Sumatra Japanese Prison Camps

Japanese Prison camps on Sumatra.

By the time of the Japanese capitulation ( 15 August 1945) , all European civilian prisoners of war on Sumatra had been concentrated in prison camps in  three remote areas; Rantau Prabat,  Bangkinang and Loeboeklinggau-Belalau ( today’s Lubuklinggau).

By this date these Japanese prison camps held total of 4018 Men and boys  and 7464 women and children ( almost no boys over ten years of age).   Prisoner identity records kept by the Imperial Japanese Army  were virtually all destroyed except for those of 900 men, and 1800 women and children.

It is noteworthy that the prisoners who were liberated from Belalao, were only moved there, during the final weeks of the war, begging the question why?.

Japanese Civilian Prisoner Internment Policy

This stood in marked contrast to the internment policy pursued on Java, where hug concentrations of Japanese civilian prisoners were held in the Bandung/Tjimahi area, and in the Batavia area, both large urban concentrations .  Only the large Japanese prison camps in Central Java ( Banjoe Biroe and Ambarawa) fell into this category.

The contrast in Civilian Prisoner of war policy between Java and Sumatra reflects the fact  that Sumatra fell under a different Japanese Army headquarter, based in Singapore, whereas Java and Borneo fell under the headquarters established in Batavia.  The official Japanese Military history explains in great detail  the underlying  strategic aims for the invasion of the Netherlands East Indies.

Edwina Mountbatten

Lady Edwina Mountbatten used an RAF  plane (“Sister Anne”) to visit prison camps on Sumatra.  She made her headquarters at  Pakanbaru and visited Padang and Palembang, and promptly organised the evacuation  from the prison camps using the Mastiff group ( refer to Edwina Mountbatten  by Janet Morgan

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