So far, we have not been able to get stories from people that were allowed to come to Australian for recuperation after their stay in the Japanese Camps in the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) during WWII.

This, first one, are recollections of Yoke, wife of Wim van de Wallen, whose family was evacuated after they were released from one of the camps after the surrender of the Japanese.

The Family van der Wallen consisted of husband, wife and three sons Kees, Barend and Wim. All have since passed away.

Here is Yoke’s story.

After the war the family was given the option of travelling back to the Netherlands or to Australia instead. They decided to come to Australia.  From what Wim told me they flew in a bare, probably military plane, seated against the metal frame of the plane. Most uncomfortable.

The aircraft developed engine problems and they had to land in Cloncurry. It was incredibly hot and of course accommodation was a pub with rusty bed frames, very basic. That always left a picture for me!  1945 and central Australia! Parts had to come from elsewhere and it took a few days.

In Wacol Wim’s older brothers went to school on the school bus and somehow Wim was supposedly too young at 8-9 years. Janet, the sister-in-law married to Kees, remembered that Kees loved being in Australia. In NEI He was taken away to a separate Japanese Camp by himself at the age of 12 till 15 which left him traumatised for the rest of his life.

They arrived in Camp Columbia (Wacol) they had separate family quarters but ate in a communal dining room.  I can imagine that after a separation of more than 3 years how difficult it would have been to form a family again.  Wim’s father in 1 camp, his mother with 2 sons in another camp and Kees on his own in yet another camp.

Back in the Japanese Camp,  Wim’s mother had exchanged her wedding ring for food and  once in Australia the family took a day trip to Brisbane, to buy a new one.  The 3 boys played up terribly that day. I guess Wim’s mother told me that! The new ring is in possession of one of my nieces.

After Wacol they also stayed in hotel Whitecliff in Redcliffe (?), organised by the Netherlands Indies Welfare Organisation for Evacuees (NIWOE). I don’t know if Wim’s father went back to Indonesia earlier.

This is a drawing made with a small stub of pencil by a camp mate of Wim’s father at Kamp Baros Tjimahi, based on a picture that his father had with him in the camp. Wim is here five years old.

See also: Evacuees from Netherlands East Indies recuperating in Australia after WWII