Japanese Prisoners in India, 1942

[Japanese businessman] Omori and his 500 fellow prisoners reached India, after a ten-day voyage. They berthed at Calcutta, and stayed there for three days. At Changi Prison [in Singapore] they had been divided into two batches, and half of the original group from Port Swettenham had not appeared. Nor had they seen their wives and daughters.

After a 70-hour ride, they were unloaded in the middle of nowhere and marched two hours with their bags to the bulwark of an old fort. They filed through a huge entrance on which was written “Pranakila”. Inside, in a large patch of lawn, tents were lined up in rows to which they were assigned, six persons to one tent. One week later their missing families arrived, around 500 women and children, whom British authorities had held in separate camps on Blakang Mati (now renamed Sentosa) and other islands off Singapore.

Life at Pranakila camp near New Delhi, on an Indian diet of curries, lots of beans and gallons of tea, was not uncomfortable. The women had their own quarters with partitions in between and their beds were lined up under the thick stone ramp which acted as insulation against heat and coldness. The men were treated according to the standards of Indian soldiers; they slept in hammocks, and when it got cold they were given hay in addition to a blanket. Slowly their numbers grew to around 3,000 as they awaited the day when they would return home.

SOURCE: Guns of February: Ordinary Japanese Soldiers’ Views of the Malayan Campaign & the Fall of Singapore 1941-42, by Henry Frei (Singapore U. Press, 2004), pp. 58-59

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