellow educators organised courses, compiled text books, led classes and awarded diplomas. [Bell 1991; Ooi 1998, 349, 369] Classes were often held in the evenings when dusk or darkness gave some protection against surprise by their captors. Paper for writing exercises and for compiling textbooks was always at a premium: books were fashioned out of paper from soap wrappers, newspaper, the backs of letters and envelopes, and cigarette paper. These were bound into books and often covered with sarong material.

Other informal clubs, mainly comprising discussion groups were established in the other compounds. They covered topics such as chess and draughts (checkers), book-keeping, sailing and French conversation lessons. A central library for all the camp was run from the British Officers' compound, with books donated by the internees and some from the civilian library in Kuching town. [Bell, 62;Ooi 1998, 349]


Initially the dead were buried in the cemetery at Kuching. However, the high death rate meant that this was soon filled, and so in November 1942 a new cemetery area was created next to the camp, at an area to the south-east known as "Boot Hill". The cemetery was within sight of the camp. [Ooi 1998, 366] At first the dead were buried in coffins, but soon the number of fatalities and the shortage of timber meant that shrouds made from rice sacks or blankets were used instead. The bodies were carried to the grave in a wooden coffin with a hinged bottom, which allowed re-use. [Ooi 1998, 335, 367, 389, AWM photographs 118566 and 118567]

Hilda Bates wrote in June 1945: "I am horrified at the increased number of graves in the burial ground. Deaths are now so frequent, that a party of grave diggers is now permanently employed, and given extra rations in order that they will have the strength to dig". [Ooi 1998, 339]

After liberation, the bodies were exhumed from the cemetery and sent to Labuan for reburial in a central military cemetery there. A large number of the graves of prisoners from Batu Lintang now at Labuan are unidentified: after the Japanese surrender Suga destroyed many camp records. The cemetery in Labuan is cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The radio (the "Old Lady") and generator ("Ginnie")

Information on the outside world was gathered from a variety of sources, such as from co-workers of the Batu Lintang work parties at Kuching docks. [Ooi 1998, 363] However, an invaluable boost to the prisoners' morale was provided by a secret radio, from which they were able to learn about the progress of the war. [Ooi 1998, 391] This had been constructed from scavenged and bartered parts. A generator was later constructed to power the radio.

The construction of the radio was ordered by Russell. He and some 1150 other POWs had arrived at Batu Lintang on 13 October 1942 from Tanjung Priok camp in Java, where a small group of men had worked on constructing a radio. [Ooi 1998, 314, 439] His proposal was initially met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, as discovery would result in certain death. [Ooi 1998, 439-440]

It was known that ethnic Chinese people in Sarawak were pro-Allied, and so contact was made with the Ongs, the leading Chinese family in Kuching, who lived about a mile from the camp, to see if they could assist in providing parts. [Ooi 1998, 440; cite web
title =Mrs Harris and Ginnie
publisher =AII POW-MIA InterNetwork
url =
accessdate = 2007-04-03
] The first night-time attempt, by G. W. Pringle, was a failure as he could not find his way through the dense jungle to the house. A reconnoitre mission was required. To achieve this, Russell suggested to Dr Yamamoto that as the area was a breeding ground for mosquitoes (with the resultant risk of malaria, which would affect Japanese and prisoner alike), the jungle should be cleared and sprayed. Pringle took part on this working party and was able to plot his route. He subsequently made contact and Ong Tiang Swee, Kapitan China of Sarawak and the patriarch of the Ong family, agreed to help. Ong instructed his grandson, Kee Hui to help Pringle obtain the needed parts. [cite web
title =Mrs Harris and Ginnie
publisher =AII POW-MIA InterNetwork
url =
accessdate = 2007-04-03
] This was at massive risk to the family's own safety as they too would have been executed if discovered. Their only condition was that they should be provided with the news gathered from the radio, in order to boost the morale of the Chinese community under occupation in Kuching. They provided some radio parts, the acquisition of which must have been a considerable task as all radio equipment had been confiscated by the Japanese. [Ooi 1998, 442-454]

The radio was built and operated in the British other ranks' camp. The maker of the radio was Warrant Officer Leonard A. T. Beckett, an experienced radio engineer, who was assisted in its construction, operation and concealment by a core group of three other soldiers. Before Beckett could begin on the radio he first had to make some of the tools needed, such as a lathe and a soldering iron. In addition to the genuine radio parts provided by the Chinese family and a few parts brought along with the men from Tanjung Priok, the radio was constructed from items as diverse as a deaf aid, the steering damper of a Norton motorcycle, a bakelite shaving soap container, an army mess tin, the backing of an old map case, pieces of glass, wire, mica and barbed wire, and parts stolen from Japanese-owned motor cars and motorcycles. The receiver was completed within three to four weeks of starting. [Ooi 1998, 358, 441, 457, 516-7 and 549]

