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.

Below is presented summary of camp information  extracted from the website www.japanseburgerkampen  created by Henk Beekhuis. During the Japanese occupation the Military authorities expended much energy   in concentrating the widely scattered European population , many from the numerous rubber and sugar cane plantations  on this huge island.

Sumatra Civilian Prison Camps
Region Number of Camps
Dec-42 Aug-45
North Sumatra 23 6
Middle Sumatra 14 2
South Sumatra 9 2
Total 46 10

The approximate distribution in August 1945 of civilian prisoners of war is provided below.  Note that boys over ten years of age , were treated as “men” by the Japanese authorities and had been removed from the Women and children’s camps. This data is  conjectural.

 Japanese Prison Camps on Sumatra _ August 1945

Civilian Prison Camps  August 1945
Region District camp Men and boys Women and Children
North Sumatra Pematang  Siantar Gevangenis 200
Rantau Prabat Aek Pamienke I 1400
Aek Pamienke Ii 2000
Aek Pamienke III 1300
Padang Halaban 270
Si Rengo Rengo 2000
Mid Sumatra Bangkinang Bangkinang (m) 976
Bankinang (vr) 2219
South Sumatra Loeboe Lingau Belalao (m) 572
Balalao (vr) 545
Total 4018 7464

Given the wholesale destruction, after 15 August 1945, of the  prison camp records by the Japanese army of occupation,  only a few such lists , defective from many perspectives , survived by chance as summarized in the table below:

  Japanese Prison Camp _ prisoners names

The surviving lists do not differentiate between men and boys and in the case of women and children , do not list the children separately . The discrepancy  between the table above and below  reflects the poor state of record keeping.

Surviving list of Names
Prison camp Names
Aek Pamienke III 79
Bangkinang (m) 1079
Bankinang (vr) 1769
Total 2927

Japanese Civilian Prisoner Internment Policy on Sumatra

Japanese Civilian internment policy on Sumatra differed from that on Java and Celebes (Sulawest).  The full reason for this is not known.  On Java a much higher degree of concentration was achieved , requiring an immense effort.  There civilian prisoners were mainly  held in two  urban centres –  Bandung/Tjimahi area, and in the Batavia.  This did not happen on Sumatra.

The contrast in Civilian Prisoner of War policy between Java and Sumatra may reflect 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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