Latest News (April 2016)
I’m pleased to point you in the direction of a new comprehensive website covering all aspects of the Palembang and Muntok internees compiled by David Man. Thanks to Judy Balcombe for passing that information on.
Judy also sent on to me a photo (below) of the completed grave at Kampong Menjelang with the plaques with names of the British and Australian internees who died in Muntok (the Dutch graves are now in Jakarta).
Judy Balcombe has written a summary of her recent return to Muntok and Palembang with other relatives of those who died there. They took with them plaques as memorials to the internees and attended the opening of the new Peace Museum at Muntok.
Above: Two large baskets of bougainvillea petals were blessed and sprinkled on the grave at Muntok Town Cemetery.
Read on for the story of The Lost Graves of Muntok
Most of the civilian women who died in the Japanese internment camps in Sumatra (and were the inspiration for Lavinia Warner’s Tenko) were reburied in maintained cemeteries in Jakarta and have headstones that can still be visited today, but this is not the case for the dead of the infamous Muntok camp on Banka Island. After the war they were removed from their shallow graves near the camp and reburied, but in 1960 the Dutch asked the British to move their Muntok cemetery graves so that the Indonesians could use the land for building purposes.
Not in their Royal Charter:
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission elected to rebury the military personnel but left the civilian victims where they were, as it is not in their Royal Charter to move or safeguard civilian graves. In 1980, when a petrol station was built on the site, almost exactly over the part of the cemetery where the British graves had stood, and the remains of the some of the civilian women and men were found, it was assumed by locals that they were military personnel and they were reburied in a shared plot bearing this incorrect description.
The dead without a memorial:
Amongst those civilian women and men who died at Muntok who still do not have a memorial or individual headstones are Ruth Russell-Roberts, a former model (on whom Lavinia Warner partly based the Tenko character Rose Millar), and Mary Brown the mother of Shelagh Brown (later Lea) who survived the camps and was one of the women whom Warner interviewed and befriended before she put Tenko together. Shelagh sought to redress the matter of her mother’s grave throughout her life. That objective has now been taken up by her daughter Margaret ‘Margie’ Caldicott.
‘Let Us Not Forget‘:
In 1966 Shelagh Lea wrote a piece which eloquently captures how saddened and dismayed she felt at the abandonment of the graves of her mother and her friends whom she lost in the Muntok camp. You can read ‘Let Us Not Forget’ here.
Recent commemoration activity:
See the latest news section above for the efforts of the relatives of the civilian internees and the people of Muntok to ensure that these graves are lost no more.
There follows a memorial roll of those civilian women and men who died in the Muntok camp between 1944 and 1945 whose graves were not moved to Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries. Although their graves were abandoned they will never be forgotten by their descendants.
N.B. The graves of three women – annotated below in red – have recently been found. The fact that they were moved from Muntok after the war proves that ‘cherry-picking’ took place with certain dead considered more worthy of re-burial than others.
(name/age/date of death)
Mrs Theresia ‘Resie’ Armstrong, 51, 7 February 1945
Miss Dixie Resie Armstrong, 32, 5 April 1945
Mrs Mary Awmack Battensby, 51, 11 Febuary 1945
Mrs Edith Florence Bedell, 65, 19 January 1945
Mrs Mary Elizabeth Brown, 67, 17 January 1945
Mrs Edith Evangeline Castle, 50, 19 November 1944
Mrs Marjorie Hindnaugh Cocke, 53, 5 March 1945 (grave located in Jakarta 19/05/13)
Mrs Mary Louise Day, 53, 16 December 1944
Mrs Helen Dixey, 48, 28 February 1945
Mrs Agnes Gertrude Dominguez, 63, 9 November 1944
Mrs Marjory Gray, 55, 13 January 1945
Mrs Murial Gregory, 43, 5 November 1944
Mrs Rena Rosie Haynes, 49, 10 January 1945
Mrs Kathleen Mary Hutchings, 46, 12 April 1945
Mrs Blanche Lucy Jones, 58, 8 December 1944
Miss Sabine Elizabeth MacKintosh, 57, 27 December 1944
Mrs Dorothy MacLeod, 59, 1 April 1945
Mrs Joan May Maddams, 36, 19 December 1944
Mrs Olga Mary Neubronner, 39, 2 March 1945 (grave located in Jakarta 19/05/13)
Mrs Evelyn Mary Parr, 38, 11 January 1945
