Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Java FEPOW Tour with William Mundy by Andrew Glynn

Java FEPOW Club Tour, Java/Ambon/Singapore

In late September, local Singapore businessman of Mr. Andrew Glynn assisted the Java FEPOW Club with their tour throughout Java, Ambon and Singapore. They met with David Hope for an interesting lunch at the Singapore Cricket Club.

One of the UK’s strongest surviving Far East Prisoner of War (FEPOW) clubs, the Java Club has over 90 veteran members mainly those who were captured when the Dutch Surrendered to Japan on the 8th of March 1942; as well as numerous associate and family members.  It boasts among its patrons Dame Vera Lynn and the Countess of Wessex.

The trip was lead by Club Chairman, Lesley Clark whose father was imprisoned in numerous camps in Java and also Ambon. Several other children of former prisoners joined the trip.

We were fortunate that POW veteran Mr. William Mundy, an agile 91 year old, who was accompanied by his son Bryan, attended every stage of the trip. He may well be the last UK FEPOW to visit the remote Ambon area.

RAF Aircraftman William Mundy sailed from Gourock in Scotland on 3rd December 1941, bound for Kuala Lumpur, but as the Japanese made rapid advances through Malaya he was re-routed to Batavia.

He was captured at Garut, and later spending time at Glodok Prison (now demolished) and Tandjong Priok.  After surviving Typhoid Fever he was shipped with 1000 other men to Ambon, to work on a Japanese airfield construction at Liang in the North East of the Island. More than two thirds of these men were destined to die in Ambon or on the Hellships, such as the Suez Maru and Maros Maru, used to transport them back to Java a year later.

William said “I think most people would ask why on earth I would want to go back to where I had such a traumatic experience. There are the war graves, where some of the 775 out of the 1,000 who didn’t survive are buried, and I would appreciate the opportunity to reflect on their sacrifice”.

“Visiting the graves would also provide an opportunity to thank Almighty God for his grace, mercy, love and preservation which brought me safely back to the UK”.

Mr Mundy’s friend died on the Maros Maru and is commemorated at Kranji.

By the time William left Liang in a sick draft for Batavia he had advanced Beri-Beri, and was blind from Pellagra and glare from the white coral airstrip.  In mid 1944 he was transported to Changi Prison in Singapore where he set up a bee colony and lectured on bee keeping to fellow prisoners. A dedicated hobby apiarist before, during and after the war, Mr Mundy still lectures on bee keeping at local colleges.

Although the honey wasn’t used for food (there wasn’t a separator for the Queen), it was excellent as an ointment for treating skin diseases and especially tropical ulcers. Honey is hygroscopic so dries out wounds.

At least one of his students from Changi POW Camp set up an Apiary business when he returned to Australia.

The tragic experiences of the POW’s had a big impact on their families too. Take for example Mrs. Hazel Wilson, whose last recollection of her father James Goode, was of him leaving the house in uniform when she was three. Her father didn’t return, and died when the overcrowded (6520 POW’s and Javanese labourers) Junyo Maru  was torpedoed on route from Java to Sumatra in September 1944 by the British submarine HMS Tradewind. 5640 souls perished making it the largest loss of life for any ship sinking in the Pacific.

Mr Glynn of Agspec, said the highlight of the trip was “being able to locate many of the significant camp sites from the war period. Many have been demolished, but with the help of the Port Authority we were able to get to the Tanjung Priok camp site. The main camps in Bandung are still intact and the Indonesian Army was very helpful in places that are now controlled by them. In Liang, Ambon the Camp is also gone, but we were able to locate the site using WW2 reconnaissance photos and current satellite images. It was still possible to locate the airstrip at Liang which is now covered with stunted bushes”.

While in Jakarta the group enjoyed afternoon tea with the Reverend Jon Cox of All Saints Church where the original painted glass windows from the Tanjung Priok camp Chapel are housed. They were joined by the British DA, Colonel Phil Thorpe.

The group enjoyed a finale dinner at Rumah Jawa with Agspec’s Indonesian team and representatives of the British Chamber of Commerce.

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