During its construction the radio was concealed in a large stewing-pot; once completed its hiding place was in a biscuit tin buried under the bakehouse fire in the British other ranks' compound. [Ooi 1998, 395, 457, 517, 522] It was operated in the stores, where it had a temporary hiding place in a false-bottomed table. [Ooi 1998, 396] Elaborate security proceedings to protect the radio were put in place, including a network of look-outs. [Ooi 1998, 397, 457]

At first the radio ran off torch batteries: these soon ran out and so Beckett constructed a power unit to run off the camp electricity supply. [Ooi 1998, 517, 549] Access to the camp powerhouse was gained by one of the POWs who had been a professional cat burglar before the war. [Ooi 1998, 368]

The radio was first used on the night of 24 February 1943, as radio reception was better in the evening. Some of the news was bewildering to the prisoners: "Who is this General Montgomery? He seems to be the man we ought to have had in charge from the very beginning. A real live wire", wrote Pringle. [Ooi 1998, 460-1, 517]

The existence of the radio, referred to by many code-names but chiefly as the "Old Lady" and "Mrs Harris", [Ooi 1998, 627; Keith 182] was to be a closely-guarded secret, for fear of alerting the Japanese to its existence through loose talk. The commanding officers of the camp and those who had constructed and operated it were known as the "Board of Directors", and were the only ones who knew the precise contents of the radio news received. [Ooi 1998, 570] However, a way of disseminating information was organised: it was arranged for rumours to be spread which contained a considerable amount of truth. [Ooi 1998, 458] Le Gros Clark, the head of the male internees, directed the dissemination of news amongst the male internees; [Ooi 1998, 549] it was decided not to provide information to the women's camp. News was also passed to the Chinese once a week, carried through the jungle by Pringle. On the first exchange, without being asked the Chinese thoughtfully provided medical supplies; thereafter they provided much-needed medicines, money and vegetable seeds on a regular basis. [Ooi 1998, 461-464] The leaked news rumours had the desired effect and a more cheerful atmosphere was noted in the camp. [Ooi 1998, 463] The women's camp somehow learned of the existence of the radio and the camp mistress, Dorie Adams, asked that they should be provided with news; to counter worries about security she suggested that the Roman Catholic priest who celebrated mass with the R.C. nuns should deliver the news as part of his service, which was always given in Latin. [Ooi 1998, 471-2]

In early March 1943, the provision of electric power for the lighting in the internees' camps was halted. [Ooi 1998, 549] This was a serious blow as the radio was run off the power supply. Batteries were unavailable, and so the only solution, again the idea of Russell, was to construct a generator. Again, his idea met with some initial scepticism: "Now I know he has gone mad", wrote Pringle. [Ooi 1998, 494] However, Pringle’s colleagues were more enthusiastic. Beckett was sure he could build the generator, and British RAOC personnel were certain they could supply the necessary components, though they thought it would take three months to make the tools needed. [Ooi 1998, 1998, 495] To disguise the noise of the work, the enterprise was described as a "watch repairing factory" to the Japanese, who offered the use of various tools and other equipment. [Ooi 1998, 498] In March 1943, after the execution of some prisoners at the Sandakan POW camp for operating a radio, the Japanese stepped up their searches at Batu Lintang. [Ooi 1998, 398] Many essential items for the construction of the generator, such as magnets, wire and scrap iron, were not easily available, but the involvement of "Freddie", one of the prisoners who was a self-confessed thief (and most likely the same man who sorted the power supply: records are unclear) meant that material and equipment was soon obtained. [Ooi 1998, 498]

The generator needed to turn at 3,000 revolutions a minute, and so the fittest of the men involved in its construction was chosen to turn the wheel. He was given extra food rations to prepare him for the task. [Ooi 1998, 504] The first trial of the generator was a success, and again, Pringle recorded how news reports told of unknown figures: "Events appeared to have been moving with unseemly haste during our enforced breaks from the news broadcasts. [We] listened to names we had never heard of. General Eisenhower? General Stilwell?" The assembling and disassembling drill took less than thirty seconds, with both the "Old Lady" and "Ginnie" stowed in their hiding places in the hut which was occupied by cookhouse staff during the day.

