Towards the end of September 1945, one and a half months after the war had ended, the first Allied military personnel set foot on Java. The arrival of HMS Cumberland and HMNS Tromp in Tandjong Priok, the port of Batavia, was hardly the way we had anticipated being liberated by our victorious Allies. The tiny force was barely sufficient to take over Tjideng Camp guard duty from the Japanese army who for one and a half months had continued to guard the gate, but now from the threat of Indonesian rebels.
Elsewhere on Java, Japanese soldiers continued their new task of “protecting us” from former fellow citizens, an utterly bewildering turn of events. Seldom in history has a political weathervane swung so swiftly from one extreme to another. The Korean and Japanese chaps who had spent three and a half years trying to keep us locked up in the camp as enemy aliens, immediately after the armistice was signed, changed their role, and kept us locked up under Allied orders “for our safety”.
The tsunami of Japanese invasion was now replaced by the typhoon winds of political change. Within three and a half years life on Java had morphed from colonial oppression through military tyranny to descend into anarchy.