Mrs Isobel Veronica Pennefather, 48, 15 March 1945
Mrs Sylvia Plummer, 42, 19 November 1944
Miss Eva Prouse, 49, 2 February 1945
Mrs Lillian Rodrigues, 46, 1 January 1945
Mrs Ruth Russell-Roberts, 36, 20 January 1945
Mrs Claire Sammy, 52, 18 November 1944 (grave located in Cimahi 19/05/13)
Mrs Esme Barbara Skinner, 38, 27 March 1945
Mrs Amy Alexandra Mary Simmons, 30, 26 February 1945
Mrs Louise Sinnatt, 32, 23 February 1945
Mrs Emily Elizabeth Smith, 72, 9 November 1944
Mrs Nellie Ellen Tay, 40, 21 November 1944
Miss Lottie Regina Wales, 48, 3 January 1945
Mrs Marion Galloway Langdon Williams, 46, 7 February 1945
Mr C. H. Adam, 5 October 1944
Mr Frederick Marshall Adam, 38, 25 January 1945
Mr John C. H. Aitken, 54, 25 November 1944
Mr Charles John Arnold, 70, 9 June 1944
Mr L. R. Blake, 47, 23 February 1945
Mr F. V. Boswell, 51, 10 July 1944
Mr Francis Grainger Brown, 44, 5 November 1944
Mr Lindsay Burn, 58, 8 November 1944
Mr Thomas Burns, 50, 22 October 1944
Mr Gordon Burt O.B.E., 46, 28 January 1945
Mr Colin Douglas Campbell, 53, 2 August 1944
Sir John Bruce Stuart Campbell, 66, 14 October 1943
Mr Richard James Potter Clarke, 56, 19 November 1944
Mr Vernon Rowe Connelly, 49, 17 October 1944
Mr John Gallagher Dominguez, 65, 11 September 1944
Mr Kenneth Gofrey Arthur Dohoo, 38, 25 October 1944
Mr Walter Pattinson Douglas, 55, 23 November 1944
Mr E. A. M. Dumas, Unknown, 1 December 1944
Mr Thomas Efford, 59, 24 November 1944
Mr Michael Francis Enright, 63, 24 January 1945
Dr David Richard Evans, 60, 30 July 1944
Mr John Samuel Evans, 37, 17 July 1944
Mr Frederick Fletcher, 70, 9 June 1944
Mr George Basil Warburton Gray, 62, 12 February 1944
Mr Cecil Reynold Grixoni, 43, 28 October 1944
Mr George Herny Hallam, Unknown, 18 July 1944
Mr Geoffrey Holderness, 45, 28 May 1944
Mr L. B. G. Jeffrey, 53, 2 May 1944
Mr Charles Martin Jenkin, 51, 17 November 1944
Mr Algernon Neville Laybourne, 54, 28 July 1944
Mr Frederick Lagharne Llewellyn, 48, 13 May 1944
Mr E. H. M. Manden, Unknown, 23 July 1944
Mr John McGuffin, 52, 8 March 1945
Mr Robert Meldrum, 49, 13 December 1944
Mr Jack Stephenson Messenger, 45, 2 November 1944
Mr Riley Llewellyn Morgan, 24 March 1945
Mr Robert Wallace Morris, 42, 8 June 1944
Mr Walter Penrice, 47, 20 July 1944
Mr Richard Henry Cozens Prior, 61, 15 August 1944
Mr Donald Frederick Pratt, 37, 1 May 1945
Mr Vincent Bristow Pybus, 11 November 1944
Mr C. G. Rebel, Unknown, 10 November 1944
Mr Gordon Stanley Reis, 55, 2 November 1944
Mr G. C. Spandaw, Unknown, 30 May 1944
Mr James Henry Stanners, 32, 22 January 1945
Mr Robert Stephenson, 47, 8 April 1945
Mr Frederick Thompson, 36, 27 November 1944
Mr Henry Stanley Tisshaw, 56, 24 November 1944
Mr W. Vorlauf, Unknown, 5 February 1945
Rev Albert Victor Wardle, 47, 4 January 1945
Mr Harry Leonard Watson, 31, 2 November 1944
Mr Hubert Victor Miles Woods, 43, 21 November 1943
Mr Thomas Kinnear Wilson, 53, 22 November 1944
Mr Alfred Herbert Wright, 44, 9 February 1945
Mr Herbert Zimmerman, 43, 11 June 1944
Further information and resources:
- A bibliography of books written by the survivors of the camps and researchers into Far Eastern internment, is available on the new ‘Singing to Survive’ website which specifically commemorates the 70th anniversary of the women’s vocal orchestra created by British women Norah Chambers and Margaret Dryburgh in the Palembang ‘barracks camp’ (the camp in which the women were incarcerated before they were returned to Muntok, where half of the orchestra members would die). The ‘Singing to Survive’ concert – Margie Caldicott and Lavinia Warner were two of the organisers – which had British women’s voices recreating the pieces first sung in captivity in December 1943 took place in Chichester in October 2013.
- A list of all the Sumatran internees is available here. N.B. This Sumatran Internees list does not include any Dutch internees. The Dutch government moved their graves to Jakarta in the 1960s. A list of the Dutch who were interned or who died in Muntok is not available.
- An account of Gordon Reis’s time in captivity, who died at Muntok in November 1944, is available here.
- Information about the experiences of Eva Prouse and Mary Glasgow who had formerly worked at Bukit Bintang Girls’ School in Kuala Lumpur can be read here.
- Jonathan Moffatt of the Malayan Volunteers Group is a wealth of information and very helpful to anyone who has a question about an internee.
Many thanks to Margie Caldicott, Judy Balcombe, Anthony Pratt, June Harfield, the Malayan Volunteers Group, and Lavinia Warner.