In June 1944, Le Gros Clark was taken from the camp by the "kempeitai" for questioning. On his return the same day he was considerably shaken and recommended that the radio should be destroyed. This message was relayed to the camp master of the British other ranks' camp by Whimster, who was the senior British officer. Beckett and his colleagues were informed of this order, but were left to decide themselves what course of action to take. Realising its importance in keeping up camp morale, they decided to keep the radio, saying that "we might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb", according to Pepler. [Ooi 1998, 398, 549, 553] Steps to safeguard the civilian internees were undertaken by cutting off news to their camps. [As a result some of the male internees instigated the smuggling-in of a newspaper, previously available in the camp but banned since August 1943. They were caught, and although opposed to the activity, Le Gros Clark was implicated. Nine men were tried and sentenced to between six months' and six years' imprisonment. Le Gros Clark was amongst the five men of the nine at the trial who were murdered by the Japanese at Keningau aerodrome some time in June or July 1945 (Ooi 1998, 549-560)]

That same month the prisoners received news of the invasion of Normandy. Pringle recorded how, once again, the news brought unfamiliar names to the prisoners' attention: "'Blood and Guts Patton'. Now there is a name for a General! ... Somehow though, we feel that with a General bearing the name of 'Blood and Guts' there is little danger of the Germans dislodging his army". [Ooi 1998, 507-8] It was clear that such important news would have a great effect in the camp; at the same time, the rejoicing it would bring would undoubtedly alert the Japanese. It was therefore decided to provide a hint to the other prisoners, rather than the full information. This was again delivered by a priest, this time by the padre officiating at one of the numerous funeral services. He quoted Exodus chapter 15, verses 9 and 10, which refer to pursuing, overtaking and destroying the enemy, and the sea. News of the bombing of London by V-2 rockets was understandably withheld. [Ooi 1998, 509-512]

The news of the German capitulation on 7 May 1945 was similarly cryptically relayed at a funeral by the padre. This time the verse was Exodus chapter 3, verse 8, concerning the deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians to the land of milk and honey; extra piquancy was added by the fact that Suga was present at this service. [Ooi 1998, 513-4]

End of the war for Batu Lintang

In the Allied plans for the South West Pacific theatre, the responsibility for re-taking the island of Borneo was entrusted to Australian forces. Prior to the Australian landings, strategic bombing and reconnaissance missions were undertaken by the RAAF and USAAF. The first Allied planes, 15 USAAF Lockheed Lightnings were seen over the camp on the morning of 25 March 1945, as they flew on a mission to bomb the Batu Tujoh landing ground. [Ooi 1998, 335, 353, 604; Keith 170] Raids continued sporadically over the next few weeks. A lone Flying Fortress regularly attacked targets in Kuching. [Ooi 1998, 604]

The Borneo campaign was launched on 1 May 1945, with a brigade of the Australian 9th Division landing at Tarakan, on the eastern coast of Dutch Borneo. The American armed forces provided naval and air support to assist the landings, and in some cases the Australians were assisted by the advance landings of the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) and their local allies. [Ooi 1998, 9, 569-570] This was followed by landings in Brunei and Labuan on 10 June. [Long 459] In early July, a raid was made by Mosquito aircraft on oil and petrol dumps near to the camp. [Ooi 1998, 606] Liberation still seemed a remote prospect, however: "As the weeks dragged by, the lone planes of the Allies were a daily occurrence and as we had realised very early that they could do nothing to help us, we hardly took any notice of them". [Ooi 1998, 606]

The atomic bombings in Japan at Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 followed by that of Nagasaki on 9 August precipitated the abrupt end of the war. On 15 August, 1945 Japan announced its official unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers. The men's camps learned of the surrender early in the morning of 15 August, in a broadcast by Radio Chungking received by the secret radio. [Ooi 1998, 607-8, 614-6. The official surrender broadcast, a pre-recorded speech by Emperor Hirohito, the Imperial Rescript on Surrender, was made at noon on 15 August. However, the Japanese Suzuki government had indicated the surrender on August 14, by notifying the Allied forces that it accepted the Potsdam Agreement. Chungking in China was Chiang Kai-shek's provisional capital during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and so broadcast pro-Allied news and propaganda] Pringle made one last journey through the jungle to inform his Chinese friends. [Ooi 1998, 616] The news was immediately broken to the British other ranks' compound, and quickly spread to the other camps. Celebratory meals were prepared, with precious supplies and livestock used up. The Japanese guards were unaware of their country's surrender, and as the day coincided with an official camp holiday, marking the opening of the camp on 15 August three years previously, they were satisfied that the celebrations were related to the break from the working parties. [Ooi 1998, 607] The women learned shortly afterwards, when the married women had their scheduled meeting with their husbands. [Ooi 1998, 622]

Under General Order No. 1, issued on 16 August by General Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, the Japanese were required to provide information on the location of all camps and were responsible for the safety of prisoners and internees, for providing them with adequate food, shelter, clothes and medical care until their care could pass to the Allied powers, and for handing over each store together with its equipment, stores, arms and ammunition and records to the senior Allied officer in each camp. Since it was known that in many areas prisoners and internees were suffering from starvation and neglect, it was of the first importance that they were contacted and recovered as soon as possible. [Kirby 1969, 246]

