Brian McFadden, vice-president of the Vancouver Island Military Museum, shows elements of a new exhibit there that examines some of the horrors and hardships for women and children in prison camps during First and Second World Wars. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Brian McFadden, vice-president of the Vancouver Island Military Museum, shows elements of a new exhibit there that examines some of the horrors and hardships for women and children in prison camps during First and Second World Wars. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Women in prison camps persevered

Letter writer shares her mother’s recollections of prison camp in Java during Second World War

To the editor,

Re: Women, children suffered and died in prison camps, Nov. 4.

Dad was a POW in Singapore, Mamma and my brother Hans were in prison camp in Java. Wow, what my loved ones went through. They almost died a few times; they kept the peace and never gave up.

The lineups for some hot water and a tiny few tea leaves or a piece of bread or three kernels of rice were endless and when a woman showed fear or cried they were beaten. One Japanese commander made the women beat each other, Mamma didn’t want to hit the lady in front of her so that soldier had a stick with a metal hook and hit her leg so hard, Mamma said it felt like fire. The next day a colonel saw her leg all black and she pointed at the soldier with his back turned, the colonel got men to take him in his office, Mamma said the women heard ‘bang, thwack, aiee’ and the colonel came out and sort of laughed, the women bowed, he bowed and said, ‘OK, OK,’ with a wink at Mamma.

This same demoted soldier wore a canary yellow shirt at full moon and shot at birds. Then at sundown mamma and others sang a Dutch song about the sun going down and the Japanese soldiers tried to sing along.

Mamma told me she had to do forced labour carrying heavy sacks of rice on her back and at another time, she told me, she and the other women had to stand in line and one woman said, ‘quick, stand behind me, they want to select comfort women’ and that woman was selected. That same woman secretly gave Mamma food.

Those were some of the things she went through. She counselled everybody, said don’t give up. Mamma thought of home, of Hans and Pappa, it kept her alive.

On the way back to Holland there was an outbreak of spinal meningitis and many people of all ages died. Mamma was three months pregnant with me. God kept us safe.

Els Herdink, Nanaimo

RELATED: New exhibit at military museum in Nanaimo dedicated to prisoners of war

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Remember those soldiers who lost their lives in service


The views and opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of Black Press or the Nanaimo News Bulletin.

Letters policy: Letters should be no longer than 250 words and will be edited. Preference is given to letters expressing an opinion on issues of local relevance or responding to items published in the News Bulletin. Include your address (it won’t be published) and a first name or two initials, and a surname. Unsigned letters or letters specifically addressing someone else will not be published.

Mail: Letters, Nanaimo News Bulletin, 777 Poplar St., Nanaimo, B.C. V9S 2H7

Fax: 250-753-0788

E-mail: editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Letters to the editor

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police in Nanaimo hope to find the owner of a Giant Reign mountain bike that was seized after a man was spotted riding it without a helmet on the wrong side of the road on Christmas Eve. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP suspicious to find expensive bike covered in layer of duct tape

Police looking for owner of Giant Reign mountain bike that they believe was stolen

A still from surveillance footage showing a confrontation in the entranceway at Dolly’s Gym on Nicol Street on Friday morning. (Image submitted)
Troublemaker causes pain and damage at downtown Nanaimo gym

VIDEO: Suspect breaks fire alarm, slams door on business owner’s foot after attempting to defraud her

Scott Saywell, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ superintendent and CEO, has seen his contract renewed for four years, the district announced Wednesday. (SD68 YouTube screenshot)
Nanaimo school district renews superintendent’s contract for four years

‘Singing superintendent’ Scott Saywell under contract through 2024-25 school year

Cyclists pick up swag and cycling trail maps at city Bike to Work Week ‘celebration station’ a few years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plan will be about more than infrastructure

City working on goals to double walking trips and quintuple cycling and busing trips

Nanaimo RCMP seek public assistance after numerous tire slashings between Jan. 12-14. (News Bulletin file)
20 tires punctured in ‘slashing spree’ in Nanaimo

Nanaimo RCMP ask for any tips about Jan. 12-14 incidents in Country Club and Boxwood areas

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Cowichan Tribes members line up at a drive-up clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the region. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

“Any one of us could do everything right and still catch the virus”: Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read