Despite the surrender, the Japanese would remain in control of the camp until 11 September. During this period there were no work parties and the prisoners did not suffer any beatings. [Ooi 1998, 610, 616] "It became apparent during the next few days that the Japanese soldiers knew something had happened but were not sure what it was", wrote Pepler. [Ooi 1998, 608. A second rescript was issued to Japan's armed forces on 17 August; it is unclear at what stage this would have been received and disseminated at Batu Lintang camp] Extra food was provided by the Japanese shortly afterwards; the camp hospital was furnished with bed chairs and mosquito nets for the first time, and substantial amounts of medicine were issued. [Ooi 1998, 622-3]

A pamphlet in English entitled "JAPAN HAS SURRENDERED" was dropped over the camp by three Beaufighters on 16 August. [Bell 111] From 19-23 August, leaflets were dropped by aircraft all over known areas in which the Japanese were concentrated, giving general war news and news of the progress of the surrender. [Long 562] On August 19 or 20 [Bell 112; Ooi 1998, 623; Keith 182] more leaflets were dropped on the camp. Signed by Major-General George Wootten, General Officer Commanding, 9th Division, they informed the prisoners of the surrender of Japan, and stated "I know that you will realise that on account of your location, it will be difficult to get aid to you immediately, but you can rest assured that we will do everything within our power to release and care for you as soon as possible". [Keith 182]

On 24 August Suga officially announced to the camp that Japan had surrendered. [Bell 113; Ooi 1998, 618; Keith 182. Although sources vary, the most likely date appears to be 24 August] On 29 August letters were dropped on the camp, instructing the Japanese commander to make contact with the Australian commanders. The letter contained a code of panel signals which enabled Suga to indicate that he agreed to the dropping of supplies for the prisoners and that he would meet Australian representatives later. [Bell 115-6; "pace" Long 562] These panels were placed on the roof of one of the buildings and can be seen in the photograph at the start of the article (above).

Stores in long canisters (known by the aircraftmen as "storpedos") were first parachuted into the camp from a RAAF Douglas Dakota on 30 August. A female internee, Hilda Bates, wrote: "At 11.30 a.m. today a sea-plane dropped twenty parachutes with packages attached. One fell outside our hut and was labelled 'bread'. Others contained flour, tinned rabbit, and other meat. The goods were collected by the Japs under the supervision of Australian Officers who distributed them to the groups of internees. All sorts of what we had thought of as luxuries arrived; such as sugar, sweets, milk, bundles of clothing, and even fashion books!". [Ooi 1998, 624] Further supplies were dropped daily; [Ooi 1998, 609] tragedy struck on 7 September when a male civilian internee was hit and killed by a storpedo that had broken free from its parachute. [Ooi 1998, 609, 625, 633]

The official Instrument of Surrender was signed on 2 September ending World War II.

After communicating with the Japanese staff at Kuching, Colonel A. G. Wilson landed on the Sarawak River on 5 September and conferred with the commander of the Japanese forces there, who confirmed there were 2,024 Allied prisoners and internees in the area. The next day, Brigadier Thomas Eastick, commander of Kuching Force — a detachment from the 9th Division — flew to the mouth of the Sarawak River in a Catalina where three Japanese officers, including Suga, came aboard for talks. [Long 563] The task of Kuching Force was to accept the surrender of and impound the Japanese forces in the Kuching area, release and evacuate Allied prisoners and internees, and establish military control. [Long 562-3; AWM photographs OG3454 and OG3455] At the meeting, Suga presented Eastick with complete nominal rolls of all camps. [Firkins 133]

On 7 September, Walsh was permitted by the Japanese to fly to the headquarters of the 9th Division on Labuan island, to collect surgical and medical supplies for the camp. He returned with two Australian medical officers, Major A. W. M. Hutson and Lt.-Col. N. H. Morgan. [Long 563; AWM photograph 115799] Pepler recorded how "Dr Yamamoto came in for one hell of a time from these two Medical Officers when they saw the state of the majority of our camp. Up-to-date medical care and drugs soon began to show effect upon our sick and many lives were saved by these two officers. Out of the two thousand of us who entered that camp, only seven hundred and fifty survived and of these well over six hundred were chronic sick". [Ooi 1998, 609-610]

Death orders

Immediately prior to the surrender of Japan, rumours abounded in the camp that the Japanese intended to execute all the prisoners rather than allow them to be freed by the approaching Allied forces; [Ooi 1998, 611-614] when Dr Yamamoto informed some prisoners that they were to be moved to a new camp they naturally feared the worst, especially when he promised the unlikely idyll of a camp "equipped with the best medical equipment obtainable ... there would be no working parties and food would be plentiful ... the sick men would be especially well cared for". [Ooi 1998, 612-614. Quotation from the papers of G. W. Pringle]

Official orders to execute all the prisoners, both POWs and civilian, on 17 or 18 August 1945 [Ooi 1998, 610, 628] were found in Suga's quarters after liberation of the camp. The orders were not carried out, presumably as a result of the unconditional surrender of Japan on 15 August. A "death march", similar to those at Sandakan and elsewhere, was to have been undertaken by those male prisoners physically able to undertake it; other prisoners were to be executed by various methods in the camp:

*1 All POWs and male internees to be marched to a camp at milestone 21 and bayoneted there
*2 All sick unable to walk to be treated similarly in the Square at Kuching [in the square at the camp rather than in Kuching town]
*3 All women and children to be burnt in their barracks [Ooi 1998, 628]

Revised orders for the execution on 15 September 1945 of all the internees were also found, this time in the Administration Office at Batu Lintang:

*Group 1 Women internees, children and nuns - to be given poisoned rice
*Group 2 Internee men and Catholic Fathers to be shot and burnt
*Group 3 POWs to be marched in to the jungle, shot and burnt
*Group 4 Sick and weak left at Batu Lintang main camp to be bayoneted and the entire camp to be destroyed by fire [Ooi 1998, 648; Keith 183, 206]

The camp was liberated on 11 September 1945, four days before the revised proposed execution date of over 2,000 men, women and children.

Liberation of the camp

On 8 and 9 September the RAN corvette HMAS "Kapunda" with Eastick and staff officers on board sailed for Kuching, along with "USS Doyle C. Barnes". At 2.35pm on 11 September Eastick accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces in the Kuching area from their commander, Major-General Hiyoe Yamamura, on board HMAS "Kapunda". [Long 563; AWM photographs 041062-041071, 116168-116175] Later that day the Australian occupying force landed. [Long 563]

The 9th Division troops arrived at Batu Lintang camp that afternoon, accompanied by a few American naval officers. [Ooi 1998, 626] There was no resistance from the Japanese troops. The prisoners and internees had been forewarned that there would be no delay in taking the surrender, and quickly gathered at 5pm in the main square of the camp to witness Eastick accept the sword of Suga. [Ooi 1998, 619, 626] The Japanese finally learned of the existence of the radio in a dramatic fashion:

"The Australian Commander, Major General" [sic] "Eastick ... mounted the rostrum and after accepting the sword of surrender from Suga was about to dismiss him when a shout, rising simultaneously from the throats of the Board of Directors of the 'Old Lady' and 'Ginnie' stopped the proceedings. 'Hold on, we have something to show you.' Carrying the radio and generator Len [Beckett] proudly showed them to the General and turning to Suga, asked, 'Well, what do you think about it Suga?' Now I know the full meaning of the saying 'If looks could kill.' Len would have died a horrible death". [Ooi 1998, 620; quotation from the papers of G. W. Pringle]

The following day Suga, together with Captain Negata and Dr Yamamoto, were flown to the Australian base on Labuan, to await their trials as war criminals. Suga committed suicide there on 16 September. Negata and Yamamoto were later tried, found guilty and executed. [Ooi 1998, 667]

Photographers and cameramen accompanied the liberating force, and the events, and those of the following days, were well-documented. [Ooi 1998, 610, 627] On liberation, the camp contained 2,024 inmates: 1,392 prisoners (including 882 British, 178 Australian and 45 Indian); and 632 internees. [Long 562; Kirby 1969, Appendix 30] The most ill prisoners were taken to Kuching Civil Hospital, which had been entirely refitted by the Australians since serving as the Japanese military hospital. [Ooi 1998, 620, 628]

On 12 September, a thanksgiving service was held in the camp, led by two Australian chaplains from the liberating force and Bishop Francis S. Hollis of Sarawak, an ex-internee. [Ooi 1998, 627; Keith 201] This was followed by a parade held in honour of Wootten, as commander of the 9th Division. [AWM photographs 118591-118598] In appreciation of Beckett's work on the radio, fellow ex-prisoners in the camp subscribed over £1,000 for him, a massive sum of money for the time, which Beckett intended to use to set up a wireless business in London, his hometown. [AWM photograph OG3527]

Repatriation commenced on 12 September, and by 14 September, 858 former prisoners had been removed, though pressure of numbers meant that some were still at Batu Lintang a week after liberation. Ex-prisoners were transported by ship (including "Wanganella", an Australian hospital ship) and in eight Douglas Dakotas and two Catalinas, to the 9th Division's "Released Prisoners of War and Internees Reception Camp", and the 2/1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) on Labuan, before continuing their journeys homeward. [Long 563; Wigmore 634]

The captured Japanese soldiers were then held at Batu Lintang camp. There they were visited by J. B. Archer, an ex-internee, who noted 'There were about eight thousand of them ... it was difficult not to feel aggrieved at the good treatment they were receiving compared to what we had received at their hands. A lunch of fried rice, fish, vegetable and dried fruit was shown to me. This, I was told, was just an ordinary sample.' [Archer 1997,56]


By June-July 1946, the bodies in the cemetery at Batu Lintang had been exhumed and reburied in the military cemetery on Labuan island. [Ooi 1998, 672] In 1947 a grant was approved for the establishment of a teachers' training college on the site. It exists as such to the present day, the oldest in Malaysia. Of the numerous huts that had housed the prisoners, only 21 were considered fit for use in 1947; after refurbishment the college moved in July 1948 from its temporary home in Kuching to the site at Batu Lintang. [Lim 1995, 81,98] The huts have gradually been replaced over the years, although a few remnants of the site's former life remain. These include a single hut (albeit with a galvanised roof rather than the attap (palm leaf) one of the war), the old gate posts, the gate bunker and stump of the Japanese flag pole. There is also a small museum on the site. [cite web
title =Sandakan ANZAC Tour 2002
publisher =COFEPOW
url =
accessdate = 2007-03-23

"Three Came Home", an account of female internee Agnes Newton Keith's time in the camp, was published in 1947. It was later made into a feature film of the same name, with Claudette Colbert playing the part of Agnes and Sessue Hayakawa in the role of Suga.

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia holds a large archive of material related to the camp, much of which is accessible on the AWM website [cite web
title =Australian War Memorial
publisher =Australian War Memorial
url =
accessdate = 2007-03-23
] in the collections databases. In England, the Imperial War Museum in London also houses material about the camp, as does the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House in Oxford. Many of the personal recollections held at the latter two repositories are reproduced in the 1998 publication by Keat Gin Ooi (see below for full reference).

Batu Lintang in March 2007: gallery

POWs and internees of note

*Frank Bell
*Dr Marcus C. Clarke
*I. H. N. Evans
*Agnes Newton Keith
*William Young



* Anonymous (1944) "Kuching Internment Camp, July 1943" "The Chronicle: A Quarterly Report Of The Borneo Mission Association" 28(1), 7 (March 1944)
* Archer, B. E. (1999) "A study of civilian internment by the Japanese in the Far East, 1941–45" Essex: B. Archer (University of Essex PhD thesis)
* Archer, Bernice (2004) "The Internment of Western Civilians under the Japanese 1941-45, A Patchwork of Internment" London: Routledge Curzon ISBN 0 7146 5592 9 (A 2008 reprint with expanded final chapter has been published by Hong Kong University Press)
* Archer, John Belville (1946) (collected and edited) "Lintang Camp: Official Documents from the Records of The Civilian Internment Camp (No 1 Camp) at Lintang, Kuching, Sarawak, During the Years 1942-1943-1944-1945". Published as a pamphlet March 1946
* Archer, John Belville (1997) "Glimpses of Sarawak Between 1912 & 1946: Autobiographical Extracts & Articles of an Officer of the Rajahs" Compiled and edited by Vernon L. Porritt Special Issue of the Department of South-East Asian Studies, University of Hull ISBN 0 85958 906 4
* Arvier, Robyn (2001) "Caesar's Ghost!": Maurie Arvier's story of war, captivity and survival" Launceston, Tasmania. Arvier was in the Australian officers' camp
* Arvier, Robyn (collected and edited) (2004) "Don’t worry about me: Wartime letters of the 8th Division A.I.F." Launceston, Tasmania: Bokprint. ISBN 0646440268
* Bell, Frank (1991) "Undercover University" (revised edition) Cambridge: Elisabeth Bell. ISBN 0 9516984 0 0 (Originally published in 1990, same ISBN). Bell was in the British officers' camp; his wife published his account after his death
* Brown, D. A. D. (1946) "Reminiscences of Internment" "The Chronicle: A Quarterly Report Of The Borneo Mission Association" 29(3), 37 (December 1946)
* Colley, George S. Jr. (1951) "Manila, Kuching and return 1941-1945" San Francisco: privately printed (first printing 1946). Colley was in the male civilians' camp; his wife was in the female civilians' camp
* Cunningham, Michele K. (2006) "Defying the Odds. Surviving Sandakan and Kuching" Lothian Books/Hachette Livre ISBN 9780734409171
* Darch, Ernest G. (Airman) (2000) "Survival in Japanese POW Camps with Changkol and Basket" London: Minerva Press. ISBN 0 75411 161 X (also published by Stewart Books, Ontario, Canada). Darch was in the British other ranks' camp
* Dawson, Christopher (1995) "To Sandakan: The Diaries of Charlie Johnstone Prisoner of War 1942-45" St Leonards, Australia: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1 86373 818 5 Johnstone, an Australian serving in the RAF, was in the British officers' camp
* Digby, K. H. (1980) "Lawyer in the Wilderness" Ithaca, New York: Cornell University (Data Paper 114, Southeast Asia Program, Department of Asian Studies) Digby was in the male civilians' camp
* Evans, Stephen R. (1999) "Sabah (North Borneo) Under the Rising Sun Government" Printed in Malaysia, no publisher details or ISBN. Contains an account by J. R. Baxter, who was in the male civilians' camp
* Firkins, Peter (1995) "Borneo Surgeon: A Reluctant Hero" Carlisle, Western Australia: Hesperian Press. ISBN 0-85905-211-7. A biography of Dr James P. Taylor, Principal Medical Officer in North Borneo when the Japanese invaded. His wife Celia was in the female civilians' camp
* Forbes, George K. "et al." (1947) "Borneo Burlesque: Comic Tragedy/Tragic Comedy" Sydney: H. S. Clayton. Edition limited to 338 copies
* Howes, Peter H. H. (1976) "The Lintang Camp: Reminiscences of an Internee during the Japanese Occupation, 1942-1945" "Journal of the Malaysian Historical Society (Sarawak Branch)" 2, 33-47. Howes was a Church of England priest in Sarawak, and was in the male civilians' camp
* Howes, Peter H. H. (1994) "In a Fair Ground or Cibus Cassowari" London: Excalibur Press. ISBN 1 85634 367 7
* Keith, Agnes Newton (1955) "Three Came Home" London: Michael Joseph (Mermaid Books). Originally published in 1947 by Little Brown and Company, Boston, Mass. Keith was in the female civilians' camp
* Keith, Agnes Newton (1972) "Beloved Exiles" Boston, Mass: Little Brown and Company Semi-autobiographical novel based on Keith's time in Borneo, including her internment
* Kell, Derwent (1984) "A Doctor's Borneo" Brisbane: Boolarong Publications. ISBN 0 908175 80 9. Derwent Kell is the pen name of Dr Marcus C. Clarke, who was in the male civilians' camp
* Kirby, S. Woodburn "et al." (1957) "The War Against Japan. Volume 1: The Loss of Singapore" London: HMSO
* Kirby, S. Woodburn "et al." (1969) "The War Against Japan. Volume 5: The Surrender of Japan" London: HMSO
* Lim, Shau Hua Julitta (1995) "From an Army Camp to a Teacher College: A History of Batu Lintang Teachers' College, Kuching, Sarawak" ISBN 9839906801
* Lim, Shau Hua Julitta (2005) "Pussy's in the well: Japanese Occupation of Sarawak 1941 - 1945" Kuching, Sarawak: Research and Resource Centre ISBN 983 41998 2 1 Some accounts, many photographs and some nominal rolls
* Long, Gavin (1963) "The Final Campaigns" Australia in the War 1939-1945 Series 1 (Army), Volume 7. Canberra: Australian War Memorial (Online in PDF form at [] )
* Mackie, John (2007) "Captain Jack Surveyor and Engineer: The autobiography of John Mackie" Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Institute of Surveyors ISBN 0 9582 486 6 4 Mackie was in the British officers' camp
* Newman, Carolyn (ed) (2005) "Legacies of our Fathers" South Melbourne: Lothian Books ISBN 0-7344-0877-3 Accounts of six Australian officers and a female civilian internee
* O'Connor, Michael P. (1954) "The More Fool I" Dublin: Michael F. Moynihan Account of O'Connor's time in Malaya, including Batu Lintang. He was in the male civilians' camp
* Ooi, Keat Gin (1998) "Japanese Empire in the Tropics: Selected Documents and Reports of the Japanese Period in Sarawak, Northwest Borneo, 1941-1945" Ohio University Center for International Studies, Monographs in International Studies, SE Asia Series 101 (2 vols) ISBN 0 89680 199 3 Contains many accounts by British POWs and civilian internees.
* Ooi, Keat Gin (2006) "The 'Slapping Monster' and Other Stories: Recollections of the Japanese Occupation (1941-1945) of Borneo through Autobiographies, Biographies, Memoirs, and Other Ego-documents" "Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History" 7(3), Winter 2006
* Perry, Anthony (1955) "A Visit to Batu Lintang" "The Chronicle: A Quarterly Report Of The Borneo Mission Association" 34(2), 22 (December 1955)
* Purden, Ivor M. (1989) "Japanese P.O.W. Camps in Borneo" in Neville Watterson (1989) "Borneo: The Japanese P.O.W. Camps - Mail of the Forces, P.O.W. and Internees" (published by W. N. Watterson)
* Reece, Bob (1998) "Masa Jepun: Sarawak under the Japanese 1941-1945" Kuching, Sarawak: Sarawak Literary Society ISBN 983 9115 06 5
* St. John-Jones, L. W. (2004) "The Kuching Prisoner-of-War Camp 1944-45: Heroism and Tragedy" "Sabah Society Journal" 21
* Smallfield, E. J. (1947) "Internment Under the Japanese" "New Zealand Surveyor" 19, no 4, April 1947, 301-310. Smallfield was in the male civilians' camp
* Southwell, C. Hudson (1999) "Uncharted Waters" Calgary, Canada: Astana Publishing ISBN 0 9685440 0 2 Southwell was in the male civilians' camp
* Taylor, Brian (2006) "Lintang Camp Memorials" "The Sarawak Museum Journal" 62(83), 59-62 (December 2006)
* Torrens, Alexandra (1998) "Borneo burlesque" "Wartime" 4 (Summer 1998), 51-55. "Wartime" is the official magazine of the Australian War Memorial. The article is about a group of officers who made it their mission to uphold the morale of Australian POWs in Batu Lintang
* Walker, Allan S. (1953) "Middle East and Far East" Australia in the War 1939-1945 Series 5 (Medical), Volume 2. Canberra: Australian War Memorial (1962 reprint online in PDF form at [] )
* Wall, Don (no date, post-1993) "Kill the Prisoners!" Mona Vale, NSW, Australia: Don Wall ISBN 0646 278 347
* Watterson, W. N. (1989) and (1994) "Borneo: The Japanese P.O.W. Camps - Mail of the Forces, P.O.W. and Internees" (published in two parts by W. N. Watterson) ISBN 0 9514951 0 0 (Part 1, 1989); ISBN 0 9514951 2 7 (Part 2, 1994)
* Wigmore, Lionel (1957) "The Japanese Thrust" Australia in the War 1939-1945 Series 1 (Army), Volume 4. Canberra: Australian War Memorial (Online in PDF form at [] )
* Yap, Felicia (2004) "Reassessing the Japanese prisoner of war and internment experience: the Lintang Camp, Kuching, Sarawak, 1942-45" Cambridge: M. Phil. dissertation (copy held in the Seeley Library, University of Cambridge Faculty of History)

External links

* [ Plan of the camp, one of several different versions] The plan is dated 1945, and the layout of the barracks differs (mostly in orientation rather than location) from that shown in the 1945 aerial reconnaissance photographs held at the AWM
* [ Sketch of malnutrition cases from Batu Lintang] "Typical Malnutrition Cases: Australian and British Prisoners of War just released from Lintang Barracks, Kuching, Borneo 16 September 1945" by Tony Rafty. Imperial War Museum, Catalogue Number ART LD5884
* [ Sketch of hospitalised POWs from Batu Lintang] "British Prisoners-of-War after Rescue from Kuching, Borneo" by Tony Rafty. Imperial War Museum, Catalogue Number ART LD5885
* [ Female internees' signatures] Tea towel signed by the female internees in the camp, and by some of the Japanese staff, including Lt.-Col. Suga, and embroidered over by Mrs Catherine Craig Kidd. National Museums of Scotland.
* [ Photograph of the stone which commemorated the opening of the camp on 15 August 1942.] The stone bears the name of the camp commander, Colonel Tatsuji Suga, and the command "Be faithful". It is now housed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
* [ Information on "Borneo Burlesque" (Forbes "et al".)]
* [ Episode 10 of "Can We Help?"] Broadcast by ABC 18 April 2008. Part of the programme features Dandi Michael Tiong, who with his twin brother Danis Stephen Tiong was in the camp as a child. Includes some AWM archive footage of the camp. (NB all archive film material shows Batu Lintang, not the Labuan camp mentioned). Relevant times: 01:24-02:05 and 17:58-25:03.Personal histories
* Maurie Arvier (Australian serviceman) [ Short account] Scroll down to near the bottom of the page
* Mary Baldwin (civilian internee) [ Captivity] ; [ Release]
* John Stewart Bell (Australian serviceman) [ Short account] ; [ Short account] Same article but both have small amounts of additional information
* Leslie Bickerton (British serviceman) [ The Batu Lintang Union Jack]
* Charles Cleal (British serviceman) [,,2158870,00.html Short account]
* W. G. Cockburn (British serviceman) [ The use of maggots to clean a wound] Second article down on the page
* Edwin John Esler (Australian serviceman) [ Short account]
* Robert Fyvie and Frances Colina (British serviceman and civilian internee) [ Couple who met at Batu Lintang and married soon after their liberation]
* Bennie Gold (British serviceman) [ Near-discovery of the generator] ; [ Religion in the camp]
* Harold McManus (American serviceman) [ Short account] The webpage is mainly about Harold's brother, O. C. McManus
* Les Mockridge (British serviceman) [ Short account. Mockridge was initially at Sandakan]
* Dennis Riley (British serviceman) [ Life in the camp] ; [ The radio] ; [ Liberation of the camp] ; [ Labuan field hospital]
* Vernon Hopetoun Smith (Australian serviceman) [ Brief profile] Organisations
* [ Australian War Memorial]
* [ Batu Lintang Teachers' Training College website (in Malay)]
* [ Borneo POW Relatives Association of Western Australia] Parts of the site still under construction
* [ COFEPOW (Children and Families of Far East Prisoners of War)]
* [ Commonwealth War Graves Commission]
* [ FEPOW (Far East Prisoners of War) Community]
* [ Imperial War Museum (London)]

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